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A Brief Interview With Rhett and Link, Commercial Kings

A Brief Interview With Rhett and Link, Commercial Kings (photo)

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Tonight at 10 p.m. ET “Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings” premieres on IFC. The show follows lifelong best friends, Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal as they travel the country making commercials for deserving local businesses. The duo are bonafide YouTube superstars with more than 90 million combined video views. Tonight they will now bring their skills to a national television audience.

We sat down with Rhett and Link to talk about commercials, colonics, and showering separately.

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?

Link: We’ve been best friends since first grade, so we have the same interests. But he has a beard. He’s taller, too. We’re both from a little town called Buies Creek in North Carolina and we met the first day of first grade. We’ve been friends ever since.

Wait …does that mean your Wikipedia entry is actually true?

Link: We brag about that at parties.

Rhett: We wrote it ourselves.

Link: I don’t think you’re supposed to admit that.

Rhett: Link is more anal than I am. Also, shorter.

Link: I’m shorter, but smarter.

Where did the idea to make local commercials start?

Link: It started …well we had been making web videos for a few years. Then we had an idea to make a spoof of a local commercial. We had access to a seafood warehouse …

You had access to a seafood warehouse?

Link: We were on an Alka Seltzer sponsored road trip and we were making food related videos. And we wanted to make a spoof of it with Christopher Walken trying to do a Boston accent. It was horrible. Rhett was in a lobster suit. We posted it online and called it the worst local commercial ever. Then we started to get a lot of comments from people asking, “Is this real?” People wanted it to be real.

Rhett: People really responded to it so we decided to start making real local commercials for real businesses with real people. From that came the series “I Love Local Commercials” and we put them on YouTube. Real businesses, real employees.

Link: If you search for local commercials, you find people doing spoofs. Not real actors, not real business. We were the only people doing actual local commercials for real businesses with real people. Once we started doing them we kind of cracked the code.

What’s your favorite commercial so far?

Link: Red House Furniture. You can have a different favorite, Rhett. For me, combining racial reconciliation with furniture was a dream come true. Then it got re-tweeted by Weird Al.

Rhett: I have to go with Rudy the used car salesman. The reason that is my favorite is because Rudy is from Cuba and he is a gynecologist and keeps a stethoscope in his desk at the used car lot. We didn’t go in there thinking, oh let’s make this guy a gynecologist. Truth is stranger than fiction. Wherever we go there are small businesses needing help. There’s a hot yoga studio in Sacramento owned by a couple who are over 70 years old. Bill has a military background. He used to teach people to kill now to heal. We created the most carnage-laden yoga commercial ever.

What is your process making these local commercials?

Link: We show up in town, assess the marketing challenges, get to know the business owners personally. We ask a lot of questions. When we were making the Holiday Hotel for Cats ad in L.A., which will be featured in the first episode, we saw that Margaret spoke audibly to the cats. We were trying to figure out how to incorporate that and we realized, if she speaks to cats, why not bypass the cat owners and go directly to the cats? Then we had to figure out how do you get a cat to look at the screen? The ad became for cats by cats.

Rhett: Margaret only speaks in these general MEOW noises. So we brought in a cat psychic to read the thoughts of the cats and she spoke to the cats telepathically — or she thinks she is. The cats wrote the script for the commercial.

Link: Usually within 48 hours we’ve got the whole commercial. It’s just like “48 Hours.” I’m Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy is Rhett.

Have you ever used any of the services you advertise?

Rhett: Just this morning I came back from a hot yoga class. You have to experience the businesses first hand to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by each owner. It’s market research. Once we were doing a commercial for a hydro-colonic place and we let them colonize us. On camera. We got our colons hydrated. Haven’t made another appointment, but I’m thinking about it.

Link: It’s all in the name of market research. You’ll see on the show that we made an ad for a biodegradable casket company called Bury Me Naturally. We decided that one of us needed to be buried alive to test the product and Rhett s too big. The one thing I learned: Next time I’ll be buried is when I’m dead.

Rhett: We had to dig him up.

People frequently say your ads are made on a shoestring budget, but how little does it actually cost to make one of your spots?

Link: Most are free. We bring our own equipment.

Rhett: In the Presidential Car Wash commercial we got them to dress up as the presidents featured on Mt. Rushmore, so we had to buy the president costumes. It was worth the expense. They were rapping presidents. You wanted them to look the part.

When you are making the commercials do you ever think, oh man, if we had more money I would add this.

Link: We embrace the shoe-string budget. We like being limited by the constraints. It inspires creativity. I don’t know what we would spend money on. We don’t hire actors. We see budget constraints as a personal challenge. We’re like survivalist local commercial directors.

Rhett: When we made the Heavy Hill commercial. He had a pet mule! We’re not going to show up somewhere where someone has a mule and not use the mule.

Link: But he can’t be a mule, he has to a unicorn. He had a bunch of aluminum foil and we took a paper towel roll and his mule becomes the trashicorn.

What major corporation would you like to make an ad for?

Link: We don’t really want to work for a corporation, however we do aspire to one day make a barbecue sauce that doubles as a cologne and we would like to promote that ourselves. We would like to create a cologne barbecue sauce benchmark of success.

Rhett: I think someone should let us do a Superbowl commercial. They would pay for the airtime and we would show one of our ads.

Do your parents understand what you do for a living?
Rhett: Yes, they do. It took a couple of explanations, but now they get it.

Your songs, like such as the Facebook Song and the American Idol Song have proven to be among their most popular videos, do you have musical training at all?

Link: We have hours upon hours of experience listening to the radio and singing in the shower.

Rhett: Separately. We sing in the shower separately.

“Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings” premieres tonight on IFC at 10 p.m ET; You can watch live with Rhett & Link on IFC.com at 10:30 p.m. ET

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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