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Paul Feig on Finding the Humor in Steve Carell’s Tearful Exit from “The Office”

Paul Feig on Finding the Humor in Steve Carell’s Tearful Exit from “The Office” (photo)

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It’s true, Paul Feig is available for weddings and other special occasions, but only for “The Office.” The show, which has invited its former co-executive producer back to direct many of its biggest events, such as Jim and Pam’s nuptials (“Niagara”), once again turned to “Freaks and Geeks” creator to helm Steve Carell’s final turn as the often clueless Michael Scott on the show, which airs Thursday night on NBC. “Goodbye, Michael” will see the Scranton branch manager of Dunder Mifflin leave for Colorado while his replacement (Will Ferrell) and the veteran staff duke it out for his clients.

Even without his prior connection to the show, few directors would be better suited to manage the emotions of the occasion as well as keeping the laughs on track as Feig, having helmed at least one episode of nearly every great television comedy in the past decade. In two weeks, we will have a much longer interview with him about his career as a director on the eve of the release of his latest feature “Bridesmaids.” But in the mean time, we wanted to post this part of our conversation about what it was like to be on the set for Carell’s swan song as one of television’s most famous characters.

What was it like to balance the emotions of the day while doing a comedy?

It was just emotionally hard because I actually hadn’t been back in like a season-and-a-half since the wedding episode, which I loved and then I just got busy with the movie and other stuff. But when this popped up, I was thrilled to do it. It was hard because even though I was away for a season-and-a-half, the enormity of the fact that Steve was leaving was always around us.

I think Michael Scott is one of those seminal characters in TV history, just like Archie Bunker was or Ted Danson’s Sam Malone. And it was funny because Greg Daniels, [“The Office” creator] who is one of my heroes, he was very smart because every scene was so emotional — we were getting all choked up and.occasionally you’d [think] this episode’s going to be great just because it’s going to be so emotional and sad — and he kept going, “Yeah, but if it doesn’t work that way, it might just be too much. We don’t just want to roll around in this emotion all the time.”

Mindy Kaling was actually saying the scariest thing is you become the thing where you’re doing something where everyone’s sad and crying and the audience at home is going like, “Why’s everybody crying? It’s not that sad.” So if you make something more out of it than the audience is feeling, then you’ve just got disaster because that’s where everybody’s like “yech…” So it was interesting dealing with this emotion on the set where everybody was very emotional because like “this is my last scene with Steve” and all that, yet all of us still being able to go like, “Wait, okay, let’s make it funny. It’s still got to be funny.” So it was a real challenge, but it was a fun challenge and everyone was so good in it.

What was it like to working with Steve on his final show?

Steve’s just one of the best comedic actors…just best actors, period, but he has an ability to ground everything. Nothing he does is bullshit. And he has such a high meter of “No, that’s fake. I wouldn’t do that. The character wouldn’t do that. This feels unreal.” That’s that’s why he’s so funny because it’s all so human what he’s doing. Even when he’s doing stuff that’s bigger, it’s still coming from this very human place and so I’ve learned so much working with Steve. He’s just one of my heroes. But it was interesting. We’re actually going to shoot some more stuff for the episode because I think we’re going to try to expand it to an hour. [NBC did, in fact, supersize the show to be an hour long.)

I hope you didn’t have to bring Steve back.

No, Steve’s gone! Wouldn’t that be the best? Harmonies, tearful goodbyes. Oh, here he’s back. It’s like leaving your going away party and then you forget your keys, so [after] everybody’s tearful goodbye, you come back [sheepishly], “Oh I forgot my keys, sorry, goodbye.”

The “Goodbye, Michael” episode of “The Office” airs April 28th at 9 p.m./8 p.m. CST.

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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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