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Five Actor-Musicians Who Don’t Suck

Five Actor-Musicians Who Don’t Suck (photo)

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“There’s something about the guy that makes me uneasy. He’s not going to say fuck stick in front of the children, is he?”

     –John Ritter as mall manager Bob Chipeska, referring to Billy Bob Thornton’s Santa Willie, in “Bad Santa”

When Billy Bob Thornton recently tripped out in Joaquin Phoenix-rivaling fashion on a Canadian radio interviewer, he inadvertently gave one the worst performances of his acting career — unless we set aside his inability to adapt and play along and judge that bitter character by how incredibly unsettling he was. In that case, it may well rank among his best. Thornton might as well have been wearing his “Bad Santa” costume during the painful exchange, in which he refused to answer or took umbrage to questions, repeatedly took host Jian Ghomeshi to task, swore, and insulted his host country. It’s hard not to imagine there was some John Ritter-like station producer being consoled by a chain-smoking Bernie Mac-like sound engineer in a mixing booth with a pile of orange peels between them, as Thornton dug himself a deeper, more embarrassing hole by the second.

Though he comes off as off his rocker, Thornton did have reason to take objection to Ghomeshi’s line of questioning — Ghomeshi had reportedly been instructed not to discuss Thornton’s film career. You could be argued that Ghomeshi broke the trust between an interviewer and his subject right from the get-go, and without it, any interview is doomed. At least, it wasn’t dull, though it doesn’t seem to have helped Thornton’s musical ambitions either. Referring to Canadians as “mashed potatoes but no gravy” isn’t a good way to sell records or tickets, especially in a country that loves poutine. The remaining Canadian tour dates were canceled after the first post-interview performance of Thornton’s band, The Boxmasters, where the country-rock act was met with a war cry of “Here comes the gravy!” (The official excuse was that members of the band and the crew had come down with the flu.) As for the music itself, despite The Boxmasters’ interesting influences, they’re not nearly as enthralling as their singer. Still, it’s not impossible for an actor-turned-musician to be taken seriously for the latter without having to pretend that no one’s aware of the former. Here are a few whose music is worth checking out.

Ryan Gosling‘s musical endeavors with his friend Zach Shields deserve real attention. What began as a shared fascination with ghosts (and Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion” ride) and grew into a theatrical project has now morphed into a band, with Dead Man’s Bones being the strange and wonderful result. Shunning professional players and synthetic computer techniques, they sound charmingly amateur, like an early Sebadoh or Silver Jews record if it’d been cut outside in a cemetery. Gosling and Shields play instruments that they’d never picked up before and use a children’s choir liberally throughout. A tour is scheduled and a record should be out sometime in September.

If rumors are true, Gosling is being eyed to portray Kurt Cobain in an upcoming biopic with Scarlett Johansson playing Courtney Love. Johansson already has some real-life experience as a singer. Her album “Anywhere I Lay My Head” received mixed reviews, but her 11-track collection of Tom Waits covers is certainly worth a listen. It has a few standout tracks, as well as some exciting guest singer appearances from David Bowie (!) and Tunde Adebimpe, sprinkles on a cupcake you don’t need but maybe can’t resist. TV on the Radio producer David Sitek keeps most of it interesting, if not as hard-hitting as Waits’ originals.

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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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