Here's a good general rule for comedy fans: If Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen or Bill Hader are involved, give it a try; from "Weekend Update" to "Portlandia," they've brought some big laughs. Now all three are combining for "Documentary Now," which debuts Thursday (Aug. 20) on cable's IFC. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
LOS ANGELES – The
TV-comedy landscape used to seem limited. It had sketches and sitcoms
and stand-up and such, all done in a studio.
But a new generation
often prefers a cinematic approach. “Documentary Now” -- debuting
Thursday (Aug. 20) on the IFC cable channel -- continues a trend that
-- Latenight. Jimmy
Fallon and James Corden – actors, not stand-up comedians – show a
fondness for filmed bits; Stephen Colbert says he'll do the same when
he starts in September.
-- “Saturday Night
Live.” Filmed bits – rare, for a while – are now common and
-- And fresh
projects from “SNL” alumni. “There are so many more places that
are doing comedy,” Seth Meyers said. “IFC has been such a great
home for this from the beginning.”
Even while he was on
“SNL,” Fred Armisen raced west each summer to make “Portlandia.”
It became a staple for IFC (formerly Independent Film Channel), with
“Maron,” “Comedy Bang Bang” and more,
people, led by Will Ferrell, have made two mock miniseries on IFC.
And now four “SNL alumni – Meyers, Armisen, Bill Hader and
director Rhys Thomas – have “Documentary Now.”
The show offers mock
documentries, a comic tradition since Rob Reiner made “This is
Spinal Tap,” 31 years ago. “It's one of the greatest movies
ever,” Armisen said.
Now” will include a film about a fictional band, the Blue Jean
Committee. It will also have variation on “Grey Gardens,” “Nanuck
of the North” and one of Meyers' favorites:
watching 'Siskel & Ebert' was a big deal,” he said. “And they
were real champions of 'The Thin Blue Line' .... I worked at a video
store and that was one of the first documentaries I remember
That film told of
the rush to convict a murder suspect, pitting a skilled prosecutor
against a clumsy, about-to-retire defense attorney. In contrast,
“Grey Gardens” met a mother and daughter in the decay of a
once-grand house; in this version, they're played by Armisen and
Budgets were tight,
but “Documentary Now” shot two of its films in Iceland.
“It's the most
beautiful place,” said Armisen, who starred there in the “Nanuck”
take-off. “We fell in love with it; it's gorgeous. So we just did
this (second) episode.”
That one, Meyers
said, is based on something Armisen has talked about: “Fred has
long made the observation that when you go to Europe, what they love
about America is slightly off. You'll see T-shirts that say, 'Long
Island Baseball Club.'”
So they imagined an
Al Capone festival in Iceland, with gangster hats and pizza. Armisen
savored the experience, Meyers flew in for three days, Hader stayed
home, filming some narrator scenes.
“I said, 'How do I
get out of going to Iceland?'” Hader said. “And they said, 'You
gotta play the old guy and be in prosthetics for five hours.' And I
was like, 'Done.'”
His reluctance to
travel is logical, Meyers said. “Bill has three children and Fred
and I don't.”
remarkable that any of them have time for this. Meyers has his talk
show (12:35 a.m. weekdays on NBC), with Armisen as the bandleader and
sidekick, when he's not doing something else.
Still, the former
“SNL” colleagues find time to make odd films. “This project is
one that I really love being a part ot,” Meyers said. “I love
that we figured out a way to keep working together.”
Now,” 10 p.m. Thursdays, starting Aug. 20, rerunning at 1 a.m.
-- Opener, a “Grey
Gardens” take-off called “Sandy Passage,” also reruns at 12:30
p.m. Saturday, 11 p.m. Sunday and 5:30 a.m. Monday.
-- Also, subject to
change: “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon,” Aug. 27; “Kunuk
Uncovered,” Sept. 3; “The Eye Doesn't Lie,” Sept. 10; “A
Town, a Gangster, a Festival,” Sept. 17; Gentle and Soft: The Story
of the Blue Jean Committee,” Sept. 24.