DID YOU READ

“The Comedy” – First impressions of Tim Heidecker’s controversial Sundance film

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By Jordan Hoffman

There are some characters you love to hate. Like, you know, Severus Snape or Bill O’Reilly. But what about characters that you loathe – how can you spend an entire movie with them? That’s the question behind “The Comedy”, the new experiment in darkness starring Tim Heidecker that debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The answer is: it ain’t easy.

Receiving more walkouts than anything else I’ve seen at the fest, those of us who stuck it out collected in the lobby to, first, pat ourselves on the back and, second, collectively agree that while “The Comedy” is one hell of a challenging film that may ultimately be bullshit, it deserves tremendous respect for its clarity of vision.

“The Comedy” opens with slow motion shots of half-naked, none-too-in-shape thirty somethings drunk off their ass and wrestling/dancing/”tucking in” to a a slow R&B tune. These few minutes alone would work as installation art in some of the more rarified galleries.

We’re then introduced to our lead (Heidecker) drinking whiskey and watching a male nurse comfort his ailing, wealthy father. He unleashes a tidal wave of bile, ruthlessly cutting into this young caretaker, going way beyond funny barbs into horrible cruelty. It is one of a number of viscous rants we’ll get from Heidecker as he makes his way being a dick around the hipster areas of Brooklyn.

He’s a man in pain. We get it. And if you have a heart, you want to sympathize with him. But how far can you be pushed? This is the central question behind “The Comedy”, but there’s also something very interesting and now going on right here. Tim Heidecker and his cronies are the titans of underground, experimental comedy right now. They’re “always on” and they’re always pushing boundaries. Is it a barrel of laughs to be with them? No it is horrible.

They drink, slack, put one another down, one-up one another with gross-out jokes and, when feeling really energetic, get out of the house to harass taxi drivers or act disruptively in a church. I don’t even know if this is even anti-humor, it’s just sociopathic behavior. It’s not “Animal House,” it’s Lars von Trier’s “The Idiots,” or Dylan’s crew from “Don’t Look Back” on some dark, dark drugs.

It’s an obvious conclusion of the navel-gazing mumblecore movement, but I can’t tell if The Comedy hates mumblecore or not. Frankly, I can’t tell if The Comedy hates life or not. There’s a brief, brief moment where it looks like love may soften the story (Kate Lyn Sheil, who also appears in this Sundance’s “V/H/S,” is spectacular as Heidecker’s female counterpart) but this is quickly dismissed in one of the film’s most awkward scenes.

There’s a lot of competition for that title, frankly. The scene where Heidecker goes to a bar in an African-American community just to “get out of his comfort zone” elicited many walkouts. I was a little tempted myself.

So. . .is this movie good? It certainly has a commitment to what it wants to say. I interpret it as an examination of the destructive powers of white privilege on itself. No one of our crew works, except
for when Heidecker gets a job washing dishes, just because he probably thinks that it’s an absurdist thing to do. (Or maybe this is a desperate attempt to make some sort of connection somewhere, anywhere.)

Ultimately, the film isn’t pleasant. And it isn’t funny. Some of the set pieces are like a Tim and Eric sketch (Wareheim shows up for a few scenes) drained of all of its humor – leaving only the awkwardness. If you are a hardcore fan of this comedy movement, you should check it out. It’s like a guy from your favorite band putting out a side project album. It won’t be something you play over and over, but it is a unique opportunity to hear a variation on a tune.

Does “The Comedy” sound like something you’d like to check us? Let us know in the comments below.

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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.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.