Posts Tagged “Friars Club Comedy Film Festival”

He’s Way More Famous Than You at AMC Loews

Most movies I don’t even see once, so it’s extremely rare that I see a movie twice. Halley Feiffer’s “He’s Way More Famous Than You” was the opening night film of this year’s Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, which was the first time I saw it, and I felt compelled to see it again.

Film poster for “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”, now playing at the AMC Loew’s in the East Village!

What’s so interesting about this film,… besides it being really funny,… is that some of it is based in truth with all of the characters playing themselves.

Halley Feiffer plays a sweet, sensitive alcoholic who had a small part in Noah Baumbach’s 2005 film “The Squid and the Whale.” In real life she played Jesse Eisenberg’s girlfriend in that very same film. In HWMFTY she finds herself struggling in life and her career. She loses her agent, her boyfriend, played by Michael Churnus, and what’s left of her career, and goes out to make a movie that will put her on top.

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with the super-funny and talented Halley Feiffer, co-writer and star of “He’s Way More Famous Than You!” To Halley’s right you can see almost every part of Michael Churnus except his face! (LOL) 

Through many funny contrivances, and lots of begging, with a touch of synchronicity thrown in, she gets an amazing star-studded cast like Ben Stiller, Natasha Lyonne, Mamie Gummer, Ralph Maccio, Jesse Eisenberg, Tracee Chimo, Michael Chernus, Liz Holtan, Austin Pendleton, and Vanessa Williams to play the roles she created with her co-writer and co-star Ryan Spahn.

Michael Urie, Halley Feiffer, and Ryan Spahn on the red carpet at the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival!

Natasha Lyonne playing Halley Feiffer’s A.A. sponsor in “He’s Way More Famous Than You”!

And she gets Michael Urie who will forever be known as “the gay guy from Ugly Betty” to also co-star and direct.

Michael Urie and Ryan Spahn are together in real life but in the movie Ryan plays Halley’s brother!

Michael Urie, Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV and Ryan Spahn, the director and co-writer from “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

Ralph Maccio and Mamie Gummer in a scene from “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

Geoffrey Soffer is the producer of the film, who also has quite a history as a casting director! One of his accomplishments was casting the final two seasons of the hit TV show “Ugly Betty”, which is a show that quite a few people in this film are connected to as well.

From 2003 to 2008, Geoffrey was a casting director at ABC/ABC Studios where his credits include the original pilots of “Army Wives”. “Miss/Guided” produced by Ashton Kutcher, “Dirty Sexy Money”, and the Sam Raimi produced series, “Legend of the Seeker.”

This past Friday the film opened at AMC Loews Theatre on 11th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, and I knew I had to be there to support it. Seeing a film for the second time gives you so much more insight into the action and the characters. I can see why people go to see a movie they like several times. Every time you watch it you catch something you didn’t see before.

Step into Theatre 6 to see “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

Ben Stiller and Halley Feiffer in a scene from “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

I’ll tell you two inside facts. The amazing scene where Halley is bicycling through Times Square was shot by producer Geoffrey Soffer from the back of his “hatchback”, as he described it, and the “film-within-a-film” shooting scene where Ryan Spahn’s character gets abruptly replaced by Ralph Maccio because according to Halley’s character “he’s way more famous than you”, was shot on Vanessa Williams gorgeous estate!

This is a fun film you really need to see, and I’m even more impressed with Halley Feiffer’s comedic chops than I was when I saw it the first time!

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Halley Feiffer Scores at Opening of Friars Club Comedy Film Fest

Film festivals are fun. Even more when you have a film in one and I’ve had that experience a couple of times. A film I wrote with Scott Baio called “Face to Face” was chosen as the opening night film of the Taos Talking Picture Festival, so I know the excitement that brings.

Charlie Prince runs the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival and Eric Johnson is the Director of Programming, and they always pick a killer film for the opening. This year they did themselves proud by choosing Halley Feiffer and Eric Spahn’s “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

The film poster for “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

The film debuted at NYU’s Cantor Film Center and the place was packed!

It’s a wild story with a great cast where everyone is playing themselves, which is very unusual and where art and life can sometimes get confused. (Especially if you have ADD like me!)

I like that cause I usually wind up playing myself in things too, and it’s fun but again, can be confusing. Like when I’m interviewing Nick Kroll and John Mulaney in their trailer after our shoot, and they’re still in character as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, and I’m trying to talk to them like they’re Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, but they’re answering me as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland!

Jeffrey Gurian on the LA set of Kroll Show with Nick (Gil Faizon) Kroll, and John (George St. Geegland) Mulaney

In the story, Halley, an up-and-coming film starlet loses her boyfriend, her agent, and her career all at the same time. In her attempt to recover from that huge loss she comes up with an idea to change her life my making a movie to become “way more famous!”

With the help of a stolen script and her brother, played by Ryan Spahn, who was also her co-writer, and his boyfriend, Michael Urie, from Ugly Betty, who is also his boyfriend in real life, they set out to make a film starring Halley that will take her to the levels of success she feels she deserves. Michael Urie’s character agrees to direct this project.

(L-R) Michael Urie, Halley Feiffer, and Ryan Spahn on the red carpet for opening night of the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival!

And Halley stops at nothing to get the film done. In the storyline of this film, in trying to get as many celebs in it as possible, they wind up kidnapping Ben Stiller. It also features stars like Jesse Eisenberg, Ralph Maccio, Mamie Gummer, and Natasha Lyonne.

The story is great, and funny but what stood out to me was the comedic talent of Halley Feiffer. Meeting her on the red carpet for a video interview which you will see shortly, I had no idea what to expect. She was funny and charming, but not to the extent of what she does in the film. She’s like a young Lucille Ball.

Jeffrey Gurian with Michael (Ugly Betty) Urie on the red carpet waiting for Halley Feiffer who’s behind on the step-and-repeat!

She’s energetic and so totally fun! You just wish you had a friend like that, and it makes you wanna hang out with her in real life!

During the Q&A after the film screened, I raised my hand to ask a question but prefaced it by saying how much I enjoyed the film and how Halley was a “comedic gem”! A very rare find. A performer like that makes directing easy because they take the words off the page to a whole different level.

(L-R) Ryan Spahn, Halley Feiffer, Michael Urie and Charlie Prince off the the side for the Q&A following “He’s Way More Famous Than You!”

I was really so impressed with her talent. I would love to work on something with her!

What I also liked was that almost everyone had some connection to the show Ugly Betty. To me that was awesome, that a group of friends got together to create a cool, really fun project! And Halley and Ben Stiller had worked together in their joint Broadway debut in the play “House of Blue Leaves”!

Following the film we all went back to The Friars Club for the opening night party and stand-up comedy show where Charlie Prince opened the show and introduced Harrison Greenbaum, who’s always hysterical and also did a set before the film came on at the Cantor Center.

Film festival director Charlie Prince on the mic at The Friars Club opening party!

Harrison Greenbaum the exceedingly “straight” comedian opening the film and show at The Friars Club!

Others on the show were Justin Williams, Bonnie McFarlane, and Rich Vos!

Bonnie McFarlane killing it as usual for the crowd at The Friars. Her film “Women Aren’t Funny” was also in the festival!

The film is having a theatrical release on May 10th. Make sure you go out and see it! And tell them I sent you! (LOL)

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Onassis The Sketch Troupe Not the Dead Billionaire

Onassis The Sketch Troupe Not the Dead Billionaire

I recently had the opportunity to experience a performance by an 11 member sketch troupe with the unlikely name “Onassis.” When I asked how they chose the name this is the answer I got : “It’s a handsome name on its own and has a regal connotation, but also conjures up subtly horrific images and the idea of a dark past.” Just what I would have guessed!

Most of the time I’m afraid to see sketch troupes, especially if I know someone in the troupe, because I find it very hard to tell them it was a great show, if I didn’t enjoy it, and unless it’s Monty-Pythonesque in style, which is the only way I can describe the fantasy-type sketches I enjoy, I usually come away feeling disappointed. Not so with Onassis!

(L-R) Jocelyn Deboer, Jason Saenz, Benjamin Apple, Ben Rameaka, Dawn Luebbe, Lauren Conlin Adams, Eric Cunningham, Emily Altman, Rob Michael Hugel, Seth Reiss, Mike Scollins, Frank Hejl!

Sketches are easy to get into but very hard to get out of, comedically speaking that is! There’s lots of funny premises, but the endings mostly fall flat as far as I’m concerned, … and no one really knows how far that is! LOL Again, not so with Onassis. I actually asked them afterwards if they minded being compared favoritively to the Pythons and they said they were flattered. Who wouldn’t be? LOL

Onassis is the house sketch team for The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, and they premiered a film as part of the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, at the Clearview Cinema in Chelsea. One of my assistants, Corinne Fisher turned me on to Onassis, as she is connected to the troupe through one of the members Frank Hejl.

Debuting in January 2011 Onassis has gone on to win acclaim as one of the best sketch teams in New York City and was awarded the FrISC Sketch Comedy title at the Friars Club Improv + Sketch Competition in June 2011. Along with the award came a prize of $5,000 to commission a short film for the annual Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, which is the film I got to see!

The resulting work, “Onassis”, features one man’s wild journey to convince a small town to rename New York City’s Central Park. Directed by The Onion head writer, Seth Reiss, written by and starring Onassis, the project was filmed August – September 2011.

The film is serving as a pilot episode of an upcoming Onassis sketch TV series. I would definitely watch this!

Click here to see the Onassis interview with Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV! It was one against eleven, but I think it worked out okay! (LOL)


And make sure to go and see their next live show this coming Monday, 11/14/11 at 9:30 P.M. at the UCB Theatre in Chelsea.
You can find out more about Onassis online at:
Facebook.com/OnassisComedy
Twitter.com/OnassisComedy

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Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant at The Friars Club

Besides the 60 plus films screened by the The Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, they also offered fascinating and informative daytime panels for the people who attended the festival. One of the best I attended was the one with Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant, (who I know as Ben Garant), one of the most successful writing teams in Hollywood.

(L-R) Ben Garant and Tom Lennon on the “step-and-repeat” at The Friars Club for their new book Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at The Box Office and You Can Too!

Back before Ben was one of the team that formed MTV’s The State, he and I and Michael Ian Black wrote an inter-active film for Sony called “I’m Your Man”. As I recall, Sony spent about half a million bucks to outfit the Sony Theatre on 19th Street and Broadway with a series of buttons at every seat, where the actors would ask the audience to make choices during the film. “Should we escape out the window or should we go to the roof?” And the audience would vote, the votes would be tallied immediately, and the course of the film would be changed to accommodate the audience’s wishes. It was the first of it’s kind at the time.

The film poster for “I’m Your Man” written by Ben Garant, Michael Ian Black, and believe it or not Jeffrey Gurian! Ben wrote a billion dollars worth of movies since and I WATCHED a billion dollars worth of movies since!

A close-up of the credits on the “I’m Your Man” poster in case any of my readers don’t believe me!

Jeffrey Gurian of Comedy Matters TV with Michael Ian Black at what must have been a formal event! If not, Gurian is way over-dressed!

He went on to become one of the founding members of MTV’s “The State”, (as did Tom Lennon), and then went on to be a co-creator of Comedy Central’s Viva Variety, a short-lived but very funny pseudo-European-type variety show of sorts. From 2003 to 2009, Ben and Thomas created and starred in Comedy Central’s hit Reno 911, a take off on the FOX show COPS that ran for 88 episodes over the 6 years it was on.

As writing partners, Garant and Lennon’s films have earned over $1.4 billion in box office revenue alone. Some of their films were Night at The Museum, Let’s Go To Prison, Balls of Fury, and Herbie Fully Loaded, to name just a few.

Tom Lennon stroking an imaginary beard, while making nefarious plans with Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV at The Friars Club!

In 2010, Garant and Lennon created a pilot for FX called USS Alabama, a sci-fi/comedy set a thousand years in the future, aboard a United Nations Peacekeeping spaceship, the U.S.S. Alabama, and they screened the pilot at The Friars Club!

In 2011, Garant and Lennon released a book about their careers called “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at The Box Office and You Can Too!

The book cover for “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at The Box Office and You Can Too!

Ben and Tom met in 1988 while students at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and have been together ever since! They are so in synch when they speak! Like an old married couple,( in the best sense!) who know what the other is going to say before they say it. They did such a fun informative panel, and these were some of the their thoughts on L.A. and writing in general:

a. LA is gross! It’s an oil rig. As you land you’re like, ” Is that a poison gas?” It’s a lonely town. It’s a cess pit!”

b. No one reads anything in L.A, … they watch it! No matter what script you’re working on it’s too long! A script length of 105 pages is best!

When they were in The State, there were 11 people and they had to “pitch” ideas every day. “It was like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool!”

When they pitch they do a 12 minute rehearsed pitch, that they practice out loud. The two of them together do a very funny pitch. They kind of did one as an example.

They told a funny story about trying to sell a pitch about a Mall Cop to the studio that was already doing Paul Blart with Kevin James,( about a mall cop, … for any foreign men who might be reading this post!) and then had to show up at 11 other pitch meetings that were already set up to pitch the same project knowing that the answer would be “NO”!

They shot “Alabama” in 3 days on a Russian submarine. They describe it as Reno 911 on a rocket ship. It was very funny. Eddie Izzard who I recently ran into in Montreal plays the villain, the ruler of Tango.

Eddie Izzard in his on-screen personna as the villainous ruler of Tango in the FX pilot “Alabama”, written by Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon!

The “real” Eddie Izzard, the way he looked at the airport after The Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal this past July!

There was a character named Mr. Magenta who looked like a really hot girl, but was actually a male on the planet she came from. They didn’t really rehearse except for practicing how they would envision themselves teleporting, and then landing at their destination in a way that looked believable.

(L-R) Ben Garant in character with Mr. Magenta in the FX pilot “Alabama”!

Matt Kiernan, interviewing Tom Lennon and Ben Garant about their new book at The Friars Club!

The host of this fun, and well attended event was Matt Kiernan!

On a personal note is was really special for me to re-unite with Ben after all these years and to be able to congratulate him on all of his success. What was even more special was to see how humble he was and how happy he is with his new wife Kathy, who was kind enough to shoot the little video you will be seeing very shortly.

I seem to be starting a trend. When I interviewed Jimmy Fallon recently,my D.P. wasn’t able to show up so Jimmy’s wife Nancy who is a TV producer, shot the interview for me!

PART 1 – http://wp.me/p1pHIm-mc

PART 2 – http://wp.me/p1pHIm-mo

This time, Ben’s new wife Kathy shot the interview for me! I should probably just limit my interviewing to celebs who are married and who bring their wives with them! Maybe my life would be a lot easier. I wonder if Kathy can edit??

Watch for the Ben Garant video coming soon! And don’t forget to buy the book!

Ben Garant in a historic, and patriotic salute from the step and repeat at The Friars Club, with Jeffrey Gurian from Comedy Matters TV!

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