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DID YOU READ

SXSW 2013: Fred Armisen on SXSW, “Out There” and “Portlandia”

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“This is Fred Armisen. I’m in a car right now with Melissa Locker. ” Thus started our chat with “Portlandia” star, writer and creator Fred Armisen who we cornered at SXSW 2013. We were going to talk about SXSW and his work on “Portlandia” and “Out There,” but Fred quickly took control of the interview and used it as a platform to cast unfair aspersions at one of IFC’s lovely and kind publicists. Please note, he was kidding and none of it is true. Comedians, man.

Hi Fred, you haven’t been to SXSW since …

1998

Were you sort of nervous about coming back or excited?

Excited really. I really liked it back then and I have very vivid memories of how nice it was. So yeah I’m excited! If I had more time I’d go look at more stuff, but I’ll take it. I’ll take this little time.

If you liked it so much, how come you didn’t come for 12 years?

There’s a very black and white answer in that every time I’ve wanted to go, it’s been a SNL week. Every single year, it’s been like, ‘oh maybe this would be a good year to go’ and then I always have to work. For some reason the timing worked out this year so I could go. And I’ve been on the show 11 years so that’s it.

Right, because the SXSW tape was your starting point.

Yeah, that tape was my entry point into comedy, into the life I have now. It was definitely my starting point.

Is this in some ways a victory lap?

A little bit. It’s funny, because when I came to SXSW originally I had this attitude that was very cynical. I was going to make fun of the idea that you had to come to a music festival to make it in music. There were all these panel discussions and I was like, what? I was kind of upset about how my music career had gone. But ironically it actually was the place I had to come to be successful, for lack of a better word. There’s success in everything even you haven’t quote-unquote made it. In my book, in the way that I see things, I really did have to come to Austin.

What are you going to do now that you’re back?

Well, Hallie, who is one of the publicists at IFC is very sadistic and I said to her, “I would like to walk around and do stuff,” and she said, “No, I am setting up back-to-back interviews.” I was like, “Well, it would be nice to walk around and do stuff.” And she was like, “NO. I’ve worked my whole life trying to get your show on the air.” And I was like, “You didn’t put my show on the air! You do publicity!” And she said, “You don’t even know how IFC works!” So I said, “I do know how IFC works! You don’t have the right to do that!” So she said, “Well if you’re not going to do anything then I’m not going.” So I said, “I want you to go to Austin, I want you to go and enjoy it.” And she was like, “Thank you.” and crying a little and I said, “Don’t cry!” and she said, “I’m not crying about you, I’m crying about other stuff in my life.” And I was like, “Okay okay let’s just go do these interviews.” And she said, “One of them is with Melissa Locker,” and I said “That’s fine. That’s good. I’ll do that.”

So what you’re going to do in Austin is back-to-back interviews.

Yes, back-to-back interviews.

Because Hallie made you.

The thing with Hallie I think is that it’s more about how she wants to be connected to me. I get that a lot actually. People want to be connected to me.

This is why you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, because your friend requests would be overwhelming.

That is one of the reasons. The other reason is that I can’t find it online.

Yes, Facebook is extremely hard to find online.

I’ve Googled it but then …nothing.

You were at the Prince tribute concert at Carnegie Hall the other night.

Yes, there were actually a couple of them. There was a sort of rehearsal for the show and then an actual show.

Rumor has it that Prince is going to be performing this Saturday for the first time ever at SXSW

Really?

So are you going to stay now?

God, how strong is the rumor?

Very strong. He’s reportedly going to be playing with a 22-piece backing band.

God, wow. You know they said he was going to be at the Carnegie Hall thing, they said he was going to be at the after-party and he wasn’t, which is what I like about him, that he’s a mystery. I’ve seen him a bunch of times and he’s amazing. He’s just amazing.

Have you met him?

Briefly at SNL. You know I’m always a Prince fan.

You are providing the voice of Terry on “Out There.” What has that been like?

That has been really really fun because they showed me what he looked like first and it was kind of like he had this hippie look to him instead of the stereotypical Latino character. Which I think is a good version of someone who is Latino. There are a bunch of people in the Southwest who are hippies as well as Latino. It’s been really fun and I go to the recording studio and they kind of guide me along. I’ve been watching it recently and I’m really happy with the way it all came out. They put a lot of love into it and that’s really cool. It’s just such a nice optimistic show and I’m really psyched about it. Then they asked me to voice a teacher and I did that too. It’s just the kind of stuff that I love to do.

Voice over work?

Yeah, there’s something very gratifying about doing a little bit of work and then everybody does the rest of the work. All the voices, all the animation.

So, you like getting the credit for other people’s work?

Yeah, it’s cool. It’s been really great. I think it’s nice that there is no cynicism on “Out There”

Because Portlandia isn’t cynical.

No, it’s not. And I think it’s kind of a nice thing for IFC where there is this kind of vibe where there isn’t very much anger. And I know Marc Maron seems that way, but he’s actually an optimist. He would never say that, but there’s something about Marc Maron that is really optimistic.

“Out There” is obviously based in high school, so what was your high school experience like?

High school was really good! I grew up in Long Island, in Valley Stream and it was really nice. We had physically a really nice school, good teachers. I had a good time with my friends. We were a bunch of weirdos. I was really into punk. We were close enough to New York City that we got to go to the City all the time. I had a really good time.

Did you have one high school experience that was awkward?

There was one junior high school experience, where we were given an assignment to write about what we would do if it was the last day on Earth. Everyone was writing about how they would go visit their grandma and I was like, ‘that is SO lame!” I don’t know if I was trying to be funny or what, but I said that I would go to the main street in Valley Stream and smash all the windows and light the buildings on fire. When you’re 14 or 15, that’s how teenagers think! But they sent me to the school psychologist and it sucked because my mother got worried and I had to do all these tests. They were these written tests and they made me feel crazy because I was alone taking these tests while class was going on. So that was sort of traumatic, but in retrospect it was the first time I started getting like studio notes on the work I was doing.

Want the latest news on IFC’s happenings at SXSW? Check the schedule here. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @IFCsxsw

Photo credit: Rebecca Brenneman/IFC

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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.