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Funny ha-ha?

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"The poor bastard."
The New York Times Magazine‘s Movie Issue is dedicated to comedy, which means it’s for the most part drastically unfunny. We had forgotten how hard it is to write about comedy before the triumph of "Borat"; reading so many writers struggling to elucidate the appeal of that particularly thorny laffer made us wonder if the reason dramas always win the big awards is that no one wants to get stuck explaining the significance of a comedy.

We like John Hodgman‘s "How to Be Funny" piece, in which various comedians explain, ReadyMade-style, how to be funny.

Paul Rudd on being funny and good-looking:

7. Try alcohol to break down those inhibitions and see where that takes you. Who’s better looking, Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin? Got it? O.K., now who was more drunk? Exactly.

Patton Oswalt on "punching up" a script:

The only people who get asked to do punchup are people who have already written some very decent original scripts of their own. The kind of scripts where you racked your brain coming up with an original concept, ground your teeth making sure the characters and their dialogue were alive and funny and, finally, drank a lot of Red Bull to finish the thing on the last night of the eight-week period you had to write it. These scripts then make the rounds of the studios, where studio people read them, roll them into a tube, put the tube in a rocket and then shoot it into the ocean.

Luke Wilson on playing the straight man:

I think I’ve been playing the straight man ever since I first realized I was in over my head academically. Math in particular. And science, come to think of it. Not to overlook foreign languages. Not really knowing what was going on in class — and not really caring to understand or actually taking the time to study — I put a great deal of effort into my expression. Earnest yet vacant. Yearning yet lost. I had one simple goal for the teachers. I wanted them to think: This Wilson kid might not be that bright, but damn it, he’s trying. The poor bastard.

Also in the issue, Alex Witchel talks to Christopher Guest, who we’ve often felt does interviews rarely for a reason. He comes across as a bit supercilious and impatient in print.

Sara Corbett explains the appeal of Anna Faris:

Playing the thimble-brained [Cindy] Campbell [of the "Scary Movie"s], Faris does her share of repellent things, though mostly unwittingly. She obliviously backs her car over a little boy and accidentally gives an old woman a sponge bath with urine. Somehow, though, she adds a touch of wide-eyed virtue to the "Scary Movie" films. She is not a hyped-up female version of Jim Carrey. She doesn’t do a dastardly eyebrow wiggle like Jack Black or engage in a sly form of stupid like Owen Wilson. Faris plays her stupidity softly and without a lick of guile. It is reliably funny. And more important, there is something in it that can make her male counterparts look as if they’re working far too hard for a laugh.

And A.O. Scott wonders at the universality of the sight gag:

A particular kind of cinematic language began to
atrophy when the screen’s silence was broken. It cannot be entirely
coincidental that 1949, the year [critic James] Agee’s tribute to the silent clowns
appeared in Life, was perhaps the last moment when the word “screen”
could refer exclusively and unambiguously to the cinema. Almost
immediately, television commenced its long march through the American
living room, bringing with it new, smaller-screen comedians and new
comic forms — the late-night host’s opening monologue, the sitcom
double take, the satirical sketch, the fake newscast — that refined
Agee’s taxonomy of involuntary amusement. In addition to the titter,
the yowl, the belly laugh and the boffo, connoisseurs of comedy could
contemplate the wry chuckle, the weary groan, the embarrassed guffaw
and, perhaps above all, the smirk.

For a cross-Atlantic view, John Patterson at the Guardian hails the new British comedy invasion (lead by King Sacha Baron Cohen), the success of which he chalks up to the internet.

+ How to Be Funny (NY Times Magazine)
+ The Shape-Shifter (NY Times Magazine)
+ The Ditz Ghetto (NY Times Magazine)
+ Falling-Down Funny (NY Times Magazine)
+ The kingdom of comedy (Guardian)

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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…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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…


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.


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).


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.


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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