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UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating?

UFC: human cockfighting or utterly captivating? (photo)

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Ultimate fighting, it seems, has finally come of age. UFC’s recently announced seven year, one hundred million dollar deal with Fox TV imparts a legitimacy to the bloodsport. And now we as a culture are going to have to have an adult conversation about whether or not ultimate fighting should or should not be a “mainstream” sport. Then again, the people may have already spoken on that, as the television deal and the hardcore following the sport has suggests.

UFC is not the anarchic gladiatorial fundament depicted in the movie “Fight Club.” I am somewhat of a divided mind about ultimate fighting. On the one hand, there is quite a bit of “art” that goes into these mixed martial arts — but a manly, very physical kind of art, to be sure. On the other hand, a strong though somewhat prudish argument could be made that it is indeed human cockfighting, as former prisoner of war and U.S. Senator John McCain has described the mixed martial arts. UFC’s earliest incarnation was indeed pretty gory. As David Plotz wrote in Slate in 1999:

UFC began in 1993 as a locker-room fantasy. What would happen if a kickboxer fought a wrestler? A karate champion fought a sumo champion? Promoters built an octagonal chain-link cage, invited eight top martial artists, and set them loose in no-holds-barred, bare-knuckles fights. “There are no rules!” bragged an early press release. Contestants would fight till “knockout, submission, doctor’s intervention, or death.” UFC allowed, even promoted, all notions of bad sportsmanship: kicking a man when he’s down, hitting him in the groin, choking. Four-hundred-pound men were sent into the Octagon to maul guys half their size. Only biting and eye-gouging were forbidden.

But that was then and this is now. The UFC, which has been grappling for a greater legitimacy — and a greater profitability — for several years now, is getting even more aggressive. Aggression is, quite frankly, hard-wired into this sport. But for the past few months their PR push has been on steriods. On November 12th, for example, UFC is going directly up against the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez PPV fight. In other words, mixed martial arts is being offered on basic cable directly against a major pay-per-view boxing event. The results should be quite interesting.

Further, on August 27th the UFC will air live undercard mixed martial arts matches in Times Square above the Doubletree Hotel. That’s a pretty ballsy move, on the real. It should again be interesting to see how tourist-heavy Midtown Manhattan reacts on a Saturday to the spectacle of two beefy dudes trying, essentially, to choke each into unconsciousness with ancient and modern fighting techniques. These super-aggro pushes could definitely backfire, highlighting the “human cockfighting” charge attached to the sport by its critics. Or these bold moves could have the effect of proving just how undeniably popular the sport has become. And by Christmas we could have a new mainstream sport in our midst.

In the past the organization and its champions have stressed the “art” of the fight. In 2006, Scott Pelley of the venerable 60 minutes spoke to Renzo Gracie of the famous Brazillian Gracie family about the “art” of mixed martial arts. Gracie, whose family utilizes a jiu jitsu heavy form of fighting that has won them titles and acclaim as the first family of the mixed martial arts, defended the sport:

“It goes far beyond that. The first impression is, hit him, knock him out, hurt him, but believe it, it goes far beyond that,” Gracie explains. “There’s so much technique involved, that I, to be honest, I think when I see a good fight, I think it makes a Russian ballet look like a uncoordinated body movements.” He admits that it can sometimes be a bloody ballet. “But the blood is the source of the whole thing. Believe – it’s not blood that’s coming out, it’s a little bit of pride that you’re putting out.”

A very masculine aesthetic; a very “bloody ballet.” Is this an idea whose time has come?

Let us know your own thoughts on UFC in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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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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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.