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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.”



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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GIFs via Giphy

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.”


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. 


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.


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…


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.


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 ’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?”


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).



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.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.