Jen Kirkman [Interview]

 

Holy hell, Folks, do we have an absolutely wonderful interview for you all to kick off this first week of February. Now, we have spoken with some of the finest comedians in the business over the years, even a few of my favorites in just 2019 alone. But, today we are so honored to have one of the most legendary and recognizable by name alone figures in the world of comedy we have ever probably ever had on the site today. It’s Jen Kirkman, Everyone!

Whether you have enjoyed Jen’s hilarious Netflix specials, or read her incredible New York Times best-selling books, you know that the name Kirkman is synonymous with hilarity. Jen has been entertaining the undeserving masses for over 20 years. And from appearances on Conan, The Late Show, Drunk History, and more, to her latest gig writing for the critically acclaimed Amazon Original Series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jen continues to impress audiences across the globe with a wit and comedic style that is unlike anyone else we know.

Jen has been around the globe, and has worked in just about every aspect that is possible in a world centered around being absolutely hilarious. Yet, we are always fortunate to get more and more with each passing year. And I will be god damned if we were oh so fortunate to take some time from Kirkman’s hectic schedule to share some answers with us about the current state of comedy, the history of comedy, and what it means to be a hilarious individual in these modern times.

We are so excited to share these words with you all. Be sure to check out links at the end for your opportunity to see Jen live and in person. So without further babbling on my end, please enjoy these incredible words from the hilarious Jen Kirkman!

 

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When did you first discover that you were a hilarious human being and that you could make a living by making people laugh? Was it an early ambition, or did you just happen o find yourself in this world one day?

I started to do comedy because I felt weird being an audience member at comedy shows. I just knew I wanted to be up there. I didn’t think I was funny though.  I just wanted to be up there.  It made no sense. And I never thought about the money – good thing because I didn’t make any money doing comedy for the first fifteen years.

You have been doing stand up for quite a while, having really put in the work and earned every bit of success you have had. And in that time you have moved through various different stages of technological advances. The internet was new and somewhat daunting when you were coming up, but eventually became commonplace. With that, I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the technical advancements that have occurred in regards to stand up comedy. Is it mostly positive to have so many opportunities, or is the business becoming oversaturated?

Is this question your way of saying, “You’re old.  What were typewriters like?” And I want you to know that I wrote my first comedy bits on a word processor and I used to think that anyone who sent email was insane. “Why wouldn’t you just call someone?” Everything is oversaturated now and yet I’m getting more work than when things were undersaturated.  It’s working somehow.  The crazy saturation is working.  I have my audience and other people have their audience and most of America hasn’t heard of everyone else’s favorite comedian.

I always like to find out from traveling comedians this random question: What are some hidden gems of cities and/or clubs that the average person may not assume are actually amazing? Where are some spots outside of LA or NYC that have great audiences and an overall wonderful atmosphere, that you have enjoyed performing in?

Most of America is great for doing comedy.  My favorite cities that aren’t where the Coastal Elite Devil worshipping heathens live – Iowa City, Omaha, Nebraska, Bloomington, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Champaign, IL. I loved my gigs in those cities and return to them often.  I also have a specific type of people who come to see me.  So, in my mind, just based on my audience, America is made up entirely of men who wear nail polish, divorced women in their 30’s, hippie couples in their 40’s, lesbians, and anti-social millennials.

 

I understand that you have a monthly show at the Improv Lab in Hollywood entitled Story Lab. I am curious to know what inspired you to kick off this show? And what can audiences expect to enjoy about it?

I don’t know if anything I do comes from true “inspiration”. It’s just a show where I work out new material because I don’t write my act in a traditional way. I talk off of the top of my head, record it and see how it felt.  If I think there’s something there – I work on it further.  Audiences can expect that they won’t know what to expect because not even I know what to expect.  And that to me, is what live comedy is all about.  I mean, they can expect to be safe.  I’m not going to shoot flames into the crowd or anything.  Yet.  When I run out of ideas, I might.  But I assume they would have to put a sign in the lobby warning people.

Beyond the world of stand up, you are also an accomplished, New York Times Bestselling author. I am always curious to know about a writer’s process. Specifically, I am curious to know how you come to realize that you have completed a first draft? Like, how do you know when you have completed the meat of your narrative, and have something ready to turn in, probably get to chopped up all to hell, but still remain the meat of the work?

Writing is the worst.  The best part of writing a book is pitching it and finding out they’re going to buy it and then when it’s done.  The writing part is an exercise in being stuck in your own head and not being able to get the thoughts on to the page.  I know when I’m done with a first draft when the story makes sense, I’ve gone over it many, many times, read it aloud to myself, added some jokes where it’s not funny and added some heart where it needs the human touch and then thought, “Okay.  I’ve reached my full potential to make this better without the help of an editor who can point out where I can expand this or lose parts or explain it more.” And at that point it’s a relief to get it off of my desk.  I still say “off of my desk” as though I was working on a typewriter.

 

 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Readers! Come see me on tour in 2019! jenkirkman.com/tour

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Someone got rid of their Christmas tree but putting it in the middle of the road in my neighborhood and it stayed up for days.

 

Check out some tour dates to see Jen live below, and be sure to check out jenkirman.com for updates and additions and info on buying some sweet, sweet tickets. Or go up 3 sentences and hit that link as well. Either way, fucking do it. See Jen live!

February 8th – 9th, 2019: Arlington, Virginia @ Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse

February 14th, 2019: Seattle, Washington @ Neptune Theatre

February 21st, 2019: Los Angeles, California @ Hollywood Improv Lab

March 8th – 9th, 2019: Dallas, Texas @ Hyena’s Comedy Club

March 28th – 30th, 2019: Portland, Oregon @ Helium Comedy Club

April 24th, 2019: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania @ The Rex Theater

April 25th, 2019: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania @ Union Transfer

May 10th – 11th, 2019: Salt Lake City, Utah @ Wiseguy’s Comedy Club

September 11th, 2019: Brooklyn, New York @ TBA

September 13th, 2019: Boston, Massachusetts @ TBA

September 15th, 2019: San Diego, California @ KABOO Festival

Sunday Matinee: The Golem [Film]

“During an outbreak of a deadly plague, a mystical woman must save her tight-knit Jewish community from foreign invaders, but the entity she summons to protect them is a far greater evil. In this stunningly reimagined period horror version of an old mystical legend, a Jewish community in a shtetl are besieged by deadly intruders. Set in 17th century Lithuania, Hanna (Hani Furstenberg) the wistful, conflicted wife of the local rabbi’s son Benjamin (Ishai Golen),  secretly turns to Jewish mysticism and The Kabbalah to conjure up a dangerous entity to protect her community. But the creature she molds out of mud and summons to life echoes her tragic past and becomes so dangerously connected to its creator, that Hanna can’t see what a heartless monster she has fashioned from abject fear and desperate loathing.” – Big Time PR

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It is absolutely no secret that we love horror films here at Trainwreck’d Society. We have embraced, and have graciously been embrace by, the horror community across the world wide web. We’ve covered some pretty amazing titles in our time. And today, we may be covering one of the best titles we have ever seen from the world of independent horror. On a personal note, I must state that The Golem just so happens to contain the two elements that often time find themselves within the theme of horror, but not always working simultaneously. But when they do, holy shit am I going to be scared. Those themes would be 1) Religion and 2) Children. As a father of three, the idea of children being possessed (or simply the incarnation of any sort of demon like entity) is just about one of the scariest things in the world. And religion? Well, that should be a no-brainer. There is so much eery text out there detailing absolute insanity within the religious landscape. Although I will say, The Golem is probably my first experience with the Jewish community being the ones doing the summoning of demons. I am not up on my 17th century Lithuania mythology, but I believe this may be the first I am hearing of this. This sort of subject matter tends to lend itself mostly towards Catholics, so it was absolutely refreshing to see a story told through this lens.

I do have to say that when it comes to production value, The Golem is particularly well done. Just like Lithuanian folklore, I am not entirely tuned into the world of the independent of Israel, but it certainly seems that the likes of Doran and Yoaz Paz and cinematographer Rotem Yaron either are, or should be considered, some of the best in the business. The images are stark and frightening. While not jump scare heavy, as everything these days seem to be reliant upon, they do exist within the concept of the film and are done far better than I would have ever expected.

In the end, The Golem is a film that is far better than it should have been. With such a elaborate concept and wild idea for a film that was penned by Ariel Cohen, this film could have turned wildly south. But alas, it did not. The film remains true to the concept of the evil that is hidden within the systematic stage of religion, and the extent that some will go to keep from fading into the Dylan Thomas’s “good night”. I truly believe that The Golem is a wonderful film for horror fans and casual horror movie-goers alike. Though it is early in the year, I believe it is safe to say that The Golem will be one of the best horror films to be released in 2019

The Golem opened in Los Angeles this last Friday (February 1st), and will be available on VOD, DVD, & Blu Ray this Tuesday (February 5th), wherever you purchase films. Check out the trailer right here:

Catherine Mary Stewart [Interview]

 

Today we have some amazing words from the renowned actress Catherine Mary Stewart who has been delightfully entertaining the world for the last 40 years. She has appeared in everything from cult classic films (one of which happens to include some old friends of ours!) to legendary sci-fi/fantasy films, and so much more. With such an uncanny on screen presence, it is extremely clear why Stewart has had a long lasting presence in the world of film, television, and the stage. She is also one heck of a nice person, which is always a plus!

Catherine was kind enough to take a look back a bit at some of the projects she has worked on that we are very fond of here at Trainwreck’d Society. We also delve in a bit into what she has been working on lately, and how she has become a favorite amongst the Con scene, especially in regards to her magnificent performance in the 1984’s The Last Starfighter, which has only grown in popularity in the 35 years since it was released. Yes, from blockbusters to indie darlings, Catherine Mary Stewart has had a truly commendable career that we are so happy to hear about here today in our digital pages.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words form the legend herself, the great Catherine Mary Stewart!

 

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When did you first discover that you had a passion for the world of acting? What was it that initially drew you into this world? I understand you started in the world of dance, over here on this side of the pond in London. What prompted the transition?

What I discovered through dance was that I loved being on stage performing and expressing myself.  The first time I performed professionally as a dancer in a company, I knew without a doubt that that was what I wanted to do.  It had a life altering, tangible effect on me.  Along with my dance training I performed in lots of theatre projects in school and took acting and singing classes.  After I graduated from high school in Canada I crossed to your side of the pond and studied at a performing arts school in London.  It’s during that time that I got my first professional acting gig.  I auditioned as a dancer for this rock musical called “The Apple” and was asked to read for the lead female role. I ended up getting it.  It was all very new for me but in a way it didn’t feel overwhelming.  There was a sense of natural progression and with my background I had the discipline from my years of dance training to work hard, to learn the ropes quickly and enjoy the moment.

 

 

You are a renowned performer in just about every genre, from sci-fi to comedy to thrillers. In your professional opinion as someone who has worked almost 40 years in the business, what are some major common traits amongst the genres that you have noticed? And what are some vast differences between certain genres?

I think the similarities are that the characters in any genre have to be identifiable and to the audience on some level.  There must be a level of reality no matter how bizarre the story or the audience won’t invest in the character and as a result the film.  The differences are in the way the story is told or the genre, and what the overall effect is on the audience, emotionally, psychologically and sometimes even physically.

In 1987, you appeared in a wonderful film that was directed by our dear friend Penelope Spheeris and featured our new friend Daniel Roebuck, entitled Dudes. The film has achieved cult classic status over the years for very obvious reasons. And as somebody with experience working on the film itself, I am curious to know if you had any opinions on what it is that made this film such a classic? And when you were working on the project, could you tell you were creating something memorable?

Certainly two stellar people, both of whom I call friends along with Jon Cryer.  I think what makes Dudes stand out is it’s originality.  I’d never seen anything like it before and I haven’t seen anything like it since.  Again, I think the characters are identifiable for an audience on many levels.  The are relatable characters in an outrageous situation.  I love the concept of Dudes.  I was drawn to this independent, strong, gun-slinging, horse riding character of Jessie.  I’ve always had a romantic vision of westerns and I craved to be a part of one.  I love that it is unique yet for me my character really embodied my idea of a character in a western.  I loved working with Penelope, Jon and Daniel.  Everyone was 100% invested in this crazy thing and it shows on the screen.

 

 

And speaking of a filmmaker like Penelope Spheeris, who is one of our favorites, I am always curious to know from a performer’s perspective: what makes a great director to work with in your opinion? What sort of dynamic between filmmaker and performer do you believe needs to be in place in order for a project to be a success?

A director needs to have a clear personal vision of what the project is and what they want to say.  There must be unwavering belief in the vision, enthusiasm, integrity and communication with the cast and the crew to bring their vision to light.  Penelope knows what she likes, knows what she wants and knows who she is.  Those qualities are more than apparent in her work.

You have been known to make quite a few con appearances, whether it be for some of your cult classic appearances like Night of the Comet and Last Starfighter, which are HUGE in the sci-fi world, or maybe a Weekend At Bernies event. Overall, how has the fan reaction been to your appearances at these types of event? What type of folks have shown up to awe over your presence?

The fans at these events are the best!  There is no specific “type” that shows up.  Generally they are passionate about the genre, some dress as certain characters, but overall they are just big fans of the movies.  The impact these movies can have on people cannot be underestimated.  It certainly didn’t occur to me at the time we were making them.  I’m so proud of Night of the Comet and The Last Starfighter because I believe the impact they have had is positive and even inspiring.   There have been so many fans that I’ve had the privilege to meet that have shared their personal stories about how these movies influenced them as young people and through the years.  It’s truly lovely for me to hear all the accounts!

 

 

When you look back on your decades spanning career thus far, what would you say you are most proud of in a professional sense? What do you believe your legacy will be in the world of film and television?

I have so enjoyed my career and I’m proud of everything that I’ve done for one reason or the other.  I’ve never compromised myself for any project so looking back I have no regrets.  In terms of my “legacy” I have no idea and haven’t really thought about it.  What I do know is that I am not done yet so if there is any legacy per se it will change over time I hope.

When you are not on set somewhere across the globe, what would one find Catherine Mary Stewart doing for a little “me” time?

There is a lot of down time in this business so I have a lot of “me time”.  Mostly I’ve been planning what I’m going to do next.  I’ve been doing a lot of writing and working on getting a project or two off the ground.  I really enjoy the process of putting together a project and getting it to fruition.  I am looking to direct more and of course continue to act.

I love to travel.  I’ve travelled a lot in my life and I never get tired of it.  I find it fascinating to explore other places and cultures.  They are always so much more than you could ever read about in a newspaper or a book.  It is life expanding and educating on so many levels.  I encourage everyone to travel far and wide.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to share with our readers?

Specifically I’ve been working on several screen plays that I hope to either act in or direct or both.  I’ve also been working towards producing a play here in New York.

To keep up to date on everything that I’m doing your readers can check out my social media:

https://www.facebook.com/catherinemarystewart/

https://twitter.com/cmsall

https://www.instagram.com/catherinemarystewart/

http://catherinemarystewart.com/

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Well, I smile a LOT!  Life is good!  Probably the last thing that made me very happy was having my children over for dinner.  They tease me a lot and it cracks me up!  I always have a great belly laugh around them.  They inspire me every day.

 

 

Check out this lovely set of stills provide by Catherine herself from a variety of her work:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Jensen [Interview]

Today’s wonderful interview subject is what I would rightfully consider to be a class act of a human being. He has been involved int he world of film and television for over 30 years and as turned out some absolutely incredible roles, which we are so excited to share with you today. It’s David Jensen, Everyone!

I initially became aware of Jensen’s work when he appeared in the absolutely brilliant 2004 film that is often over-looked, but remains to be absolutely brilliant and one of my favorite films of all time entitled A Love Song For Bobby Long. You may remember us speaking about this film a few years ago when we had Grayson Capps gracing our digital pages, who had some incredible music to accompany the film, and who’s father happened to write the story in which the screenplay was eventually based upon. It’s a true love letter to the city of New Orleans, and the beat down souls who continue to occupy its space to this very day. And Jensen was a superb addition to the cast. And absolute damned delight, if you ask me!

And his career has had some very interesting and exciting at bats on many other incredible projects. We are so excited that David was able to take some time out of his schedule to tell us a bit about these projects and his experience as an actor and more over the last 30 years. He is a delightful person, and we are so very excited that he is here with us today. So without further babbling, please enjoy some wonderful words from the amazing David Jensen. You’re going to love this!

 

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When did you first decide you wanted to join the world of acting? What was it that initially led you into this world?

How I first got interested in acting was when I was in a 9th grade production of Cheaper By the Dozen and one day during rehearsals 3 or 4 of the girls in the cast started making out with the boys in the cast back stage.  The thrill was so compelling and illicit.  But somehow the cast kept it from the faculty and it continued thru the run of the show.  It was an innocent but transformative moment I will never forget.  I don’t remember telling this story often but I am sure what has kept me going from stage productions one after another is the chance that  something thrilling will happen again.

In 2012, we found you portraying a cannibal in This Is the End during the insanely hilarious scene at the end when we are reunited with Danny McBride. I will still go back and watch that moment very often. So how was your experience working on that scene? I don’t know how I could keep myself from laughing like a child. Was it as fun to work on as it was for us to watch?

My time on This Is the End was a long hot summer night next to the Mississippi River in New Orleans.  I don’t remember anyone holding sides or even bothering with a script.  Channing Tatum was in a full Mexican wrestlers mask and on a short leash Danny McBride was tugging on as McBrides’ sex toy/gimp.  I talked a lot to Jay Baruchel who I think is really talented. and Jonah Hill was very accessible.

 

In 2004 you appeared in one of my favorite films of all time in a very sweet role that I’ve never stopped thinking about. I’m talking about your role as Junior in A Love Song For Bobby Long. How was your experience working on a film like this one? Was there anything about that experience that singles itself out from the plethora of other projects you have worked on?

A Love Song For Bobby Long was another good summer experience in New Orleans before Katrina.  Elliot Davis shot the film, Shainee Gabell wrote and directed.  It’s one of those films that really captures the sense of place.  Many people tell me that it is their favorite film shot in New Orleans.  I play a saxophone jazz musician who fits in this small riverside community.  John and Gabriel Macht were terrific and Scarlett was flawless.

One genre that you have become quite familiar with is the world of horror and thrillers. Notably, you appeared in the classic film, The Mist from Frank Darabont! We are huge fans and supporters of the world of horror around here, so it behooves me to ask you how you enjoy working in the world of horror as opposed to other genres? What is something positive about working on a horror project?

I love horror movies, and Frank Darabont’s The Mist had a great cast, great special effects and every phase of production was a pleasure.  It was a big cast and you could get to know everyone for the 6 weeks I was shooting.  Marcia Gay Harden, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones, Bill Sadler all fun to work with.

After over 30 years in the business, and with all the advancements in technology over the years, I am curious to hear from an experienced actor what you find to be some core values of the world of filmmaking that are still as relevant today, even as me move into the online/digital modern times?

30 YEARS IN THE BUSINESS and it still comes down to honest truthful story telling.  Good people and a story well crafted. (Regardless if you are shooting Kodak 5248 on Panavision or digitally on the Amira, or on an iPhone 10).

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

Just finished Walk Away Joe, a film starring David Stratharne, that I think will get a lot of good notices and I’m in the new True Detective season starting in 2019.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

That is an easy question because i was just thinking what a good time to be alive.  How important it is for every artist to bring out the truth in whatever art form you are pursuing.  Truth matters and is what ultimately endures the test of time.  I got interested in acting because I thought I was a good liar.  And along the way I learned that truth was far more interesting and life vivifying.  It made my own craft and its’ pursuit more tangible.

And a good guide for structure in every project.  In looking back at the arc of my own life, it gives me satisfaction and a smile.

 

And check out this lovely collection of stills generously provided by David Jensen himself:

 

A Love Song For Bobby Long

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

 

 

 

Alien Tornado

 

Patriotville

New Music Tuesday: Crooked Ghost – Skeleton House [Album]

 

First things first Folks, I have to say that I am a huge fan of any band who has a name that is completely and utterly indicative of the sound they are looking to create. So let it be known that Crooked Ghost does just that, and so damn much more. This Asheville based group’s sophomore release Skeleton House is basically everything you would hope it would be with a band name and album title such as this. It’s haunting as shit, yet swerves in and out of fun and despair in a very eloquent manner. While often referred to as a “post punk” band, or at least inspired by said genre in many ways, I can’t help but sensing something much deeper within this group that is far too great to be pigeonholed into such a specific genre. But, if you have to categorize everything these days, I guess it could work. I would dare say that Crooked Ghost is like a vegan-friendly Simple Minds. It has the same flare and concreted misery, but lacks the cheese.

For obvious reasons, the tracks on Skeleton House that were picked to be lead off singles were “Sleepwalker” and “Roadkill”. And believe me, they are fantastic. “Roadkill” has an wonderful video with a great avant garde feel and experimental vibe to it. (which you should definitely check out below). But, this good ole pretentious heart of mine can’t help but lean towards what I would consider to be the most experimental and estranged track on the album, which is the album sharing of a title song “Skeleton House”. I will say this, and I feel as though this should speak volumes to how good it is: When you have to drive 40 minutes at night, on shitty East Anglian roads on the cusp of a blizzard in order to spend far too much money on mediocre Chinese food….”Skeleton House” is the 6 minute opus that will calm your brain as you blow light menthol smoke out of your shitty Mazda Premacy. Sorry, is that too specific? Basically, I loved every song on this 8 track splendor of an album, but that final track really just got to me. I really dug it. Also the Premacy is a fine automobile, I’m just ranting and also a very bad driver. But, I digress.

 

 

Crooked Ghost has a sound that is just so damn intriguing. One element that previous reviews and quotable paragraphs never seen to emphasis is the subtle, yet obvious once the revelation is catered into your brain, is the surf rock-esque elements that are mixed into the album. It’s almost as though this album was recorded in the dead of winter (Spoiler Alert: It was.) and in order to maintain any sort of fun and/or sanity whilst recording the album, they needed just a little spunk. It could have been unintentional on their part, and maybe I am just losing my shit here and am completely out of touch (very possible), but there are many wavering guitar solos that breathe the surf elements into your ears, and they way that Ray Clark’s vocals fade into said guitar, especially on a track like “Sleepwalker” definitely has that delightfully awkward feel of a surf rock track. But, again, do we really have to categorize everything. If we do, let’s call Crooked Ghost a post-surf band. Have we had that yet? I’m not sure.

Despite my own personal uncertainties, I am certain that you all are going to love Skeleton House, as it is a perfectly crafted album from a band that I am very excited to continue listening to, and I would implore you to do the same. With a brilliant post-surf sound and a perfectly relevant to their sound band name, Crooked Ghost is a band that I can get behind with zero uncertainty. They are absolutely brilliant.

 

Skeleton House will be released on limited edition 12″ vinyl on February 15. Order it on Bandcamp. It is also available now digitally across music stores and streaming platforms such as iTunes and Spotify.  

 

Kevin Avery [Interview]

 

 

Kevin Avery is a comedian, actor, and two-time Emmy award-winning writer. His writing credits include HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Comedy Central’s The Jim Jefferies Show, VH1′s Best Week Ever, and the critically acclaimed FX original series, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, on which he served as head writer. He appears in and was co-writer of the Comedy Central digital series, White Flight, and was co-host of the popular Earwolf podcast, Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time, Period, praised by Buzzfeed as “smart” and “funny” and recommended by Entertainment Weekly as a “Must List(en).” Kevin also wrote and starred in the award winning short film, Thugs, The Musical!

You can see Kevin in early 2019 appearing on the new Comedy Central series The New Negroes on which he also served as head writer.

We are so excited to have Kevin grace our digital pages. And even more excited that he requested the above bio to be used to introduce this whole thing, as I am now only required to write these few short sentences, and get back to quality time with my cat, Gatsby. Seriously though folks, the work that this man has given to the world has already been incredible, and the future is looking so bright for this award winning gentleman. So please enjoy this awesome interview. Also, check out his podcast. I have not yet done so myself, but I definitely will now. Denzel is so great. Fun fact: Until 2018, Denzel had never starred in a sequel to one of his films? I wonder if they bring this up. We shall see! Enjoy!

 

When did you know that you wanted to join the world of comedy? What was it that compelled you to make people laugh for a living?

I mean, I’ve loved comedy for as long as I can remember. Always loved making people laugh, even when I was growing up. I just kind of marveled at people who had the ability to make an entire audience laugh. And I fell in love with stand up at a very young age. I think it’s fair to say I was straight-up addicted to it – whether I was listening to my parent’s old comedy albums, or just watching it on TV as much as I could. I basically studied stand up comedy throughout my entire childhood. And it was something I always dreamed of doing; I just never thought I would actually do it. The idea of writing material seemed so daunting and out of the realm of possibility for me. Meanwhile, at school I was writing funny essays or pieces and reading and performing them in front of my class, not really putting together that I was essentially doing what stand up comedians did. When I got older, I would hang out at comedy clubs and even try my hand at writing material, but then would chicken out and not actually ever go up. Eventually, it took a comedy club owner in the Bay Area, who actually passed away some years ago, Jessica Jenkins, and another comic – a guy from Portland, Troy Thirdgill to talk me into trying it for the first time, and I just never looked back.

Can you tell us about your very first time getting up on stage? What sort of emotional rollercoaster was that for you?

I basically had 2 weeks from the time I got talked into trying it until the actual date of my first set. At the time, I was working this corporate tech day job that I was woefully unqualified for and absolutely hated (I’d eventually be fired from, like, 6 of these jobs). But I’d work from 7am to 4pm, then leave and either take a nap or just watch a movie, and then I’d come back to the office at night, find a conference room and write until really late. I did this for 2 weeks just to put together what I thought was 5 minutes of material, but turned out to be more. This is probably the hardest I’d worked on anything in my life at that point. The night of the open mic, I put my name on the list in the #7 spot, thinking that all of the other spots would be filled in. They were not. I felt as confident as anyone could trying stand up for the first time, so I was nervous as shit. And I had all my material typed out and spread out on the bar in the back of the club, studying it while the show was going on. After the 3rd or 4th comic came off stage, I remember the host saying “Are you guys ready for your last comic?” And I don’t know if anyone else heard me do this, but an audible “No!” actually flew out of my mouth. I was totally terrified, but the next thing I knew I was just walking toward the stage as this guy is introducing me. And it was the weirdest thing: I’d watched so much stand up comedy that, even though I’d never done it before, it all just felt really familiar suddenly. And I became super calm and just walked up there and did it. It was one of the greatest feelings and moments in my life. I remember coming off stage and thinking I have to do this again, as soon as possible!

 

 

You had a perfect description of Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, calling it “criminally short”. It truly was too short, but groundbreaking the same. What was it like to work on a show like this? Did it feel groundbreaking when you were working on it?

Working on Totally Biased was a lot of things for me. It was my first writing job. And then it became my first head writing job which changed my career and my life in ways I could have never seen coming. This show launched my TV writing career. And, especially in the beginning, it was just a lot of fun! I was working with my comedy homie, Kamau, and a lot of our friends that we’d come up with through stand up. And it was all of these things while also being this incredible learning experience in comedy and TV writing, production, collaborating with other writers, and just the business of making a show every week. And I’m getting to work on a regular basis with one of the most amazing teachers you could ask for, Chris Rock, who was one of our executive producers. And all this is happening while I’m living in New York for the first time. But it was also brutally rigorous, particularly when we became a nightly show. In that way, it prepared me for every job I’d have after that. I’ll always be super grateful for that experience.

And, you know, we were incredibly proud of what we were making every week on the show. We got to do and say things that other shows weren’t saying or doing at that time. We got to put talent on TV that you weren’t seeing on every other show out there. I feel like that was our goal with the show, and we did it very successfully. But ultimately, what Totally Biased was for me was this opportunity to make this thing – this show – with my friend, Kamau, who I’d come up with, both of us being each other’s ride-or-die and just trying to make it, to get our shot. And here we were, doing it. That was a very special and exciting time and something I’ll never forget being a part of.

Last Week Tonight is another extremely original in its own way type of series that deals with some pretty damned heavy content each week, yet thanks to brilliant writers like yourself, it still remains pretty damned funny. With that, what would you say was the most difficult subject matter you had to work with on LWT? What did you find to be extremely difficult to even attempt to make light of?

Well, I’ve always said that if Totally Biased was boot camp, Last Week Tonight was SEAL training. That show took everything I’d learned at T.B. and multiplied that knowledge, like tenfold. And one of those learning experiences was in how to take very boring, complex or even tragic topics and build comedy around them. Routinely we had to take clips that were going in the show – clips about people losing their homes or livelihood, or stories about people being sick or dying – really sad stuff – and write jokes that John had to say right after these clips. So every week there was really grim subject matter that we had to just figure out how to navigate through and know when and how to tell jokes about it. The one that stands out to me the most wasn’t even a tragic subject as much as it was just really boring subject matter-wise for a comedy show. It was the Net Neutrality piece in season 1. I worked on that with a couple other writers, and the whole thing about it was that it was this incredibly boring, complicated topic about legislation and mergers and how the internet works – basically shit that would clear the room at a party. But ultimately, we just realized we had to lean into how dull and complicated a topic it was, and that became the central joke of the piece – this idea that they’re sneaking this very important, critical issue past us all because it is, in fact, so boring and they’re counting on us not paying attention. And once we figured that out, it was a lot of fun to write. It’s also a piece that featured a joke I wrote that made John laugh particularly hard during rehearsal – a weird joke about Superman and Lex Luthor living in the same apartment complex that I’d written at, like, 3am when I was particularly loopy – so that was always a point of personal pride for me.

 

 

Currently you can be found working on The Jim Jefferies Show on Comedy Central. What has it been like to work on this program? What has set it apart from other work you have done as a writer?

It’s been great! Jim is obviously a completely different type of host then John or Kamau – his point of view and take on things is just very different than those guys, so it’s nice to go to a similar type of show that’s still got a completely different feel and comedic sensibility. It just keeps things interesting from a writing perspective. I never want to totally repeat something. 

And just in terms of the writer’s room, it’s a different set of writers, in a different city. I’m in L.A. and not New York, so it’s an all-around different vibe than it was on Last Week Tonight or Best Week Ever or Totally Biased. I like that, from job to job, the feel and inner workings of each writer’s room has been wildly different than the previous experience.

We always like to ask our statue holding friends this one question: Where do you keep your Emmys? And does their physical location hold any kind of significance?

In a glass IKEA case with a bunch of Lego Avengers figurines on top of it. You really have to snoop around my place to find them. At this point, the most noticeable object in my home is the Christmas tree that’s been up since last year.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

[In March], I’ll appear on a new Comedy Central show called The New Negroes, hosted by comedian Baron Vaughn and rapper Open Mike Eagle. It’s a really funny show that mixes stand up, social commentary from Baron and Mike, and hip-hop from Mike and some amazing guest rappers. I’m doing stand up, and I’ll appear in one of the music videos with Mike and – I don’t think I’m allowed to say who yet, so I’ll just say one of my favorite rappers of all time. I was also head writer on the show, so I’m really excited for people to see what we put together. Also, I’m excited to take down that damned Christmas tree.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The thought of leaving that Christmas tree up one more year.

Sunday Matinee: I Am The Night [Limited Series]

Photo by TNT Drama – © TM & © 2018 Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. A WarnerMedia Company.

 

“Inspired by true events, I Am the Night tells the gripping story of Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a teenage girl who is given away at birth, and grows up outside of Reno, Nevada. Fauna lives more-or-less comfortably with the mysteries of her origin, until one day she makes a discovery that leads her to question everything. As Fauna begins to investigate the secrets of her past, she meets a ruined reporter (Chris Pine), haunted by the case that undid him. Together they follow a sinister trail that swirls ever closer to an infamous Los Angeles gynecologist, Dr. George Hodel (Jefferson Mays), a man involved in some of Hollywood’s darkest debauchery, and possibly, its most infamous unsolved crime.”

 

******

It is no secret that the world of television is dominating the world of creativity today. We have spoken with so many people who are working either behind or on screen on the plethora of work that is coming out in the world of television. Every single network and/or streaming service has their own original programming, so much so that is it is almost too hard to keep up with these days. It can feel overwhelming at times for sure, but if you truly do some research, you are going to find some very fascinating stuff out there. Or, you can just listen to us! Because we want to tell you about a limited series that is absolutely one of the best pieces of television to come out in the last decade at least. We are talking about TNT’s 6-part limited series I Am The Night.

Avid readers here at Trainwreck’d Society will recognize that this is our first venture into the world of television in regards to our Sunday Matinee series. We usually tend to stick to the world of motion pictures. A few series have crossed out digital desks, but none of them have really felt right. That is until we were given the opportunity to check out this absolutely brilliant series brought to the world by Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins.

There is so much to get into here Folks that it’s almost too hard to begin. But, let’s try it out. Lets begin with the performances, as they are without a doubt the highlight of the series. I will say with complete honesty, I’ve never watched a project of any type that featured the very well known actor Chris Pine. I’m not joking. While we have covered the original Star Trek films and TV series at lengths via interviews, I am completely ill-advised on the the films of the last decade. And as far as the rest of this man’s credits. I promise I will see Wonder Woman someday, but it hasn’t happen yet. I guess I was just missing out. Of course I am a human living in 2019, so I know who he is. But, I promise you that I Am The Night is my first experience with this admiringly beautiful man. And I will be damned if I wasn’t excitedly impressed. Pine’s performance as Jay Singeltary is absolutely brilliant and is not to be missed. While I still feel a bit of shame for being so ill-informed on the world of Chris Pine, I am actually pretty excited that this was how I got to experience him first. The way he displays desperation, torture, and the effects of post traumatic stress disorder is so damn enthralling and not to be missed.

 

© 2018 – Turner Entertainment Networks

 

Another performance that is commendable beyond belief is obviously from the show’s lead actress India Eisley. I was also unfamiliar with her work (beyond appearing alongside our friend Camille Winbush in The Secret Life of the American Teenager), but I am FULLY aware of her absolute brilliance at this time. There is absolutely no way that India doesn’t become the biggest star of this day and age. Her work on I Am The Night is the stuff that genius is made of as she portrays the now legendary Fauna Hodel. Her pain and anguish of living a life that is essentially a lie is so believable and surreal that it is hard to truly explain. Pine is wonderful, but Eisley is most definitely the biggest draw by far. I simply cannot say enough good stuff. Also, it’s damn near impossible to get too far into her performances without spoiling the entire series. So please trust me, India is as amazing as you should expect.

Now, obviously Pine and Eisley steal the show front and center, but it behooves us to talk about the absolutely incredible supporting cast that made I Am The Night an overall delightfully terrifying experience. If Golden Brooks doesn’t win an Emmy for her performance as Fauna’s (unknown to her, adopted) mother Jimmy Lee, then there is seriously no justice in this world. She was absolutely brilliant in every damn second she was on screen. You loved to hate her, yet could empathize with her fears. Of course, if she had her way, the story may have never come to fruition. Anyway, Brooks was absolutely brilliant in a commendable appearance. And of course, there is Tony-Award nominated actor Jefferson Mays who portrays the infamous George Hodel and absolutely nailed the part of the man who is suspected to be the actual man behind the infamous Black Dahlia murders. Note: If you check out the live recording of the I Am The Night event that was done with the absolutely wonderful podcast, My Favorite Murder, you will be left without a shadow of a doubt that he fucking did it! But regardless of obvious historical evidence, Jefferson Mays is creepy as hell in his brilliant performance as Hodell.

Another performance that was absolutely wonderful, yet sadly underused in what was probably an attempt to keep the pace of the show moving, was that of Justin Cornwell, who you may recognize from the short lived television re-imaging of the film Training Day alongside the late Bill Paxton. Again, Justin was underused, but absolutely destroyed on every second he was on screen. The same can be said for Connie Nielsen who shines on screen as well.

 

© 2018 – Turner Entertainment Networks

 

And while the performances in this limited series are worth their weight in blood stained scalpels, it is also fair to say that the characters that these brilliant actors were working with her absolutely intriguing in their own right. In fact, Pine’s character is supposedly not base around an actual person per say, but an idea of a person. Which is always intriguing. And the mystery behind George Hodel has long been determined to absolutely terrifying. From his mesmerizing Mayan themed Los Angeles mansion (actually used IN the series!) to well-documented writings from George’s own son who truly believes he was, beyond an reasonable doubt, the Black Dahlia murderer, I Am The Night is a story that needed to be done wisely and very carefully. And I firmly believe that show creator Sam Sheridan and director Patty Jenkins have truly done just that. Stylized in a fashion that simply screams L.A. noir, this series truly takes you back in time in a way that I feel as though hasn’t been done before.

I have to preface this paragraph by stating that there are indeed times when the normalization of horrifically fucked up things can be appropriate when simply attempting to create an accurate setting. And that is exactly what is happening in I Am The Night, whether or not the show’s creators actually realized it. Oh, and I should say…I’m not talking about the murders. Yes, that’s pretty fucked up, but that’s not where I am going with this. I am speaking about the inclusion of the frustration and inhumane setting of racism that existed during the time this show was to take place. I feel that it normalized these actions, because it truly had to. It was sadly commonplace at the time. The despicable surroundings had to be addressed, but when you are dealing a real specific story, it can’t be the focal point. And with that, I feel as though the show did a wonderful job at addressing these issues, especially as the show wraps up. I am not obliged to speak about details, but I hope that you will trust me on this matter. Or not. Either way, I will remain firm that when it comes to creating characters battling the hatred of a nation, as well as the then unrealized effects of war traumatization (a different matter altogether, but tackled with equal sensitivity), I Am The Night does an absolutely amazing job!

 

© 2018 – Turner Entertainment Networks

 

Seriously Folks, I know that each and every day somebody in your office/gym/Fifty Shades fan club message board has been uttering the words “You have to watch [insert show title here]”. And the chances are that they are probably right. Well, kind of, as you don’t “have” to watch anything at all, so fuck off Jacob from accounts payable. The best writing of this day and age is truly in television, we all know this. But, I am here today to stand on my proverbial soap box and exclaim to you all that I Am The Night is ACTUALLY that show that you have, nay…SHOULD, be watching.

If you have spent the last decade watching critically acclaimed television yet secretly not quite understanding the hype of certain programs, I Am The Night is very likely the series you are looking for. Also, think of it as a less daunting experience, as it is merely a 6 part event that has a beginning and end. I understand how mentally exhausting (and first world problem-ish) to know that the 4th season of Mr. Robot is on its way and your mom changed her Amazon Prime password without telling you, so you never finished the first 3 seasons. I understand this. I’m certain Better Call Saul is a wonderful show, but dammit, I have been re-watching episodes of Full House for the last month. These things happen. Just think about I Am The Night has a 6 part story that will enter your life, and leave sooner than you will probably want  it to, but you will still leave the series feeling whole, and maybe even taking upon yourself to return to it. I don’t know, I’m not your keeper. I just want you to watch I Am The Night!

I also have to say that I am actually jealous of so many of you who have not been privy to this show yet. For the next 6 weeks, your lives are going to be filled with so much anticipation for each Monday night, you’re probably going to completely miss the backside of the winter season. My experience with I Am The Night is always going to be a day and half of nightmare inducing mayhem in which I could do nothing else but invest myself deeper into the curious adventures of Fauna Hodel and the realization that Chris Pine may be the most beautiful man on the planet. Anyway, you are all lucky. Spread out the madness, I’d say.

Also, as you know we are huge fans of the world of both comedy and podcast, I highly suggest you check out the accompanying podcast that will follow along with the series, as well as the show’s sponsorship and features of one of the finest podcasts that has been covering topics in the vein of I Am The Night for years now, the wonderful My Favorite Murder podcast. They recently dropped the recording of the live event at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles that details the Black Dahlia murder, as well as the “possible” inclusion of George Hodel. It also featured a wonderful interview with the aforementioned Jefferson Mays. Check out the My Favorite Murder website to get started.

Folks, if you believe I have never steered you wrong in the past, please believe me when I tell you that I Am The Night is a series you are going to absolutely LOVE. If you feel like I have steered you wrong, consider this my reckoning, and a way to make it up to you, as I can damn near guarantee that this is going to be one of the finest viewing experiences you will have in 2019. Possibly your life, but let’s let time decide that one. Enjoy!

 

 

I Am the Night will premiere on January 28th at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on TNT.