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Salesman Documentary Paul Brennan

Always Be Closing

Get to Know the Real Life Salesmen Who Inspired “Globesman”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Salesman" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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This Wednesday at 10P, Documentary Now! goes back to a simpler time when door-to-door salesmen stalked the suburbs in three-piece suits reeking of cigarettes, steak sauce and desperation. But before you watch Fred Armisen and Bill Hader as traveling globe salesmen peddling their wares in a world of atlases, learn all about the real life salesmen who inspired “Globesman,” the latest non-fiction masterwork from Documentary Now!.

Before Grey Gardens, There Was Salesman

“Globesman” takes its inspiration from Salesman, the 1969 Maysles Brothers documentary that follows a group of traveling Bible salesmen. Having cut their teeth directing television documentaries, the Maysles decided to tackle a feature-length film based on their own experiences as door-to-door salesmen peddling everything from brushes to encyclopedias. Just like with their classic documentary Grey Gardens (the inspiration for Documentary Now!‘s “Sandy Passage”), the Maysles adopted a fly-on-the-wall filmmaking approach and let the salesmen tell their stories.

Every Good Salesman Needs a Nickname

Salesman
Maysles Films

Throughout the documentary, we meet several Bible salesmen, all with nicknames that fit their personalities and sales methods. There’s James “The Rabbit” Baker, a smooth talker whose calm demeanor helps him close sales with lonely housewives. Charles McDevitt, aka “The Gipper,” and Raymond “The Bull” Martos earn their nicknames with their jocular attitudes and aggressive sales tactics. And most notable is Paul “The Badger” Brennan, a real life Willy Loman who can’t seem to catch a break.

Death of a Salesman

Salesman The Badger
Maysles Films

Over the course of the film, Paul Brennan emerges as the most tragic figure. As we watch Brennan try to get out of his sales rut, the film becomes an indictment of the American dream. As the salesmen commiserate in nondescript diners (where they chain smoke and scarf down some artery clogging 1960s grub) and motel rooms, a portrait of the struggling middle class comes through. The scene where the salesmen are told by an aggressive sales rep that if they don’t sell Bibles, it’s their fault, hammers home the Maysles’ depiction of the dark side of the American dream. (An alternate title for this film could be “Sad Men.”)

Always Be Closing

Glengarry
New Line Cinema

The Maysles’ groundbreaking documentary has influenced everything from Glengarry Glen Ross (the film version of which features a famous scene where Alec Baldwin’s company rep berates a sales team with his “Always be closing” mantra) to the desperate salesman character Gil from The Simpsons. By following the salesmen and letting their stories emerge gradually, the Maysles pioneered a “direct cinema” approach that is still used today in everything from political documentaries (the recent Anthony Weiner doc unfolds like a Maysles film) to reality television. We can basically thank the Maysles for inspiring both Kim Kardashian and the Documentary Now! crew.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Salesman Wednesday at 10P on IFC. 

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…