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March 2010

March 27, 2010

Some Strategies for Making New Friends Once You Are 100

One of the downfalls of living to a hundred and beyond is that the older you get, the less people you know. That’s because all your friends die. Your family dies. Their kids die. Everybody dies, and soon your closest friend becomes Drew Carrey or whoever is hosting “The Price is Right.” Now, I am not disparaging Drew Carrey because I have met him and he seems like a very nice man, but he is not going to be the guy to come over and help you scrape your bunions. You will most likely have to pay a health care provider for that service and even then that person will probably not scrape with any real sense of love.

Another pitfall is that when you finally succumb to your old age, there will be nobody left to attend your funeral. Most likely not even Drew Carrey will come because he lives in Hollywood and because although he is your best friend, he does not know that you ever existed. A bummer? You bet. Because, like many of you, I plan on living well into my hundreds, I have started thinking about strategies for making new friends once I reach the centenarian mark.

One of the big knocks against extremely old people is that they get kind of dumb. They can’t hear and a lot of the time they don’t know what you’re talking about. For example, if I tell any 100+ year old about kicking my kid’s ass on the new Super Mario Bros for Wii, they will most likely have no idea what I’m talking about. So my first strategy is to stay current on everything. Everything. When I am a hundred, I will not only be conversant, but fluent, in the areas of pop culture, science, metallurgy, Asian cooking, tree pruning, pornographic anime, gourds, etc. In this way, I will hope to establish myself as something of a guru. People will come to me and ask my opinion of the future equivalent of Lady Gaga and I will offer highly informed and crankily funny opinions. Which leads me to my second strategy: become a crank.

Everybody likes cranky old people. (See: Andy Rooney) Cranky middle-aged people are annoying. Nobody likes the guy screaming at you to find somebody else to throw up. But cranky old people are adorable. I don’t know why this is, but it’s true. The older you get, the crankier you socially be. Even racism is acceptable when you get to be a certain age. Therefore I plan on saying horrible things on a nearly constant basis. I will curse and belittle and denigrate everybody who crosses my path. Instead of calling me a hateful bastard, they will call me “feisty,” and they will attribute my long life to said feistiness. Bullshit. The thing that will keep me is modern science and ground-up rhino horn.

Third, be visible. The older you get, the more feeble you become. The more feeble you become, the less mobility you have. Therefore, you’ve got to figure out a way to remain visible. Scooters are a great option. But so are riding mowers. A few years ago David Lynch directed a movie called “The Straight Story” about an older, cranky man who drove his rider mower across Iowa to visit his brother. I plan on employing this same strategy to visit the grocery store, local tavern, library, and for general getting around. The difference? I will wear a cape and a Batman cowl. Because in addition to feistiness, people appreciate eccentricity in their old people.

Another tip: tell every lady you come across beautiful she looks, and then hand her a carnation. Carnations are cheap and don’t have the same cheesy connotation as roses. A woman receiving a carnation from a hundred year old man in a Batman cape and cowl is less apt to think “perv” and more likely to think “sexy.” This keeps the libido active, which can only be a good thing.

Finally, lie about your age. Add fifteen to twenty years to your actual age. Therefore once you reach a hundred, start telling folks (always refer to other people as “folks”) that you are a hundred and fifteen. Nobody will believe you but it will add an element of mystery. Soon people will be hunting for your birth records, the local paper might do a story and the reanimated corpse of Willard Scott might even give you a shout-out on “The Today Show.”

Living to a hundred is great, but you’ve got to make it work for you. Maybe you can think of your strategies for enjoying these “golden years.” If you do, pass them along. If enough of us live long enough we can all hang out together and have ourselves a good laugh when one of our members dies.



March 22, 2010

What I've Been Doing

Joshua Malina talks 'Backwash,' his surreal celeb-filled summer web series

backwashImage Credit: Sony Pictures Television / Jordin Althaus What do Jon Hamm, John Stamos, Sarah Silverman, John Cho, Allison Janney, Hank Azaria, Fred Willard, Michael Vartan, Dulé Hill, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jeffrey Ross, Ken Marino and David Wain have in common? They all cameo as themselves in Backwash, a 13-episode web series written by and starring Joshua Malina (Sports Night, The West Wing) debuting on Sony’s Crackle.com this summer. The series, directed by Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle’s Danny Leiner, follows three eccentric losers (pictured, from left to right, Malina, Michael Ian Black, and Michael Panes) who hit the road in an ice cream truck pursued by the police after one of them inadvertently robs $100,000 from a local bank. With production wrapped as of last week, Malina phoned PopWatch to answer a few of our burning questions:

Question No. 1: How exactly does one inadvertently rob a bank? To fully understand, we need to back up. The plot grew out of characters Malina and Panes created for themselves years ago. Malina toyed with them on-and-off for various mediums (film, stage, TV), but it wasn’t until he sent a rewrite of a pilot script to old friend Marino that he was given the idea to take them to the Internet. Marino (The State) got the humor — and that it wasn’t something you’d sell to NBC. Malina’s and Panes’ characters have what Malina describes as “a very weird, almost Beckett-like master/slave relationship.” Perhaps you’ve seen Malina’s self-portrait twitpic of himself preparing for “the big Jacuzzi scene” while wearing a fanny pack? His character always wears a fanny pack. “I treat Michael Panes’ character a little bit like a trained seal, giving him positive reinforcement with treats that I carry in my fanny pack when he does a good thing,” he explains. Right. Now, we can answer the question.

“For various reasons that will be revealed, I’m very focused on getting a free toaster from a bank promotion that is going on,” Malina says. “[Panes] plays kind of a hypochondriacal, agoraphobic, OCD, terribly neurotic character that doesn’t even like to leave the house, so, of course, I insist that he goes to the bank to get our free toaster. I send him off with a salami and a sock, à la the movie Alive, where they go off with meat in a sock, and his salami is mistaken to be a shotgun in the bank, and basically, they’re like, ‘Just take the money!’ and he doesn’t even know what’s going on. Very quickly, these two guys implicate a third friend of theirs, and then all three of them end up on the run with a lot of money…. I know. Every time I describe it to someone, I go, ‘Can you believe Sony paid to have us make this?’”

Question No. 2: How are the celebs playing themselves? In addition to animated sequences, miniatures, and the anarchic spirit of the things he grew up on (Abbott and Costello and the Marx Brothers), Malina also wanted to incorporate old friends and actors with whom he’s always desired to work. “The conceit of the entire thing is that a long-lost novella by William Makepeace Thackeray has been unearthed in London and a Masterpiece Theatre-type production has been made based on it,” Malina says. Therefore, each episode begins with a person of note introducing a new chapter in the story. ”So it’s, ‘Good evening. I’m Jon Hamm. Welcome to Backwash this evening.’ It’s all taken very, very seriously, and then the material is completely lunatic.” Hamm, sporting a thick professorial beard, opens and closes the entire series. Most of the celebs serve in this host capacity, including Malina’s Big Shots costar Vartan, who had to be talked into performing his introduction, “Good evening. I’m handsomeness’ Michael Vartan.” (“I had to take him aside and say, ‘Michael, you’re handsome. Accept it. Nobody will hold it against you. It’s fine for you to admit that even you know that you’re handsome. The whole world knows. Now say it,’” Malina recalls.) Others, like Stamos, have internal cameos. He appears as himself in an ’80s flashback that reveals our lead characters used to have jobs in advertising, “which went disastrously badly, as demonstrated by the commercial, which we show,” Malina says. “It was John Stamos for adult diapers. He is rather game coming in as himself: ‘I’m John Stamos. You may know me as Blackie from General Hospital or from my darkly comic turn as Uncle Jesse on Full House.’”

Other recognizable faces will include Steven Weber and Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who do a musical theater number representing the fantasy of what Michael Ian Black’s character — an extremely odd, free-spirited ice cream truck driver who’s in a battle with Malina for Panes’ soul — would like to do with his money. “He’s long wanted to produce a musical he wrote [Sticky Wicket — the Nougat Musical!]. Now he has the money to do it with his dream cast, which is of course Steven Weber and Jamie-Lynn Sigler,” Malina says. How did they work that out? “I was like, ‘Steven Weber would be brilliant. Let me call Steven Weber.’ I shot him an email, within an hour, he was like, ‘Yeah, sure. I can’t do it Saturday. My kid has baseball tryouts. But how ’bout Sunday?’ ‘Okay, great.’ And then Lindsey Kraft, who plays our female lead, said, ‘I went to high school with Jamie-Lynn Sigler, incredible voice.’ We’re like, ‘Ohmygod, they’d be brilliant together.’” (The music, by the way, doesn’t stop there: The State’s Joe Lo Truglio and Little Children’s Noah Emmerich play the cops chasing the trio. Emmerich’s is a musical theater-obsessed officer who, after a car wreck and brain trauma, thinks he’s in a musical. “He’s played a lot of cops in his career, but not a lot of crazy singing cops,” Malina says proudly.”)

Question No. 3: Are those sequined pants the worst thing we’ll see Michael Ian Black wear? I realized in writing this I should probably have years of therapy ahead of me because I really put my friends through the ringer, including multiple, multiple absurd outfits for Michael Ian Black,” Malina says. “I share a hot tub with Michael Black at one point, and as we were shooting it, I said, ‘I’m living the fantasy today.’”

For more on Backwash, follow Joshua Malina on Twitter. He’ll also be blogging about the making of the series on Crackle.