Splitsider

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Talking with Jake Fogelnest About the Movies and Shows He’s Alone in Liking

Everyone has at least one movie or TV show they enjoy that no one else can stand, whether it’s a guilty pleasure or something the rest of the world is just wrong about. I recently rang up Sirius Radio host and Twitter luminary Jake Fogelnest to talk about the pieces of pop cultures that he enjoys that everyone else seems to hate.

Jake Fogelnest’s a busy guy, splitting his time between hosting his own indie rock show on Sirius, his webcam show on Stickam, his hilarious and wildly popular Twitter feed, an equally-bitchin’ Tumblr, and at least a couple fake Twitter accounts. In the 1990s, he also hosted Squirt TV from his bedroom as a teenager on public access and later on MTV. I recently chatted with Fogelnest about the stuff he’s alone in liking, and we got into the story of how his fake Studio 60 Twitter got started, his unabashed love for Howard the Duck, and he revealed what his favorite Peter Frampton movie is.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

When was the first time you saw Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

There was a video store in Philadelphia, and my dad was friendly with the guy who owned it. He did this really cool thing where he gave my dad these two VHS tapes, and on the VHS tapes were like three things. So, it was a tape with The Blues Brothers, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the movie, and then I think like some Blondie music videos ‘cause that was all he could fit on the tape. So, I had this tape that I would just watch over and over again of The Blues Brothers and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

When I was little, I loved Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees, much to the confusion of my parents, who were like, “Why does he like this disco bullshit?” I loved it. And I loved the Beatles. To me, when I first saw [Sgt. Pepper’s] and I was really little, “This is the greatest thing in the world!” I get that I was too young to know any better. Like, I get it, I know. Aerosmith and Peter Frampton get into a fight and Peter Frampton wins. And I understand that that’s not based in any kind of reality that we know. If Peter Frampton and Steven Tyler would really get into a fight, Steven Tyler would kick the living shit out of him. I get it, but I was six and I didn’t care. I didn’t know the deal yet. I know that it’s George Burns and there’s robots that sing “She’s Leaving Home.” I get it, I know, but I don’t care. It’s just so great to me. It really is just one of those things where it’s like a colossal amount of money was spent. There are so many different steps in the process where somebody could have said, “Wait, what are we doing?”… There was just too much cocaine and facial hair in the mix at that time for anyone to have any clear judgment. I love that movie. I unabashedly love that movie.

It’s so earnest. There’s no sense of humor there. It’s just this gigantic, Hollywood entertainment spectacular, that I love. When you’re six, it’s lightly-colored and there’s singing robots and everything. And then I started to love it again as a teenager because I understood the backstory behind it, and it makes it even more special. [Laughs].

It really was a pretty big risk they were taking in making it.

Oh, it was a massive risk. It sort of brought down the Bee Gees and the Robert Stigwood Organization. It was right after Saturday Night Fever and Grease for Robert Stigwood. The Bee Gees couldn’t have been hotter. Peter Frampton couldn’t have been a bigger star. He’d sold something like 500 billion copies of Frampton Comes Alive. It was one of those things on paper where it was like, “Of course. This is going to make a fortune.” They were all so blinded by the star power and money that was involved and everyone was really high on cocaine. And it’s like, “Yeah, and then, Billy Preston’ll come!” It’s fueled by cocaine and bad decision making and ego, and nobody at any point said, “Hey, do we have any script for this thing? Isn’t it a little weird that we’re doing this?” Nobody said that, ever. And the result is a magical trainwreck. And I don’t believe in the concept of guilty pleasures. If I like something, I just like it. I just love it. I actually think I’m gonna get off the phone with you and watch it as soon as I get off the phone because it’s so great.

[Laughs] I love Steve Martin’s scene in the movie.

Yeah, by the way, Steve Martin’s feature film debut. The first movie that Steve Martin is in. And that scene on its own apart from the rest of the movie is just the funniest, coolest thing ever.

Howard the Duck

I saw Howard the Duck in the theater when it came out. I don’t understand why people think it’s a bad movie. I was a big fan of the Howard the Duck comic books. I have no irony attached to liking Howard the Duck. I don’t know what people were expecting from the movie, but it was just really funny and fun. It’s a sarcastic duck that plays in a new wave band. What’s not to get? And the whole Duck World. What did people go into Howard the Duck expecting that they didn’t get? I thought that movie delivered on everything that it promised… People say, “It’s terrible. It’s the worst thing.” It’s funny. It’s like a funny dumb fantasy movie. I guess maybe it just appeals to my particular sensibilities. People hate it, and it’s so good.

I guess George Lucas was just coming off of Star Wars and Indiana Jones and people were expecting something more along those lines.

Yeah, I guess in the context of that, it was strange. Sure… We’re talking about George Lucas, not the George Lucas we know now that goes back and ruins everything. This is George Lucas at the height of the original Star Wars trilogy and the two Indiana Jones movies, not even the one with River Phoenix… I guess people were thinking that it was gonna be on the same level as Star Wars or Indiana Jones, neglecting the fact that the movie was about Howard the Duck… Yeah, I get it. George Lucas has this reputation of making like these big fantastic Hollywood adventure films, but this movie’s called Howard the Duck. It’s a duck that comes down to Cleveland. And oh my god, Tim Robbins is so funny in that movie… I just love it. I unabashedly love Howard the Duck.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Did you catch Studio 60 when it was originally on the air?

I did. Actually, Paul Scheer gave me a copy of the Studio 60 pilot on DVD and I watched the pilot, as did everyone I think, and was like, “Oh wow. This looks really promising. This looks great.” Judd Hirsch’s speech and the comparisons that they make to Howard Beale and Network. And they just sort of breeze through that. Bradley Whitford’s great. Matthew Perry’s really good, and Aaron Sorkin is doing some really great Aaron Sorkin shit. At the time that it came on, obviously I was rooting for 30 Rock because it was Tina [Fey] and Jack McBrayer. It’s like old friends and stuff. I was like “Oh, it’s gonna be good. Tina’s a genius. I want 30 Rock to go.” It was weird that NBC was doing these two shows that took place in the late night sketch comedy backdrop.

[Studio 60] was a really good pilot. Having said that, being somebody that’s worked in sketch comedy and TV, it existed on another planet. It just was so entirely inaccurate but accurate at the same time. I was enjoying it on two levels. I was enjoying it on a level of like, it was just good Aaron Sorkin shit and they’re walking and talking and there’s speedy dialogue. And then, I was enjoying it like, “There’s no clock in Lorne [Michaels]’s office. What is this? What is this giant countdown clock?” Everything was just slightly off, but it was like great. Then, as the show went on, it started to get…like there was episodes where it’s like, “Oh no, where did they go with this? This has taken a really strange turn.”… I enjoyed watching Studio 60. I think part of the fun was watching how flawed it was. Like, “This is not connecting in certain ways that it needs to, and it’s kind of delightful to watch.” I wish that they’d make more. I would see a Studio 60 movie. I mean talk about something that nobody wants, but if they did a Studio 60 feature film, I would be first in line to buy a ticket.

Tell me a little about the fake Twitter account you made for one of the characters on the show.

What happened was, Seth Reiss, who is the head writer of The Onion, decided to tweet as [Studio 60 character] Matt Albie and created MattAlbie60 and I saw that right away, like from the first tweet. And I didn’t know that it was Seth. I didn't know who was behind it. I didn’t know Seth at all. I just saw somebody had created a Twitter account for MattAlbie60, so I said immediately said, “Well, I have to make DannyTripp60.” So, I started tweeting at Matt Albie and then we started tweeting back and forth and people were retweeting the conversations and then New York magazine picked it up and started writing like, “Why are people tweeting as these two fictional characters from Aaron Sorkin’s TV show that was canceled many years ago?” And it was just a dumb bit.

Then, I got a DM from Matt Albie. It was just basically like, “Who is this?” And I was like, “Who’s this?” And he was like, “My name’s Seth.” We went and got dinner and just talked about the reactions to this dumb bit that we were doing. And we started planning out what were gonna do and then, all these other people started creating Twitter accounts for other characters on the show. It was just this ridiculous thing that blew up… We still do it. A couple times I week, I, as Danny Tripp, will tweet Matt Albie. Matt Albie tweets me. We keep the characters alive through the Twitter accounts for these fictional characters because absolutely no reason. It’s just dumb and stupid.

Did you have to go back and rewatch the show for material for the Twitter account?

They put it on Netflix, I think right around the time we started the Twitter accounts. What was really scary is that I remembered a lot of it and so did Seth. I think as we got into it, I started watching them again. So much of it came flooding back. We accidentally wrote like a Studio 60 spec script over Twitter. We were really good at writing Studio 60 and writing these characters. And actually, my friend Jenni Konner, she’s the executive producer of the show Girls. Her and Lena [Dunham] were out somewhere and they saw Aaron Sorkin. They talked to Aaron Sorkin and had a whole conversation with Aaron Sorkin about the Twitter accounts… And his comment on the Twitter accounts was perfect, “Oh, those were the two guys that watch the show.” [Laughs]. So, the fact that it got to Aaron Sorkin was fucking ridiculous.

I think that the accounts are done with absolute love for the show. And I think Aaron Sorkin was disappointed by Studio 60. I think he knows where he went wrong and where it was flawed. I don't know many sketch comedy writers who are like, "I know [how] to come back strong with some really solid sketch comedy, we need to do a Gershwin number."  What?

To us, the funniest thing about Studio 60 was how important they treat sketch comedy. They treat sketch comedy as if it’s a matter of life and death, like they’re producing the most important television show in the world. The sheer reverence that they hold for the tradition Studio 60 and sketch comedy, to everybody that works in comedy, was the funniest thing in the world. There’s an absolute truth to it. People really do that [but] not in the way those characters do. It’s just so funny, there’s pretentiousness about it. Of course comedians are gonna mock that. I love Studio 60. I really want a movie.

Well, maybe this interview will start up a movement. People will blog about it.

I hope so.

The 11th Season of SNL

So, this is when Lorne [Michaels] came back… It’s a shaky season. The season premiere has Madonna. It’s not that great. Lorne hires a weird collection of people, including Anthony Michael Hall, Robert Downey Jr., Terry Sweeney, Joan Cusack, and Randy Quaid. Before the Star Whackers got to Randy Quaid, he was on Saturday Night Live. But he also hires Robert Smigel, so in this mediocre season… there’s a couple of really brilliant things that sneak on the air.

One of the things that happens that season is there’s an episode hosted by George Wendt but directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s the beginning of the show. The cold open is Lorne is meeting with everybody and is like, “Look, we’re not doing well. Everybody knows that, so the network has brought in Francis Ford Coppola to direct the show. That’s just how it’s gonna be. Please support him.” They go, “Is the show still gonna open with ‘Live from New York, It’s Saturday Night?’” “I don’t know.” And then it fades out and it’s like, “Francis Ford Coppola Presents Saturday Night Live.” And it’s this moody opening that has nothing to do with SNL. George Wendt comes out to do his monologue. Francis Ford Coppola yells “Cut.” He’s directing the show. And Philip Glass is the musical guest.

They’ve never done an episode like that before where there was a theme to it. It was just sort of one of those weird things that happened that I don’t feel like a lot of lot of people have seen. Before Netflix, it was a tape that got passed around at UCB. Mike Delaney had taped it when it originally aired in 1986. It was just one of these things where it was like, “Have you see the Francis Ford Coppola SNL episode?” It’s just great. It was weird then, it’s still weird, but it doesn’t suck. You can’t write off that entire season of SNL as being terrible when something like that exists in it.

What are some other highlights from that season of the show?

There were a couple Robert Smigel sketches that I don’t remember off the top of my head… The last episode of that season ends with a scene… basically, everybody is dying. Everybody is getting killed, and the only person that Lorne saves is [Jon] Lovitz. And the credits roll and everybody’s name has a question mark next to it. It was like, “If we’re back, it’s not gonna be with any of these people.” It’s pretty funny.

The Shaggs

The Shaggs are a quintessential story of outsider music. That record, on the first listen, it sounds like three people who can’t play their instruments [and] write songs in a very different way than normal human beings write songs. But the story behind it: this overbearing father who saw the Beatles and girl groups and said, “We’re gonna have a family band.” He had like a vision that there was gonna be this family band and he spent all this money on lessons for them and making them rehearse. And these girls didn’t even want to be in a band. And they make the most unintentionally brilliant avant-garde, Frank Zappa-esque outsider music. I know they’ve been trying to make a movie of it for years, but I’d love to see that movie. The whole story behind it is what makes it great.

Doctor Detroit

Doctor Detroit is another movie that I just don’t understand how it’s bad. I just think it’s really funny. Dan Aykroyd doing some insane character. He plays a pimp. Devo did the theme song. Am I on a different planet? That’s just everything about my sensibilities, but it’s thought of as a bad movie. And I'm like, "No, watch it again. It's pretty funny." It’s just a solid movie from that time.

Have you ever seen the theatrical trailer to Doctor Detroit?

Yes! In fact, me and some friends decided to show Neighbors one night a couple of months ago at the UCB Theatre here. Neighbors is another movie that bombed hard when it came out. Because it came out in 1981, I found a bunch of trailers from around the same time – the trailer to 48 Hrs., the trailer to Arthur - to show before the movie. I came across the Doctor Detroit trailer, which is one of the funniest, greatest trailers I’ve ever seen. I love when they do that… Albert Brooks, the trailer for Real Life is also brilliant, where it’s in 3D and it has nothing to do with the movie. It’s just Dan Aykroyd opening, yelling at people. It’s great. The trailer might be better than the movie. It might be better than Doctor Detroit.

I agree. I don’t know why that’s not more common, having a funny person who’s in the movie address the audience in the trailer.

It’s so great when that’s done well. Those are early examples of that. I’m a huge fan of the Doctor Detroit trailer. [Laughs]

 

Bradford Evans is a writer living in Los Angeles.

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