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June Diane Raphael featured in Venus Zine

Mar 6, 2015

An Upright Citizen

June Diane Raphael, Venus Zine's favorite new funny lady, takes success in stride

It is almost impossible to avoid developing a girl-crush on June Diane Raphael. She's got it all: brains, beauty, a knack for writing -- not to mention her contagious sense of humor, which has at least once led to the shitting of her pants (check out her video, Caffeine: A Love Story on

New to the Hollywood scene, the emerging writer, actress, and viral video star doesn't have a phony bone in her body.  She believes success is a result of hard work, an undying willingness to try anything, and a light heart. "The work that I really love is when you can see someone laughing and crying. Comedy with heart," she tells us -- and that's exactly what she's about.

VZ: Most people would jump at the chance to work with their best friend.  When you and Casey (Wilson, from SNL) were writing Bride Wars, was it difficult to get down to business?

It very difficult. That's the problem. We have too much fun with each other and call a lot of things "research" that aren't. If we can't think of something, we'll go shopping or just talk and wait for something to come to us. One of us has to say, "Seriously, it's time to start now!"

VZ: For The Year One, you're working with some of the funniest actors in Hollywood (Jack Black, Michael Cera, and David Cross).  Is this an intimidating cast to step into?

On paper, yeah, totally. I was so nervous at first, and the thought of it kept me up at night. But in reality, they were incredibly kind, and I never felt uncomfortable. I was really amazed ... especially with Jack.  He set the tone to be really playful and fun. It was insane how fun it was.

VZ: American Tragic appears to hold a mostly somber tone.  What challenges do you face filming a drama vs. a comedy?

: I'm not really approaching it in a different way. I don't approach comedy as "this is going to be funny." I don't like to think about what people are going to laugh at.  Some stuff is heavy serious at times, and that's the reality of life. You find serious moments in comedy and funny moments in drama.  Don't have an expectation of what a moment will be.

VZ: Do you have a preference between the two?

In a way, you know when a comedy is working -- if it's not working, people aren't laughing. With drama, you can't always tell by their reaction. Comedy is very clear, and people love to see it, but it's underrated, and that's bullshit. It's such a hard medium to work in. It takes so much skill and timing.  It's incredibly difficult work, but it is so worth it. High brow or low brow, it's amazing to hear someone laugh.

VZ: How has being a part of the highly respected Upright Citizens Brigade affected your career as a writer and actress?

: It's an incredible community where people are talented and work really hard at their craft. I still perform at their LA theatre an amazing outlet for any performer ... the audience always tells you what they do and don't like.

VZ: What's the best piece of advice you can offer aspiring actors and writers?

: I'm still trying to figure it all out. We didn't set out to write, but once we got the opportunity, we didn't say 'no' to anything.  Say yes to anything that comes your way, unless it's like a porno -- that'll open another kind of door.
LA General

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Aziz Ansari on cover of LA Weekly

Mar 6, 2015

LA People 2009: The Lovable Douche Bag -- Parks and Recreation's Aziz Ansari 

Buddies with Kanye, filming with Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, the standup guy is making his name as Amy Poehler's new right-hand man

Aziz Ansari might just become really famous this summer -- for being a dick. The 26-year-old actor and standup comic has roles in two of this year's most anticipated comedies, NBC's brand-new Parks and Recreation and the third Judd Apatow film, Funny People. Ansari is far from the marquee name in each, with the former starring Amy Poehler and the latter a pairing of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, but his character in each will surely leave a mark. And probably not in the most redeeming way.

In Parks & Recreation, filmed in the style of The Office, Ansari plays Tom Haverford, Poehler's "right-hand man" in the parks department. Haverford, Ansari says one morning before his call-time starts, "thinks he's a really cool guy but is really kind of a douche bag. He's constantly hitting on Rashida character, but he's also married."

While he won't say it, his character in Funny People is probably modeled on Dane Cook. "Randy's basically this terrible comedian audiences love. He tells these really dirty jokes that are really stupid, but he wins the audience over by dancing around and having a DJ."

Naturally, Ansari himself couldn't be any further from Randy or Tom. Completely unassuming, he's easily mistaken for the quiet kid in the corner, even when he's telling a particularly hilarious story. There's a sensical calm about him that makes little sense with the many personalities that emerge in front of the camera. He shrugs off the idea of being a "breakout comedian" quite genuinely, focusing rather on the "marathon" and quality of the work.

After graduating from the Upright Citizens Brigade improv troupe in NYC, Ansari first found fame with MTV's cultish sketch show Human Giant, alongside Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel. In 2008, he took his standup act on the road with his very own "Glow in the Dark Tour."

Despite ripping off Kanye West's tour title and poster, the protective musician didn't send his lawyers after the young comic, but instead, requested tickets and made multiple postings about the show on his popular blog. And as witnessed in a few TMZ videos, Ansari can occasionally be found in Kanye's entourage.

"He's always like, 'Yo, man, you got so many jokes', and we'll be out somewhere that's not on a stage or something, so it's kind of weird . And I'm like, 'Hey man, I'll do a few minutes, but you have to do 'Heartless' ... without Auto-Tune or any instruments.'"
LA General

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Entertainment Weekly's Summer Movie Preview with Ed Helms, Paul Rust & Charlyne Yi

Mar 6, 2015

2009 Summer Movie Preview 

Oh, sweet.  The summer movie season is finally here.  Johnny Depp is pulling out the big guns, Harry Potter is (finally) back at Hogwarts, Meryl Streep is feeling saucy, and Sacha Baron Cohen is stirring up all sorts of new trouble.  EW's complete guide to the films of summer takes you behind the scenes with your favorite actors and filmmakers -- and helps you plan your moviegoing now, before all the cool treats melt away.

Starring Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by Todd Phillips

The morning after their buddy's Las Vegas bachelor party, three guys wake up in a trashed hotel suite with no memory of why they're all bruised and half-naked.  Or why a chicken is wandering around the room.  Or why the groom-to-be is missing, with 24 hours until his wedding.  So begins this comic mystery smothered in Sin City depravity.

Director Phillips (Old School) looks back on the Vegas shoot with a mix of glee and guilt.  "When you're comfortable walking around the blackjack tables in your pajamas on a Sunday afternoon," he laughs, "you know you're in trouble."  Danger lurked on camera, too.  The actors shot a few scenes with a live tiger -- another odd remnant of their characters' wild night (supposedly the property of boxer Mike Tyson, who cameos).  "Todd always had crazy ideas of what we could do with the tiger," recalls Helms.  "Like 'Can we throw steak on his face?' And the trainer would say, 'I don't know.  Let's see what happens.'  It wasn't exactly comforting."  Maybe not, but it looks like the risk paid off: Warner Bros. is already developing a sequel.  Atlantic City, anyone?  6/5 (AM)

Starring Hayden Panettiere, Paul Rust, Lauren London
Directed by Chris Columbus

Based on the best-selling 2007 novel by Larry Doyle (The Simpsons), Cooper follows a sad-sack valedictorian (Semi-Pro's Rust) who reveals his true feelings for the titular cheerleader (Heroes' Panettiere) at graduation and then embarks on a long night of postgrad partying with her.  For Columbus, the film marks a return to the teen-comedy genre he left for dramas (Stepmom) and big-budget spectacles such as the first two Harry Potter adaptations.  "I thought about Adventures in Babysitting and about how much fun I had making that film," says Columbus of his 1987 directorial debut.  "Over the years, so many people have told me how that movie meant a lot to them growing up." Doyle acknowledges that his plot may sound familiar. "The story is about the cheerleader and the nerd -- I'm not going to pretend like it's never been done," he admits.  "Although specific things change, you can go back 100 years and find teenagers doing the same things.  Kids doing crazy s--- in cars just never goes away." 7/10

Starring Charlyne Yi, Michael Cera
Directed by Nicholas Jasenovec

Not quite a documentary, not quite fiction, Paper Heart is a hybrid.  Yi (Knocked Up) stars as herself, a comedian on a quest to shoot a documentary about whether true love exists.  Yi initially wanted to make a doc, but as the project unfolded, it became clear that that approach wouldn't really work.  As first-time feature director Jasenovec explains, "We decided to make her a main character, because the audience should go on the journey through her eyes.  And there needed to be some sort of narrative arc, but we couldn't guarantee that Charlyne was naturally going to change."  Enter Cera, Yi's real-life boyfriend, who created some drama by playing himself -- or a version of himself -- meeting and falling for Yi.  Jokes Cera, "I came in and was like, 'Guys, give me a shot here.'" 8/7 (ABV)

More summer movies featuring UCBT performers:

Starring Jack Black, Michael Cera, Oliver Platt
Directed by Harold Ramis
Also starring June Diane Raphael with Paul Scheer

Starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Directed by Judd Apatow
Also starring Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari

Starring Jeremy Piven, Ving Rhames, Kathryn Hahn
Directed by Neal Brennan
Also featuring Ed Helms and Rob Riggle with Jessica St. Clair, Kulap Vilaysack, Jean Villepique

Starring Brad Pitt, Mike Myers, Diane Kruger, BJ Novak, Cloris Leachman
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Also featuring Paul Rust
LA General

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