The War Room Documentary

War Dogs

Looking Back at the Bill Clinton Documentary That Inspired “The Bunker”

Documentary Now! returns to IFC this Wednesday, September 14th at 10P with the campaign classic "The Bunker."

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Photo Credit: October Films/Everett Collection.

Before presidential campaigns were dissected by every news channel, website and Twitter troll, the Oscar-winning documentary The War Room exposed the inner workings of the 1992 Clinton/Gore ticket.

To get you ready for “The Bunker” —  Documentary Now!‘s season premiere which takes a look at the heated Ohio Governor campaign that also garnered a good deal of buzz in ’92 — here are a few things you need to know about the film that inspired Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and the rest of the Doc Now! team.

Meet the Ragin’ Cajun

Bill Hader James Carville speech

Released in 1993, The War Room introduced the world to James Carville, Clinton’s cantankerous lead campaign strategist and possessor of a Cajun snarl that could bring weaker men to their knees. (He also knew how to rock some multicolored ’90s outfits.)

A wiz with a catchphrase (you can thank him for “It’s the economy, stupid!”), Carville quickly became a hit on the cable news and late night TV circuit. Saturday Night Live took notice, with everyone from John Malkovich to Documentary Now!‘s own Bill Hader spoofing his bulldog political tactics and colorful Cajun aphorisms.


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Hader once again perfectly captures Carville’s mannerisms and unique turns-of-phrase with Teddy Redbones, the “Mississippi Machiavelli” campaign guru he plays in “The Bunker.” Watch these clips of Carville from The War Room and Hader in “The Bunker.” They could easily be Cajun cousins!

Ladies Love Cool George

Fred Armisen Bunker

The other breakout star of The War Room was Clinton’s Communications Director/handsome gent George Stephanopoulos. With a laidback demeanor that offset Carville’s intensity and a haircut that rivaled that other George who everyone loved in the ’90s, Stephanopoulos quickly became a political heartthrob.

In “The Bunker,” Fred Armisen plays Stephanopoulos surrogate Alvin “Boy Hunk of the Beltway” Panagoulious as an aw-shucks player — casually flirting with news hosts and decrying supermodel posters on the office wall for only featuring “nines out of 10.”

Clinton’s Campaign Played Dirty

Like Obama, Clinton ran on a campaign of “change versus more of the same,” a slogan coined by Carville.

In one scene in The War Room, Carville and the team work on an attack ad that took aim at George Bush’s backpedaling on his “No New Taxes” promise. (Watch the attack ad from “The Bunker” above.) As Carville said, their aim was to go after “the whole sleazy cabal” of the wealthy elite, and The War Room shows Clinton’s team slamming Bush’s every misstep, like the time he was confused by a grocery store scanner.

The Birth of “Slick Willie”

Remember Gennifer Flowers? Reports of Bill Clinton’s affair with the Penthouse model surfaced during the making of The War Room, and the film captures the way his team dodged the illicit allegations and spun voters towards focusing on the issues. (Bill could’ve used his “War Room” a few years later during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.)

Filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker were only given minimal access to Clinton, who comes out looking far more rosy than the wheeling and dealing duo of Carville and Stephanopoulos. “The Bunker” nods to this in the way Councilman Herndon keeps his hands clean as Redbones and Panagoulious smear incumbent Governor Lester.

To see how well Documentary Now! captures The War Room, catch the premiere of “The Bunker” Wednesday, September 14th at 10P on IFC. It’ll change the way you think about elections.

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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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GIFs via Giphy

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.