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DID YOU READ

Alia Shawkat talks “The Oranges” and how her Jersey character relates to “Arrested Development”

Alia Shawkat in The Oranges

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In “The Oranges,” two families live across the street from each other in West Orange, New Jersey. One family, the Ostroffs, have a wayward daughter (played by Leighton Meester) who comes home one Thanksgiving only to hook up with the father (played by Hugh Laurie) of the second family, the Wallings. This of course rains down ruin upon both families — which used to be so close, they were almost one family — and is the occasion for much delightful disdain by our whipsmart narrator, played by Alia Shawkat, whose Vanessa is Meester’s former BFF and Laurie’s daughter, giving her a unique and funny perspective on the proceedings. (“All right! It’s time to kill myself,” Vanessa quips at one key point.)

“Because it’s coming from a person who is very much in her own world,” Shawkat told IFC, “it’s a cool set-up. She’s in this mess, because she’s forced herself to be in it, because she still lives at home. If she had a healthy life and lived on her own, had a good job, and a boyfriend, it would be a very different reaction. But she’s like, ‘What the fuck? This is crazy!'”

Like Shawkat’s beloved character on “Arrested Development,” Vanessa is over it before it even happens — both of them have a “very dry disgust” for the events unfolding in their respective crazy families. The Bluths and the Funkes on “Arrested” “have a completely different moral system,” the actress points out. “‘Family comes first’ is the theme, but it’s really more about how dealing with a fucked-up family can be detrimental, especially to the children, because Maeby just wants to get attention all the time from her parents.”

“But with [the Wallings and the Ostroffs], it really was family first,” she added. “They had a dinner together every Sunday night, and other rituals, and yeah, they were somewhat bored, but it was a close family.” Consequently, Vanessa and Maeby “come from different places,” she said. (Coincidentally, “Arrested Development” takes place in Orange County, and while West Orange, New Jersey and Orange County, California are on opposite sides of the country, the two suburbs are a lot alike.)

Both Vanessa and Maeby, who are “too smart for their own good,” Shawkat said, “but they don’t really know what’s best for them.” If the actress were in either situation in real life, she would move out, she said — pronto. But even though that’s what Vanessa’s mother Paige (Catherine Keener) does, Vanessa stays, at least at first. “She’s not moving or anything,” Shawkat said. “She’s not accomplishing her own dreams. She’s bitter. She’s not feeling good about herself. She doesn’t have the confidence to be on her own.”

When the affair becomes public, hardly anyone reacts rationally, and the audience’s sympathies keep shifting. “You get to decide who you want to root for,” Shawkat. “You don’t know, is Paige crazy? The way she’s reacting, it’s almost comic in the beginning.”

So while some people throw punches, disfigure Christmas cards , stalk and hide in the bushes, and drive cars onto lawns to destroy holiday decorations, the more “it gives Vanessa a reason to be upset in the first place,” Shawkat said. “You know when you’re feeling like crap? You take it out on other people: ‘See? You fucked up. This is crazy.’ But really, it’s just her dealing with her own shit. She doesn’t know how to process that this is putting a mirror to her, in a way. ‘Fuck! This happened, and I’m still at home!'”

Which of course, eventually prompts her to put her own life in order. The solution she comes up with would also work for Maeby, now that she’s older. Will Maeby finally move out of the Bluth residence and strike out on her own? (And not just as a teen movie executive?) “It might be time!” Shawkat laughed. “Maybe she will!”

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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-Craft

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?”

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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).

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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.

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