Those diligent followers of improvisational comedy will likely know the names Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, the Boston-born comedians who have taken to the stage internationally and created and starred in the satirical Ronna and Beverly television series. Speaking to Chaffin and Denbo, who appear in memorable roles in the acclaimed comedy The Heat, we instantly understand how their partnership allowed their careers to blossom: the two play off one another like lifelong friends. Chalking this up to a common language and, even more simply, the ability to make one another laugh, Chaffin and Denbo have a lot to say about comedy in general.
With experience in sketch comedy, television, and film — working in cities like Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and London — Chaffin and Denbo are a requisite for any aspiring comic looking to learn all that he or she can about the craft. The pair gave us some insight about their origins and using them to construct a brand of comedy that seems to transcend cultural barriers, about working on director Paul Feig's outstanding Sandra Bullock/Melissa McCarthy buddy cop comedy (which is now available on Blu-ray), and about the rattling conversation that seems to follow movies like The Heat about whether or not women are funny. The discussion will enlighten you.
On the beginnings of their partnership and working together in the comedy world…
Jessica Chaffin: We both grew up just outside of Boston. I grew up in Newton, Jamie grew up in Swampscott. My grandmother actually lived in the town next to Jamie's, so we were kind of living these parallel childhoods even though we didn't know each other. But we had, basically, all the same kinds of influences and references and knew the same kinds of women. Twenty years later or 15 years later, we both found ourselves in New York doing improv. Jamie did improv in college —
Jamie Denbo: Anything that doesn’t involve homework, or memorization.
JC: I was the exact opposite. I was doing homework a lot, and not doing comedy. And then we both ended up at the UCB Theater, so that's how we met initially. Jamie got there a year before me, so we weren't always performing together. We'd do special shows together. Actually, one of the shows that we did together — before we started doing Ronna and Beverly, which was several years later — was this show called Wicked F**kin Queeyah, where all the improvisers from Boston would do a show together during the Del Close Marathon. And I would say that's probably where our common language found its first footing.
Then we both moved to L.A. around the same time. It was Christmas in L.A., and the guy that was running — the artistic director at the time, Seth Morris, a very talented and funny comedian and actor in his own right — said, "Hey, are you Jews gonna be around?" And we said yes, and he said, "Do you wanna do a show called Kosher Christmas?" So we said, "Let's do something together." We had never done something together, but I think we had admired each other from across the room."
In Boston, there's this thing called the Matzo Ball. I think they do it in a lot of major cities. Christmas Eve is like Jewish Valentine's Day. So basically, all the Jews go out that night. Your mother drops you off and hopes you get the number of a pre-med student — a pre-pre-med student, meaning a 16-year-old who may or may not have done very well on his SATs. So what really happens is, you go there and you're like, "I thought I hated all these boys and now I hate them more." Jamie and I both have non-Jewish partners. But I would say that's how we exorcised those demons. [But] where do you put it all? It became Ronna and Beverly. We basically said we wanted to do something that has to do with singles. We ate a tube of cookie dough and talked about it. She was like, "I wanna be this person," and I was like, "I wanna be this person." We decided to basically make fun of these women who had been making us laugh for our entire lives.
On transforming their backgrounds into a career in comedy…
It's a funny circle. We left Boston to go be performers… and now, all these years later, the things that still make us laugh harder than anything are the people that we grew up around. So, we joke that we play either really high status Jewish mothers or we play scumbags. We were very lucky to get to do that in The Heat.
JD: We get to do both with Paul Feig, which is pretty great.
JC: He directed our pilot for Showtime in 2009. That's how we met him. We've continued a relationship with him, and he produced our show that we did in England — the Ronna and Beverly show — but also, he put us in The Heat and gave us a forum to do our nonsense. It was great. We had a terrific time.
JD: They always say in comedy, the more specific, the more universal. I think what happens when you get really specific about where you're from or who you are, something in that is able to reach people about their own specific quirks, and they just enjoy it for what it is. I say that because we've had such a diverse audience. Specifically for Ronna and Beverly, where we've done Telluride Comedy Festivals year after year, and we've performed all over England and had a television series there. These are not places where you'd think, "Oh, they'll completely understand Boston and Jews." I don't know that they do. But something in it connects with them. And the overbearing matriarch, the judgmental matriarch, the embarrassing matriarch — those are universal. So, when you fill it with your specifics, you're able to surprise them with new jokes. It's been really fun for us to introduce the world to the quirky, quirky, crazy stuff that is very specific to Boston Jews. It's a WASPy kind of Jew.
JC: I was going to say… everyone thinks [of] New Yorkers. "That's a Jew." No, there's Southern Jews and Boston Jews and Chicago Jews. There's such a specific thing to each of those… in Boston, actually, people assimilated much more quickly than they did in New York, probably because there were fewer of them. You had to just jump into the stream, whereas in New York there was a bit more of a ghettoization. The Lower East Side, or Brooklyn, or whatever. I'm getting too deep into the etymology of that kind of language. Basically, one [universality] is the matriarchal archetype that Jamie is talking about. But also, ultimately, the reason why these women are so funny to us is because it's the complete lack of self-awareness and self-consciousness about what they do. They feel completely entitled to their opinion at all times, and they feel that everybody should either know it or share it. What we're essentially doing, because we are young people playing old people, is satire. It's happening on two levels. Yeah, it's funny to watch those old women, but we put it through the prism of how we feel about how they behave, or how they treat us, or how racist they are, or whatever it is. That's what it is, I think, that people respond to.
On bringing their comedy to film, specifically in The Heat…
JC: I think that was always great about it. You work on a huge movie, with a huge budget, and huge movie stars. I actually think this is a real credit to Paul — you could be doing a Funny or Die video for free, or for like 12 bucks, or you could be working on a huge multimillion dollar movie, and the actual act of doing the part, the process, feels very similar. I give credit to Paul, making everybody feel comfortable, and giving you the arena to do what you do best.
JD: I also think that it starts on the page. The great thing about The Heat is that it was a great script and it was something in the area of what we do and already connect with. So we were really able to have a blast feeling confident that we could bring what we already knew to the table, and make whatever adjustments we had to make. Driving Sandra Bullock crazy, her character — that's not a situation that we've had onstage. We haven't had the opportunity to make her nuts or intimidate her or try to make her laugh. It was so fun to be able to do that, it really was. Honestly, especially now that I've just seen Gravity, I'm like, "We f**ked with her! That was fun!"
JC: I also think shooting in Boston [made] the whole thing so cool. It's the greatest set that you can dress: the entire city. You get to see these characters in their natural habitat. It's this weird "What's real and what's not real?" thing. I think that was super fun and super satisfying. Actually, that's why I think Joey McIntyre is so fabulous in the movie, too.
JD: What a doll.
JC: He brings such an authenticity to it.
JD: He never let that part of him fall by the wayside. That's just who he is. It's something he's proud of.
On Paul Feig's understanding of the language of comedy…
JD: He's really, really brilliant, and has incredibly confidence in his performers. I don't say that because he just lets everybody run wild. There's a reason he has chosen to work with Melissa McCarthy over and over and over again. Part of that is because he is very confident that when he lets her do what she does, he's going get everything and more. I'm not saying he's not a control freak. It is a controlled environment. But at the same time, he lets people have a certain amount of control, and it makes you a confident performer. It's this great circle of confidence.
JC: I remember the first day. The very first thing we shot in the movie was my scene when I come down the stairs. You had Melissa — who is such a formidable talent, and who you admire and adore, and who is boundary-less in how far she'll take something — and Sandra — who is a huge movie star. On the one hand, it's really intimidating. On the other hand, Jamie and I work together all the time and have a common language. All the boys that were on the [set] — Nate Corddry is a really old friend of ours, Joey is a really old friend of ours. Bill [Burr] we met there, but it was immediate. We get each other. So on the one hand, you're totally comfortable, on the other hand, it's terrifying. You never know, when you have a small part, how much you can do — that's one of the things actors don't talk about. You just show up and think everyone is friendly and nice and awesome. When you have a small part, you just want to go and do it and get it done with and not f**k anything up for anybody else. I said to Paul, "I just need to know where the boundaries are. How far can I go? How much time can I take? Just let me know what you want me to do." And he said, "I want you to be yourself. Take it as far as you can." When I was coming down the stairs, he kept being like, "Even slower, even slower." Like, the slowest walk down the stairs that you can possibly do. I don't think I even quite got there. But that was so freeing. And to do such a crazy melee of a scene — Jamie is running out of the car, and we're getting in a fight. We probably did that for three hours. I think that set the pace for the rest of the movie. "Oh, we can totally have fun and play and do our thing!" I think that made it easy for us.
On the infamous conversation about women being "not funny"…
JD: Blah, blah, blah. You know what? You can quote me. Women aren't funny. They're just not. Everybody wins. There you go.
JC: We just think people are either funny or they're not. How do you know? You either f**king laugh or you don't. We don't ever think about being women while we're working. I'm not trying out my new period jokes on Jamie. "I hope that this one lands!" We just crack each other up. Actually, that's the secret to our overall relationship and collaboration. We really make each other laugh. We're not laughing at each other because I'm like, "Oh my God, her boobs are so funny!" when she's running around on stage. No. It's your brain. It either turns somebody on or it doesn't. The rest of it is people that are just, I guess, scared.
JD: I agree, except with the caveat that Jessica's boobs are very funny when they are running around onstage.
JC: You're right. I apologize. That's something men don't have. Funny boobs.
JD: Ha. Suck it, men. You're not as funny as women because your boobs aren't funny.
JC: Did your boobs get their own credit in the movie, Adam Carolla?
JD: No they did not.
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The actor/politician will appear as a guest speaker during Jamie McIntyre's 21st Century Financial Education Summits, speaking at events in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in June (13).
The former bodybuilder will talk about his diverse career and give tips and advice to attendees.
He says in a statement, "Australia is one of my favourite countries in the world and the people there are always so friendly and welcoming. Sydney will always be special for me as it's the city where I won the title of Mr Olympia for the final time!"
Event organiser McIntyre adds, "Arnold embodies everything that the Financial Education Summit is all about. He is motivated, inspirational, an achiever against all odds. How incredible that a young man from a small village in Austria could by the age of 21 have moved to Los Angeles and been crowned Mr Universe and within five years become the greatest bodybuilder of all time and within 10 years a millionaire from business and within 20 years the world's biggest movie star and 36 years later elected Governor of California."
The talks will take place on 12-14 June (13).
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
US Weekly reports Pink and Carey Hart are expecting their first child together. That's great, but think of the tattoo stretchage! - US Weekly
Yes, I agree! Clicking on Reba McEntyre's cover of Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy" initially seemed to be a mistake because she Jack the Rippers all the song's gerunds, but when it was over, I felt like I wanted to run through the airport and tell it not to leave. - Gawker TV
Kim Kardashian wants to fall in love again. So, if you know where it's hiding... - People
Bret Michaels told People he did not have an affair with Miley Cyrus' mom. She just likes "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and it was the first concert she took Miley to so she thought the two of them should remake the song for Miley's new album. That, is like, textbook affair commencement. - People
Gayle King continues to say the rumors that she and Oprah are lesbians is "ridiculous." Someone just go find out if their ringtones for each other are "Teenage Dream." - TMZ
Brittany Murphy would have been 33 today, and her mother plans to write a book about her personal life and career. - TMZ
If your loser cousin at Brown emailed what they called "naked pictures of Emma Watson" to you, delete them because they're not real. Her spokesperson said, "There have been a number of nude fakes over the past two months. Emma has seen them and finds them tiresome. People should know better." So, out them at Thanksgiving for not having a more discerning eye. - Huffpo
So, Kendra Wilkinson is on the cover of this month's Playboy. However, figuring out that someone would realize her body in the picture does not look like the body we have seen on Kendra, she clarified that the photo was taken at a shoot two years ago when she was still living in the mansion. ESCANDALO, ¿NO? - People
Dakota Fanning was crowned homecoming queen for the second year in a row. Jealous? - Huffpo
Jamie Foxx knows President Obama is smoking the doobies. - TV Squad