Red carpet chatter with some folks from “Backwash”

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If, like me, you grew up a weird kid compulsively watching the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy and, yes and alas, the Three Stooges, then you might well enjoy “Backwash,” an enjoyably dippy web series with its final episode to be uploaded on Crackle this Monday night, December 20. The series stars Joshua Malina, who also wrote it, as the grumpy and conniving Val, who is, for whatever reason, charged with the care of the childlike and lovably idiotic Jonesy (Michael Panes). When they accidentally rob a bank with a sausage — you kind of have to be there — and hook up with a flamboyant ice cream truck driver, Fleming (Michael Ian Black, who I was unable to nab for a quick interview), the on-the-lamb trio begins a cross-country odyssey of sorts.

The enjoyably lowbrow but sometimes surreal silliness is book-ended by introductions from a rogues gallery of comic and acting talent, the funniest being a mysteriously bearded Jon Hamm, Allison Janney, John Cho, Dulé Hill, and Sarah Silverman. Somehow, Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray is maligned as being the originally author of this more or less contemporary travesty lovingly directed by Danny Leiner, who also helmed “Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle.”

It was my privilege to chat with with some of the actors and creators of “Backwash” at the theatrical premiere of a somewhat shortened feature-length version of the web series. I started with Josh Malina, an actor I’ve been rather fond of since I stumbled over “Sports Night,” the show that convinced me that the writer of “The Social Network” was something more than an entertainingly glib semi-hack, actually a lot more.

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2009: A Year’s Worth of Interviews – The Top 100 Quotes

Some people think that the life of a work-at-home entertainment writer is one of the most lax jobs out there, since the perception is generally is that all you do is sit around and watch DVDs, occasionally venture out of the house to see movies or concerts, and then sit in front of the computer and write about them. Okay, it’s a fair cop. But when you throw interviews into the mix, there’s a bit more work involved. First, you’ve got to get the interview (they aren’t always handed to you on a silver platter), then you’ve got to do the research to make sure that you can ask some halfway knowledgeable questions, and after you conduct the interview, let’s not forget that you’ve got to transcribe it, too. In other words, yes, there really is work involved…and when I went back and discovered that I’d done well over 130 interviews during the course of 2009, I suddenly realized why I’m so tired all the time.

For your reading enjoyment, I’ve pulled together a list of 100 of my favorite quotes from the various interviews I conducted for Premium Hollywood, Bullz-Eye, Popdose, and The Virginian-Pilot this year, along with the links to the original pieces where available. As you can see, I had some extremely interesting conversations in 2009. Let us all keep our fingers crossed that I’m able to chat with just as many fascinating individuals in 2010…

1. Pamela Adlon: “In the first season (of ‘Californication’), when we had the threesome with the nipple clamps, I was, like, ‘I don’t get this, I don’t know how you’re gonna do it.’ And then, all of a sudden, there’s a crane with a camera hanging over our heads, and you’re, like, ‘Okayyyyyyy. But how are you gonna sell this? How are you gonna make it work?’ And they ended up shooting it brilliantly, cutting it together, and it just all ended up working without me having to compromise my own personal morals.”

2. Jonathan Ames: “After my first novel, my mother said to me, ‘Why don’t you make your writing more funny? You’re so funny in person.’ Because my first novel was rather dark. And I don’t know, but something about what she said was true. ‘Yes, why don’t I?’ Maybe I was afraid to be funny in the writing. But since then, seven books later, almost everything I’ve done has a comedic edge to it.”

3. Ed Asner: “I loved journalism until the day my journalism teacher, a man I revered, came by my desk and said, ‘Are you planning on going into journalism?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘I wouldn’t.’ I said, ‘Well, why not?’ He said, ‘You can’t make a living.’”

4. Sean Astin: “When somebody brings up a movie (of mine) that I haven’t heard about in a long time, I feel like a 70-year-old pitcher at a bar somewhere, and somebody walks in and says, ‘Oh, my God, I was in St. Louis and I saw you. You pitched a shutout.’ It’s real. I really did do that, because someone today remembers it.”

5. Darryl Bell: “The legend of ‘Homeboys in Outer Space’ has become much more incendiary than the actual show. It’s funny how I usually challenge most people who talk about how much they disliked ‘Homeboys’ to name me five episodes. Most of them can’t, because they just bought into the ‘oh, it’s awful, just the title. Oh, it’s terrible.’ What’s interesting is that I had a great conversation with Chi McBride, who was doing ‘The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer,’ which, if you want to talk about in terms of the imagery of what was wrong, that show was much more infamous than ‘Homeboys.’ Yet it’s not remembered in the same way because the title didn’t grab you in the same way. I remember Chi pulled me aside and he was, like, ‘Look, everyone who is criticizing what you’re doing would take your job from you in two seconds. All of them. So all I can tell you is that this is one blip on both of our careers, and we are moving on.’”

6. Adam Campbell: “For some reason, people always pick on the British sensibility, and we always come across as stupid, but remember: we used to run this country!”

7. Nestor Carbonell: “Let me make this perfectly clear: I do not wear make-up, and I do not wear eye-liner. This is something I’ve had to deal with my whole life. I remember I was in college in Boston, I had a commercial agent, and they sent me out for some print commercial stuff. And they called me into the office and said, ‘Look, we called you in to talk to you because we just want you to know that…well, we don’t think you need to wear eyeliner.’ And I’m, like, ‘What?’ ‘Yeah, it’s okay, you don’t have to wear it for print ads.’ ‘No, I’m not wearing eyeliner!’ And I kept dabbing my eyes and saying, ‘Look! No eyeliner! I’m not wearing any!’”

8. Elaine Cassidy: “The last two days of shooting (‘Harper’s Island’) was probably the most hardcore, the coldest anyone has ever been. It was like your head was freezing, and my motivation for most scenes was, ‘The minute this scene is over, I’m heading straight over to that heater to get warm.’”

9. Chris Cornell: “I started as a drummer, so I sort of took on singing duties by default. I had sung backgrounds and some lead vocals from behind the drums in different bands that I’d been in, and I’d gotten great responses for the songs I would sing. I really started pursuing the possibility of being a lead singer based on the fact that I was working a full-time restaurant job and then playing gigs at night, hauling drums around. One day, it just dawned on me that, ‘Hey, I could be in a band and be the singer, and it would be a lot easier!’”

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Ken Marino is in “The State” of DVD bliss

Ken Marino is a busy working actor — his recent gigs include stints on the CW’s unjustly slain “Reaper” and the Starz Network’s “Party Down” — and is doubtless usually too focused on whatever project’s in front of him to look back. This week, however, sees the long-sought DVD release of “The State,” the sketch comedy series that Marino (along with Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Joe Lo Truglio, Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, and many more) did for MTV way back in the young and innocent ’90s. Never a huge ratings success, “The State” has nonetheless acquired cult status in the years since its cancellation, and its arrival on the home market is the answer to many fans’ prayers — making Will Harris’ recently conducted interview with Marino something of a “State” retrospective (and a perfectly timed one, at that). As it turns out, Ken hasn’t seen those old episodes in years — and wasn’t all that hopeful about seeing them on DVD:

“David (Wain) kind of headed the campaign to get it done, and he dealt with the outside forces that were trying to put it together or to block it or whatever, so I would just get E-mail updates. At a certain point, I just got numb to that. I was just, like, ‘Oh, it’s never gonna happen.'”

Reminiscing about his State days, Marino opened up about the writing process, the troupe’s battles with MTV, the origins of the infamous phrase “I want to dip my balls in it,” and the long-lost album the State recorded for Warner Bros.:

“”From what I remember, it’s a drunken mess. We were, like, ‘Okay, if we take all our money and get tickets and go to the Bahamas to record it at a recording studio down there, we won’t really make any money, but we’ll be in the Bahamas for two weeks. You wanna do that?’ If you listen closely on a number of the pieces, you’ll hear ice in our glasses making noise, because we were constantly drinking whatever local flavored drinks were around.”

To read the rest of the interview — including Ken’s thoughts on a “Reaper” movie and Jane Lynch’s recent departure from “Party Down” — click here!

  

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Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season

There was a time when “Reno 911!” was so uproariously funny that it’s hard to believe the show never became more popular. Nowadays, it’s just amazing Comedy Central hasn’t pulled the plug. Ever since the release of their feature film, the Reno Sheriff’s Department has been a magnet for low-rent gags and overused cameos. Desperately in need of a creative shake-up, the show killed off three of its deputies and introduced two new ones in their place. Improv veterans Ian Roberts and Joe Lo Truglio quickly proved that they weren’t the answer to the show’s problems, however, no matter how willing they are about making complete asses of themselves. They just don’t bring anything to the table that Carlos Alazraqui, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Mary Birdsong already contributed themselves, and in some instances, their involvement is even less effective. The show tries to make up for it with guest appearances by Jonah Hill, Rainn Wilson and George Lopez, but it’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. There’s still the odd flash of brilliance sprinkled throughout the season – like the well-made parody of the Montgomery Flea Market commercial – but unless you’re willing to sit through 20 minutes of groan-worthy jokes for the chance at laughing once, you’d be better off just watching something else.

Click to buy “Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season”

  

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A Chat with Joe Lo Truglio (“The State,” “Role Models”)

If the words “rub a dub dub” conjure images of a bearded man in chain mail rather than three men in a tub, then you’re probably one of the people who saw and laughed at “Role Models.” The film was directed by (and features a cameo from) David Wain, late of The State, but he’s not the only alumnus of that particular comedic organization to be found within its frames. There are actually a couple, if you’re counting, but only one managed to spend the duration of the film dressed in Medevial garb and spouting laughably earnest comments using mock Elizabethan phrasing…and – what luck! – we actually had the opportunity to speak to the gentleman in question.

Stay tuned for…

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