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Donald Glover, Ellie Kemper, Aubrey Plaza talk Fall TV in Nylon Magazine

Feb 21, 2015

It's Show Time

21 shows, 34 actors: a hell of a lot of reasons to channel surf this fall.

Donald Glover

Donald Glover experienced many crazy moments during the first season of Community -- pirouetting across a stage in a leotard, getting shot point-blank with a paintball gun -- but none compare to the massive loud fight that broke out amongst the Greendale Community College students. 'Total mania. I have never smelled anything like that before in my entire life,' he says, eyes widening behind his thick-frame glasses. 'Like somebody made a panda wear a diaper and then made it eat nothing but ketchup and SpaghettiOs for years.' That's par for the course on Community, the NBC comedy that follows a motley crew trying to graduate from a local college. For one thing, there's the stellar cast, which, besides Glover (as the onetime jock Troy Barnes) includes Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Alison Brie and none other than Chevy Chase. 'He's like the cool, grumpy grandpa,' Glover notes of working with the icon. For another, the actors were given carte blanche with their characters. 'They were like, 'Do whatever you want with .' Which you can never do!' But although the cast goof off even when the cameras stop rolling (Danny Pudi, who plays awkward Abed Nadir on the show, helped Glover move over the summer. 'I'm sure people thought we were a gay couple -- he's wearing short shorts and I have , like, a visor'), they'd never poach humor from each other. 'Everyone has their own thing,' Glover says, suddenly sounding very serious. 'I'm not going to do a Pierce joke, and Chevy's not going to do a Troy joke.'


How would you describe Troy?

He's kind of nerdy! I think he's becoming more and more me because we don't talk about sports or anything. It's all about being accepted and figuring out girls.

How would Troy describe the show?

Troy is just very emotional and really happy and doesn't think as much. Kids who see the show are just like, 'I like this!'

What were you like in college?

I was pretty nerdy and kept to myself. I went to comedy sketches and wrote poetry in my room. I was Jehovah's Witness, so I had my first birthday party in college. I was like, 'Is this for free?!'

Why should people watch Community?

Because we're trying to beat the paintball episode.

Season two of Community premieres September 23 on NBC

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper joined The Office nearly a year and a half ago, but there's something that still makes her nervous: working with Steve Carell. 'I have a problem sometimes laughing when I'm not supposed to, like in church or in scenes that are funny,' she admits. 'And then of course that ruins the take, so I really try hard not to do that.' Kemper, who joined the hit show as secretary Erin Hannon at the Scranton branch of Dunder Mifflin during the fifth season, after Pam (Jenna Fischer) leaves for the Michael Scott Paper Company, was quickly invited to stay on full-time. The writers of the series -- many of whom star in the show -- encourage spontaneity but, Kemper says, she doesn't improvise that much because 'I'm new and I don't want to be bad at it.' She hopes that the coming season -- the seventh for the NBC mockumentary -- will explore Erin's backstory a bit more. 'I do think there's a dark side to her,' says Kemper. And what will happen when Carell leaves at the end of this season? 'Well, I'll also be leaving,' Kemper says with a straight face before scrunching her nose and letting out a laugh. 'No, I'm kidding!' But perhaps Erin, who she says 'even out-weirds Michael,' could replace the paper company's dim-witted boss? 'Mindy actually said that as a joke, like, a year ago. I feel confident that Erin could not take over.'


How would you describe Erin?

She's naive and thinks the best about people, but she's also not Mary Sunshine.

How would Erin describe the show?

She would be a bit scared of Dwight, and she would probably really like Kelly.

Do you watch a lot of television?

Mostly I watch a lot of late-night shows. Not like pay-per-view -- I just mean talk shows! OK, maybe I watch the occasional pay-per-view show.

Why should people tune in to The Office?

Steve Carrell is only going to be on it for another year!

Season seven of The Office premieres September 23 on NBC

Aubrey Plaza

Of the many comedies posing as documentaries, Parks and Recreation sounds the least relatable on paper; while we've all spent time in odd office environments (The Office) or had to deal with insane family members (Modern Family), few of us have logged hours as a mid-level bureaucrat in Pawnee, Indiana. Nevertheless, the show has proven to be a hilarious and endearing gem. That has quite a lot to do with Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt, whose apathetic April Ludgate and clueless Andy Dwyer have come into their own in the second season of the NBC show (they have also come together as a couple onscreen). 'If are smart, they'll get it. Some people don't, and that's why they're stupid,' jokes Plaza. Adds Pratt, 'They're just stupid people. Idiots!' Although they're as funny in person as they are on TV, Plaza insists that there's far less improvisation than you'd expect from a cast that includes comedy all-stars like Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari. 'We really follow the script, and the scripts are really strong, so there's not really a need to make it any funnier. But they always allow room for us to play.' Does she have anything in mind? 'I wrote already. I have, like, 20 episodes of April running for office,' Plaza deadpans. 'April's president and she takes over the world.'


How would you describe April?

There's a lot more to her than meets the eye. I think she comes off as really jaded and disinterested, but she really does want to be there or else she wouldn't be.

How would April describe the show?

'It's a show about a bunch of weirdos that work in the most boring department of local government.'

Is April too apathetic to fall in love?

No, definitely not. She's, like, obsessed with Andy. I have so much fun with that because I have to pretend like I don't even care, but I really care so much.

Why should people watch Parks and Recreation?

Because it's the best show on TV. And the second season ended with a cliffhanger -- are going to get together or not? -- and season three answers that question in a very big way.

Season three of Parks and Recreation premieres in 2011 on NBC.

LA General

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The Paul Downs Syndrome Reviewed in The Apiary

Feb 21, 2015

The Paul Downs Syndrome @ UCBT-NY - 9.9.10

Paul Downs is an irresistible performer to watch onstage. If you've ever seen him improvise at any of the local theaters, he carries with him at all times the energy of a whirling dervish, and a cachet of characters who speak, stroll and sideways glance in the most hilarious of manners.

So to isolate Downs in his one-man show, 'The Paul Downs Syndrome,' is to isolate his comedic mind and to display it in full, vibrant color for better or worse. Longtime collaborator Lucia Aniello directs Downs, corralling the funny as he sports tight, bright red stretch fabrics to demonstrate high-level art projects at Oberlin College, hosts an MTV Europe show called 'Hey Guys!' and invokes everything there is to be loved and hated about Euro Trash as Euro-pop star-sex symbol Tudu.

But Downs is also endearing, as he is able to ground his emotions while playing ludicrous characters, despite every possible absurdity being thrown at them. In one scene, Downs plays a seven-year-old child star named Mikey Starr who faces exploitation at every angle.

In another interesting turn, Downs trots out celebrities in his video bits: He pitches a sketch idea to one and creepily massages another. But for anyone in the audience who saw this show, it should be quite clear that Paul Downs is on his way to becoming a star himself.

* THE PLUG: Don't miss the next 'Paul Downs Syndrome,' happening THURS, SEPT 23 @ 8PM at The UCBT-NY | $5
NY Shows

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Q&A with Jamie Denbo in Bitch Magazine

Feb 21, 2015

Smoke Screen: A Q&A with Jamie Denbo

One of Hollywood's biggest generally unspoken rules is that men are funny and women are hot. A lesser unspoken rule: Men smoke pot (it's funny, after all); women don't. Actor and writer Jamie Denbo defies the first rule in her work, and has set out to challenge the second with the stoner film Best Buds, a weedcentric female road comedy that Denbo sold earlier this year to Natalie Portman's production company, Handsome Charlie Films.

In Best Buds, the character played by suspected real-life stoner Portman hits the road to rescue her best friend, who's terror-struck by her upcoming nuptials. Whereas in regulation stoner comedies -- Knocked Up, Half Baked, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle -- female characters either nag the guys to give up their bongs or barely figure into the plot, in this one it's the women who roll their own.

You may have seen Denbo romancing Celia Hodes on Weeds, in bit parts on Reno 911! or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or in one of her Upright Citizens Brigade performances, but her most well-known work to date is as half of the comedy duo Ronna & Beverly. Denbo inhabits the chronically inappropriate Beverly Kahn-Ginsberg, a middle-aged woman from Boston who, along with her pal Ronna (Jessica Chaffin), has written a book called You'll Do Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Remarriage for Jewish Singles. Ronna & Beverly have been offending people together for more than four years at live venues across the country. Before the 2008 election, for instance, the fictional duo urged people to "Vote for the schvartze," despite Beverly's insistence that Obama was "too tan to be president." In another sketch, the pair interviews a lesbian, asking probing questions such as whether a naked man would be appealing if he had a nipple on each testicle.

The Ronna & Beverly pilot, which aired on Showtime last December, will, with any luck, be picked up by a network. In the meantime, Denbo explains to an old high-school friend why funny is funny, regardless of gender.

You've created a character who thinks she is very hip and liberal, yet is in fact incredibly politically incorrect. Can you explain how you go about conceiving of and developing a piece like "Ronna & Bev Interview a Lesbian"?

I have to be honest: A lot of what comes out of Beverly's mouth truly is improvised in that moment. In something like "Ronna & Bev Interview a Lesbian," all you have to go from is Beverly is intrigued by the sexual practices of lesbians because to her it's exotic, and she wants to be perceived as cool. I think she has a running track in her head that's like, "Look at me! I'm talking to a lesbian just like a normal person!" There is sometimes a part of me that's like, "Look at me with my lesbian friends, how cool am I?" And then I'm like "I can't say that out loud; that's ridiculous. Oh, Beverly can say it out loud." We start at that thought and then it just gets bigger and bigger, and that's when it becomes funny.

Young Jewish women have been exoticized throughout history, but middle-aged women are not usually portrayed as sexual. Yet Beverly is downright raunchy. Where are you going with her sexual openness?

I wish I could say I had a really strong objective with it. But the truth is, my mom had a friend my adolescence. she was very well meaning. But her whole thing was "Oh, you look so sexy! So sexy, so curvy." I mean, there's nothing more upsetting than your mom's friend pointing out your sexual attributes. It came from that place.

With it wouldn't be hot sex talk of the modern porno age. Perhaps it would be like, "I want your penis inside my vagina." Maybe that's terribly ageist of me. But I imagine, having been talking to so uncomfortably by these middle-aged women, that that would be their bedroom talk. It would just be awful.

You're a beautiful thirtysomething who intentionally turns herself into a caricature of a middle-aged woman. Does that make the work less palatable to executives?

By Hollywood standards I'm not a beautiful thirtysomething -- I'm much more an average, saggy mother of two who is teetering on the edge of, "Maybe I should get Botox?" vanity is the death of comedy. Plenty of women make comedy out of uglifying. None of the Saturday Night Live women's careers have been built on Pretty Girl status.

I aspire to that. I'm not interested in making myself as beautiful as possible and then being told I'm not good enough. Not because I'm hurt by it, but because I won't get the job. I really don't care to enter myself into that competition anymore. We live in a stupid country with stupid standards, and the media and television and film industry reflect that more often than not. I've sort of just taken myself out of it completely, which feels great. To me, the best part of being a comedian is not feeling like you have to dress up. I'd so much rather black out a tooth than spend half an hour making my eyes pretty.

The live Ronna & Beverly show is a hit. What's the status of the TV version? Has it been hard to sell the adventures of two divorced Jewish mothers who do things like ask chemo patients whether their pubic hair has fallen out?

Now that we've made the pilot, people love it. that doesn't always translate into "We'll put it on the air." When you are in the industry, and you're looking at something like that, you see it as a product. And when you see it as a product, your question is always, "How I do market it?" And, frankly, no one in the industry has been creative enough to say, "I know exactly how to market this thing." You put two middle-aged broads on a billboard and you , "Okay, I guess this is a Lifetime movie."

They don't realize that if they market it correctly and creatively, then it will resonate with the audience they're all going for, which is the hip, smart audience. And it's unfortunate, because they're keeping something from a mass audience that I think is funny and different and all the things that everyone says they want in a comedy.

Who else is doing work like yours?

There's a lot of alternative comedy exists in small theaters, in live performances. It doesn't get a huge platform unless something breaks through. The people I would mention, like Maria Bamford, are not necessarily people anyone has ever heard of. Women have a really hard time breaking through in comedy. It's cliche, but it's true. The reality is, there is more work for men. The really funny bit parts, the ones that stand out, the chances where people get to shine -- maybe one of those goes to a woman, but 10 of them go to dudes. There is an eclectic group of fabulous women who I associate myself with, and those are the parts that we'd be right for because they are for not-perfect-looking women with really funny voices.

The trick, I think, is not to write something that has women front and center, you run the risk that it's just going to be labeled as a "chick-whatever." If you can write a big comedy and then fill all the smaller parts with funny women, and it would cast unknown women in those sprinkly parts, they'd get a really nice advantage and suddenly they'd be able to build up their careers in the same way all those guys have made their way.

But you've had some fantastic parts on mainstream shows lately, especially Weeds.

Weeds is created by a woman -- a very rare thing. And she's an awesome example. One of the things I love about Jenji Kohan is that she has not had to become a man to do a job that is most commonly done by men. She does it as a woman with three kids, who's absolutely committed to her family and being a mother. Her voice has not been compromised in any way. It shines through as a woman on that series. What I love about that series is that, like any good comedy, it attracts both men and women. People love that show. Not just women, not just men. It's not a woman show, it's an everybody show. And Jenji? A very, very rare treat in an industry that is run by dudes.

You were chastised in the comments section of a interview after you said that vaginas aren't funny. Can you explain what you meant by that remark?

I stand by it. I'm not saying women aren't as funny as men; women and men are equally as funny. But vaginas are not as funny . Or if they are, they ahve to be handled in a different way. I'll give my example: Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It was hilarious to watch Jason Segel by his girlfriend and start sobbing with his dick and balls hanging out. Hilarious. If a woman sat in the same scene with her legs spread, don't ask me why, I'm not going to laugh. It's not because I'm being precious about the birth canal. I just don't think it's funny. There is no reason for it. It just is. I subscribe to comedy rules; that's one of them.

A penis and balls is crazy. It's like wearing a clown nose. The vagina, for whatever reason, maybe because it's not anatomically big and out there, is the straight man -- a much more important job, by the way. Comedy is not necessarily watching someone do something ridiculous. I think a vagina would get that job before a penis, were they to audition for me.

Let's talk about Best Buds. In most potcentric films, guys smoke pot and women get manicures. Are you defending the right of women to get stoned?

In my movie, they get stoned and then get their manicures. Honestly, was born from the fact that in so many movies can only get the girl if they put down the bong. Those girls suck. They're not fun. I'm a fun girl. I have fun friends, we smoke weed. It's not from the loftiest place.

I hope people just see it as a movie for all stoners, not just for female stoners. It's a shame that people want to rob the male audience of stuff they think that they won't get or appreciate. That's the real sin of it.

Denbo's alter ego, Beverly, can be found at Emily Rosenbaum is a freelance writer living in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Skirt!, Mom Writer's Literary Magazine, and the Pennsylvania Gazette. She blogs at
LA General

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