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DID YOU READ

Ten reasons to love Steve Martin that aren’t his movies

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The formerly wild and still somewhat crazy guy known as Steve Martin is a national treasure. He’s an intellectual with a strong bent towards the goofy, he’s a weirdo with a well-developed appreciation for the finer things, and to duel with him at banjos is to court certain doom. Yes, he’s a movie star, but we’ve discussed those before. With the much sought after release of his stand-up concerts and TV materials finally coming to pass with “Steve Martin: The Television Stuff,” it’s high time to illustrate what makes this guy a Renaissance Man to be admired for all time. So here are ten reasons to love Steve Martin that aren’t his movies.


1. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

Steve’s first big showbiz break came when he got a job writing for The Smothers Brothers show, where he won an Emmy with the rest of the writing staff. When Tom and Dick Smothers learned that Steve wasn’t officially on the payroll, but rather was getting paid out of head writer Mason Williams’ own pocket, they gave him a shot on screen. Steve worked in a magic shop when he was younger, and he mastered the art of magicianship well enough to completely subvert it. So here’s one of his earliest TV appearances (not counting his guest spots on The Dating Game).


2. The Stand-Up Cometh

Steve was always a different kind of comedian. He could do some standard observational stuff, as you can see here in this early appearance on Midnight Special where he discusses the advent of electric hand dryers and seat belt buzzers, but you could see his real taste for the absurd developing as well. He always loved to flummox audience expectations by going in a weird non-sequitur sort of direction, and this was a stop on his way to worldwide icon status.


3. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

Steve was one of Johnny’s favorite acts, and back in those days, appearing on Carson once could change your life. Appearing as often as Steve did meant you were a bona fide celebrity. He always made an effort to bring some new piece of comedy business along with him whenever he appeared on talk shows – and he still does to this day. His work ethic and reliable talent even impressed Johnny enough that he asked Steve to guest-host The Tonight Show for him, and what he did with that, you can see right here.


4. Saturday Night Live

Steve’s arrival on the comedy scene coincided with the debut of this underground sketch comedy show tucked away on the middle of the night on a weekend, and he guest-starred alongside The Not Ready For Prime Time Players so often that many people forget he wasn’t technically one of the. Steve’s appearances would always spike the ratings of SNL, and that platform helped rocket him into comedy superstardom. For example, the swinging Festrunk Brothers, starring Steve and Dan Aykroyd as horny Czechs trying to cruise successfully for foxes with big American breasts, made him well known as a “wild and crazy guy,” and audiences would come to expect him to bust that out in his own shows. He’s hosted SNL 15 times, one shy of the record set by Alec Baldwin, who made it his mission to try and eclipse Steve’s benchmark.


5. The Comedy Albums

Of course, a stand-up comic as refined in his precision as Steve Martin was made it perfect for records that people could listen to in their homes, even though a great deal of his act was based on mugging and physicality. On his albums – Let’s Get Small, A Wild and Crazy Guy, Comedy Is Not Pretty – a lot of those classic bits still translated, thanks to his energy, but he was also able to get into more intellectual comedy, discussing philosophy, religion and languages – showcasing where his tastes would eventually take him. That said, his non-sequitur appreciation was very much present and highly entertaining, as evidenced by this meaningful little song his grandmother used to sing to him.

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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.