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Idiocracy

The Future Is Now

10 Comedies That Eerily Predicted the Future

Catch Idiocracy Monday, March 28th at 4:15P on IFC.

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Hollywood is full of dreamers, making up whole worlds from scratch. They love to look past the real world, and wonder what could be. As a result, there are countless movies and shows that have taken a stab at how the future could turn out, and gotten it completely wrong. Flying cars and robot time travelers litter the wastebin of failed predictions. Oddly enough, the films that have often come closest to predicting the future were comedies. By exaggerating our culture to outrageous degrees, a few smart comedies have managed to show us a vision of the future that actually panned out. Idiocracy, Mike Judge’s cult comedy which is airing this month on IFC, has proved to be so prescient, its coscreenwriter actually marveled at his and Judge’s soothsaying abilities. Check out a few of the miraculous predictions our favorite comedies have nailed.

10. EDtv Predicts the Rise of Reality TV

EDtv would read as a pitch perfect parody of reality television if it came out today. What’s remarkable is that this Ron Howard comedy, considered a massive flop at the time, was released in 1999, a year before Survivor, and two years before American Idol changed the game of American television. The movie starred Matthew McConaughey as Eddie, an average Joe transformed into a media sensation, in the vein of Joe Millionaire or Jersey Shore‘s The Situation, thanks to his star turn on a show documenting his life.

All the tropes of the reality TV genre are here. The show within the film is a failure until a drunken confrontation reveals infidelity, and pits brother against brother. Conflict leads to ratings, which leads to more conflict. The hit show turns Ed into an empty calorie celebrity, chasing ratings to maintain his own fame. When his popularity falters, his family members become a proto-Kardashian clan, getting their own spin-offs. From the talking heads who feed off his popularity, while simultaneously putting him down, to the increasingly artificial way Eddie presents himself on camera, this film understood a genre that was just in its infancy. By the end of the movie, Ed’s fleeting fame gets the most ’90s explanation ever — he’s washed up, just like the “Macarena”

Some compare EDtv to The Truman Show, released a year earlier, and while that film was undeniably more complex, tackling larger ideas about privacy and nostalgia, the Jim Carrey vehicle was more of a parody of squeaky clean sitcoms than reality TV tropes. Who would actually watch a boring show about a bland man leading an ordinary life? The American TV audience craves drama. That’s what EDtv understood, calling out all the cliches and desperation of a genre that hadn’t yet broken through.


9. Portlandia Predicts The Hipsterfication of the World

Put a Bird on It

It’s often hard to tell if Portlandia is predicting the future, or if the world is just following Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein‘s lead. A sketch about flirting in yoga class has turned into singles speed yoga. YouTube even has its own verison of militant bike enthusiast Spyke in the form of Casey Neistat’s war with New York City over cyclist rights. And let’s be honest, birds are on everything, even presidential candidates.

But perhaps no prediction coming to pass is more surprising than Preschool Mastermind, a preschool for adults. While Portlandia poked fun at babysitters for the aging hipster, this sanctuary for the kid in all of us was founded by Brooklynite Michelle Joni Lapidos as a place for “grown-up boys and girls” to make play more a part of their lives. For prices as low as $333 (and as high as $999) adults will play games, conduct show-and-tell and have nap times. Discussing the trust fund that pays for all of this is optional.


8. A Failed Matthew Perry Sitcom Nearly Predicts the Date of Gaddafi’s Death


Few remember Second Chance, a quickly canceled 1980s sitcom about a dead man who’s sent back in time to relive his teen years. The material was forgettable. The concept tired. Sure, Matthew Perry completists might remember the Friends star got an early break playing the teen at the center of this sitcom, but otherwise the show has languished in failed TV heaven.

A few years back, Second Chance got a, uh, second chance at fame when the Internet noticed that the show almost correctly predicted the date of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death. In the sitcom’s opening scene, the show’s protagonist was sent to the Pearly Gates of Heaven, where he bumps into a recently deceased Colonel Gaddafi. The date of this encounter? July 29th, 2011. Gaddafi’s actual death? October 20th, 2011. Not spot on, but considering a group of sitcom writers, more concerned with getting their ALF spec scripts finished than accurately predicting the future, guess-timated this date 24 years before the Middle Eastern dictator met his untimely demise, it’s not all that bad.


7. The Chris Rock Show Predicts O.J. Simpson’s Confessional Book

Airing on HBO from 1997 to 2000, The Chris Rock Show never shied away from controversy. The show was a reflection of the opinionated comedian whose name it carried, ready and able to tackle anything it found funny or infuriating. That’s how Rock ended up predicating O.J. Simpson’s book, “If I Did It,” a full decade before it would be foisted on the world.

All the way back in 1997, Rock was leading a backstage tour of his show during a segment, when he jokingly stumbled upon a VHS tape The Juice supposedly gave him called “I Didn’t Kill My Wife… But If I Did, Here’s How I’d Do it.” Who knows, maybe that’s where Simpson got the idea? Fortunately, his little money-making venture would turn into a failure. While the book, along with a FOX TV special called “O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened,” were ultimately called off, the Goldman family sued for rights to the book, releasing it in 2007 and claiming all the proceeds.


6. Americathon Predicts America’s Decline Before Idiocracy

1979’s Americathon was sort of like Idiocracy before Idiocracy, a broad comedy predicting how far our country could sink. At the peak of the Carter malaise, with gas prices through the roof and growing economic unrest, this movie tried to envision a world where we kept on going in that direction.

Sure, not everything’s right. The “Jews and Arabs” haven’t joined forces. San Diego wasn’t bought by Mexico. The President doesn’t run the country from his apartment in Los Angeles. Everyone knows our next President is going to run the country from his gold plated dinning room in Trump Tower.

But for all the details this movie got wrong, it somehow got a lot right. China became a capitalist nation, and an economic force in the world. The USSR collapsed. America’s debt to other nations grew exponentially. The relative of a former President would rise to hold the office himself. Granted, if you keep throwing predictions against a wall, some are bound to stick, but it’s still pretty impressive how many this unassuming John Ritter comedy got right. Still waiting for Jay Leno to get punched in the face though. That would be the cherry on top.


5. Scrubs Predicts Where We Found Osama Bin Laden

The Janitor on Scrubs always seemed to have one up of J.D., the forever frazzled intern at Sacred Heart. But never before had the Janitor pulled one over on us. In the seventh episode of Scrubs’ sixth season, titled “His Story IV,” J.D. found himself longing to debate the Iraq war with his colleagues. No one seemed interested. Well, no one except for his greatest foil, who matter-of-factly stated that we should be looking for Bin Laden in Pakistan. While J.D. has no idea what he was talking about, four short years later the whole world would pay attention, as a Navy Seal strike would kill Osama Bin Laden in — wait for it — Pakistan. If only our military leaders had been tuning into Must See TV, we might have nipped that in the bud years earlier.


4. Airplane II Predicts Airport Body Scanners

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If you’re a fan of Nostradamus, but wish he’d had a bit more T&A in his prognostications, this might be the one for you. Airplane and its appropriately titled sequel, Airplane II: The Sequel, were well-oiled joke delivery machines. The second they plowed through one gag, they were on to the next. When you’re chasing that many laughs in a movie, you’re bound to stumble in some unexpected directions. Seeing how a large part of the movie’s audience was made up of teenage boys, jokes that had a little titillation were par for the course. Somehow the instinct to make a joke as an excuse to show some naked breasts ended up predicting a future air travel security measure.

Early in the film, a blink-and-you’d-miss-it joke about scanners at an airport shows a monitor exposing the travelers’ naked bodies. No one could’ve known at the time that such a sophomoric gag could be so prescient, but after 9/11, airports stopped being the happy-go-lucky locations our movies used for sight gags and romantic reunions.

In recent years, most passengers have had to pass through a full body scanner that showed a virtually naked image of our bodies to a select few TSA agents. After an uproar from concerned travelers back in 2013, who didn’t feel like flashing their junk every time they caught a Southwest flight to Phoenix, the TSA altered their machines to show more generic outlines, and not the Full Monty. A win for personal privacy, for sure, but a loss from the horny teen boy that lives inside all of us.


3. South Park Predicts the Downfall of our Favorite Stars

South Park has been on the air for 19 years. With that many episodes in the can, the show was bound to stumble upon a few eerie coincidences. Still, the specific nature of the show’s predictions has us thinking that Trey Parker and Matt Stone may have a crystal ball or two up their sleeves. It may seem obvious now that Miley Cyrus would turn into an over-sexualized unicorn of pop music fluff, but back in 2008, she was still a sugary sweet Disney star. Somehow, South Park was ahead of the curve, predicting she would follow in the footsteps of Britney Spears, and go off the deep end.

The show was also onto Tom Cruise’s connections to Scientology way before the documentary Going Clear exposed the church’s secrets. And of course few predicted the social media meltdowns and bizarre public behavior of Kanye West better than the South Park gang.

Comedy Central

Back in 2009, the episode “Fishsticks” caused Kanye to write an angry blog (a blog post! how quaint!) about how the episode hurt his feelings. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Kanye would erupt over a perceived slight. And really, is Kanye loving on a fish any crazier than that time he loved on Kim on a motorcycle in the “Bound 2” video?


2. Idiocracy Predicts Donald Trump’s America

We live in strange times. A reality show “carnival barker,” in the words of Martin O’Malley, has ridden a wave of resentment to the precipice of the Republican nomination. Yes, there are many reasons to be pissed these days, but the toxic mix of stupidity and anger that Mr. Trump seems to have built his political career on is threatening to become the new American way. And what if it does? What would that world look like?

A lot of people lately have been pointing to the 2006 cult hit comedy Idiocracy as a marker for our new way of life. The blending of politics and entertainment, turning our presidential race into a wrestling match, full of heel turns and cheap insults, certainly resembles the administration of President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho. The screaming crowds who are fed exactly what they want to hear, without the foggiest idea on how to deliver their promises, doesn’t seem that far off from a Trump rally. Sadly, Idiocracy would be preferable to what we have now. It may have been full of dumb people, but they weren’t foaming at the mouth, and full of hate. So while Mike Judge may have had an idea of where this country was going, even he didn’t know how ugly it could get.


1. The Simpsons Predicts Everything

20th Century Fox TV

If we’ve learned anything from Airplane II and South Park, it’s that making non-stop jokes over long periods of time leads to some eerie predictions. There is no better example of this than The Simpsons, which has seemingly predicated every twist and turn this world has taken over the last couple of decades.

Roy of Siegfried and Roy getting mauled by a tiger? Check. Arnold Schwarzenegger making bad “ice” puns? Check. Farmville becoming an addictively popular video game? Check. A nuclear accident causing tomatoes to mutate? Check. Voting machines malfunctioning in the 2012 presidential race? Check. Eerily predicting the Syrian war, right down to the flag of certain Syrian rebel groups? Check. Don Mattingly getting benched because of his hair? Check. Predicating an equation that equals the mass of Higgs Boson 14 years before it was discovered? Check. Hinting at the specifics of 9/11? Check. Predicating that our universe is shaped like a donut? Unsurprisingly, check. And last, but hopefully least, predicting the Presidency of Donald Trump, right down to how he announced his candidacy. Check. It’s nice to see, as the television world pushes for more diversity, that the writing staff of The Simpsons has always made room for a precog or two.

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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.