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Fall Preview: David Gordon Green talks “The Sitter,” skinny Jonah Hill and if raunchy comedies still play

Fall Preview: David Gordon Green talks “The Sitter,” skinny Jonah Hill and if raunchy comedies still play (photo)

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David Gordon Green has enjoyed an interesting ride in Hollywood, bursting on the scene with heavy dramas like “George Washington” and “Undertow” and then switching to the lighter side of filmmaking with an array of adult-geared comedies. “Pineapple Express” and last year’s “Your Highness” delivered mature themes like drug-dealing protagonists, minotaur penises and naked jungle women, and now Green is turning his attention to the world of babysitting.

In “The Sitter,” out December 9th, Jonah Hill plays an unemployed college student who agrees to babysit his busty neighbor’s children. When Hill is offered a girl’s “vagina,” he drags the kids along to a club where he quickly becomes entangled in a drug deal, thus setting off a vicious race around town.


IFC: Was this a movie that you pretty much figured you’d have to do a red-band trailer for?

DGG: That’s interesting you say that because there was a lot of internal discussion about it. It’s definitely a very R-rated movie, but I have this strange thing where I always try to see if we can’t capture a vulgar sense of humor in a green-band. It was not the agenda to do that at from the get-go. But the more and more we were thinking about who we were trying to grab with the advertisement of the movie. So we decided to do both and do the online red-band.

IFC: I remember you did that with “Your Highness” too.

DGG: Well with “Your Highness” there was really no way to make me happy if it wasn’t a red-band. [laughs[ There was not that very much suitable for all audiences in that film.

IFC: You have one of the last movies with the large version of Jonah. Do you think that makes him funnier?

DGG: With him a lot of his comedy is internal. He has great wit and instincts, so I think once people get over this nice physical change of health for the guy then I think everyone will get over that and still be laughing. He’s a great guy and I think his sense of humor will translate.

IFC: It’s striking how much weight he lost when you’re watching the intro to the red-band.

DGG: I think that’s one of the reasons we did the intro is to let that be known. Let people see that and talk about it, and then let’s get on with the movie. That’s an important thing that people will hopefully come to recognize. And one of the great things about Jonah’s comedy that has nothing to do with his physicality. It’s just his reactions. He’s a great listener as an actor, and reacting and responding to the things people say is where I find the really great strides in what he has to offer comedically. Everyone is just setting him up to have that comic reaction. It’s great to have that verbal wit about him.

IFC: Do you feel the red-band is a pretty consistent take on what to expect from the film?

DGG: The red-band feels like an honest look at what to expect. It’s not a movie that we were really pushing the envelope on. It’s just a movie honestly that we were playing it very realistically. And we don’t use vulgarity for comic effect effect, we use it for reality effect. So we were trying to use a movie where had people saying what people would say in these situations. And yeah sometimes it’s a kid. But I don’t know any 12-year-old that doesn’t a filthy mouth on them. So it’s not often that Hollywood screenwriters iron that out, we let it loose. A lot of this movie is about the situation about a guy taking three kids on a cocaine deal. And then the reaction; it’s a very highly improvised movie. The kids brought a lot to it and Jonah brought a lot to it.

So we were literally just going with what felt real and right and what would come out of their mouth rather than what’s funny. It’s not like we were “Kindergarten Cop.” I remember some scene in that movie where they were exploiting where a kid says the word “penis” or whatever. Is it just literally trying to be what kids would do and say and have fun with it.

IFC: Was there ever a thought of how vulgar or dirty you should go in a movie with kids, or does that not even really matter since like you said, it’s nothing they haven’t heard before?

DGG: Almost every one of my films has had kids in it. My life is surrounded by great group of nieces and nephews and now I’ve got two kids of my own. So I think a lot of it is the actual kids’ maturity and their parents’ acceptance and maturity and seeing what they could handle. When I did this film “George Washington,” which was my first movie where we used the same aged kids, it was dealing with death and subject matter that was heavy and where the parents were accepting of the kids begin mature enough to go there. And in many ways it’s in very much the same thing. It’s just vulgarity instead of grief. Or in “Undertow” I used a lot of violence directed towards kids, and our kids were mature enough to go to sleep at night.

We often joke on all these movies, about what the kid from “The Shining” is doing. How did he integrate back into his life after that? He certainly didn’t integrate into Hollywood. So there’s always those concerns and there’s certainly a million cliches of Hollywood kids that don’t make it out with the best of results, but I do pride myself on running a really ethical ship and having a very family-friendly crew. So bringing kids into the mix in a comfortable way when their parents have a good head on their shoulders, and letting them loose and hear what they have to say. And saying, this is the one time in your life where mom and dad will let you cuss. It’s done with such a smile and so tongue in cheek that I think it’s totally fine.

IFC: When you’re going through the movie is there one scene in particular that kind of blows you away every time you see it?

DGG: I want the perception to really be the comedic kick of the movie because that’s what we’re hanging our hat on and that’s what it is, but there’s great dramatic honestly coming out of these kids. So that’s not probably the best headline for an article but that’s what I’m proud of. There are twists in these kids’ characters that take them to places that I’m really proud that they went that aren’t necessarily zinging one-liners. And there are plenty of those, so anyone with an appetite for kids raising hell, we’ve got it, but then I think what I take pride in is that it goes a step beyond that, so it doesn’t just fall into formula traps, it uses the formula and then put a little spin on it.

IFC: I saw “30 Minutes or Less” which I thought was amazing, but it didn’t do as well at the box office as I was hoping it would. Do you ever feel that there’s a lack of appetite among audiences for a smarter, actiony kind of comedy?

DGG: It is a real question that I couldn’t really say too much without being somewhat cynical about it. I think if timing and engineering and marketing all fall into sync, audiences will go to that place with smart, bold movies. For me there’s a fine line between the art house and the outhouse, as my father tells me. I was watching “Shortbus” this morning thinking about that and the extremes, and what could be considered vulgarity. This is kind a premature, unprocessed reaction to it, but I think if characters that say ugly things or do ugly things are somehow redeemed or they’re justified or people note that as horrible behavior or unlikeable behavior and the audience has people to point fingers at with people on the screen, that makes sense. Whereas there’s a very fine line of mean-spirited, and I think some people don’t want to laugh at things that are somewhat mean-spirited.

So I don’t know. It is a huge difference for me when I’m watching “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” versus when I’m watching “Observe and Report.” One I think is brilliant and one I think is obvious. I think there’s definitely those movies that the audiences will take those leaps with, when a likable actor does an unlikable character or a dramatic actor does a comedic role. Anything that’s throwing the audience a little bit off, sometimes there’s controversy. But ultimately I don’t know. Sometimes I watch the success of a movie and I’ll be like I can’t wait to see it, and I can’t imagine why people are laughing their asses off. And I’m just looking around bewildered. And other times that something you’re stoked about and fired about and everything looks like they’re falling straight-forward, and then it throws you a curveball and falls on its ass. It’s really frustrating. But we can certainly get away with a lot more raunch and comedy than we could 30 years ago, and the envelope is always being pushed.

David Gordon Green’s “The Sitter” opens December 9, and is featured in our 2011 Fall Movie Preview Guide.

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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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