Mark Duplass talks the impact of his films, trying new genres and “Game of Thrones”

Mark Duplass in Safety Not Guaranteed

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It’s hard to think that the same man who co-wrote and directed “The Puffy Chair,” “Baghead” and “Cyrus” is also the same guy who plays leading man Pete in FX’s hit fantasy football comedy “The League.” But upon first meeting at a “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” DVD/Blu-Ray release party in Santa Monica, it’s clear to see where Mark Duplass‘s two worlds collide.

The world is Duplass’s metaphorical oyster — or sandbox, as he later refers to it — but right now he and brother Jay are just doing what makes them happy. We chatted about the response to “Jeff,” his work on “The League” and where he wants to go next with his filmmaking career over glasses of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, admitting that we were both “punching above our weight” at this point in time.

IFC: It must be so rewarding for you to see how well received “Jeff, Who Lives At Home” has been.

MARK DUPLASS: My whole career has sort of felt like that. Jay and I were these two kids who were making these movies about what we perceived as very small, personal things. I guess the way we describe it is we like to explore the epically small, and that hopefully in somebody’s quest for wood glue, you can extrapolate some grander machinations of the universe and its inner workings. But I honestly never thought, genuinely, that we would get this far. That we would be able to make the movies that we like making, which are so small and personal, and have a company like Paramount not only put the film out but also give us free food and beer to talk about it, and $75 fucking whiskey, man. We’re punching above our weight here.

IFC: “Jeff” is this intimate little story that has really reached a wide audience, but it doesn’t sound like you planned for it to be something that could affect everyone.

MD: I discovered something in my 20s with Jay which was we spent quite a few years making really shitty movies that no one will ever see, thank god, and they were very derivative of other people. We tried to be the Coen brothers and you’re not going to be the Coen brothers without being the Coen brothers. And one day we made this little short film completely by accident that was improvised, shot with out parents’ video camera with terrible lighting and terrible sound, but it was about something that we experienced that we thought was sad and funny, which was why do we have an emotional breakdown every time we try to record the out-going greeting of our answering machine. Why is it that you have to keep rerecording it to present yourself so directly to the world? So we shot a 20 minute take about someone trying to perfect their personal greeting of their answering machine and cut it down to 8 minutes and that was our first movie that got into Sundance. And from that moment, we’ve never really strayed from this belief that like, if it’s funny and sweet and sad to us, we just need to take that and present it to the world through our eyes, and hopefully they’ll find something in it too.

So while a stoner living in his basement who’s obsessed with the movie “Signs” isn’t someone that people can immediately connect with, the core of him as this guy who wants more for his life and believes that there’s something great out there for him, I guess there’s a sweetness and a comedy to that that I think, I guess I’ve learned, do connect broader than just the specificity of his character.

IFC: You managed to bring these great performances out of Ed Helms and Jason Segel that no one has really seen before. Do you find that more actors are coming to you now and saying that they want to work with you?

MD: We are now in that position, which is huge. To speak to the business end of that, the fact that name actors want to work with us means that like, if there’s any tenure to be had in this business, that’s our tenure is that we make movies cheaply and, luckily enough, movie stars want to work with us, so we are able to play in our little corner of the sandbox and do what do, and I’m just hopeful we can keep making them.

IFC: Would you ever want to explore any more of that metaphorical sandbox?

MD: We like to expand our movies a little bit every time we do one so we’re not just repeating ourselves. In a lot of ways, “Jeff” was kind of an adventure quest movie. If we made a movie like “Battleship,” it would be about all the guys on the ship and maybe some homoerotic behavior and people getting their feelings hurt. That’s what that movie would be. I want to see Spider-Man stub his toe and get sad. That would be my thing. So I don’t know, we are interested in genre films and, as long as there’s a way to tell a really personal small story in there, I think that’s what we would be good at. I do believe we would be terrible at directing a Marvel film. We would just make a shitty movie, so I’m not going to do that any time soon.

IFC: What sort of genres would you want to try?

MD: If you look at our movies at the DNA, they are all relationship movies, and they’re all personal, but “The Puffy Chair” follows the form of a road movie, and “Baghead” follows the form of a horror film, and”‘The Do-Deca-Pentathalon” coming up is a sports movie, and this is kind of a quest movie, and “Cyrus” is a love triangle film. But they’re all very odd versions of that genre. So I am actually interested in making a science fiction movie in space that is a little more relationship oriented. I mean, that’s fascinating to me. To a certain degree, I think “Eternal Sunshine” did that a little bit with like taking this science fiction genre and making a more personal take on it. So it’s hard to predict where we’re going to go, but we’re definitely interested in branching out so we’re not just repeating ourselves.

IFC: Jay teased earlier that you guys have some other projects coming up. Can you talk a little bit about any of those?

MD: There’s a couple of things going on. I have my acting career and I have a lot of things I’m doing with that. We’re writing a bunch of things. Some of them are personal projects that we’ll direct, some of them are studio projects. And we are kind of tossing around this idea of kind of getting involved in television. So we’ve got a bunch of little irons in the fire.

IFC: And “The League” has really found such an audience.

MD: “The League’s” fun. It has a very rabid little fanbase. It’s cool.

IFC: Has working on that show changed your perception of the television industry at all?

MD: I never thought I could do TV because I’m a filmmaker. I was like, I can’t go beyond the office because I can’t be gone nine months of the year. But “The League” is a three month commitment, so cable TV as a shorter commitment really works.

IFC: So what you’re telling me is you want to direct the next “Game of Thrones” episode.

MD: Fuck yeah, man. Just get weird up in there. Just super weird.

IFC: It would be like that Rian Johnson episode of “Breaking Bad.”

MD: I love Rian. I love Rian so much. It’s a weird meeting of worlds.

IFC: [Jay and Judy Greer] were joking early that you guys should direct a live action “Archer” episode.

MD: That would be [awesome]. I fucking love “Archer,” man. I love me some Judes.

“Jeff, Who Lives At Home” comes out on DVD on June 19.

Would you like to see the Duplass brothers expand into different genres? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.


Grow TFU

Adulting Like You Mean It

Commuters makes its debut on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Jared Warner, Nick Ciavarella, and Tim Dean were once a part of Murderfist, a group of comedy writers, actors, producers, parents, and reluctant adults. Together with InstaMiniSeries’s Nikki Borges, they’re making their IFC Comedy Crib debut with the refreshingly-honest and joyfully-hilarious Commuters. The webseries follows thirtysomethings Harris and Olivia as they brave the waters of true adulthood, and it’s right on point.

Jared, Nick, Nikki and Tim were kind enough to answer a few questions about Commuters for us. Here’s a snippet of that conversation…


IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Nick: Two 30-somethings leave the Brooklyn life behind, and move to the New Jersey suburbs in a forced attempt to “grow up.” But they soon find out they’ve got a long way to go to get to where they want to be.

IFC: How would you describe Commuters to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jared: It’s a show about how f*cking stupid people who think they are smart can be.

IFC: What’s your origin story? When did you all meet and how long have you been working together?

Jared: Nick, Tim, and I were all in the sketch group Murderfist since, what, like 2004? God. Anyway, Tim and Nick left the group to pursue other frivolous things, like children and careers, but we all enjoyed writing together and kept at it. We were always more interested in storytelling than sketch comedy lends itself to, which led to our webseries Jared Posts A Personal. That was a show about being in your 20s and embracing the chaos of being young in the city. Commuters is the counterpoint, i guess. Our director Adam worked at Borders (~THE PAST!!~) with Tim, came out to a Murderfist show once, and we’ve kept him imprisoned ever since.

IFC: What was the genesis of Commuters?

Tim: Jared had an idea for a series about the more realistic, less romantic aspects of being in a serious relationship.  I moved out of the city to the suburbs and Nick got engaged out in LA.   We sort of combined all of those facets and Commuters was the end result.

IFC: How would Harris describe Olivia?

Jared: Olivia is the smartest, coolest, hottest person in the world, and Harris can’t believe he gets to be with her, even though she does overreact to everything and has no chill. Like seriously, ease up. It doesn’t always have to be ‘a thing.’

IFC: How would Olivia describe Harris?

Nikki:  Harris is smart, confident with a dry sense of humor but he’s also kind of a major chicken shit…. Kind of like if Han Solo and Barney Rubble had a baby.

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

Nikki:  I think this is the most accurate portrayal of what a modern relationship looks like. Expectations for what your life is ‘supposed to look like’ are confusing and often a let down but when you’re married to your best friend, it’s going to be ok because you will always find a way to make each other laugh.

IFC: Is the exciting life of NYC twentysomethings a sweet dream from which we all must awake, or is it a nightmare that we don’t realize is happening until it’s over?

Tim: Now that i’ve spent time living in the suburbs, helping to raise a two year old, y’all city folk have no fucking clue how great you’ve got it.

Nikki: I think of it similar to how I think about college. There’s a time and age for it to be glorious but no one wants to hang out with that 7th year senior. Luckily, NYC is so multifaceted that you can still have an exciting life here but it doesn’t have to be just what the twentysomethings are doing (thank god).

Jared: New York City is a garbage fire.

See the whole season of Commuters right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


C'mon Fellas

A Man Mansplains To Men

Why Baroness von Sketch Show is a must-see.

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Mansplaining is when a man takes it upon himself to explain something to a woman that she already knows. It happens a lot, but it’s not going to happen here. Ladies, go ahead and skip to the end of this post to watch a free episode of IFC’s latest addition, Baroness von Sketch Show.

However, if you’re a man, you might actually benefit from a good mansplanation. So take a knee, lean in, and absorb the following wisdom.

No Dicks

Baroness von Sketch Show is made entirely by women, therefore this show isn’t focused on men. Can you believe it? I know what you’re thinking: how will we know when to laugh if the jokes aren’t viewed through the dusty lens of the patriarchy? Where are the thinly veiled penis jokes? Am I a bad person? In order: you will, nowhere, and yes.

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Huge Balls

Did you know that there’s more to life than poop jokes, sex jokes, body part jokes? I mean, those things are all really good things, natch, and totally edgy. But Baroness von Sketch Show does something even edgier. It holds up a brutal funhouse mirror to our everyday life. This is a bulls**t world we made, fellas.


Oh Canada

After you watch the Canadian powerhouses of Baroness von Sketch Show and think to yourself “Dear god, this is so real” and “I’ve gotta talk about this,” do yourself a favor and think a-boot your options: Refrain from sharing your sage wisdom with any woman anywhere (believe us, she gets it). Instead, tell a fellow bro and get the mansplaining out of your system while also spreading the word about a great show.

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Dudes, that’s the deal.
Women, start reading again here:

Check out the preview episode of Baroness von Sketch Show and watch the series premiere August 2 on IFC.


Happy Tears

Binge Don’t Cringe

Catch up on episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia.

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Photo Credit: GIFs via GIPHY

A brain can only take so much.

Every five minutes, all day, every day, ludicrously stressful headlines push our mental limits as we struggle to adapt to a reality that seems increasingly less real. What’s a mind to do when simple denial just isn’t good enough anymore?

Radical suggestion: repeal and replace. And by that we mean take all the bad news that keeps you up at night, press pause, and substitute it with some genuine (not nervous, for a change) laughter. Here are some of the issues on our mind.

Gender Inequality

Feminist bookstore owners by day, still feminist bookstore owners by night, Toni and Candace show the male gaze who’s boss. Learn about their origin story (SPOILER: there’s an epic dance battle) and see what happens when their own brand of empowerment gets out of hand.


From Candace’s heart attack to the rise of the rawvolution, this Portlandia episode proves that healthcare is vital.

Peaceful Protests

Too many online petitions, too little time? Get WOKE with Fred and Carrie when they learn how to protest.

What Could Have Been

Can’t say the name “Clinton” without bursting into tears? Documentary Now!’s masterfully political “The Bunker” sheds a cozy new light on the house that Bill and Hill built. Just pretend you don’t know how the story really ends.

Fake News

A healthy way to break the high-drama news cycle is to switch over to “Dronez”, which has all the thrills of ubiquitous adventure journalism without any of the customary depression.

The more you watch, the better you feel. So get started on past episodes of Documentary Now! and Portlandia right now at IFC.com and the IFC app.

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