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DID YOU READ

“American: The Bill Hicks Story,” Reviewed

“American: The Bill Hicks Story,” Reviewed (photo)

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A stand-up comedian’s job is to make people laugh. But the more you learn about stand-ups, the more you see how unfunny their own lives often are. Many of the best comedians are forged in the darkest places. Comedian Bill Hicks struggled with substance abuse for years and then just as he got himself clean and his career started to take off, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the age of 31. He was dead by the time he was 32.

Funny as it is, “American: The Bill Hicks Story” is a deeply moving tragedy about the miserable luck of an absolute genius. And I don’t use the word “genius” lightly here. Hicks was like the stand-up comedian version of a five-tool baseball player. He could do it all. He had great timing. He did great impressions. He had amazing physical gifts. His humor came from a distinctive and really unique perspective. And his analysis and critique of American culture rivaled any social commentator of his generation. I own a couple Bill Hicks CDs, but because he died before I was even in high school, I’d never really seen him perform, and watching him in “American” only increased my admiration for his work and and his craft. The way he works a crowd and moves around a stage and handles hecklers and challenges his audiences’ assumptions; he really was one of the greatest.

We’re fortunate that so much good footage exists of Hicks onstage, even from the earliest parts of his career when he started working Houston comedy clubs while he was still in high school and his delivery wasn’t refined but his material was already shockingly good. What doesn’t exist is much in the way of home movies or interviews, so “American” directors Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas construct Hicks’ life offstage through animated montages of still photographs of Hicks set to a running narration provided by his friends and family. Because we almost never see who is talking, this device doesn’t always provide the most clear sense of who besides Hicks is involved in any particular scene. But “American”‘s unorthodox approach weaves a sort of transportive spell that is very much in keeping with its subjects taste for consciousness-expanding psychedelics. In other words: this movie is a trip, man, through Hicks’ maturation as a comedian and a human being, through his attempts at screenwriting and Hollywood success, and finally through his sudden and unexpected stardom in the UK after his appearance at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival aired on British television.

Obviously, “American” is a sad film at times; any story about a 32-year-old dying of cancer is going to be sad at times. But I found it to be incredibly inspirational too. When Hicks got his cancer diagnosis he didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself: he pushed himself to do as much as he could with the little time he was given. And it made him an even more fearless comedian onstage because he had nothing left to lose by speaking his mind. If he was provocative before, he was genuinely shocking after. As someone who writes and talks for a living, and who is just a few years younger than Hicks was when he fell ill, that really gave me something to think about. It Bill Hicks’ job to make people laugh. But what he really loved to do was to make them think as well.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.