DID YOU READ

The joke’s on you, Portland: An interview with the pranksters behind the Peculiarium

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In the window of the pink-colored building that houses Northwest Portland’s Peculiarium, there are signs advertising its contents with adjectives such as “Bizarre” and “Shocking.” The ones to pay attention to, however, are those reading, “We Promise Nothing” and “Not So Unusual, Actually.” Although it sounds like a knock-off of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!—or the title of a kids’ movie about a kooky museum curated by an eccentric collector named Dr. P.Q. Peculiarius—it’s actually more of a parody of those kind of curio tourist attractions. Exhibits include: an empty cage of poisonous lizards from “Idiotsville, Oregon”; the true contents of Al Capone’s vault, complete with a visually-referenced Rickroll; an alien autopsy scene in which the extraterrestrials are the ones doing the dissecting; and, inside the gift shop, a massive stuffed Sasquatch. So it’s a bit of an ongoing prank, perpetrated by Laika director and animator Mike Wellins—you may recognize his work from recent M&Ms and Frosted Mini Wheats commercials—and partners Lisa Freeman and Eric Bute, but one pulled with such enthusiasm you don’t mind being tricked.

We talked to Wellins and Freeman about their big joke, the roadside attractions that inspired it, and how in a place like Portland, where absurdity is the norm, it’s incredibly easy to fool people into believing that, yes, that really is a dead Bigfoot in the doorway.

Portlandia: What was the inspiration for this place?

Mike Wellins: It was a group of people who all like this kind of stuff, and we went to the next level. Lisa and I were looking around to do something to get out there, besides a Web site or something. We originally thought of doing, not a food cart, but a truck that traveled around. We went and looked at some trucks, and we’re like, “Wow, this is a horribly uncomfortable place to have to work. I’m 46 years old, I don’t want to be going to a gas station asking to use the bathroom.” This place became available, and that was it. It harkens back to horror movies and sci-fi and all that stuff we like, and also that tongue-in-cheek, putting-a-museum-on-its-ear kind of humor. To me, that’s one of the really fun, subversive parts. Some people really do see it as a museum and will be like, “Is this real?” There’s that element of teasing people, and also that element of fooling people, which is kind of surprising. There’s a really fine line between screwing with people and having fun with people. That was a big part of it. There’s also a lazy aspect. Like, “I don’t really want to go research a bunch of stuff. Let’s just make up a history.” You couldn’t force me to read history in high school, but I friggin’ love history and true things now, and the strangest stories I can find. So it was a natural transition to just make up our own lore about this area.

Lisa Freeman: I just love the subtle humor throughout. You don’t have to get it to enjoy it, but if you do get it, it’s almost like you’re in on an inside joke. It’s real fun to watch people’s reaction to things. Some of the funniest stuff is when people don’t get it. They’ll say, “Where did you find those aliens? Did they crash in your yard?”

Does that really happen a lot?

Wellins: We’ve had people come in and go, “Oh yeah, I saw Bigfoot up at Trillium Lake, talked to him for half an hour.” They’re serious! They’re like, “We went camping one time, and [pointing to giant Sasquatch mannequin] that’s the guy we saw, except he was shorter and fatter.”

Growing up, were there places you visited that you modeled the Peculiarium after?

Freeman: Of course we both love Ripley’s.

Wellins: My dad was a good dad, but he was in the military. We’d go on vacation, everybody would get up at four in the morning, and he had it all planned out, and we never got to stop at places like this. And we got to pick one gift on our whole trip, which was horrible, because you get something early and later on you’re like, “Oh no! I didn’t know they’d have these!” So I used to drive past all these places. Once I became an adult, when I go on vacation I don’t make reservations, it’s like, let’s just explore. So for me, it was, let’s make a place I never got to go to. I stop at all those things now, even the most rinky-dink, hokiest ones, because they’re so weird. I’m amused by weirdness and awkwardness.

Tell me about the art shows you have in here.

Wellins: We just sort of opened the door. Monte Wolverton, whose dad Basil Wolverton was a Mad Magazine artist, he did a great show, and he couldn’t get a show anywhere else.

Freeman: He came in and didn’t say who he was. He dropped a CD off and ambled out the door.

Wellins: I saw “Wolverton,” looked at the CD and saw the first picture and said, “Yeah, you can have a show.” To me, there is an element of sterility that goes with a lot of art galleries, where it’s not supposed to be fun. Sometimes, the openings are like wakes, where everyone’s standing around wearing black, and they’re very quiet. I need more humor in it. So we embrace people who do weird, silly stuff, and couldn’t get shows anywhere else.

So what’s the deal with the whole Conrad Elwood story?

Wellins: Originally, we wanted to have a bigger back story, to cement [the Peculiarium] to something older than us. It has this long history that precedes this place by 80 years. And we’re out to deliberately confuse people who want to be confused. Some people laugh when they read the signs; other people, like we said, don’t know what’s real.

Freeman: Most people do think he’s real, and we perpetuate that all the time.

Wellins: Yeah, we’ll be like, “Oh, he was just here, you just missed him.”

Freeman: “He just dropped off a new package! We haven’t opened it yet, but it’ll be good.”


The Peculiarium is located at 2234 NW Thurman St. Its winter hours are 12pm-6pm, Fri.-Sun. For more information, call (503) 227-3164 or visit peculiarium.com.

(Photo by Todd Mecklem)

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar

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IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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