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Austin Powers Mike Myers Elizabeth Hurley

Wry Spy

The 10 Best Offbeat Spy Movies

Catch Austin Powers and Austin Powers in Goldmember Friday, August 19th starting at 6P as part of IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: New Line Cinema/Everett Collection

By the time Mike Myers donned the glasses and fake teeth for the third time in Austin Powers in Goldmember, audiences had grown weary of the constant “Yeah, baby!” and “Oh, behave!” impressions that plagued workplace break rooms since 1997. (The film’s 54% “Rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes makes it perfect viewing for IFC’s “Too Rotten to Miss” Fridays.) But spoofing spy movies hardly originated with Myers’ horny Brit, nor did the parodies end with his gold member.

Here are the 10 best movies that approach the spy genre with an unconventional eye.

10. Casino Royale

Billed as a movie that’s “too much for one James Bond,” this parody of the Ian Fleming novel boasts a top-heavy cast with a lowbow sensibility. In this swingin’ hypercolor mishmash, Agent 007 is played by several people including David Niven, Peter Sellers, Ursula Andress, Woody Allen, and (ahem) a chimpanzee. The film was panned by critics and had a disastrous shoot that had a revolving fleet of directors and screenwriters and at least one star (Sellers) abandoning the production altogether. Decades later, Casino Royale returned as an official Bond film that launched the Daniel Craig 007 era.


9. Our Man Flint

James Coburn sports a billion-dollar grin in this spoof of Bond flicks. A direct influence on the Austin Powers franchise — its sequel In Like Flint briefly appears on screen to the delight of Myers’ character — the film features an international playboy as its lead spy, a terrorist organization of mad scientists, and miniskirted “Pleasure Units.” (Austin nodded to these saucy characters with the infamous Fembots.)


8. The Man Who Knew Too Little

This all-but-forgotten Bill Murray vehicle from 1997 takes the Hitchcockian premise of an everyman thrust into the world of espionage due to mistaken identity and turns up the buffoonery to 11. Hammy and extremely broad, the tone is more suited for a Chris Kattan romp than a Bill Murray spoof. But for Murray completists who appreciate an honest attempt at spy comedy, it’s worth a shot.


7. Burn After Reading

You won’t find Burn After Reading at the top of many Coen Brothers fan lists, but that shouldn’t dissuade viewers from enjoying this entertaining shaggy dog story of bumbling bureaucratic espionage. Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, and John Malkovich are a joy to watch as they mug and botch their way through a hairbrained scheme to blackmail a former CIA operative.


6. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

A bizarre and dubious autobiopic of Gong Show host Chuck Barris, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind was adapted to the screen by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) and marks the directorial debut of George Clooney. Barris famously claimed to be an assassin for the CIA, and Clooney and Julia Roberts show up in the film as (possibly fictional) secret agents. The quirky film is also notable for substantiating the infamous “strangest place you ever made whoopie” moment with the actual clip from The Newlywed Game.


5. Spies Like Us

Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are unwitting agents up against the threat of Russian nukes in this 1985 goofball movie from director John Landis. Less of an homage to Bond than the classic road movies of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Spies Like Us pokes fun at the Cold War lunacy of the Reagan years while offering up some decent laughs. (The foreign service exam scene and field-training scenarios are definite highlights.)


4. What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

In 1966, Woody Allen basically did Mystery Science Theater 3000 over 20 years before Joel and the Bots ever made it to space. The writer-director redubbed the Japanese spy film International Secret Police: Key of Keys into a completely new film — namely, one centered around the search for a secret egg salad recipe. Comedy geeks regard this cult film as a funny experiment with amusing results.


3. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery

Once you get past the catchphrases, the original Austin Powers is a solid spoof of spy movies that still resonates today. While the sequels ran once fresh gags into the ground, they did give us memorable characters like Mini-Me (Verne Troyer), Fat Bastard (Mike Myers), and Goldmember (Myers again). (Catch Austin Powers Friday, August 19th at 6P on IFC.)


2. Top Secret!

Underappreciated within the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker oeuvre, Top Secret! is more than your typical spoof stuffed with sight gags and one-liners. The parody skewers everything from The Great Escape to Elvis Presley movies and delivers gags in the Airplane! and Naked Gun directors’ usual laugh-a-second style. But it’s the sum of its parts — including the underwater fight scene and the sequence shot entirely in reverse — that makes Top Secret! a notable comedy standout.


1. Spy

The always delightful Melissa McCarthy charmed audiences with her portrayal of a CIA pencil-pusher transformed into an ace field agent in 2015’s hit Spy. Tossed into the fray after the death of her colleague and crush (played by Jude Law), McCarthy uses brains (and wigs) over brawn in her mission to track down a suitcase nuclear device. Genuinely funny and entertaining, Spy took the 00-spoof genre to new levels of hilarity.

Go undercover with Austin Powers in Goldmember as part of IFC’s Rotten Fridays
.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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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