Wayne Federman, the veteran comedian, actor, and author, has carved out a unique niche for himself in the world of comedy. His arrival in Los Angeles in the late 1980s began a successful career as a stand up comedian which continues to this day. In addition, he's had bit roles in such films as Step Brothers, Legally Blonde, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up; cameos he dubs his "Federman and Out." Starting tonight at Cinefamily in Los Angeles, the second annual Wayne Federman International Film Festival debuts, which consists of comedians screening their favorite movies on the glorious big screen and talking about them. I spoke with Wayne about the festival, the people involved, and how he's not true friends with Sacha Baron Cohen.
Hi, Wayne. First off, how'd you get the idea to do something like this? It's a pretty interesting concept.
Well, there were a few things that happened. One year a Simpsons writer named Rob Cohen rented out the Silent Movie Theater for his friend's birthday and screened the 1966 Batman film, and it was a lot of fun, everybody had a great time. Maybe a year later, I saw Patton Oswalt at the New Beverley Theater and they were showing a movie called The Foot Fist Way. He came out beforehand and was like "I love this movie, let me tell you why I love it so much." It was funny, and the people around me really enjoyed watching Patton sort of nerd out on this movie. So I thought to myself, Wow that's kind of interesting… I've known Patton for years, but I'm learning something about him through his love of this movie. So I thought, why don't we do a whole week of this and call it the Wayne Federman International Film Festival, and now it's in its second year. The main person behind it though, more than Rob Cohen or Patton, is Garry Shandling, who I first met when I played his brother on his TV show.
A very famous "Federman and Out."
Yes! So, he really lit up. He was already talking about what movie he would show, when I was pitching it to him to see if it was a good idea. He was like "No, I think I wanna do it." Once he signed on last year, it was much easier to get other comedians to say yes.
So how do you go about getting the prints for these movies? Are you calling up Universal Pictures and saying "Oh, I need the reels for Raising Arizona!" And then they mail them, and you get a wooden box full of hay with film canisters inside?
That's a good question.
What happens is, Cinefamily, where this is taking place, takes care of all of that. As a rule, they show old movies. They have a relationship with all the studios. But, I will tell you that the availability of 35mm prints is diminishing very much like the name "Wayne," which of course you know is also a word that means to "diminish slowly over time."
Well, the definition of "Rob" is "to take something away from by force," so I know the feeling. It must be daunting planning it all, though… I know you know a lot of people in comedy. You've got six famous people, so how does this work recruiting them? Do you text Aziz Ansari and you go "Hey man, what movies do you like? Wanna talk about them in front of an audience?"
No, but that's close.
I ran into Aziz while doing Doug Benson's podcast with Judd Apatow; Doug brought up the festival and asked Aziz, "What movie would you show?" And Aziz said "Die Hard." So when we were in the planning stages, it turns out that 20th Century Fox will not release prints of the original Die Hard during the initial run of the current Die Hard… is it 4 or 5?
I think it's 5. But wouldn't it have made sense for them? It's synergy.
Look, I'm not at the corporate offices at the Nakatomi Plaza so I don't know. Anyway, I went back to Aziz via email, and his second choice was Back to the Future. That's what we're screening, and it was the first one to sell out.
So what about the other people involved? You have a ton of great comedians.
I hate to say it, but I wanted comedians that had a bit of a following.
You wanted marquee names.
Right. Aziz, Nick Kroll, Sarah Silverman, Dana Gould, the Sklar Brothers, and Bill Burr are all involved. Interesting side story; at one point Sacha Baron Cohen heard about the festival… I ran into him at an event — we're not that close, but he knows me a little bit.
Come on, you guys are best friends.
My definition of a friend, in order to call somebody your friend, is that you have to have their cell phone number in your phone.
So then by definition we're friends.
Okay. That makes me feel good.
I don't have Sacha Baron Cohen's phone number, so we're not friends. But he said he wanted to do it… we couldn't work out the logistics though, because he lives in England. But more and more people are becoming interested in taking part.
Well, wait. Just to build a little buzz, what if I spread a rumor that a site like Deadline.com could pick up that was something like… "Sacha Baron Cohen might come by and reenact a scene from Borat, and it could happen at any point during the festival, so you'll have to come every night?"
I'd rather you not say that.
Okay. I will not say that.
But I can't stop you from saying things. This is America and we have free speech.
What's your favorite movie? If you had a choice, what would you play?
It would be something boring. You know, one of those classics like Casablanca — though there is a side of me that would want to play Beneath the Valley of the Dolls which is an insane movie and I think would be hilarious to watch on the big screen. It's also written by the film critic Roger Ebert. So that adds another level.
The movie selections this year run the gamut. Some good stuff in there!
This year we range from 1964, which is Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove with Dana Gould, to 1989 our most recent film, which is Raising Arizona with Nick Kroll. We're also showing Breaking Away with the Sklar Brothers and having a little reunion with the cast, including Dennis Christopher and Paul Dooley.
I think that's about it. Did you want me to include anything else?
I think you covered it all.
For a full schedule and to buy tickets for the Wayne Federman International Film Festival, click here or call them at (323) 655-2510.
Rob LeDonne is currently a contributing writer for Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update and the Onion News Network. He has also written material for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the MTV Video Music Awards, and the magazines Nylon Guys and American Songwriter, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @RobLeDonne.