From the brilliant director (and my dear friend) Kristine Stolakis, comes PRAY AWAY, a new documentary film about survivors and ex-leaders of the so-called “conversion therapy” movement. This incredible, heartbreaking film chronicles the “ex gay” movement’s rise to power, its unscientific influence, and its legacy of profound harm.
Talking ‘Middle Man,’ ‘Parks and Rec,’ and Second City with Jim O’Heir
“Jim O’Heir, best known for playing Jerry Gergich, the lovable object of mockery on Parks and Recreation, has made a surprising jump to star in the new indie dark comedy, Middle Man. O’Heir plays Lenny, a straight-laced accountant with dreams of becoming a standup comedian. But Lenny has a big problem — he is not funny. Nonetheless, when his mother suddenly dies leaving him nothing but debt and her ‘53 Oldsmobile, he quits his job and heads to Vegas in search of fame. But along the way, a mysterious hitchhiker (Andrew West) lures him into a desert-town killing spree with dark and twisted results – as the bodies pile up, Lenny becomes funnier and funnier on stage.
In the world of standup comedy, a Middle Man or “middler” is someone who comes on stage after the opening act and before the headliner. As Middle Mandirector Ned Crowley describes, “They are usually someone who has lost the hope and optimism that a fresh naïve opener still has. We all know middle men (and women) in life; people who are trapped in their jobs or relationships, with no hope of moving forward to their goals or backward to their innocence.” Middle Man the movie craftily explores our society’s obsession with fame and increasing taste for caustic comedy. O’Heir and Crowley have been good friends for thirty years, since their days performing at Second City. Crowley wrote the film with his friend in mind nearly a decade ago, but it took O’Heir’s rising profile to get it off the ground. I talked to O’Heir about his early days in comedy, life after Parks and Rec, and his personal relationship to fame.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON VULTURE
T.J. Miller Wants to Use Comedy to Soothe the Human Condition
“T.J. Miller cuts to the core. Whether shooting from the hip on local morning talk shows or waxing philosophical in his standup, Miller is operating from a place of gut instinct. In his latest ventures, he’s appearing opposite Jennifer Aniston in a holiday comedy, Office Christmas Party, debuting December 9th, and starring as Greg the Genie in a second series of Slim Jim ads on Funny or Die. Between shooting the new season of Silicon Valley and appearing on Ellen, he made some time to talk to me about nihilism, mortality, and Goblesnarfs.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON VULTURE
Prescription For Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis
What an amazing gift to work on this powerful documentary about opioid addiction. Proud to know these folks and so grateful for the opportunity to help change the national conversation on this issue.
Watch the full MTV documentary here:
“Prescription For Change: Ending America’s Opioid Crisis”
If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, know that you are not alone, that you are loved unconditionally, and that there is help. Learn more at:
Ben Falcone on Being Partners in Comedy and Life with Melissa McCarthy
“Before Ben Falcone became the writer/director/producer/actor/father/husband to Melissa McCarthy that he is today, he worked as a waiter at California Pizza Kitchen for seven years and performed with a comedy troupe at The Groundlings. Whether it was his abrupt firing from CPK or an inborn strength of character, Falcone seems to have maintained his humility and warmth amidst his family’s growing fame. Which is a great quality to have when your comedic success shows no signs of stopping. McCarthy and Falcone’s pilot Nobodies was just ordered to series, a new movie, Life of the Party starts shooting next month, and The Boss, a movie they co-wrote with Steve Mallory recently released on DVD with special features. I talked with Falcone about the couple’s favorite place to write, playing with dolls in volcanoes, and the joy of comedy in an uncertain world.”
READ THE REST ON VULTURE
Creating All the Time with Kate Micucci
“Mike Birbiglia’s new gem of a film, Don’t Think Twice, explores the relationships between members of Commune, a long-standing improv troupe. When the troupe’s theater is sold to Trump and a key member of the group garners a big gig on “Weekend Live”, the friends are forced to reassess their individual values and sense of identity. Kate Micucci of Garfunkel and Oates plays Allison, a peculiar improviser and illustrator. Although in real-life Micucci had no previous experience with improv, you wouldn’t know it from her relaxed, imaginative performance. I talked with Micucci about her creative spirit, knowing your own butt strength, and one particularly hard day.”
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW ON VULTURE
The Mormon Feminists Fighting for Women’s Right to Join the Priesthood
“Kristine Stolakis’s new documentary, “Where We Stand,” follows a stay-at-home mom turned vocal feminist advocate, as she navigates the repercussions of her unpopular activism in her predominantly Mormon suburb.
Click here to support “Where We Stand”
“Kristine Stolakis is a San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker who wants to make the world a better place. In a culture saturated with irony, Stolakis is a refreshing wellspring of sincerity; there is nothing cynical about her work. Before embarking on a graduate degree in documentary film at Stanford, she studied cultural anthropology at NYU and worked as a teaching artist and program manager for youth in underserved communities.
This commitment to social change flows through all of her films. Her short documentary Balancing Act explores the exploited tradition of West African hambone dance through the story of a young circus performer in West Oakland. InThe Typist, Stolakis takes on discrimination against LGBTQ service members through the story of a Korean War veteran tasked with writing dishonorable discharges. Her subjects are fascinating, her films rife with thoughtful conviction.
Her latest, Where We Stand, is the story of a controversial group of Mormon feminists fighting for women’s ordination in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The documentary follows Abby Hansen, a stay-at-home mom turned vocal advocate for Ordain Women, as she navigates the repercussions of her unpopular activism against her church in her predominantly Mormon suburb. Stolakis is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise completion and distribution funds. The full film will premiere in film festivals this winter.
Broadly caught up with Stolakis on backyard activism, empathetic filmmaking and finding feminism outside of our worldly existence.”
My Dog’s “Taste” in Books, Movies and Music
We rescued a genius named Jordy from Ken Mar Dog Rescue. He was not in great shape as you can see from his mug shot below, but today we can now say that he is a happy, healthy young pup who enjoys pizzles, kongs that look like butt plugs and humping other dogs faces. He really is a miracle and we share loving moments every day when he’s not busy destroying everything in the apartment and screaming over the sound of the T.V. The truth is that he engages in these activities to disguise his brilliance and the unwanted public attention that would accompany it’s full expression.
His genius has advanced to a degree that he can now communicate his entertainment preferences to us. I have no doubt that he’ll be talking soon and reviewing for the New York Times. He is truly a connoisseur of eclectic taste and a trend setter for defining culture.