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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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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

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This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Dark Arts

Foot Fetish Jesus And Other Nightmares

Meet the minds behind Comedy Crib's latest series, Quirks and The Mirror.

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The Mirror and Quirks are really, really strange. Deeply disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful. But you really don’t need to read a synopsis of either of the aforementioned shows to understand the exact variety of nightmare-bonkers comedy these shows deliver — that’s why the good lord made links. Instead, take a peek behind the curtain and meet the creators.

Quirks

Let’s start with Kevin Tosi. Kevin does the whole show by himself. That doesn’t mean he’s a loner — Kevin has a day job with actual humans. But that day job is copywriting. So it’s only natural that his suppressed demons would manifest themselves in biting cartoon form, including “Foot Fetish Jesus”, in ways that somehow speak to all of us. If only all copywriters channeled their inner f*ckedupness into such…expressive art.

The Mirror

Onward to the folks at Wham City Comedy.

These guys aren’t your typical comedy collective in that their work is way more left-field and even elevated than your standard digital short. More funny weird than funny ha-ha. They’ve done collaborations with musicians like Beach House, Dan Deacon & Wye Oak, television networks (obviously), and others. Yeah they get paid, but their motivation feels deeper. Darker. Most of them are video artists, and that explains a lot.

See more of The Mirror and Quirks on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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