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Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Scott Aukerman talks about Between Two Ferns and The Lonely Island

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Yesterday a new episode of Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis landed on the internet. The webseries lives on Funny or Die but spreads so quickly through the internet it reminds you why videos are called “viral.” The show has a simple premise: Zach Galifianakis interviews a celebrity guest between two titular ferns in a pseudo public access television show. While the premise is simple, the jokes are not. The show thrives on creating brilliantly muted comedy that is simultaneously subtle and laugh-out-loud funny, especially in the show’s early episodes where it was unclear whether or not the celebrities guests were in on the joke as Galifianakis played his role completely straight. The meta-ness of do-they-or-don’t-they only added to the laughs. The episode that appeared yesterday combined two of the internet’s favorite things: Between Two Ferns and the Saturday Night Live-based comedy rap group The Lonely Island. The video started out as an episode of Between Two Ferns with Galifianakis interviewing James Franco. Suddenly the show breaks into a full-on “Spring Breakers” parody complete with Franco reprising his role in a music video by The Lonely Island for their song “Spring Break Anthem,” off their forthcoming album. It was brilliant. Not to brag, but as it turns out we know the director: Scott Aukerman, host and creator of Comedy Bang! Bang! and long-time producer and co-creator of Between Two Ferns.

We talked to Scott about his involvement with Between Two Ferns, how he brought The Lonely Island and Ferns together:

So rumor has it that you are a producer of “Between Two Ferns”

Yes, and this time I directed the ferns.

You are a Fern Director? Is that your title?

Yes, that’s my professional title. When I got there everyone thought my job was just to move the ferns around. It was a really funny day. We settled it eventually.

I think that’s a lie? So can you tell me the real story of your involvement with Between Two Ferns?

We started Ferns a few years ago for a different show I was working on that didn’t get made. We really liked the Ferns bit and so we put it on Funny or Die, which was really just starting up at the time and it got to be popular. [Ed. Note: The first Between Two Ferns starred Michael Cera, you can watch it here.] We thought that could be it, and then it turned out that Jimmy Kimmel was a fan of it and asked us to do one for his show. So we did that. Each time we do one of these, we think it will be the last one.

Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis: Jimmy Kimmel from Between Two Ferns

How do you keep the episodes fresh?

If talk shows got old people would not watch them five nights a week. The trick for us to keep them fresh is that I think we just try to do each one as funny as we can. We also try to challenge ourselves, like with the Oscar one we faced the challenge of interviewing that many celebrities – that many big names – in a row. The major hurdle always has to be is Zach interested in doing it. Sometimes there are ideas that we are all on board with, Zach included, and we just can’t make them work for logistical reasons. There are other ideas that he’s not interested in doing at all. So with each idea, we just have figure out if can make it work.

How did you hook up with The Lonely Island people?

A few months back I was talking to Andy [Samberg] and he told me that they had a new record coming out around this time. I’m a big fan of theirs and worked with him in the past, but didn’t think too much of it at the time, other than excitement about the record. Then I started to think about it some more and wanted to come up with a way to get Ferns involved with them. Their videos rule the internet and combining those videos with Zach’s stuff, for lack of a better word, it’s a marriage that would be too good of an idea to pass up. I knew there was an idea in there somewhere, but I didn’t know what it was yet, but I thought it would be really cool. I wrote to Zach about it and I never heard back from him. Around the time of the Oscars I checked back in with him and it turned out he had never read the email. He was immediately on board. I reached out to Andy and the guys and they were interested. They listened to the album and hit on the idea of Spring Break Anthem.

How did you get James Franco involved?

The trick for us was figuring out what we would do together. Once we knew it was the spring break one we thought it would be Zach interviewing The Lonely Island and they would do a live performance and then we came up with the idea of turning it into a Trojan horse where you think it’s a regular episode of Between Two Ferns and then it segued into our first musical guest, which is an idea we always wanted to do. Funny or Die got involved at that point and reached out to some people and James Franco sounded like he was really into it. We knew we had him for the Ferns part and The Lonely Island guys reached out separately and he agreed to do that part, too. That was great because it really integrated to the halfs. We really lucked out with James’ willingness to do stuff.

What goes into producing an episode of Between Two Ferns?

It’s a great group effort. We just try to get it done in the most fun way possible. All talk about ideas, we all pitch possibilities. There’s a lot of experimentation when we do them, even on the day we do them, we experiment to see what will be the best and what’s fun.

Is music going to get a bigger role on future Between Two Ferns? It seems like a natural fit.

I don’t want to spoil them but we have some ideas. If we ever do another Ferns again. We have no idea if we will ever do another one. But I think it’s really cool that The Lonely Island guys put this out as the first shot off the bow for their new record. I was really happy that they made this the new single from the new records and what they did with this video was amazing. It really blew me away, especially because the song is construed as a more controversial choice that not everyone agrees with. Some people do not agree with the gay marriage part of it, if you read the YouTube comments.

Wait, you read the comments?

The comments are a graveyard. But I think it’s really funny that people think that the YouTube comment section is a good platform to debate their views on gay marriage.

Watch Between Two Ferns and The Lonely Island’s “Spring Break Anthem” now:

Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis: James Franco from Zach Galifianakis

Want the latest news from Comedy Bang! Bang!? Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter@comedybangbang and use the hashtag #cbbtv.

Comedy Bang! Bang! returns to IFC this summer

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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