Archive for category Comedy
Creed Bratton concluded his east coast tour last week at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia. The actor and musician recently turned seventy-three and he is probably best known to younger audiences for his role as a fictional version of himself in The Office. He repeated a few quotes from the NBC hit series, most notably lines from the “Gay Witch Hunt” episode and even Steve Carell’s famous “That’s what she said.”
“Those first two years, I really thought I was working at a paper company,” he told the crowd. However, Bratton’s show was not a mere rehash of his best material from the television program.
I first discovered The Carol Burnett Show around the year 2000, when I was 12 years old. I loved watching those half-hour reruns every weekday after school, admiring those greats of comedy from the 1970s: Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and of course, Carol Burnett. Mention the show to anyone who has seen it and there’s a good chance you’ll be reminiscing together the Gone with the Wind parody, the Tarzan calls, Mama’s Family, and other scenes. Read the rest of this entry »
Kaleena Kiff and Holly Brydson sat down with Blogcritics for an interview at the Whistler Film Festival. They are both producers for Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson, which had its North American premiere in Whistler earlier this month. Robert Carlyle was also at the festival to receive the Maverick Award, walk the red carpet, and hold a Q&A with the audience after the premiere screening. Barney Thomson was the runner-up for the 2015 Whistler Film Festival Audience Award.
How many years have you been coming to the Whistler Film Festival?
Kaleena: This is probably – I missed one year – my fourth time here. But this is a first time –
Holly: I’m a Whistler Festival newbie!
Recently, The Legend of Barney Thomson just got several BAFTA Awards in Scotland: Best Feature Film, and Best Actress as well as a Best Actor nomination –
Kaleena/Holly: And Best Director!
Yes! And so what’s it like coming off of that and getting the deal with Gravitas Ventures?
Kaleena: You know what, BAFTA was such a surreal surprise. There were some other really beautiful films that were put out by Scotland this year. To have the support we did in Scotland throughout the project was just astounding. They just treated us like one of their own. It’s a co-production between Canada and Scotland. But I don’t think I could be any happier. We were just squealing. There was squealing.
Holly: I think I called you right when it was announced and we both just went, “Oh, my God! We just won a BAFTA!”
Kaleena: My name is on a statue.
What were some challenges in getting the book adapted into a film?
Kaleena: Well, the book – the adaptation, the original one by Richard Cowan came to us fully formed. It was a really strong script and my business partner, John Lenic, and I took it to Robert Carlyle. He said, “Oh, no, I’ve read an adaptation of this book before. And I really like the book, but this isn’t really for me.” And this was the third time that this novella had been adapted.
So I guess the third time is a charm because I gave him the script and I said, “You know what? Reread it and see what you think.” I – I think I stalked him on four occasions, saying, “Have you read it? Have you read it? Have you read it? Have you read it?”
And he said, “No, no, I’m just not into it.” We had a meeting in person and I said, “What if you directed it?”
And that was sort of his light bulb moment, I believe. He went, “Oh!”
I said, “Because then you can really control where it goes.” And so we worked on the script, once he said yes, with Richard Cowan and developed it for about six months. Then we decided to add a Scottish writer to sort of “Glaswegian” it up to really meet Carlyle’s vision for what he wanted the film to be. That’s when we brought on Colin McLaren, who is pretty much a god among men. He’s so cool.
Holly: He’s fantastic.
Kaleena: In fact, we’re working on his next film. I think it was another year and a bit working on it with Colin and Carlyle. I went to Glasgow and worked on it with them there. We did a bit by Skype and e-mail. When we were finally ready in September of 2013, we sent it to Emma Thompson. She was always our first choice for playing Cemolina. I’m not kidding; three days later she was like, “I’m in. Let’s do it.”
That was a hustle of “Oh, my Gosh, we have to start putting together all the other pieces.” Around that time, Holly came in and she became part of the team. Between us, it was go, go, go from November of 2013 until production. It was just nonstop.
Kaleena, you started out as an actress and now you’re a producer. What are some benefits of having people who are more versatile or well-rounded in the field?
Kaleena: I definitely can feel everybody’s perspective a little more intensely, because I’ve probably lived some version of it. I like to joke that as a producer, you’re really a triage nurse. All day long, people are coming to you and saying, “I’m bleeding, I’m bleeding!” You know, you’ve got the costume department about to mutiny. Then you’ve got the electrics and they don’t have enough manpower. All of this, it’s like the end of their world.
And you want them to care for their piece of the puzzle, but you also have to stay calm and say, “All right, I know you’re bleeding, but these six other people are also bleeding, so I’ve got to figure out who needs stitches first. But don’t worry, we’re gonna see you.” I think because I’ve worked in so many different departments, I have a better sense of how you speak the language of whichever department is bleeding the most.
Did both of you go over to Glasgow?
Kaleena: Yes, we were roommates in Glasgow and we still like each other!
You got to know each other well.
Kaleena: We did!
Was there a food shop you wanted to try or turned out to be your favorite in Glasgow?
Kaleena: The food, that’s an easy one!
Holly: Yeah, Hanoi Bike Shop.
Kaleena: Hanoi Bike Shop, shout out to them.
Holly: Vietnamese place and it’s so amazing. We ate there a few times a week for the three months that we were living there.
Kaleena: And it was sort of fusion –
Holly: It was like modern –
Kaleena: And full of Scottish women with crazy-colored hair and tattoos.
Holly: And the defrocked priest.
Kaleena: Oh, we met a defrocked priest there. So I gotta say Glasgow was full of characters. It’s a very edgy town and just shooting there was amazing. We would have parades of people coming through our set. It’s similar to Catholicism and Protestantism in Ireland. There’s very much a contingent of the different religions in Scotland. So we would have these Orange parades come through our set. That was weird. I gotta say, Glasgow is definitely a character in our script and in the real world. There were a lot of moments when we were like, “Oh, that happened.” [laughs]
This article was originally published on Blogcritics.org under the same title.
Directors and writers Marcia Fields and Mike Spear recently discussed the creative processes behind their first short film, Moving On, which screened last week at the Whistler Film Festival. In this comedy, Ross (Mike Ivers) is awakened one morning by professional movers (Robin Lord Taylor and Ryan Farrell), who deliver the news of his breakup and are ready to move him out of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. In part two of my interview with them, Marcia and Mike talked about casting, gender inequality, and next steps for Moving On.
The dialogue genuinely captures all the stages of Ross’s breakup. How was the process for you on solidifying your script ideas?
Marcia: The idea came together when I was trying to ask Mike politely to do the dishes.
Mike: It got a little heated. We got to the point where [it was] ridiculous. If we break up because we don’t want to do dishes, we can’t tell our friends and our family that’s what happened.
Marcia: We’re writers. People will think this is the most uncreative way for a couple to break up. We need to come up with something better, so we started joking about hiring professionals to do it. That’s when—
Mike: The dialogue and jokes just started flowing. She got out her phone and we started dictating. From that moment, we knew the tone of the script.
Marcia: Taking something that can be depressing, sad, or heartbreaking for somebody and trying to find the humor in it … That’s definitely the style of writing that we really like. We respond to that mix of comedy and drama and reality really because no one is happy or sad all the time. Everybody gets a giggle every now and then, too. We wanted to bring that to this idea. It was such an organic process and the idea came together so naturally for us.
Mike: It’s the kind of thing where people can’t help but laugh at a funeral. It’s uncomfortable and if you’re with your family and your loved ones, it’s funny.
Marcia: For the audience, you’re in the frame of mind where you can think of a time where broke up with someone that you wished it had gone in this way: the sort of speed with which [Ross] was able to grieve for his relationship and go through the stages.
Mike: We also mined from our own romantic histories. The character Ross is in the bathroom talking about ex-girlfriends and how one of them wouldn’t take his phone calls when his grandfather died. She thought it would be too depressing. I actually dated a girl who wouldn’t even talk about my grandfather passing away because it depressed her. These things are real and I can sit and laugh about it now. That’s important.
Marcia: It helps it feel genuine.
Mike: I ended up doing the dishes when we had that argument.
Marcia: It’s worked out. Mike is very good at doing the dishes! I think he deserves some recognition there.
Mike: I appreciate that.
You both have quite a versatile cast here. Was there anything that you were able to pull from them after they came on board?
Marcia: We really did luck out because we had a very fast pre-production period. We went out to them specifically and we were very excited to get yeses. They were cast for the roles that we thought that their personalities were best for. I think when you have more time and a longer script—
Mike: You can work with the actor to make it feel more organic. We did not have the luxury of time. To their credit, they were amazing. They had never met until we were on set that morning getting ready. We let them start to get some rapport those couple of minutes before we said, “Action.”
Marcia: Doing rehearsals just once or twice through.
Mike: Robin Lord Taylor is an amazing talent.
Marcia: It’s so exciting to watch him having such a good year on Gotham. He deserves that recognition. I think he helped elevate everything else because of the attitude he brought to the role and in general.
Mike: We’re based in L.A., but we were on a job in New York, so we relied heavily on our producers to find local New York actors. We can’t thank them enough to recommending those people. We happened to get the best of the best.
Marcia: I want to take full credit for the script, but during the credits, that scene where Mason and Nick are knocking on the next guy’s door… The last line of the script where Robin goes “Boom,” he did that himself. That is one of the funniest lines. When he did that, we were like “Keep doing that! That was hysterical.”
Mike: That was the first scene that we shot. It was very early. We were scrambling to find the actor who was going to play the guy who opens the door. He showed up and he was great. Then Robin killed it with that line. At that point, we could breathe a little bit.
Marcia: It was a great starting note.
In assembling your team, you really strive for gender equality, an issue that’s starting to receive more attention. What can the industry-at-large learn from your production?
Marcia: We were lucky to come off a show that had incredible people working on it. It wasn’t like we were hiring from scratch. We knew everybody on our team except for one person from before. Having witnessed a lot of gender inequality in the business over the last decade, whenever I meet a powerful, capable woman, (which is, thankfully, often), it just stays in my head. I want to work with her again. I want other people to work with her and see what she can do because it hasn’t always been my experience. Mike was raised by a single mother and has been around powerful women, so he’s the guy who is intimidated by it. It doesn’t stop him from showing what he can do. He sees talent, period, and respects it.
Mike: I think at the end of the day, we hired the best people for the job. They happen to be women.
Marcia: I think some people have a preconceived notion when it comes to women on set, especially behind the camera. It’s their loss, honesty.
Mike: Our director of photography, Bianca Butti – Basically Marcia and I share a brain and Bianca moved in there. She was a part of us for a little bit. That sounds a bit weird.
Marcia: But I understand what you’re saying— [laughs]
Mike: We were on the same wavelength. She’s so talented. You should check out her work online. It’s very artistic stuff.
Marcia: It’s unfortunate that women feel like they have to work twice as hard to be noticed. That is the great thing about making a short film when you’re asking for favors and for people to work for very little. You can give them the opportunity to take on a role that someone hasn’t yet given them a chance before. One of our producers had never been a producer before and she wanted the chance.
Mike: She could do it and she killed it.
Marcia: I’m not saying men don’t rise up to the opportunity, but women absolutely do. You’re going to give me that chance and I will take it and run with it. Whether you were questioning hiring me in the first place, I will show you that you did not make a mistake. And the fact that Mike puts up with it is an added bonus. Especially behind the camera, there are a number of women directors programs, like AFI. You’re starting to see more of those programs. It’s unfortunate that we need them.
Mike: If it brings more talented women, then that’s good.
Marcia: We were in a television festival not too long ago with the short. We submitted it through an independent pilot competition through the New York Television Festival and one of the panels was a showrunners panel. It was six very experienced showrunners with shows on the air right now. They justhappened to all be women. One of the things they pointed out during the keynote speech was how proud they were that the NYTVF did not say, “Women Showrunner Panel.” They said only, “Showrunner Panel.”
We shouldn’t have to say that they’re women and showrunners. They’re all just talented showrunners. You don’t say the “Male Showrunner Panel.” I love that they did that because it was in a way just saying “Here’s six showrunners.” It doesn’t matter that they’re women. I think we’re getting closer to it but we still have a long way to go.
Mike: It’s huge. Why not invest in the best tools?
Marcia: When you limit the people you’re going to hire to “I know this guy has done it before.” You keep hiring the same people and then these doors don’t open to new voices. I think people are getting a little more comfortable with that notion. It’s sad that it has to be pointed out in the first place. I think we’re getting closer to not having to.
Mike: Also, strong female characters are important in front of the camera. Currently we’re working on something in its early stages, but there’s a very strong female protagonist.
Marcia: It’s important to see those characters on TV, because it’s coming into your living room. That makes it more normal to just expect to see strong female characters. It’s a good time for the industry right now, I think.
How are things progressing in terms of developing Moving On into a series? Is there another angle that pops out to you in taking it further?
Marcia: It’s still in its baby stages, but it’s going very well. Part of our plan for December is to finish putting polishing touches for a pitch to take it out into a series by early 2016. It was accepted by the NYTVF for an independent pilot competition. They were like, “This idea has legs.” We believe so, too.
Mike: We purposely made it like that. We made it as a standalone film but peppered in some things that prove that it has legs.
Marcia: And definitely going beyond just breakups. We see it as focusing on a moving company and the movers, how their lives influence the jobs that they’re taking.
Mike: Like Marcia said, not just focusing on romance and relationships but there’s office relationships and families.
Marcia: There are the grown children that have the parent living with them that they would like to transition out to assisted living.
Mike: There’s a lot to mine from.
Marcia: Not to mention, of course, breakups, breakups, and breakups.
The two stories focus on guys being dumped. What about the girls being dumped?
Marcia: You can just imagine one with all tears. There’s just so much comedy to mine from people in that moment when they feel like their lives are falling apart. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean that. Even whether they’re doing it on purpose or not, the movers are actually helping people get through a difficult moment. You don’t have to do it alone. The fact that it’s with total strangers just makes it more fun!
Mike: It’s kind of like in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, they were embracing the bad things that people wanted to forget. They were doing this service – a sketchy service – but [our show] would be sort of like that.
Marcia: It would be so much fun to delve into all these different types of relationships and how they come and go in our lives. There are so many different ways Moving On can help people.
Thank you both again for your time today.
This article was originally published on Blogcritics.org under the same name.
Directors and writers Marcia Fields and Mike Spear recently discussed the creative processes behind their first short film, Moving On, which screened last week at the Whistler Film Festival. In this comedy, Ross (Mike Ivers) is awakened one morning by professional movers (Robin Lord Taylor and Ryan Farrell), who deliver the news of his breakup and are ready to move him out of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment.
Thank you for doing this interview with Blogcritics. How was your experience directing your first short film, given that you’ve already worked as writers and producers?
Marcia: I think we look at it differently now in terms of a “director’s eye.” As a writer, which we’ve spent a majority of our careers doing, it’s all about the words. It’s very precious about you’ve written. We went into production with a seventeen page script and only two days to shoot it, which is not a smart thing to do. If we had looked at it as a director, we could have cut things that we knew we probably wouldn’t use even though we thought they were cute. Or looking at production moves, we probably would have changed the script a little bit, but that’s the hindsight of it. That’s the thing where you realize, “Oh, we probably could have cut a piece there and saved ourselves two hours and a crew move.” But that’s how you learn.
What about as far as collaborating together on the project?
Mike: What a nightmare! [Laughs] We’ve been working together as a team for over five years now. It’s second nature and feels right. We never really had any issues and when we do, they’re quickly resolved.
Marcia: I think that one of the serious things the first time we started writing together was, “What if this doesn’t work?” When we were dating, I remember I read his writing and I thought, “Oh, my God, what if it’s not good? What if I don’t like it? How is that going to affect our relationship?”
Mike: We would have had to break up.
Marcia: We didn’t start working together until after we’d gotten married. We worked through any communication issues we might have had as a writing and directing team. It’s just an extension of being able to look and him and tell what he’s thinking. If he looks at how something was shot or performed, we have that shorthand.
Mike: We were also very careful to have one voice when we were talking to the actors. After each shot, we would powwow and get our thoughts together. We decided beforehand that only one of us would be dealing with the actors. Marcia would go and deliver-
Marcia: Any messages. I think that helps.
Mike: Absolutely, one vision, one voice. They know we are a team. It also works out where she can go talk to the actors and I can talk to the director of photography, the sound guy, or lighting guy. We can handle two things at once. It really added its—
Marcia: Benefits. It’s nice to have somebody else to sort of lean on, with the same amount of pressure on their shoulders.
Do you think we’ll start seeing services like “Moving On,” since we gravitate toward Apps and online conveniences these days?
Marcia: The funniest thing is when we play it at festivals, the first question we get is “Are we going to start it as a business?”
Mike: It’s the first question every single time!
Marcia: And if that doesn’t tell you there’s a demand, I don’t know what does.
Mike: There are little companies that we’ve seen that will send a breakup letter or a text.
Marcia: Or a breakup basket! When people see these companies, they’ll always send us articles to show us a version of the service that already exists. But most of them are kind of tongue-in-cheek: “Here’s a subscription to Netflix now that you no longer have me.”
Mike: None of them are the full-service: the breakup and the moving. I think if people become more Apps and dependent on being online … I feel like the less personal people get, the more these companies will pop up.
Marcia: It’s like that anonymous comment board on a website, where you can write somebody else and say, “Can you handle my dirty work for me?” It seems like something people are definitely looking to. You can send this in an email and a text, which is so impersonal, but so easy! How far of a step really is it to hire a company like this to do it? I think absolutely there’s a chance we’re going to see this in the future.
Mike: I hope people still continue to break up face-to-face. It’s character-building on both sides. You need to learn to break up with someone and to get broken up with.
This article was originally published on Blogcritics.org under the same title.
Russell Howard kicked off his comedy tour in the U.S. earlier this summer, opening in Washington, DC. The British comedian from Bristol is the host of Russell Howard’s Good News, a BBC Two program in which he addresses recent news with standup routines and sketches. Expect venues like the historic synagogue Sixth & I to be packed; event organizers had to add chairs to rows in an effort to accommodate the enthusiastic attendees.
In DC, local comedian Max Rosenblum opened the show. He immediately tackled the misfortune of having the same name as the Max Rosenblum who was arrested in connection with the Philip Seymour Hoffman drug raid. “Max, tell me it isn’t true!” he recounts from a phone conversation with his mother. As Rosenblum points out, it’s quite an obstacle if he ever wants to market his own brand of cologne. Speaking about dating websites, he suggested that it’d be easier to bring up the topic if sites were called “In Real Life” and “Through a Friend.” Such titles are better suited to the inevitable and oftentimes awkward question, “So how did you meet?”
It’s quite fitting that Sixth & I blasted out alternative music at intermission leading off with the catchy vibes of The Strokes. Subsequently, one’s gaze was pulled immediately to The Strokes t-shirt that Howard wore. On Good News, Russell Howard isn’t afraid to address controversy and resort to jokes that some might find objectionable. Likewise, he jumps right into his live shows with his sharp wit, peppered with a relish for improvisation.
Leave it to Howard to engage in a friendly chat with a woman about web design and connect that to his perplexity with Fifty Shades of Grey behaviors. These moments, along with a discourse about “absurd things blokes say,” did much to garner a lot of excitement. It’s great to see that he injects spur-of-the-moment material to tailor each show to his audience, even so far as to inquire about places he should visit.
However, the best aspects of Howard’s routine deal with the anecdotes about his experiences with friends and family. His mother’s advice for coping with adversity is to “think of a T-Rex making its bed.” Just try and picture that scenario if you can! At the Glastonbury Festival, an attendee high on a certain substance asked Howard’s friend, a dwarf, why he was so short. “I angered a wizard,” came the answer. Another gem is a question about Star Wars light sabers: “Why is it you never see any moths?” Yes, he even topped it off with the classic light saber gestures.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable evening out with a sibling or your friends, Russell Howard certainly delivers on that front. He concludes his North American tour tomorrow in Montreal, Canada. Let’s hope he adds another tour next year.
This article was first published as “Comedy Review: Russell Howard Opens Second U.S. Comedy Tour in Washington, D.C.” on Blogcritics.org. It’s published again here with two minor changes in the opening and final paragraphs.
Caution: This review contains spoilers on the first episode of “HAPPYish.”
There seems to be a fascination with covering the world of advertising and new marketing. Sure, there’s the social media obsession, but it’s more or less overkill to situate an entire television series in that world. 2013 brought us “The Crazy Ones,” which at least started well on CBS. Then last year, ABC brought “Black-ish,” which some may argue, adds the element of being African American to the mix; however, I find it often disintegrates to low humor and gimmicks. The most recent (and hardly improved) endeavor comes from Showtime in Shalom Auslander’s “HAPPYish.”
The comedy-drama focuses on Thom Payne (Steve Coogan), who has reached his 44th birthday. He’s got a great job as a creative director for MGT, a marketing agency. Two Swedes (Nils Lawton and Tobias Segal) are now his bosses, a move that leaves everyone fearful of losing their jobs. His immediate supervisor, Jonathan (Bradley Whitford), advises him to “rebrand” himself and follow whatever the Swedes say.
Thom is married to his lovely wife, Lee (Kathryn Hahn), and they have a cute son, Julius (Sawyer Shipman). Perhaps he should be happy, but he isn’t. That feeling isn’t being helped by the questions about his relevance. His friend, Dani (Ellen Barkin), insists that everyone has a “joy ceiling” and maxes out on happiness.
The name Thomas Payne seems to be a harkening back to the more significant man in history (albeit with a slightly different spelling of Paine), who penned “Common Sense” and inspired the American Founding Fathers. Auslander evokes those allusions right away by bringing Mount Rushmore and the head of Thomas Jefferson into the opening frames. Yet, this Thom Payne is of a different sort of mettle. A discussion leader at the local gym poses the question, “How many of you think Thom Payne is capable of revolt?” Unsurprisingly, that’s a resounding “No” by the group of young people. The references to Jefferson, Camus (listed in the opening credits), and others comprise perhaps the most clever aspect of this premiere installment.
Indeed, Thom’s frustration finally boils over into a workout enhancer-induced rant and a very bizarre (and graphic) dream featuring the Keebler Elves. Keebler really could have done better than “HAPPYish.” It all results in a show that is laden with the overused mid-life crisis theme, stereotypical career woes and personalities, and plenty of time for big brands to have their names dropped in rapid succession. “HAPPYish” offers a couple of promising moments, but it emits a sense of arrogance and anger that is more likely to chase away rather than draw in viewers before Thom even has a chance to engage in any substantive or game changing revolt.
The “HAPPYish” premiere was first released on Youtube. The series debuts on Showtime on Sunday evening, April 26, at 9:30|8:30c.