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Saturn Awards: Frank Oz talks “Star Wars,” George Lucas and the possibility of a Yoda spinoff

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Frank Oz has worn many different hats in Hollywood. He’s a staple of the Jim Henson Company, voicing many memorable characters from “The Muppets,” directing “Dark Crystal” and even playing the Wiseman in “Labyrinth.” He’s directed “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Death at a Funeral.” Heck, he even voiced three of “Sessame Street’s” main characters — Bert, Grover and the Cookie Monster — for almost four decades.

But Oz’s work as the voice of Yoda will always be what we love him most for. The little green Jedi has become a staple of George Lucas’s “Star Wars” universe, and was one of the main reasons that Oz received a Life Career Award from the Saturn Awards on Thursday. IFC had the chance to speak with Oz on the red carpet for the event and asked him about the impact that “Star Wars” has had on his life.

“I’ve been blessed that George gave me the opportunity to do Yoda and to work with him. George and Lucasfilms, they’re like a second family, a professional family. You know, it’s not a day job. You do it every fifteen years,” he said with a laugh that had a hint of Yoda in it. “But every time you do it, George just wants to make it better and it’s just a joy to bring that character to life. I know that character inside out. I know that character. And working with George is always a pleasure. He’s very specific. He knows what he wants. And it’s a joy.”

When asked why he thinks that “Star Wars” has remained so relevant over the decades since its release, he said, “I think it’s the mythology. I think the underground current of that larger mythology, that touches us all. ”

Yoda is a character who has appeared in five of the six main “Star Wars” movies, but whose origins were never explained. Of course, fans got to understand more about the Jedi master thanks to “Star Wars” novels, comic books and games, but Oz admitted that he created his own backstory for the character.

“When I was creating the character of Yoda, I got everything in the script and I really marked everything down from the script — what people knew about Yoda, what Yoda knew about people, what others didn’t, etc. — and I created a biography for him. So I have it in my head, but there hasn’t been an opportunity to work on it if there was [a spinoff],” he said.

When we asked if he’d ever want to work on something that explored more of Yoda as a character, he said, “Oh sure, sure, but it’s not one of those things that you want to [force]. It’s one of those things that you want to sit down with somebody at a bar and talk about.”

Oh how we would love to be sitting opposite him in that bar.

Would you ever want to see a “Star Wars” project explore more of Yoda’s backstory? What is your favorite thing that Oz has worked on? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and 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.