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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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