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Rashida Jones on writing “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” her cinematic role models and more

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in Celeste and Jesse Forever

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By Jennifer Vineyard

When Celeste, as played by Rashida Jones in “Celeste and Jesse Forever,” notices things, she’s very particular. A guy she’s just met hits on her at a yoga class, and with a glance, she’s able to deliver this high-powered assessment: “You traded in your Porsche for an Audi because the economy’s still tanking, and you’re afraid you’ll lose your job. You just bought a Droid cell phone because you think it makes you seem more business-oriented instead of an iPhone, which you think is for teenage girls. You go to yoga because you went to a sub-Ivy League school, and you spent the last ten years working long hours and drinking all weekend and you thought it was time to do something spiritual.” Chris Messina, the guy who’s just failed at asking her out, is dumbfounded, because she was right. And as Holly Hunter told us in “Broadcast News,”‘ it’s awful to always believe you know better, to always be right.

Celeste belongs in the same league as Hunter’s classic Jane Craig character as well as Meg Ryan’s Sally Albright from “When Harry Met Sally… “– she’s a complex, difficult, articulate character whose primary relationship is with her male best friend. Jones, who also co-wrote “Celeste and Jesse” with her writing partner Will McCormack, told IFC that they were her role models.

“We watched ‘When Harry Met Sally…’ so many times, ad nauseum, while writing,” Jones said. “And ‘Annie Hall,’ ‘Husbands and Wives,’ and ‘Broadcast News,’ because they are perfect. I just watched ‘Broadcast News’ again two days ago. The performances are perfect. I was so surprised and elated by Holly Hunter’s performance, which still feels so fresh. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

The way Sally orders food in a restaurant or Jane gives directions to a D.C. cabbie — even if in real life, those directions make no sense — speak volumes about their characters. “They feel empowered by their sense of the world,” Jones said. “They created an identity based on this somewhat flawed perception of what’s right, what’s wrong, and you can see it very clearly, very quickly, by someone ordering a sandwich, and how it works for them. They are so particular.”

It’s a trait that someone could hate — call it high-maintenance — or something that could become lovable, as Harry discovers with Sally’s tendency to get everything “on the side.” Both characters, by the way, are based on real-life counterparts — CBS news producer Susan Zirinsky for Jane Craig, and the late writer/director Nora Ephron for Sally Albright. Jones, who was “thrilled” and “excited” to meet Zirinsky at the White House Correspondents Dinner, said that’s what helps make both characters relatable. “That reads,” she said. “Those are real people, and the characters feel real, you know?”

So Jones wanted to take elements of her own character and dating life, and add them to that model, to pay homage to Jane and Sally, “and hopefully add something to it,” she explained. “In our story, as much as that way of being has made Celeste’s life successful, it doesn’t mean she can control everything. And when life happens to her, she’s forced to revaluate how she perceives the world, you know? It all blends together, because she’s making snap judgments about somebody at work, and she’s wrong about it, and she learns from it.”

Jones said that it’s something she battles, too — “my own sense of right, and how myopic that can make me at times” — because it was a survival tool that worked for her and helped her become successful, but it also stands in her way. “I’ve spent enough time in therapy to know that!” she laughed. “This movie was an exorcism of a certain kind of flaw that I don’t like about myself, because I can be very black and white, and make decisions about things, and then once I’ve decided, I’m decided, and it was very hard to change my mind. I don’t really think that way anymore. Getting older is about realizing that you’re never going to know what it’s about, and you have to kind of accept that, you know?”

In Celeste’s situation, she was married to her best friend Jesse (played by Andy Samberg), and when the movie starts, the couple are separated and getting a divorce — yet still hang out all the time together. Unlike traditional romantic comedies, or even romantic dramedies, this one is about learning to let go of romantic fantasies about happily ever after. “I think part of being an adult is leaving the fairytale behind,” Jones said. “I think rom-coms have reflected that over the ages. We kind of got stuck in a box in the ’90s and ‘2000s, but we’re coming out of it again. We’re telling new stories. Judd Apatow is telling romantic stories from the slacker guy’s point of view. And now we have slacker girls, and all these indie comedies like ‘(500) Days of Summer’ where it’s about loving somebody and changing their life because you love them instead.”

Two other post rom-coms this summer, “Lola Versus” and “Take This Waltz,” also explored the similar terrain of complex women trying to find themselves after the breakup, with varying results. “It’s weird,” Jones said. “How does something end up in the zeitgeist? It’s a perfect storm of the people who do it and the people who want it. I hope it’s not just a passing trend, because women have been complex and interesting and dynamic and smart forever, and they will continue to be.”

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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