|Superlaser.ca @ FLICKR | myspace.com/sebastiengrainger
Sebastien Grainger, the former Death From Above 1979 frontman who's now touring solo with his band The Mountains, plays Johnny Brenda's tonight, Dec. 1, at 8 p.m. (Check out Kevin Pearson's preview of the show.) CP's Dianca Potts touched base with the Ontario native and Saddle Creek signee for a few quick Qs and As.
City Paper: What are your Top 5 Christmas/Holiday Season wishes?
Sebastien Grainger: 1. I wish that all children would practice pretending they like their shitty presents.
2. I wish that all children do not get shitty presents.
3. I wish that old people don't die near/at Christmas. Major Xmas bummer.
4. I wish for a baby owl.
5. i wish for a black Canadian Prime Minister.
CP: How have things changed since your last live set/show in Philly?
SG: Now i'm 29.
CP: What are your favorite albums, books and movies at the moment?
SG: MUSIC = Marvin Gaye What's Going On? More specifically the song "What's Happening Brother?"
BOOK = A Short History Of Progress by Ronald Wright
MOVIE = Let The Right One In. Little kid vampires ... YES PLEASE!
|(L-R): Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Michael Showalter|
In the latest City Paper, A.D. Amorosi chats with the boys of Stella — Michael Ian Black, David Wain and Michael Showalter — in support of their performance tonight at the Keswick Theatre. Here on Critical Mass, Jimmy Viola touches base with Wain and Black to talk about stage fright, comedians they admire and the direct correlation between good looks and career advancement.
City Paper: Your most recent film, Role Models, stars Paul Rudd. Tell me about your working relationship with him and why you keep bringing him back for your films.
David Wain: [Rudd and I] ... both have a real penchant for horrible TV shows and movies that we really enjoy. Having that short hand on that set and a combined experience is a great head start. Plus, this is one of the best actors there is, comedic or otherwise.
CP: How is the creative process with Stella?
DW: It's pretty organic. Whats nice is with Stella we haven't performed for each other in a couple of years. So it's really fun to be able to get back together and see what that three-way dynamic is now.
It's not exactly standup and it's not exactly sketch, but we write it in the same way that you would [create standup and sketch material]. We come up with an idea and write it out and rehearse, [but] when we're actually on stage we very often will throw away what's on the page and it can go any number of directions. And we'll never tell you tell you which is which.
CP: How have you seen stand up comedy change from working on The State in the early '90s to directing full-length films now?
DW: The whole idea of sketch comedy comes out of the fashion and videos of the time. For m, certain landmark moments are when people enter the forum like the Tim and Eric Show on Adult Swim. I think that they've, really more than anyone I can think of, have evolved the form beyond in a very cool way.
I also really love what Ali G is doing. Every TV show and every group tries to figure out a new take on sketch and none of them ever does. [Someone] like Sasha Baron Cohen finds their own cool way of attack.
CP: Describe your Stella troupe mates in a few sentences.
DW: Michael Ian Black is sardonic, cool to the touch and razor sharp. Sho is furry, warm to the touch and supersonic.
CP: Stella was a show on Comedy Central for one short but unforgettable season. How has the fan reaction been since it was canceled? Do you have a lot of people asking you to do another season?
DW: People remember Stella. They come up to us and tell us they like it, so on that one level it has a cult following. There was no mystery at all why they took it off the air — it had terrible ratings, generally the reason why shows get canned. People are always looking for what the controversy was, but it was very straightforward.
CP: You do the voice of The Warden on Adult Swim's Super Jail. Did you have any idea how twisted that show would turn out?
DW: I was so busy working on [Role Models], I was barely paying attention. [I've] watched it now ... I had no idea. The animation just blows me away. They really do incredible, meticulous work. They've been working on it for a really long time. I think they finished all of it before any of it was aired. It's one of the few shows that doesn't export its animation overseas and does it all in flash in a studio in New York, so it's a very handmade experience.
CP: One of the funniest movies that hardly anyone has seen is 2007's The Ten. Tell me about the making of that film.
DW: Making it was awesome. I put it together with my friend Ken Marino. We wrote it in a week kind of in a lark. I love it too and think it's really funny. It had a very, very low budget. We filmed in 40 locations or so in 40 days. To bring in all of these amazing actors — some of whom were friends, some of whom we've never with worked before. A real shame how nobody saw it.
CP: You've worked with a lot of notable actors. Who would still like to do work with?
DW: Some of whom I've met and gotten to know recently — I love Jonah Hill, Martin Starr, some of those guys. I really like the Lonely Island guys. There's a bunch. There's a larger comedy world.
MICHAEL IAN BLACK
CP: How would you describe your partners in Stella?
MIB: David Wain is crusty with pillow soft lips. Michael Showalter — sandwiches and cats.
CP: What contemporary comedians are you a fan, if any?
MIB: I tend to not watch very much comedy to the point of avoidance.
MIB: I just do [comedy for a living] and don't want to see it and be influenced by it. Although I watched the Ricky Gervais HBO special last night with my wife.
CP: What's more important — developing your own voice as a comic, or being well-versed in studying comedy?
MIB: I think I would rank those two in that order. It's far more important to have your own distinct voice and vision than to be an aficionado. I don't think it matters. Quoting Monty Python won't help you. I love [Tim and Eric]. I think they're brilliant. What makes them so great is their totally distinct point of view. They have really found something that's pretty unique to them and they know exactly what it is.
CP: You've worked with a lot different actors, especially with your appearances on VH1. Have you had any funny run-ins with celebrities?
MIB: Most actors are really interested to collaborate and work — very [few] people are tremendous dicks, aside from one other person who I perform in Stella with.
CP: Do you still get nervous after 20 years of performing together [the trio met in college at NYU]?
MIB: I think you always get nervous, but it's just part of the job because it's something you'd expect it. I'd be more worried if I wasn't more nervous. Every time I get in front of a crowd, I get nervous.
CP: Between VH1 and Sierra Mist and Pets.com and your poker playing, you seem to have established a more accessible face of comedy. Why is that?
MIB: It is probably because I'm so much better looking. Women want to be with me and men want to be me. Then there's the fact that I'm gifted with not only the looks but also with my penchant for my own natural hilarity.
Doug Benson wraps up a stand at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St., 215-496-9001) tonight at 10:30 p.m.
He's stoned again.
It's 8:30 in the morning on Wednesday in the studio of WMMR's Preston and Steve Show. Doug Benson, their special guest, whose credits include The Marijuana-logues ("Like The Vagina Monologues, but with pot") and Super High Me ("Like Super-Size Me with weed instead of McDonalds") sports an unshaven face and a baseball cap. A cushion of gray bags cloud around his eyes, which are relaxed and almost squinting from his tell-tale doobie smile.
Then the inevitable topic of Benson's green lifestyle is raised by the radio hosts.
"Philly is one of my favorite cities to spend Thanksgiving in because it's one of the only places where none of my relatives live in," he said. "My family is totally supportive about my pot smoking. During holiday dinners they're like, 'You smoke pot and you're successful in endorsing an illegal substance that children shouldn't use. Good job, son.'"
By 9 a.m., Benson is hurried out of the studio and into a cab. Next stop: Main street in Manayunk for MMR's Spanksgiving Day Parade. Benson is the presiding honorary guest in the freakish spectacle, seated atop a fire truck next to a hot tub of bikini-clad P&S bimbos/groupies, a slew of Mummers, burlesque dancers and leather-masked gimps chugging close behind. Save for the WMMR Vans, photographers, and locals news cameramen, the whole scene is like something out of Hunter S. Thompson novel, the experience surely intensified with Benson's perpetually off-the-charts THC and sleep deprivation levels.
Later, sitting in a booth at Mad River after the Spanksgiving spectacle ends, Benson is relieved to munch on eggs gand pancakes from a breakfast buffet. Maybe he always says that whatever city he is in at the moment is one of his favorites to visit when he appears on radio shows, but Philly actually is — at the very least since Helium is a no-brainer East Coast stop for comics.
Plus, the weed is decent too.
"People always ask me what my favorite strain is, but I really don't have one," he says. "Actually, I went to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam last year and there was a strain called 'choco-lope.' That was good."
Benson has adapted to a lifestyle working on cable networks, making jokes at the expense of Britney and Paris on VH1's Best Week Ever and placing sixth in the finals of NBC's Last Comic Standing without ever downplaying his stoner lifestyle, a recurring motif in his stand-up routine. But many of Benson's jokes are about other things, too, from his new orgasm cry to three-legged cats and the danger of meeting a girl on MySpace who's really a front for To Catch a Predator.
But, Benson says, "If my jokes aren't about smoking pot, then I'm usually high on pot when I write them."
He often tells a true story about how he left a huge bag of weed in his jacket pocket when he dropped it off at the dry cleaner. Nervous about how they'd react, Benson stayed cool and picked up the garment as if nothing happened. The dry cleaners pinned the bag of weed to his lapel and also pretended nothing happened.
"Drunks always have these epic stories about the crazy shit they do when they're drunk. Mine are like, 'So I smoked a lot of pot, got sleepy and passed out,'" Benson says. "There's a lot of forgetfulness. One time I looked for my sunglasses for a half hour when they were on my head the whole time. Then there's the old waiting for the elevator that never comes because I forgot to press the button. But non-stoners do that stuff, too. Old people do it all the time."
Anyone who's seen Benson knows some of his funniest lines come from shutting down hecklers. "A lot of people like seeing comedians fire back a snappy retort at a heckler because it makes drunk people look really stupid," he says. "It's not something you can plan for. You have to assess each scenario differently and listen to what they yell at you, because usually it's something really funny that can be thrown right back in their face."
"I also understand that I'm in the business of sitting people down and getting them drunk, so I can't complain, but when people are drunk, all the rules go out the window," he adds. "I wish comedy clubs had a two-joint minimum instead of a two-drink minimum because then people would be a lot more mellow."
But Benson is anything but mellow as he stumbles on stage to the cheers of a jolted crowd at Helium last Wednesday night.
"Hi, everybody," he says with an ear-to-ear grin into the microphone. "Give it up for those two opening guys whose names I definitely can't remember right now."
His eyes have the same eased, tell-tale squint — albeit with a reinvigorated twinkle — as he sips from a clear liquid in a tall glass.
"Wow, thats definitely not water. Hey, did any of you guys hear me on the Preston and Steve show this morning?"
|Role Models director David Wain (center)|
with stars Paul Rudd (left) and Seann
William Scott (right)
|Courtesy of Universal Pictures|
David Wain, formerly of MTV's stellar sketch comedy show The State and director of Wet Hot American Summer and The Ten, sat down with City Paper's Campbell States to discuss his most recent movie, Role Models. In the film, Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott plays shillers of a Red Bull-like energy drink who end up mentoring two kids (Bobb'e J. Thompson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka Superbad's McLovin). Check out Drew Lazor's review of the film here. Role Models opens in area theaters tomorrow.
City Paper: Why all the movies about kids?
David Wain: I was a kid once, for about 10 years. I had that experience myself. To answer that question seriously, I feel too young to talk about any other period with any objectivity.
CP: Did you talk to Big Brothers/Big Sisters for the movie?
DW: Enough that we couldn't call [Role Models' fictional Sturdy Wings foundation] the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. I did some research on them and some other mentor programs. My dad was a mentor.
CP: What about Red Bull?
DW: No, we didn't do any research for that. I figure the world of energy drinks is about the same anywhere.
CP: You have an interesting mix of younger and older actors in large ensemble casts. How do you cast your movies?
DW: I try to find the best and funniest people in the world to do this. And also who's right for the character. It's a bonus to work with people I've known for the years.
CP: This film is a lot tighter than Wet Hot American Summer. What has changed for you since then?
DW: It's a different kind of movie, designed to be a more straightforward mainstream comedy. But anything I do is a reflection of my mindset at the time. If I made Wet Hot American Summer now, it would be different. I can't say how.
CP: What's your favorite part of Role Models?
DW: I like the ending when they do the live action role-play and dress up like Kiss.
|Wain as Starchild Paul Stanley|
CP: Have you ever participated in one of those medieval tournaments [Mintz-Plasse's character is a dedicated LARPer]?
DW: I've gone to them. I can't say I've fully participated in them.
CP: Where'd you find out about them?
DW: On the Internet.
CP: Are you a Kiss fan? Did they influence you as a performer?
DW: I've been a Kiss fan all my life. They do somewhat relate to, like I said in the movie, four Jewish guys who decided they needed a better way to get girls so they created this whole thing. I loved them as a kid. I enjoy hearing about their attitude about things. They're brazenly misogynist. Life's not a dress rehearsal.
CP: What were you like as a kid?
DW: I was pretty awkward and weird, but nice. Definitely the class clown, to some degree.
|Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier|
|Photo | Dianca Potts|
CP's Dianca Potts covered Deerhoof's Oct. 25 show at the Starlight Ballroom. Here, she touches base with drummer Greg Saunier to talk about their current tour and their brand-new record Offend Maggie.
City Paper: What differences where there in your approach toward creating your most recent release, Offend Maggie, that varied from your earlier releases?
Greg Saunier: It's always different — we don't have this music-making thing down pat yet. All of our records are just the timid first steps of complete beginners.
CP: What sort of emotives are you trying to convey through Deerhoof's music? Have they changed as your career's progressed?
GS: I'm not sure what [vocalist/bassist] Satomi [Matsuzaki] or [guitarist] John [Dieterich] or [guitarist] Ed [Rodriguez] would say, but personally there's no emotion I'm trying to convey. There's music I'm trying to convey and it sounds very emotional to me. But that's not quite the same thing. The musical ideas that come into my head are what they are, and I'm not trying to force them into any pre-planned emotions, like "I want our album to be happy" or "I want our album to be sad." I always think that one of the wonders of music is that the same piece of music can sound happy or sad — or both at once, depending on how you feel when you listen to it.
CP: What are some major themes, images, messages that appear throughout the songs on your new album?
GS: Maybe a sort of overbearing or unhealthy masculinity runs through a lot of the lyrics and the sound of the music. One that is a bit flawed, or bruised, but that is overcome eventually. That's how I hear it, anyway.
CP: It's been awhile since you last played in Philly. How do you think your live set has evolved since then?
GS: It's funny, because actually I never get to see our live show. The best person to ask would be someone who came to our show the other day. The best I can do is talk about how our Philly audience has evolved. We had such a great time the other night, and it was all about the audience. Every time I looked up while we were playing, I saw grins and dancing, waving arms and mouths singing along. I saw people of all ages. I felt like everyone was there to listen, I mean, you could hear a pin drop in the quiet parts, and and that doesn't always happen. It may have been the best audience we've seen on the whole tour.
CP: Favorite track on the new album?
GS: Ooh, not an easy question. Keith Richards always says it's like choosing your favorite baby, but I think it's worse than that even. More like a love-hate relationship. I can't really listen to one of our songs and get a sense of what it actually sounds like unless I haven't heard [it] in a LONG time. And obviously, our new record just came out a couple weeks ago and we're playing the songs every night, so I'm in maximum confusion mode right now.
CP: Favorite things about being on tour?
GS: Being on tour is fun in all kinds of ways, but the one thing that consistently gives me a pleasant surprise is the audience while we're playing. Their enthusiasm for Deerhoof is the reason we keep going.
CP: Anything crazy happen so far?
GS: Just last night, Jamie Stewart, singer of Xiu Xiu, came onstage for our last song ("Basket Ball Get Your Groove Back") and sang along with Satomi. It sounded so amazing. But really there has been craziness/fun-ness on stage every single night. My bandmates always surprise me It has just been a wonderful tour.
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