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Lorne Michaels wins rare Peabody Award

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The legendary Lorne Michaels won a rare individual Peabody Award on Wednesday morning. The awards, announced this time via Twitter and webcast, usually recognizes the group effort of a cast, writers and crew of a show during the course of a single season. Michaels, however, is being singularly rewarded for his entire body of work. His most recent productions include “Portlandia,” “30 Rock,” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and, of course, “Saturday Night Live,” the most influential comedy show of all time, which he created in 1975. For more than 30 years, the dapper, dour Canadian-American has launched some of the best comedians in the world, looking over their careers from his office at 30 Rockefeller Center. He has always been fiercely pro-NBC, walking the fine line between creative and executive. “… (H)e is both corporate and uncorporate; a man who can feel comfortable in a Prada suit or khakis; a man who has counseled the highest echelons of NBC power, yet who feels beholden to nothing except the rigor of creating comedy — and the occasional glance at ratings,” wrote Stacey Wilson in a profile for The Hollywood Reporter.

Though born in Toronto, it is hard to think of anyone more American-to-the-core than Michaels. Lorne is a self-made man, creating, in his own self-becoming process, a cutting edge American institution that expanded the parameters of what could be done in American sketch comedy. “SNL,” under Lorne’s soft Canadian-American paternalism, lampooned our cultural obsessions as well as our leaders; “30 Rock,” under his guidance, has parodied the dysfunctions of a comedy show (and who would know that terrain better than Lorne?). His own comedic sensibility — intelligent, brash, martini-dry but with an acute awareness of the PR angle (particularly in his youth) — is the North Star which has led several generations of performers who hope to one day appear on one of the shows that he produces. Michaels, it should also be added, comes across as hyper-fair ( a rare trait in the world of comedy), especially when he gently led Sarah Palin into the treacherous waters of an “SNL” cold open in the thick of a Presidential contest. Except for a brief period in the 1980s, Michaels has been at the helm of his creation, the all-seeing Daddy, even doing memorable cameos over the years, enhancing his reputation among the creatives.

Everyone seems to have a Lorne Michael story. The theme of almost all of these stories is the outsize power and influence of the man. Tracy Morgan first met Michaels when he was hawking overpriced Yankees merchandise. Artie Lange has a funny story about meeting Lorne Michaels, in which he comes off as a gigantic asshole. But it is Alec Baldwin, whose Jack Donaghy on “30 Rock” lovingly parodies his comedic mentor, that grasps the sweet Candian-American essence that is Michaels. “In Baldwin’s mind, ‘Jack Donaghy is Lorne, first and foremost,” he told The New Yorker. “‘What am I, a farmer?’ That is Lorne. I think he said that. Lorne’s got a tuxedo in the glove compartment of his car. Lorne is a big-ticket A-list New York water buffalo. He’s big on the Serengeti. Lorne is a person who seduces you into thinking that if you take his advice and play your cards right you’re going to end up with his life.”

The most interesting recent Lorne Michaels story involves the memorable “SNL” cold open in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. “Between dress and air (Lorne) came up with the idea of after the kids sing ‘Silent Night’ they dip to black and then they come up and say ‘Live from New York,” Martin Short, on Studio Q, told the host. This insight into such a culturally significant moment not only gives us a glimpse as to what it is exactly that Lorne Michaels does at “SNL,” but also provides us with the reason why as to why he is so culturally invaluable. The Lorne Michaels touch.

No portrait, no matter how brief, of Lorne Michaels would be accurate without referring to the man’s position in the world of comedy. Michaels, in the winter of his life, gives off an air as patrician now as he exuded was smart-alecky in the 1970s. He was more of a creative when he was younger, and now he can only be properly construed under the category of “suit.” As something of a fixer — with none of the negative connotations, I must add — Michaels has been a major reason for the success of NBC late night (with Conan and Jimmy) and Saturday night. However, at no other time has Lorne Michaels wielded as much power as he does now. The rise of Jimmy Fallon (and in his wake, Seth Meyers), the fresh nostalgia over the end of “30 Rock”, the ungodly power of the Weekend Update chair all argue that Lorne Michaels has an almost unnatural pop-cultural influence. “For decades, the host of The Tonight Show has been crowned NBC’s late-night king,” wrote Nellie Andreeva for Deadline. “But through the years, one figure has been looming larger than any host or executive in NBC’s late night, producer Lorne Michaels, and the current turmoil over the Tonight Show transition is poised to further cement his enormous clout. ” His power grows stronger and stronger.

After 36 years, after being nominated for 80 Emmys (and winning 18), Lorne Michael will be honored by the Peabody’s at the Waldorf-Astoria on May 20th. Well played, Lorne Michaels.

What do you think of Lorne Michaels’ achievement? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Scarface Movie Al Pacino

Wanna Play?

Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

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Hank Azaria Commencement

Best Speech Ever

Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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