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DID YOU READ

SXSW 2013: Five minutes with Eugene Mirman

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Eugene Mirman is a busy man, especially when he’s at SXSW. So we jumped in the car and chatted with him for the five minutes it took to drive from the Driskill Hotel to his next gig.

Hi Eugene, thanks for letting us hitch a ride with you.

Oh sure, so are car interviews your thing?

No, no you just didn’t have time for a sit-down interview.

Ah! I have been doing a lot of interviews, but I thought this was your thing. “Oh we do car interviews!” and I was like, ‘Okay that sounds fine,’ but it isn’t. It’s not that you do car interviews. This is great, this is good, I’m glad we’re doing it anyway.

You’re a veteran of the Austin scene down here. How many SXSWs have you been to?

I’ve done the last 13.

Wow, 13? You’re an expert then.

I don’t know if I’m an expert at going to a music festival. But I think in 2000 my website was nominated for Best Humor Site or something like that and I came down with my friend who had designed it and we were like, ‘Oh this is very fun. We should come back.’ So I did. I may have even done a show somewhere that first year, but since then I have been coming back and doing shows every year. Before they ever added comedy, I would just put on a show before the music festival started and use that show’s money to finance staying here.

Do you have certain things you really like to do while you’re here each year?

Walking around South Congress is always lovely. There’s a handful of restaurants – although sometimes they change – that I try to go to each year. Like Franklin Barbecue and this Japanese place called Uchiko, which is really awesome, so I might try and do those things, but mostly it’s just coming to see friends who are in LA or live somewhere else. It’s a great chance to catch up with friends, basically.

What are you doing here this year?

Just a bunch of car interviews.

Car interviews are where it’s at! I’m going to make this my thing.

Just seven back-to-back car interviews.

No one else gets to do car interviews! It’s my shtick now.

This is how it’s going to start for you. You’re going to become the greatest car interviewer ever. I’m interviewing They Might Be Giants today.

Oh they are great! Are you a They Might Be Giants fan?

I am.

Which album?

I’m a fan of several albums, actually. It would be funny if I was like, “Only Lincoln, after that, what happened to them.” But I am a fan of them. They are a band I liked a lot in college, so this is fun. Flood was a great record, Lincoln, classics! John Henry, I think that came out while I was in college. So I’m interviewing them tonight and I did two shows yesterday and I’m going to go see stuff and eat at some places. Like Franklin Barbecue, which is right there [pointing as we drive past]. You have to go at 9 or 10 in the morning, but it’s the best. Literally the best.

Here’s the question we’ve been asking everyone: What is one memorably awkward high school experience?

What’s an awkward high school experience? High school is all awkward, so I don’t know. I have sad stories from elementary school, so maybe this will suffice. When I was in sixth grade I had a collie and it was a very pretty collie that I had for about six months, because it got hit by a car.

I don’t like this story at all, Eugene.

We had to go to the vet while my parents were away, with this collie dying next to me, and it died. Then the next day at school this little girl came up to me and was like, “You’re dog committed suicide because it didn’t love you.”

This is the worst story I have ever heard.

Yeah, well you asked if I could think of an awkward story and I thought that the amount that story is sad covers it. Like, it’s the wrong gear, it’s not awkward, but it’s pretty horrifying, so in that sense, it’s fine. It was sixth grade, but it was pretty traumatic, so it works.

It does sound very traumatic. How long did it take you to get over that?

I don’t know, I’m 38 and I’m in the back of a car telling it to you now, so I don’t think I ever have. That was when I decided I should become a comedian and use that to work through these issues.

Do you do that with your comedy? Do you work through issues on stage?

No, not really. Not specifically. Meaning what I do on stage is not particularly personal. It’s personal as to how I see the world, but it’s not personal like, “It’s so weird fucking people and it makes me feel weird.” It’s not that. That’s a bad example of personal stand up comedy, but you get what I mean.

You came to the U.S. from Russian when you were a kid, right?

I did. I came here when I was four.

Where did you go to high school?

I went to high school in Lexington, Massachusetts, which in hindsight was very nice. It was a great school, but at that the time it was like, “School is a terrible experience.”

Have they invited you back to speak?

I have spoken at both my high school and college. There were several people from my high school like Ethan Zahn who won the first “Survivor,” Amanda Palmer, I think a lot of us have spoken at the high school. I mean there’s only so many people who went to the school. They also have professors or radio personalities or whatever, but yes. That’s a long roundabout way of saying that yes, I spoke at my high school. And at the college, which was nice too.

What was that experience like? My high school has definitely not invited me back to speak.

Yeah, but in like two years they will. Maybe four. It’s really likely. How many people are voice actors from your high school? Once they are invited back, you’re next. That’s how it works. The experience well the class picks you. In both high school and college you are invited because the class wants you to come. What’s funny is that when I was introduced for the high school one, you can find both speech on the internet, but for the high school one they just introduced me as “From the Class of 1992, Eugene Mirman” and most of the people in the hockey stadium where they did this graduation clearly had no idea who I was or what I did. They knew that I had gone to the school and that they had asked me to speak. It was a really funny experience where my friends who had come and were in the audience kept hearing the kids ask “Who is this? What does he do?” But it was a really great experience and it went really great.

Well, we reached your destination, so get out of the car.

Okay, I 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.