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David Wain has one of the best resumes in comedy: He co-created and co-starred on the MTV sketch comedy showThe State, co-wrote the film Wet Hot American Summer, directed the Paul Rudd comedy Role Models, and wrote and directed the criminally underrated Wanderlust, also starring Rudd and Jennifer Aniston.
"A lot of my experience in the past has been: Here, make this funny, let’s find the humor everywhere," Wain told Newsweek in a recent phone conversation.
His latest project, A Futile and Stupid Gesture, is different. The film is a fictionalized version of the life of Doug Kenney, who profoundly influenced humor in the ‘80s, first as co-founder of the magazine National Lampoon, then with his contributions to the classic comedies Animal House and Caddyshack. "Here,” says Wain, “the story is about humor and about comedy, but at its heart it’s a drama."
A Futile and Stupid Gesture will begin streaming on Netflix on January 26th. We spoke with Wain just before Christmas, not long after the release of the film’s first trailer, which hints at the intriguing fourth-wall-breaking conceit of the film. In it, Martin Mull plays an older Kenney—a wholly invented narrator since the real man died in 1980 at just 33. The rest of the stellar cast includes Will Forte as the younger Kenney, Domnhall Gleeson is Lampoon co-creator Henry Beard, Joel McHale as Chevy Chase (co-stars on Community), and Seth Green as Christopher Guest.
What follows is that conversation, edited and condensed for clarity.
What attracted you to Kenney’s story?
One of the film's editors, when he read the script, said, "This is a venn diagram of everything David Wain would be interested in." It's basically true. It's about comedy, it's about the '70s, it’s a story about storytelling, and it's a story about the camaraderie between these two guys [Kenney and Beard]. Most importantly, it’s the origin story of the comedic sensibility that was the source of what I do. I came up doing sketch comedy at NYU, and everything ultimately is sourced from this guy whose name I didn't even know before.
What are the challenges in making a film about some of our most beloved comedians—John Belushi, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and Gilda Radner, among others.
Making a biopic about famous people, many of whom are still with us, is filled with pitfalls. I think to have told the story in the most conventional way might have been one of those pitfalls. I was interested in telling Doug’s story in an out of the box way, as Doug might have approached telling his own story.
Will Forte and Domhnall Gleeson as Doug Kenney and Henry Beard in "A Futile and Stupid Gesture." John P. Fleenor / Netflix
Kenney’s comedy was revolutionary a generation ago, but not any more. How do you make it relevant for younger viewers who didn’t live through it?
You’re trying to present and document the times accurately, while also understanding that some of the humor doesn’t translate through the decades. The cultural time was certainly different. The humor of [the film] has to come from not just repeating the jokes that [these people] made, but also showing the humanity of the situations in the story. There was a complexity to that. Then you translate that to the actors—wildly different types of actors, some from the improv sketch world, some with experience in more structured, scripted material—to make sure we’re telling a cohesive story. It was an interesting and wonderful directorial challenge.
Was there sensitivity about jokes of the past that might seem in bad taste now?
That was part of the reason for this storytelling device, of modern Doug looking back—it bakes the perspective of today into the film, allowing us to contextualize exactly what you’re talking about. There is definitely a different sensibility now. Some of Kenney’s stuff, with Lampoon or elsewhere, holds up, some of it doesn’t. We try to, hopefully without apologizing for it, say this is what [comedy] was then.
Modern Doug, as you’ll see, tells his own life story and helps you connect the dots. But he’s far more than just the narrator. He’s a participant.
Did you consult with any of the people represented in the film? Did they have any input into what the film should look like?
We talked to everybody possible who knew Doug. I don’t know that we said, “What should this movie be?” But we said, “Tell us about Doug and your experience.”
Josh Karp did the first set of research, in the great book that this whole thing starts from. [Writers Michael] Colton and [John] Aboud spoke with a lot of people for the screenplay. I did another layer of research and interviews, and so did some of the cast. It was eye opening. Everybody had a different perspective on everything—you get completely different answers to what we thought were objective questions.
Now that the trailer’s out, what should fans know?
I wouldn’t have brought it up, but people are saying “likely best picture contender” and also Nobel Prize and Pulitzer. My feeling is, I’m flattered, but we’ll just have to see what happens.
Russia is among 30 countries now using social media bots and trolls to manipulate online information in order to undermine democracy, a report has found.
The Freedom on the Net 2017 report by human rights group Freedom House found that over the last 12 months, disinformation tactics employed by these countries had a role in influencing elections in the United States and at least 17 other countries.
The use of bots and trolls on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, pioneered by the Chinese and Russian regimes, helped contribute to a seventh consecutive year of declining internet freedom. For the third straight year, China was named by the report as the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom, scoring just below Ethiopia, Syria and Iran.
The issue of “fake news” produced by online trolls and disseminated by automated bot accounts gained attention during last year’s U.S. elections, with Russian influence believed to have played a deciding role in Donald Trump’s victory.
The United States was among 18 countries to have its elections influenced by foreign bots. Dado Ruvic/Illustration/ REUTERS
Such influence led to a decline in internet freedom in the United States, the report states, and continues to play a part in the current media landscape. The U.S. placed fifth highest on the list behind Iceland, Estonia, Canada and Germany.
“Proliferation of ‘fake news’—particularly on social media—peaked in the run-up to the November 2016 presidential elections, but it continues to be a concern,” the report’s authors wrote. “Journalists who challenge Donald Trump’s positions have faced egregious online harassment.”
Read more: What a Trump presidency means for cybersecurity, net neutrality and internet freedom
One example of such harassment was against Newsweek’ s Kurt Eichenwald, who was targeted on Twitter with an animated message designed to provoke a seizure after he wrote posts critical of Trump.
The FBI has since arrested the alleged perpetrator, John Rayne Rivello, and charged him with criminal cyberstalking with the intent to kill or cause bodily harm.
2017 freedom on the net improvements and declines. Freedom on the Net
The Freedom of the Net report also found that physical attacks on journalists spread to 30 countries globally, up from 20 the previous year. In eight of these countries journalists were murdered, while four countries—Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan and Syria—experienced the third straight year of such murders.
“Physical violence is a crude but effective censorship tactic, especially in countries where prominent websites provide a key outlet for independent investigative reporting, and where the traditional media are often affiliated with the government,” the report’s authors wrote.
“Perpetrators in most cases remained unknown, but their actions often aligned with the interests of politically powerful individuals or entities.”
Jose Mourinho has grown “frustrated” by Manchester United’s failure to make more than one signing so far this summer, according to reports.
United confirmed the capture of Swedish center back Victor Lindelof from Benfica last month for £31 million ($40 million), but Mourinho’s wish list is far from complete.
At the end of last season, after United won the Europa League, its third trophy of the season, Mourinho said he was “tired of football” and would be leaving transfer dealings to Ed Woodward, the club’s vice-chairman.
The Portuguese manager is believed to want at least three further signings, strengthening different departments of his squad. The midfield and attack are the two main areas Mourinho is focusing on, with Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic and Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata the two top targets.
Related: Jose Mourinho ‘Hopeful’ of Announcing Second Summer Signing This Week
United will fly to Los Angeles on Sunday to begin its pre-season tour of the United States, and Mourinho wanted to see the new arrivals ready to board the flight with his team, according to the Daily Mirror.
Matic is expected to cost United £40 million but Chelsea is waiting on the arrival of Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko before allowing the 28-year-old Serbian to leave Stamford Bridge.
Morata, 24, is a direct replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the 35-year-old Swede was released by United at the end of last season, having finished the campaign as the team’s top scorer. According to Spanish newspaper Marca, Real Madrid is holding out for £79 million for Morata.
Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic was also said to be a target for United this summer with Mourinho keen to have a deal complete this week. According to Sky Italia, an improved offer of £40 million has been made to bring the Croatia forward to Old Trafford.
LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona are among the opponents for United’s tour of the States.
Jimmy Kimmel Mocks Trump Over 'Fire and Fury' Book Claims: Why Did These Idiots Let Michael Wolff in the White House?
Despite President Donald Trump’s best efforts to block the publication of explosive new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, pretty much the entire world has been talking about the revelations in the nonfiction release this week—including Jimmy Kimmel.
On Thursday’s episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live, the comedian roasted Trump for giving the book even more publicity by threatening to sue publisher Henry Holt and Co. through his lawyers. The publisher responded by moving forward its publication date from January 9 to Friday.
“If you don’t want people to read a book about you, why would you take legal action to stop people from reading the book about you?” Kimmel questioned, echoing the notion of the Streisand effect. “Threatening the writer with legal action is literally the dumbest move you can make if you want to keep it on the down-low.”
The comedian added: “I wasn’t going to buy the book. I was going to read excerpts in magazines and move on. But now Trump’s lawyers are going all-out to try and stop it from being published, I’m buying 20 copies. I can’t buy enough of this book—I’ll buy it for my parents, my in-laws, my cousins, I’m going to walk up and down block stuffing books into my neighbors’ mailboxes.”
Extracts from Fire and Fury have been published this week by New York magazine, The Guardian and GQ and paint a bleak picture of Trump’s year-long presidency, including claims that he never wanted to be president.
But one shocking excerpt about Trump’s personal behavior caught Kimmel’s attention.
Kimmel read an extract in which Wolff detailed how the president reportedly enjoys seducing his friends’ wives by persuading “the wife that her husband was perhaps not what she thought.”
“Then he’d have his secretary ask the friend into his office; once the friend arrived, Trump would engage in what was, for him, more or less constant sexual banter. Do you still like having sex with your wife? How often? You must have had a better fuck than your wife? Tell me about it. I have girls coming in from Los Angeles at three o’clock. We can go upstairs and have a great time. I promise.… And all the while, Trump would have his friend’s wife on the speakerphone, listening in,” Wolff continues.
Kimmel joked that it “was like Fifty Shades of Orange or something” and added: “No wonder his only friends are Fox & Friends. Who does that to his friends?”
Trump slammed Wolff, who claims he had access to the White House and conducted 200 interviews for his book, in a fiery missive on Twitter Friday. He denied Wolff was granted any access to the White House and said his book is “full of lies.”
But, said Kimmel, if Wolff’s claims he was given White House access are true, “Why did these idiots let him in the White House in the first place? That alone indicates poor decision-making.”
A very valid question considering Wolff’s book pretty much tears Trump’s presidency a new one.
English People’s Teeth Are an “International Disgrace” and a “National Health Disaster”, UK Dentists Say
Austin Powers jokes aside, dental hygiene is reportedly a very big problem in the UK. In a recent letter to The Daily Telegraph, British dentists warned that their nation’s oral health was on its way to becoming an international disgrace, calling it a “national health disaster.”
The root of the problem does not seem to be simply individual poor oral hygiene. National health service issues also appear to play a major role. The letter states that unreasonable targets and unnecessary red tape regulations have made it increasingly difficult for many dentists to provide the public with the care they need.Related: Bad Teeth? Don't Blame Your Genes, Blame Yourself
In the UK, health services are provided through an agency known as the National Health Service (NHS). This organization uses national taxes to cover the cost of healthcare for everyone in the UK, regardless of who they are and how much they earn. The system has struggled to keep up with the massive supply and demand, The Guardian reported. As a result, some individuals may fall through the cracks and not receive the care and treatment they require.
Charities have come to help out with dental care in the UK. Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Last year, The Guardian reported that twice as many children in England received hospital treatment for tooth decay as those who needed to be treated for broken arms. Although high sugar diets likely do not help the problem, lack of proper intervention allows the decay to progress dangerously. Nearly four out of five children in England between one and two years old had not seen an NHS dentist in the past year, The Guardian reported.Related: Mystery Tooth Fossil Baffles Archeologists And Could Mean First Humans Lived In Europe Not Africa
This is not the first time that UK dentists have spoken out about the state of the system they currently work in. In 2016, dentists penned another letter to The Daily Telegraph likening UK dental health to that of a developing country.
Reportedly, the dental healthcare in the UK is so bad that they are enlisting help from international organizations. For example, last year Dentaid, a charity that normally helps to care for people’s teeth in the developing countries, set up clinics in the UK specifically addressed to help low-income families, homeless people, and migrants who were especially in need of dental care, The Independent reported.
The clinics have helped a number of people who have struggled to get an appointment with an NHS dentist. However, these charities can only do so much. Dentists are now insisting that a bigger solution is needed to address the national dental problem.
Pep Guardiola Sends Two Ominous Messages to The Rest Of Europe After Manchester City Beats Real Madrid
On Wednesday evening, in the sweltering heat of the Los Angeles Coliseum, Pep Guardiola sent two warnings to the rest of Europe, one on the pitch and the other off.
Guardiola’s Manchester City purred as it continued its preseason tour of the United States, easing past La Liga and Champions League holder Real Madrid 4-1. A goalless first half was followed by a blitz from City, with three goals in 14 minutes, from Nicolas Otamendi, Raheem Sterling and John Stones.
Brahim Díaz, the 17-year-old Spaniard, added a fourth in the 82nd minute after replacing Gabriel Jesus, meaning Óscar Rodriguez’s stoppage time goal was a mere consolation. But this is, of course, still preseason; results remain almost worthless.
So when Guardiola stepped into his post-match press conference, his words may have been even more powerful than his team’s performance. The Spanish coach explained that City was not only capable of matching Real on the pitch but also in the transfer market.
“Madrid doesn’t have more than Manchester City have,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “Players are very important and we always try to get the best players possible.
Related: Is This How Pep Guardiola New-Look Manchester City Will Line Up Next Season?
“Abu Dhabi came in and invested in the team. Over the past five or six years we climbed to the top and we’re now in the top three or four. In order to get to the level of Madrid or Barcelona we just need time.
“The Premier League is so attractive and the agreements are good. All the clubs think about their potential and their squads getting better. We try and we will see.”
Both City and Real are reportedly trying and seeing whether they can convince A.S. Monaco to part with its 18-year-old starlet Kylian Mbappe, the most sought after player in European football. But it will cost them.
Real is renowned for its financial might. Four of the past five world-record transfer deals have been made by the Spanish club. On Tuesday, Real was reportedly looking to extend that statistic after Spanish newspaper Marca said Real had bid £161 million for Mbappe.
Less than 24 hours later, reports suggested Manchester City had matched the offer. Guardiola, who went shoulder-to-shoulder with Real while managing Barcelona, is apparently keen to do the same from Manchester.
Related: How Was Manchester City Able to Spend $110 Million Before the Transfer Window Opened?