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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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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

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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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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

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