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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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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.