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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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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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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….

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IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.

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IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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