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Craig Robinson talks “Hot Tub” sequel, “This Is the End” and more

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Craig Robinson pops miniature cupcakes in his mouth, each one representing an alien trapped in an Area 51 prison in his latest film, “Escape from Planet Earth.” A blue one is in reference to either of two brothers in the Supernova family, Gary (the brains, voiced by Rob Corddry) or Scorch (the brawn, voiced by Brendan Fraser). A red one is for Jane Lynch’s Cyclops alien named Io (Get it? Eye-O). An orange one is for George Lopez’s slimy mollusk alien Thurman. But where’s the one for Robinson’s character, a mouse-like alien named Doc, a famed intergalactic talk show therapist who invented social networking? What’s up with that, Doc? “I don’t know,” Robinson laughs. “I’d be delicious.”

Despite his character’s invention, Robinson himself was late to the Twitter party. “Very late,” he acknowledges. “I remember hearing Rainn Wilson talking about it on set [at ‘The Office’], maybe to Mindy [Kaling], and he and she both have over a million followers. I’m still stuck at two hundred thousand. But I’m terrible.”

If Robinson sees an image that makes him laugh, or if he’s at an event where he meets fellow celebs (such as the NAACP Image Awards after party, where he met up with Quvenzhané Wallis from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and Amandla Stenberg who played Rue in “The Hunger Games”), he’ll tweet a picture. “But other than that, I don’t know how to use it exactly,” he says. “And I don’t want it to control me. And I can’t just let off everything. Some of it’s got to be saved for the stage, and who wants to hear what I’m thinking?”

Robinson used his real voice for the character of Doc, but amped up his positivity — he wanted the alien to be the one you turn to in disaster situations (“He feels like he has all the answers,” he says. “He’s the man to know, because he knows how to get out of any situation”). And speaking of disasters, Robinson’s becoming quite the expert on post-apocalyptic situations — “Escape from Planet Earth” is just one of a trio of doomsday films he has on the horizon. Also on the way — Seth Rogen’s directorial debut “This Is the End” (where he and his buddies wait out the apocalypse at James Franco’s house) and “Raptureapalooza,” in which Robinson is the Antichrist.

“They all couldn’t be more different, but it’s quite interesting that I’m at the center of these three,” Robinson says. “‘Escape’ is the possibility of a planet blowing up, but it’s averted, and ‘This Is the End,’ something bad has just happened, and ‘Raptureapalooza,’ the Antichrist has taken over, so it’s all the different stages. They’re all fun and funny, and that’s what I’m here to do. I’m the apocalypse guy.”

In “This Is The End,” Robinson says, all the actors (who are playing versions of themselves) go “a little crazy,” but he’s the one who, “for the lack of a better word, I’m not as nasty. Some of the other characters are.” Since it’s a large cast, he had a harder time than usual stealing scenes: “There are six people, so you got Jonah Hill, James Franco, and Seth Rogen over here, so anytime it’s time to improv, it’s like, ‘Okay, here we go!’ You have to get in where you fit in. You have to jockey for position. Jonah is not going to stop. Franco is not going to stop. Rogen is not going to stop. And that left [Jay] Baruchel, Danny McBride, and myself, and it was a lot of jockeying.”

One moment he jockeyed for — and might end up on the cutting room floor — is when “they send me out into the madness,” and he sings a silly song, trying their patience. The key to playing himself, Robinson said, was keeping it positive. “He realizes that drinking his urine is not that bad,” Robinson says of this version of himself. “What else could this post-apocalyptic world have to offer that I never would have experienced if everything is normal? Your attitude is going to carry you. Your attitude is your altitude. It’s not really the end of the world — it’s, What do you do now? That’s the big question.”

In both “This Is the End” and “Rapturepalooza,” Robinson says, people are “Raptured up to heaven,” and it’s about the ones who are left behind. The difference is, he says, two years have passed. For one of his first leading roles, Robinson says his take on the Antichrist is to make him “loveable.” “He’s a regular human being, but he knows he’s going to come back as Satan. He wants to die, because he’s power-hungry, but at the same time, he falls in love with Anna Kendrick’s character.” His character sings to her, “to try to seduce her, in my Antichrist way,” he says. “It’s a very inappropriate song, so there are some fun things I get to say to her about touching her booty and she just has to take it because she’s trying to keep her family and friends alive.” Robinson, who just saw Kendrick’s turn in “Pitch Perfect” on the flight to New York the day previous, thinks he could take Kendrick in a riff-off: “She definitely has a better voice, but I could out-last her in songs.”

But if an apocalyptic situation were to actually happen, don’t look to Robinson for any help. Beyond wondering where he would hide, “I would be ass out,” he laughs. “I am not prepared for anything. I think I have one first aid kit in a backpack from a gifting suite or something. Other than that, I would be trying to borrow margarine from other people. ‘Can I get some beans?’ And I wouldn’t even have a can opener or nothing.”

On the horizon for Robinson — if the world doesn’t end before then — is another trip back in time with the “Hot Tub Time Machine” crew. “Looking forward to seeing if that happens,” he grins. “He’s become a successful music producer, but he became successful because he sang the Black Eyed Peas. That’s not fair. So it might touch on some of that. And hopefully if people liked my singing in the first one, they’ll want some more of that. I think we’re going to go back to that, absolutely.”

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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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