Getting to know “Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland”

cleveland cover

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The comics world lost one of its greatest creators in July 2010 when American Splendor author Harvey Pekar passed away at age 70. Given the veteran writer’s prolific output over the course of his long career, it’s no surprise that one of his last projects is just now hitting shelves — and like so much of Pekar’s work, it’s another labor of love that adds another notable chapter to his legacy.

Co-published by ZIP Comics and Top Shelf Productions, Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland offers a look back at Pekar’s lifelong home, as seen through his eyes and his meticulous research into the Ohio city’s colorful history. Juxtaposing the city’s ups and downs against those of his own life, Pekar created Cleveland as both an ode to his favorite city and a personal exploration of the good times and bad that he and his hometown have weathered.

“I’m coming to appreciate the city more and more every year,” Pekar’s widow, Joyce Brabner, told IFC. “This was a chance to do something larger in the way [Harvey] wanted to do it, and he was pretty excited about it. He was always happy about it. Coming from an immigrant family, he had a real appreciation for where his family ended up and the life they made here.”

Brabner, who collaborated with her husband on many of his books (including the award-winning Our Cancer Year) and was a driving force behind much of his mainstream success in the comics world, said Pekar made a strong case for the city from the very first day they met. At the time of his death, he’d finished the script for Cleveland and had already looked over the first batch of pages from the book’s artist, Joseph Remnant.

“For a minute there, I didn’t know if they were going to want to follow through with it,” Remnant told IFC. “But Joyce really wanted to see this book through, because it’s a love letter to Cleveland and I think she really wanted that part of Harvey to be out in the world. He gets a negative rap sometimes for being a grumpy old man, and this book is more of a positive look at his life in Cleveland and what he wanted to do with the rest of his life – and he was excited about that.”

Remnant had previously collaborated with Pekar on The Pekar Project, an online comic for Smith magazine edited by Jeff Newelt – who also served as the editor for Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland. While Remnant was accustomed to Pekar’s unique approach to scripting comics, he said that the importance of Cleveland to the 70-year-old writer was clear right from the start.

“Normally he would do it like you see in the American Splendor movie – he’d draw little squares and draw himself in, with a speech bubble above him,” explained Remnant. “But for this, he would retype it all up and include a lot of notes about what he would want to see in the box.”

The final product of their efforts is as much a textual journey through Cleveland and Pekar’s life there as it is a visual tour, thanks to Remnant’s illustrations.

“Joseph is such a perfect artist and we were so lucky to get him,” said Brabner. “He saw Cleveland the way Harvey saw it. It wasn’t a foreign country to him.”

Brabner hinted that this won’t be the last of Pekar’s books to be published posthumously, either. Among the projects likely to hit shelves in the future are two books they were working on together, including a book about their marriage.

“Luckily, those were books are like Our Cancer Year, which I steered and helped with,” she said. “The day he died, we were working on a book about our marriage together. This was just a couple hours before he died. We were resting in a really good place and were feeling great about it. The ball had been tossed back to me for more work.”

“I wasn’t able to pick that stuff up until this January,” she continued. “I got out of town for a little while, because Cleveland is pretty gray around that time, and I was eventually able to pick it up and start working on it again.”

This week, Brabner will join Remnant, Newelt, and artist Dean Haspiel (his collaborator on the 2005 graphic novel The Quitter) for a tribute to the author at New York City’s famous bookstore, The Strand. With Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland arrival on shelves this month, the event also serves as a release party of sorts, though Pekar’s presence there will be sorely missed.

“Harvey planned to keep working and working and working, because he couldn’t imagine himself not working,” said Brabner.

“I think Harvey was really talented at writing about what he appreciated, and a lot of that was musicians or bookstore owners or people who were in Cleveland,” added Remnant. “Anybody who really knew Harvey from his comics or anything else, knew how much he really loved Cleveland and how much Cleveland was a part of him.”

Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland is available now from ZIP Comics and Top Shelf Productions.

That 70s Show Thanksgiving episode

Turkey Day Laughs

The 10 Best Thanksgiving Sitcom Episodes

Catch That '70s Show all Thanksgiving Day during IFC's Sweatsgiving Marathon.

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Whether it’s the Connor family on Roseanne or the family of friends on That ’70s Show, there’s no holiday that brings out the comedy in dysfunctional families like Thanksgiving. Before you dig into IFC’s Thanksgiving Day That ’70s Show marathon, check out the 10 best sitcom episodes stuffed full of turkey, laughs and tears.

10. Family Ties, “No Nukes is Good Nukes”

Thanksgiving is ruined at the Keaton household, and for once you can’t blame Alex because it’s his parents Steven and Elyse who get thrown in jail for protesting a nuclear power plant. Unlike his do-gooder, aging hippie parents, the only thing Alex P. Keaton would ever protest is term limits on Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

9. Modern Family, “Punkin Chunkin”

Modern Family Pumpkin


It’s Thanksgiving time, and the intertwined families of Modern Family all have their own squabbles going on. This episode culminates at a football field with a classic Modern Family ending when Jay, Mitchell and Claire doubt that their partners, the self-proclaimed dreamers, can launch a pumpkin through a goal post.

8. Seinfeld, “The Mom and Pop Store”

If this Seinfeld outing was a Friends episode, it would be titled “The One with Jon Voight’s car,” because that is the hilarious storyline that everyone remembers. The Turkey Day plotline revolves around the gang attending Tim Whatley’s pre-Thanksgiving party which happens to overlook the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Any appearance by Bryan Cranston as Tim Whatley is pretty memorable, and in this one he reveals to George who the real Jon (John) Voight is.

7. That ’70s Show, “Thanksgiving”

Kelso Thanksgiving

In the season one Thanksgiving episode of That ’70s Show, the Formans (especially Kitty) dread the arrival of Red’s mother. Laurie returns from college and brings her attractive friend Kate along, who flirts with Eric. The episode creates a classic Eric Forman dilemma as he kisses Kate and then tells Donna. Eric does get another valuable life lesson when he learns that bad things happen to him not because of rotten luck but because he’s, as Red so aptly puts it, a “dumbass.”

6. Roseanne, “Thanksgiving 1991″

Few sitcoms captured the stress of holiday get-togethers like Roseanne, and “Thanksgiving 1991″ has all the family drama and hilarious moments that fans love about the show. Roseanne’s mother Bev reveals that her husband Al has been unfaithful. Darlene is being her usual moody-but-loveable self and stays in her room while D.J. sits adorably alone at the kids table. The appearance of Roseanne’s grandmother Nana Mary, played with crotchety glee by Shelley Winters, makes this episode an instant classic.

5. The League, “Thanksgiving”

In what has to be one of the most brilliant casting choices in TV history, Jeff Goldblum in all his Goldblum glory plays Ruxin’s dad in this hilarious Thanksgiving episode. Sarah Silverman’s appearance as Andre’s promiscuous sister is the icing on the raunchy cake as the guys walk in on Goldblum right before he gives his “vinegar stroke” face. The moment is simultaneously disgusting and hilarious as Goldblum’s look of ecstasy is eerily identical to Ruxin’s look of disgust.

4. WKRP in Cincinnati, “Turkey’s Away”

If you’re old enough to have watched WKRP In Cincinnati, the first thing you probably remember is the catchy opening theme song (and rockin’ closing credits song). But when it comes to remembering an episode, it might be the only sitcom where every fan thinks of the Thanksgiving installment first. This is the show that taught the world in hilarious fashion that turkeys can’t fly, especially when dropped from a helicopter.

3. Cheers, “Thanksgiving Orphans”

A potluck dinner at Carla’s house sets up one of TV’s most famous food fights. This classic moment shows off the gang’s camaraderie in a simultaneous moment of silliness and reflection as they remember the loss of Coach, played by Nicholas Colasanto, who died the year before. The episode also contains the closest thing the audience gets to seeing Norm’s wife Vera, which make the episode even more memorable.

2. Friends, “The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks”

“The One With The Thanksgiving Flashbacks” is the Friends flashback episode fans had been waiting for ever since Ross was revealed to be Rachel’s “lobster.” Except in this episode, Monica is Chandler’s turkey in an adorable scene. It’s also the one where we learn why Monica got thin, the one where we find out that Chandler and Ross were way too into Miami Vice and the one where Chandler lost a toe. This episode would’ve been hilarious just for Ross’ “Mr. Kotter” ’80s look alone.

1. How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving”

While the Friends creators obviously loved the fun of Thanksgiving episodes, the How I Met Your Mother writers took it to the next level with the “Slapsgiving” episodes. Slapsgiving was so beloved by fans, it became an epic holiday trilogy. The beloved Slapbet originated in the episode where Robin Sparkles is brought to glorious life, and it continues in “Slapsgiving” as Robin and Ted deal with trying to stay friends during the Thanksgiving following their breakup. Unlike the divisive series finale, Marshall’s Slapsgiving slap of Barney is a “legen (wait for it) dary” moment in the show’s history. If you’ve never seen Marshall’s “You Just Got Slapped” video, you’re in for a Thanksgiving treat.

Jake Johnson

Jake Brings the Funny to CB!B!

Jake Johnson’s 10 Funniest Quotes

Catch Jake Johnson on Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

There’s just something likable about Jake Johnson. Sure, he often plays surly drunks in everything from indie films like Drinking Buddies to Fox sitcoms like The New Girl, (heck, he’s even the inspiration for Drunk History) but off-screen he’s known as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood. In honor of Jake’s guest spot on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought it was high time to share some of his most quotable moments from film and TV. See if you can spot just how drunk he is below.

1. On his resemblance to a turtle…

Ora TV

Ora TV

2. In rain or shine, the sex mail man will always be there.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

3. Beware Jurassic World’s most fearsome dinosaur!

Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

4. Outer space horse = unicorn?

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

5. Wasn’t there a “Real Sex” episode about that?

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

6. Jake always has your back.

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

7. Age is just a number. A large, scary number.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

8. Personal hygiene is important.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

9. To be fair, John Lithgow’s minister character was pretty scary.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

10. Always drink responsibly, lest you forget where you put your keys.

20th Century Fox Television

20th Century Fox Television

Lethal Weapon

Lethal Duos

7 Mismatched Buddy Cop Duos Who Play By Their Own Rules

Catch IFC's Lethal Weapon movie marathon Sunday, November 22nd starting at 8:30AM ET/PT.

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Mismatched buddy cops are a staple of action flicks, because “putting unstable people into high-pressure situations with guns and hoping things work out” always leads to comic mayhem. You know the trope — a beleaguered police chief assigns polar opposite detectives to a case that nobody wants to solve. They start out at each other’s throats before a begruding respect leads to geniune comraderie. (Nothing like blowing away some bad guys of vaguely European origin to stoke the fires of friendship.) In honor of IFC’s Lethal Weapon movie marathon, check out our tribute to the mismatched cop duos who play by their own rules and leave an epic body count in their wake.

7. Hammond and Cates, 48 Hrs.

Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte invented and mastered the art of buddy comedy, and they didn’t let little things like Eddie’s Reggie Hammond not being a cop stop them. The premise of “I’m borrowing this convicted thief from jail for a couple of days so he can be a peace officer” violates pretty much every law we know about. But the results (and Eddie’s Reggie) convincingly speak for themselves.

6. Lee and Carter, Rush Hour

Rush Hour‘s  combination of Jackie Chan’s high-flying kicks with Chris Tucker’s motormouth means this movie never stops for a single second. Whether it’s action-packed set-pieces, turbocharged wise-cracking, or the wonderful novelty of clashing characters where neither is playing the straight man role, this duo is always going full tilt.

5. Raymond Tango and Gabriel Cash, Tango & Cash

Tango and Cash are forced together fairly quickly even by buddy cop movie standards thanks to falsified murder charges and a maximum security prison full of every perp they’ve ever put away. Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell bring high-tech attack vehicles and self-destruct sequences to the genre and the results, which are so not by the book they aren’t even fit for print, are all kinds of awesome.

4. Sykes and Sam Francisco, Alien Nation

Alien Nation took the mismatched partner genre to its ultimate conclusion by importing an alien “Newcomer” from an entirely different planet specifically to annoy James Caan’s grizzled cop. Oh, and also to fight an alien dealing “xeno-drugs” that make aliens immensely strong. Mandy Patinkin stars as the super-strong, ultra-helpful, and ridiculously named Sam Francisco.

3. Angel and Butterman, Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright’s love-letter to buddy comedy moves London’s top cop Nick Angel (Simon Pegg) to the sleepy town of Sandford where PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) has nothing better to do than watch buddy cop movies and dream of action sequences. A hilariously self-aware parody of the genre pits both against a gloriously greasy Timothy Dalton.

2. Friday and Streebek, Dragnet

Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks is the kind of super-cinematic dream team that used to happen all the time in the buddy action comedy heyday of the ’80s. Aykroyd plays possibly the Akroyd-iest character of his career with Joe Friday, who has apparently replaced his soul with “the book” and doesn’t understand how silly he sounds when he reads from it. Hanks counters this with his streetwise Streebek, whose loose charm serves as Friday’s comedic foil. The classic mismatched pair join forces to fight P.A.G.A.N., the People Against Goodness And Normalcy, which should tell you whether you or not you want to watch this underrated ’80s comedy.

1. Riggs and Murtaugh, Lethal Weapon

Hammond and Cates were the original buddy cops, but Riggs and Murtaugh are the icons. In retrospect, pairing the almost-retired Murtaugh with suicidal loose cannon Riggs seems more like a scheme to avoid pension payouts than any way of fighting crime, but the results birthed an action comedy franchise that inspired more than a few imitators.


Turkey Day Binge

Spend Thanksgiving in Sweatpants With IFC’s Sweatsgiving Marathon

Spend Thanksgiving weekend on the couch with Todd Margaret, That '70s Show and more.

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Thanksgiving means food, family, stretchy pants, and a lot of time on the couch. Make the most of your couch time and come hang out with IFC, because we’re spending the long weekend running marathons. No, not the kind that involve actually sweating. We’re running back-to-back episodes of all the shows you love and movies you can’t stop watching. Don’t believe us? Check out the turkey-tastic video below.

Starting early Thursday morning, November 26th, head to Red’s basement for some quality time with Jackie, Kelso, Donna, Fez, Hyde, and Eric with a marathon of That ’70s Show. Afterwards, sink into a turkey-induced TV coma with David Cross and the Thunder Muscle crew in seasons one and two of Todd Margaret before the new season starts on January 7th.  On Black Friday, skip the shopping-crazed hordes for marathons of the Nightmare on Elm Street and Exorcist movies. And while you’re gorging on leftovers on Saturday, catch a Resident Evil movie marathon that’ll sate your zombie-killing appetite. (Comedy Bang! Bang! fans take note — Scott and Kid Cudi will return Thursday, December 3rd at 11P with back-to-back episodes.)

If you’re spending the weekend on the couch, be sure to tweet or Instagram along with us using the #IFCSweatsgiving hashtag. Post a selfie watching IFC with the hashtag #IFCSweatsgiving and you’ll be entered to win a sweet pair of IFC pants. IFC’s Sweatsgiving is the perfect way to catch all your favorite IFC programming and avoid your kooky Aunt Edith this Thanksgiving season.

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