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A Brief Interview with the Whitest Kids U’Know’s Zach Creger

A Brief Interview with the Whitest Kids U’Know’s Zach Creger (photo)

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The fifth and final season of everyone’s favorite sketch comedy show The Whitest Kids U’Know is underway at IFC. We are showing new episodes of one of the wackiest, crassest, and funniest show around every Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET. As an added bonus each episode has another chapter of The Civil War on Drugs, the historical drama that the Kids made to document the journey to legalize marijuana during the war between the states.

As we bid farewell to the Whitest Kids, we are taking some time to chat with each member of the troupe and to get their thoughts on comedy, their favorite moments from the five seasons the series ran on IFC, and the Civil War on Drugs. Today, we talk to Zach Creger. He chatted with IFC’s Will Weinand about gross outs, some of his favorite sketchs, and, of course, his rap skills.

How did you get started in comedy?

My first comedic anything was when I was in high school and I was in an improv troop, which was called The Nation of Improv. It was pretty terrible, we would go around and do shows at malls and other high school auditoriums. It was pretty embarrassing when I look back at it, but at the time I thought it was the most fun I could ever imagine. That’s kind of why I kept my radar open in college to do something else like that.

What drew you to sketch?

I always loved sketch. Monty Python, Kids In the Hall and, even things like the early Adam Sandler albums. I remember laughing so hard at those and I always had a soft spot in my heart for sketch. So when I met people who wanted to form a sketch group, that was like “cool friends.” You know how when you first move to college and everyone’s so “I’ll be friends with you!” and everyone is so desperate to connect. So these guys who were cool were forming a sketch group, I liked to do sketch, so it was really a no-brainer.

After you guys got together, I’ve heard that you got the group name from someone who criticized your rap?

There’s a lot of different stories about that, I wasn’t there, but yeah. I mean, my rap is flawless, so they wouldn’t have said that to me.

What was it like going in to the first season of the show? I don’t think at the time there was another sketch show like it on the air.

Maybe not on TV, but (pauses) a lot of people say we’re like the Kids In the Hall only dirtier and I don’t really agree with that. For us, we’d been doing the live show for five years, so we had a really big body of work already written. So, when we got the TV show, it was so exciting because we were able to comb through our material and take the funniest sketches and then shoot the ones that would work best on TV. Season one was a rollercoaster of fun because the hardest part about sketch is the writing, and once you have something you know is funny, the rest of it is easy.

Do you have a favorite WKUK sketch? Out of all five seasons?

I really don’t. I wish I did because I get asked that question all the time. I think that there are some that are really successful, that I got to play a prominent part in that are my own personal gems. Like the Abe Lincoln sketch from the first season, or, I think the Grapist is really popular and I think it worked very well. I’m proud of those because they seem to have gotten a lot of attention and people come up to you on the street and that kind of feedback is always fun. They’re all kind of your babies. Some are certainly terrible, I’m not going to deny that, so there are some that I definitely don’t like, but other than that, I can’t pick a favorite.

Your take on Abe Lincoln is phenomenal. The first time I saw the assassination sketch I laughed until I almost blacked out. Not to spoil anything, but Abe Lincoln is also the last character you play in season five when he appears in “The Civil War on Drugs.”

Right, right, but it’s a VERY different take on Lincoln. I don’t even know if we had that discussion out loud, but I think someone did bring it up that “What if it was THAT Abe Lincoln?” And that would be funny for the show, if we brought it right back around to the beginning, but it wouldn’t have served the movie at all. The Lincoln from Season one would have been completely inappropriate for the movie, so, I think we made the right choice.

I thought it was nice that over the five seasons, Abe Lincoln had mellowed out and evolved.

Oh, y’know, maybe. Although, I don’t think that’s possible because the season one sketch is the night he died, so, unless he’s been reincarnated……

Other than Abe Lincoln, did you have a favorite character you got to play?

There’s a character in Season Three called “Instant Karma Bigot” that nobody seems to have latched on to. Maybe it’s just because it was such a difficult shoot. The whole sketch is one shot, with all these different stunts happening, like, getting hit with a bike and a bird, an air conditioner falls on me. It was really hard to coordinate everything happening in the same take, and I think that the take that we got was pretty good. I think it’s a funny sketch, but I also think I’m the only person who’s happy with that one. But I like it.

What was your favorite sketch from Season Five of WKUK?

I was really in to “Baked Beans,” but I think that was only because we got to shoot Timmy in the face with a cannon, and hurt him, so any time Timmy gets hurt I couldn’t be happier.

What’s the worst Timmy’s ever been hurt? One sketch in season five has him sitting on a light bulb.

Nah, that was a fake light bulb. I wish he’d been hurt so much worse. He seems to come away relatively unscathed, all the time. Sam’s broken his arm, Darren broke his arm, I got really badly clotheslined to the point of choking. Timmy got shot in the face with beans and he was cool. I wish we could have put something like gravel in with the beans. That would have been awesome.

What’s the toughest sketch you’ve ever done? From a wardrobe, or stunts or location perspective?

Honestly, Abe Lincoln in the first season was really terrible to shoot. We shot it in the dead of summer, there was no air conditioning, it had to be 100 degrees in there. I had a beard glued to my face that kept falling off because I was sweating so much. That was really, really bad, everyone was miserable. But then again, in The Civil War on Drugs, I play General Grant and I’m vomiting, but it’s soup, so I had soup all over me. And then I’m drinking this fake whiskey that was really just apple juice and honey and that was really sticky, I was covered in poison ivy, it was a billion degrees. I was sweating, again I had a beard glued to my face. That was just like, horrible. But, I knew it was the end of the series and it was one of the last things we shot, so I knew it was therapeutic. There have been some awful ones. Most of them involve high temperature.

Do you ever psyche yourself out where you know something is a prop, but you can’t help thinking about what the prop represents? For example, dog poo or human sick.

The dog poop was horrible, and so is the vomit. The only time I ever had to say “I can’t do this, I’ll barf” was the sketch where Trevor has his mouth wired shut and I was going to play this choking girl and he was going to give me CPR with his nose and, when we were writing it I was like “I can’t have you blow your nose into my mouth.” There’s something about that that struck me as the most disgusting thing in the world. So Darren and I swapped parts for that and he’s the girl. Darren didn’t seem to have a problem with it at all, he was like “I’ll do it!” But I think that’s more disgusting than having to drink your own vomit. Having someone blow their nose in to your mouth, that was the limit. I can’t do that.

I completely understand. What are the best and worst reactions you’ve ever had from a sketch?

The show is very polarizing. Some people hate the show and I totally get it. I don’t blame them. It’s a really niche show. We never thought everyone was going to like it, it’s not supposed to be that kind of a show. It’s supposed to be a show that a sliver of people love. And I think in that regard we’ve been successful, if you really want a small sliver of people to love a show, we nailed it!

In regards to worst reactions, in live shows we’ve had people stand up in the middle of sketches and stop the show and start screaming at us on stage.

Really?!

Oh yeah, that happened just a year ago at a show in San Francisco. There was this guy and I guess we offended him. I’m not surprised, I don’t feel bad that we offended him, I was more annoyed that we had to stop the show to have him removed because he wouldn’t stop yelling. On the TV show, we’ll get angry mail. But after the episode has been on the air, there’s not much they can do to beyond getting angry.

But, there’s the positive side too, right? What are the sketches that when you perform live, or when fans see you on the street they’re like “I love that one!”?

Oh, yeah, there are definitely the ones that people love. Slow Jerk, Lincoln, Grape-ist, the ones that were the break-outs. But then there are those sketches where a fan comes up to you and says, “The best sketch you guys ever did was …..!” and they’ll say some sketch that was unanimously terrible and everyone looks at each other blankly and says “Thanks, man.” You never know what people are going to like. When we shot Slow Jerk, we thought it was not a good sketch. We just blasted right through it, in about half an hour and were like, “That’s in the bucket, maybe it will make the airwaves.” And it winds up being one of our most successful sketches. So you never know what people are going to connect with.

I’ve seen some of the sketches that were “too hot” to air, and back in Season three there’s the one where you and Trevor apologize to the audience because there’s going to be a dick in the episode, and you bring Timmy out as this German psychologist who’s going to help the audience when the dick shows up, and the sketch as a whole, right down to when the dick shows up, is hilarious.

Thanks. I thought that was really funny sketch too. I wish we could have seen that go to air.

If you had to be a character from a WKUK sketch for the rest of your life, who would it be? And you can pick a character you didn’t play.

Oooh. Stuck for the rest of my life as this character?

Yes.

OK, I can answer this. There was a character I played, I think it was in Season 4, called JJ Marvin who was basically a take on GG Allin, the famous punk singer, but JJ was a hippie. So he’s singing these happy Mamas and the Papas songs, but at the same time he’s shitting on the stage, cutting himself and pissing on the audience, all the while wearing a smile. I think he’s heavily disturbing and that sketch is really upsetting, but I love it. So I’ be him, I love the idea of a beaming joy of a man who delights in shitting and cutting himself.

Out of all the fact products that have been advertised on the show, which one would you want for yourself?

How about the vacuum cleaner that sucks dicks really good from “Rip Your Dick Off”?

OK. Moving on to The Civil War on Drugs, I haven’t seen a sketch comedy troop make a movie within a season before, and I don’t think I’ve seen a long form, multiple character sketch film since “Brain Candy.” What was it like making that?

It was pretty incredible. We made that on a really tight budget, and to make a period piece film on a small budget while also making the regular season is really hard. A movie like that would typically be made for our entire season budget, but we had to make that and another two-thirds of a season. We made most of it by scraping by, most that film was shot in two separate fields and I’m really proud because I don’t think it looks like that. It was really about using your brain to get that look. I’m proud of it. I had to leave for another project while we were still editing, so I didn’t get to see the final product. Trevor and I made a film that didn’t succeed a couple years ago and I was afraid it was going to be another one of those. So, I reluctantly went to a screening of the whole movie put together in LA a couple weeks ago and I was so happy to see that it worked, and that it made the audience laugh and that the thing worked together as a whole. I was really relieved and I am immensely proud of that.

I got to watch all the chapters in a row in one sitting, and I thought you guys did a great job building the hooks at the climax of each chapter, but it also really works well when you watch the movie as a whole.

Originally it was going to be four chapters, four entire episodes dedicated to the Civil War on Drugs with the cliffhangers at commercial breaks and episode endings, but it was decided that having installments run throughout the season worked better for the show.

Well, it’s working. People are talking on Twitter about tuning in every week to see what happens next.

Are they? That’s awesome. I’m not on Twitter so I’ll have to check that out.

Twitter is kind of like Soylent Green.

By that you mean it’s people?

Feeding other people.

Ha! So, did that cover all your questions?

Yes. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Yeah, thanks, this was fun.

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Religuous Bill Maher

Politics Now!

10 Hilarious Political Documentaries You Need to See

Documentary Now! gets political with "The Bunker" premiering September 14th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: ©Lionsgate/Courtesy Everett Collection

Who says political documentaries can’t be hilarious? The best political docs — like The War Room, the 1993 depiction of the Clinton presidential campaign that Documentary Now! pays homage to with “The Bunker” — have plenty in them to make you laugh. Here are 10 political documentaries that will elicit more than just bitter laughter.

1. The Yes Men

Activist duo Jacques Servin and Igor Vamos are responsible for not just one, but three funny and scathing political documentaries: The Yes Men (2003), The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) and The Yes Men are Revolting (2014). The pair impersonate bad guys from the worlds of business and government, and often end up fooling the media. They also stage elaborate pranks like having dozens of people don inflatable ball outfits called SurvivaBalls to help survive catastrophes resulting from climate change. Along the way they’ve racked up numerous awards and almost as many arrests.


2. Weiner

“Hilarious…like a Spinal Tap of politics,” said the New York Post about the doc Weiner, of course adding, “…it’s the full package.” This doc follows the disgraced Congressman, who had to resign due to a sexting scandal, in his quest for a comeback, running for Mayor of New York City. Incredibly, yet another sexting scandal explodes during the course of filming. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, as the whole sordid story unfolds before the cameras, featuring Weiner and his wife, longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. It’s the film that puts the (Carlos) “danger” back in politics.


3. Please Vote for Me

Politics on a scale much smaller but just as riveting are on display in this 2007 documentary. A third grade class in China is given the task of holding an election for class monitor. The resulting web of intrigue, dirty tricks and bare-knuckle politics among this group of 8-year-olds are reminiscent of something Karl Rove or Lee Atwater would come up with. And the parents are worse. A fascinating look at the roots of democracy, with a touch of Lord of the Flies.


4. Roger & Me

Filmmaker Michael Moore could have any one of a number of his movies in this list (his is the first name most people think of when the subject of funny political docs comes up). But his first doc, Roger & Me, remains one of his funniest and — with its focus on the economic impact of globalization on American workers — still remains one of his timeliest. The film centers around Moore’s attempts to confront then CEO of General Motors Roger B. Smith. Moments from the film including scenes with former game show host Bob Eubanks and another with a luckless rabbit have become iconic.


5. Bronx Obama

The first feature-length documentary from filmmaker Ryan Murdock, Bronx Obama follows the story of Louis Ortiz, a lifelong resident of the South Bronx. Unemployed and with a young daughter, Ortiz is told by a friend in 2007 that he looks like a rising young politician. Before long, he’s making a living as a Barack Obama impersonator. The award-winning doc shows many hilarious moments intentional and otherwise as Ortiz comes to grips with his new life over the course of three years during Obama’s first term and deals with an unscrupulous manager.


6. Religulous

Bill Maher brings his scathing satire of organized religion to his 2008 documentary Religulous. In the course of the film he travels to The Wailing Wall, The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City and The Vatican, among other places. But some of the best scenes are in cheesy locales like The Creation Museum and a Christian theme park in Orlando called Holy Land Experience. He even finds a Muslim gay bar in Amsterdam. Maher is merciless in his mockery of the main Western religions, but even if you disagree with his viewpoints, his comedy is always spot on.


7. Al Franken: God Spoke

From the makers of The War Room, this doc shows the evolution of Al Franken from comedian to political pundit during the first term of George W. Bush. We see Franken touring in promotion of his book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, broadcasting at Air America Radio and touring with the USO in Iraq. The most memorable encounters in the film are clashes with right-wing pundits like Bill O’Reilly, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity. It’s a funny look at a man on a journey from SNL to the US Senate.


8. Journeys with George

In the year 2000, Alexandra Pelosi (daughter of Nancy Pelosi) was covering the presidential campaign of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush for NBC. For 18 months, she also used a handheld camcorder to record Journeys with George. The result is a remarkably warm and funny portrait of a somewhat goofball politician. Pelosi went on to become a filmmaker. Bush went on to bigger things as well. From the vantage point of 16 years later, the big takeaway from Journeys with George is that George W. Bush seemed a lot funnier before we had eight years of him as president.


9. Mitt

You may have suspected that George W. Bush could make a goofily entertaining subject for a documentary. What you never suspected was that Mitt Romney could ever be anything other than stiff and robotic. For the film Mitt, documentarian Greg Whiteley was given unprecedented access to Romney in his runs for president in both 2008 and 2012. What emerges is a surprisingly human portrait of Romney and his family. There’s an amazing scene in the hotel on the night Mitt lost to Barack Obama revealing that he never even contemplated the possible need for a concession speech.


10. Sarah Palin: You Betcha!

No list of things both political and funny can avoid having at least one entry about Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin: You Betcha! is from noted British documentarian Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney) and should not be confused with the fawning Palin doc The Undefeated. In 2011, after she had become a conservative icon, Broomfield went to Alaska and documented his attempts at getting an interview with Palin in a Roger & Me-esque pursuit. In interviews with Palin family, friends, fans and foes, Broomfield manages to make the self-described “mama grizzly” seem both dangerous and ridiculous, both of which are undoubtedly true.

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Bill and Teds Bogus Journey Everett

Die Laughing

5 Depictions of “Death” in Comedy

Catch Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey this week on IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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With Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey airing as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays, we got to thinking about how exactly the character of Death made his way onto the screen – and onto the poster – of a 1991 comedy sequel.

Ingmar Bergman’s depiction of Death in his 1957 classic The Seventh Seal set the tone for how most people think of The Grim Reaper. Portrayed by Bengt Ekerot, Death was a chess-playing philosopher, answering deep existential questions while capturing your rook with his knight. In Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Death is partial to board games.

Here then is the journey of Death in movie comedies, from Bill & Ted to Whoopi.

1. The Dove / De Duva (1968)

Three years after The Seventh Seal hit theaters, this short film parodied as much Ingmar Bergman as could fit into 14 minutes. The centerpiece is of course the pale-faced and shrouded Death, challenged this time in a game of badminton. It’s also the film debut of Madeline Kahn, who would go on to become the queen of parody with Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety and Blazing Saddles.


2. Monty Python and the Holy Grail trailer (1975)

One of the greatest comedies of all times parodies one of the greatest movies of all times –- but only in the trailer. Referring to the director and title by name, this preview promises something “all rather silly” when compared to The Seventh Seal. To wit: Death takes a pie to the face.


3. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)

Bill and Ted
Orion Pictures

If Death can play chess, then why not Twister, Clue and Battleship? Of all the comic portrayals of Death in movies, this is the one that holds up best. William Sadler brings a vulnerability to the role while never losing Death’s sense of menace. Like the Bill & Ted movies, it’s brilliantly smart and stupid all at the same time.


4. The Last Action Hero (1993)

"Ian
Columbia Pictures

This action-comedy-trainwreck acknowledges The Seventh Seal as a movie and then takes a big leap as the character of Death leaves the land of Ingmar Bergman and jumps into the world of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ian McKellen (the Bengt Ekerot of our day) takes over the role and wreaks havoc in 1990s America.


5. Monkeybone (2001)

Monkeybone
20th Century Fox

Whoopi Goldberg plays Death in this bizarre 2001 comedy, where Brendan Fraser’s comatose cartoonist must get an “exit pass” from Death in order to return to the land of the living. Also, Death has a giant robot. It’s a weird movie, folks.

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Rick Moranis Honey I shrunk the kids

Rick of Time

10 Best Rick Moranis Roles

Catch Rick Moranis in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Buena Vista Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

Everyone loves Rick Moranis. It’s just the truth. This month on IFC, you get a chance to rediscover his awesomeness in Honey, I Shrunk the KidsAs you enjoy that family comedy gem, here are a few other roles that showcase Rick Moranis’ greatness.

1. Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour Krelborn

Only Rick Moranis could play a character that you still root for even though he’s murdering people and feeding them to an alien plant. Audiences loved Seymour so much, the studio had to reshoot the ending of the film. Originally, the film ended like the original Off-Broadway play, with Seymour and Audrey being eaten and Audrey II taking over the world. Test audiences couldn’t stand the fact that they were killed, so a new ending was shot with our leads victorious and the film became one of the best movie musicals of all time.


2. Ghostbusters, Louis Tully

In a film with so many comedy legends, it would have been easy for Rick Moranis to fade into the background as the hapless Louis Tully. But he more than holds his own up against the rest, making Tully just as funny as he is pathetic. And when he goes bug-eyed as Vinz Clortho, Keymaster of Gozer, that’s when the fun really starts.


3. Spaceballs, Dark Helmet

You don’t often think of James Earl Jones and Rick Moranis being typecast together. But in Mel Brooks’ goofy send-up of Star Wars, Moranis takes on his version of Darth Vader. As Dark Helmet, Moranis is a perfect mixture of occasionally threatening and mostly inept. If Brooks ever decides to revisit the Spaceballs franchise on the big screen, hopefully he’ll find a way to bring Dark Helmet into the new Star Wars universe.


4. Parenthood, Nathan Huffner

Directed by Ron Howard, Parenthood is a wonderfully truthful movie about marriage, having children and the dangers of oral sex while driving. Moranis plays Nathan Huffner, an intellectual who’s more interested in raising his daughter as a science experiment than being a loving father. Though there are many comedic moments, this is a much more understated performance for Moranis. And he gets easily the sweetest moment in the film when he serenades his estranged wife in front of her students.


5. Strange Brew, Bob McKenzie

Bob and Doug McKenzie were breakout characters from SCTV that were originally created by government demand — the CBC mandates that a certain percentage of all shows in Canada have specifically Canadian content. So, Moranis and Dave Thomas thought of the most stereotypical Canadians possible and the McKenzie brothers were born. The duo appeared on SCTV, in Pizza Hut and Molson commercials, on a platinum-selling comedy album and their big screen debut, Strange Brew. It’s a tale of poisoned beer, mind control plots and an escape from an insane asylum. Plus, it’s a loose take on Hamlet. Probably not what you’d expect from characters made as a joke, but that’s what makes Bob McKenzie a great and surprising “hoser.”


6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Wayne Szalinski

In this 1989 classic, Rick Moranis plays a bumbling inventor who accidentally shrinks his kids and neighbors to the size of ants. Though that may sound horrifying, Moranis is great as a man who’s thrilled that something of his finally worked and just as comically terrified by what he’s done. With impressive special effects for the time, the film still holds up as a fun family comedy.


7. My Blue Heaven, Barney Coopersmith

Did you know that Rick Moranis was in a comedic version of Goodfellas? My Blue Heaven, starring Steve Martin and Moranis, came out one month before Scorsese’s legendary Mob film. Though the silly comedy and gritty gangster drama may seem completely different, both are based on the life of Henry Hill, known as Vinnie Antonelli in Heaven. Moranis plays the average neighbor who tries to keep former mobster Vinnie (Martin) in line so he can remain in witness protection. Though Goodfellas was based on a novel about Hill’s life by Nicholas Pileggi, My Blue Heaven was written Nora Ephron, who happened to be married to Pileggi at the time. It’s a small mob world.


8. The Wild Life, Harry

This ’80s teen comedy has been mostly forgotten, but it’s notable not only for a performance by Moranis as a trendy manager with very big hair but it’s top level cast. Eric Stoltz, Randy Quaid, Lea Thompson and a bleached blonde Chris Penn all star, with a soundtrack by Eddie Van Halen. It’s all the more surprising that this film isn’t better remembered, since it was writer Cameron Crowe’s follow up to Fast Times at Ridgemont High.


9. Head Office, Howard Gross

This 1985 satire of the corporate world stars Judge Reinhold as a new employee who gets mysteriously promoted within a huge company and learns of the seedy underbelly of business. The film features a few subplots, one starring Danny DeVito and one with Moranis as a failing executive whose screaming idiocy is a great parody of the executive top brass. Though it may not be much of a parody, since we’ve all probably experienced our fair share of screaming, asinine bosses.


10. Brewster’s Millions, Morty King

In Brewster’s Millions, Richard Pryor finds out he’ll get a $300 million inheritance only if he can spend $30 million in one month. (If only we all had such troubles.) As Pryor’s character gets more attention for his big spending and eventual mayoral campaign, he attracts a bunch of odd characters. One of which is Moranis as Morty King, King of the Mimics. It’s a small role where he plays a guy that always repeats everything that’s said, but Morty has got a great costume and Moranis plays this confident weirdo with delightful skill. Also, the idea of anyone crowning himself “King of the Mimics” for doing a trick that little brothers use to annoy everyone is a pretty insane thought.

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