DID YOU READ

Josh Radnor Talks “Happythankyoumoreplease”

Josh Radnor Talks “Happythankyoumoreplease” (photo)

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No sooner than I sat down with Josh Radnor does he tell me that he’s going to give me an exclusive, as he scrolled through his smartphone. “I just found out I’ve been named to my high school’s hall of fame,” he says, clearly taken by the honor with a smirk that suggested a mix of nostalgia and bemusement. Oddly enough, it’s somewhere in between where “Happythankyoumoreplease,” Radnor’s debut as a writer/director, resides.

Not easily described as either a comedy, a drama or the usual variation thereof, Radnor’s graduation into film after years of starring on “How I Met Your Mother” is a bit more melancholy than one would expect from its emphatic title, tracking the lives of five New Yorkers all having to let go of considerable baggage if they are to face the commitments standing in front of them. Since Radnor wrote the film to star in himself, naturally he has the most on his plate as a creatively-blocked novelist who takes in a young boy he sees abandoned on the subway around the same time he becomes smitten with another stray (Kate Mara), a waitress he meets at a local pub. Meanwhile, his alopecia-stricken best friend (Malin Akerman) fights off the advances of a well-meaning but plain-looking co-worker (Tony Hale) and his sister (Zoe Kazan) fears her longtime boyfriend’s desire to move to Los Angeles.

Whether they’re successful at charting a new direction for their lives is something that needs to be seen in the film, but it’s clear Radnor’s own turn behind the camera has been, already having garnered an Audience Award at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Thankfully, after a yearlong delay that can be attributed to a change in distributors [from the nascent Hannover House to Anchor Bay], audiences outside of Park City will have the chance to see it and I caught up with Radnor recently to talk about what went into making his directorial debut.

Are you relieved the film is finally coming out? It seems like it must be frustrating to do everything right, coming out of Sundance, and then discovering you need to find another home for your film.

I always had great faith that it would come out. I knew, given the Sundance reception and we kept winning audience awards at festivals, I felt like this is a movie that audiences respond to and someone’s going to want to put this out and get it to an audience. So there was confusion in the midst of it, but Anchor Bay picked us up a few days after we left the other distributor, so it was kind of immediate. It was a very smooth passage into this other [distributor]. Then the delay happened, which has actually been fine — it’s almost like you get to spend another year at home with your kid before he gets to go to school. There’s a sweet time before it’s released before the world gets ahold with it, so I got to spend a little more time with the film, which was okay with me.

03032011_Happythankyoumoreplease1.jpgThe end credits note a bunch of actors (including Chris Messina, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Westfeldt, Sarah Chalke, among others) that “participated in readings of the script…and helped immeasurably in its development.” As an actor yourself, do you think you developed the film in a different way than if you were strictly a writer and how did those readings impact the film?

The first reading I did was in New York with, I think, I had 80 pages or something. It was like two acts of the movie and every time I would hear it out loud, I would hear what was working, what wasn’t working, what needed to be addressed and then actors actually have really good instincts about story and about structure because they’re inside the script and kind of feel like “oh that didn’t feel right.” So I ended up doing about seven readings and they were all so helpful, both in New York and L.A. — it was really fun too, to gather all these great actors together and just hear this thing you had written take on some other life in the room. But the process of doing the readings was so invaluable to me that I felt like I wanted to thank them at the end. No one obviously did it for anything other than some wine and some crackers, but I wanted to tip my hat to that whole process because it felt important to me.

It just seemed like a different way of approaching a film.

It’s more because I come from the theater where you do a lot of readings, you do a lot of workshops. Before it’s on its feet, you might do like a one or two-week workshop where you just show it to people where you still have scripts in your hand and it’s a more fluid process where you allow it to be in process rather than a finished product, so I just learned a lot about the movie and I learned that I should probably direct a movie from those readings.

The script made the Black List and there’s usually some frenzy surrounding that. Were you hearing versions of it from other directors that made you think I really should do this?

I never had an extensive conversation with a potential director on it, so I didn’t really hear about other people’s visions. It was more my vision of it was so strong and so sharp that I felt it was probably best for me to assume to reins of the whole thing.

Other actors sometimes describe the transition from doing comedy on TV to film as being a bit rough since it’s a different rhythm. Did you actually find that affecting what you did as a director or writer?

It’s hard for me to say what this is. It’s certainly not a straight-up comedy because there’s moments of real genuine feeling and anguish and all those things and it’s also certainly not a tragedy. There’s a happy ending to the whole thing. So as a writer, if a scene was a little mopey, I would feel it was time for a joke and if a scene was really funny, I would try to end it on maybe a more somber note. But that was more reflecting what I feel what life is, which is both tragic and comic in equal measure on some level.

03032011_Happythankyoumoreplease2.jpgOn a multi-camera sitcom, you’re beholden to a certain rhythm when it comes to laughs. Like 20 seconds go by, you’re going to have a laugh. I think one of the things “How I Met Your Mother” does really well is it balances that, where we’ll go to some really serious terrain and we’ll let it live there for a while. And it’s bold in the world of sitcoms for a show to do that. That said, a movie gives you a lot more latitude in that I didn’t have to have laughs in a scene at all. And that’s okay because things aren’t funny all the time.

After seeing the film, the title makes perfect sense, but did you worry with something quirky announcing your film like that, along with some of the other superficial elements of the plot that scream “this is an indie film” that you were putting a target on your back?

I don’t know because I don’t feel like a great student of indie film. It’s not like I thought, “Demographically, I think there need to be more films about young people in urban environments!” I didn’t think that and I don’t think that. But I knew this was a story I wanted to tell and I’m not a cynical person. I think a lot of indie films get really dark and if I was doing any kind of subversion, it was flipping that on its head. But I think a lot of people go in expecting the film to be one thing and it’s really not that thing and most of those people are pleasantly surprised by that.

“Happythankyoumoreplease” opens in New York and Los Angeles on March 4th.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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