Sketch of the Night
”Ohh Child” (Killam, Thompson, Strong, Dunham, Wheelan) First of all, it really is impossible to get a good car sing-along going when GPS is constantly interrupting the song. I’m not always a fan of the tacked-on sketch ending that has nothing to do with the rest of the sketch – in this case, the joke of Dunham constantly being interrupted by the GPS turns into the fact that that the foursome is going to kill Brooks Wheelan. But, whatever, this one worked.
”What’s Poppin’” (Thompson, Pharoah, O’Brien, Bryant, Strong, Dunham) Aidy Bryant’s sad delivery of the line, “Hey, my flute amp,” may have been the funniest non-McConaughey moment of the entire show. And it’s great when Mike O’Brien gets something on the air – it’s just a spectacle of weird and this certainly qualifies. Also, “Tim” is a fantastic rap name.
”Weekend Update” (Strong, Jost, Killam, Bayer, Armisen) First, Taran Killam’s Matthew McConaughey was a highlight of the show. Killam nails McConaughey’s manic digressions and wisely doesn’t overdo the more easily parodied cartoonish elements of McConaughey’s persona. And, look, I’m a fan of Armisen and Bayer’s “friends of a tyrant” characters, but with a crowded enough cast already (I wrote about this problem this week), it was a little odd seeing Armisen pop back up for a character that wasn’t 100 percent necessary to see again.
Colin Jost was better than last week, but for whatever reason he’s not being allowed to do something that would show off his personality. (Since he’s the co-head writer, perhaps this is his own decision.) He reminds be of a backup quarterback who has just entered the game and has been told to just hand the ball off to the running back until he feels comfortable. Well, eventually he’s going to have to throw a pass downfield.
”Scandal” (Zamata, Dunham, Bennett, Pharoah, McKinnon, Strong, Killam) So … people who love “Scandal” seemed to really like this sketch. I do not watch “Scandal” so I had pretty much no idea what was going on. Regardless, there were still a couple of funny jokes in there for people like me.
”Cold Open: Obama Ukraine Address” (Pharoah, Neeson) Liam Neeson is really starting to own this whole “I’m Mr. Tough Guy” persona. I think part of Neeson believes that Putin might see this sketch and actually think twice about his actions. Actually, at this point, Neeson might be right in thinking this way.
”Biblical Movie” (Dunham, Killam) There was little chance that we were going to get through the night without seeing Taran Killam’s Adam Driver – which is good, because Killam does a great Adam Driver. I mean, I get it, “SNL” had to do some sort of “Girls” parody at some point in the evening (or they didn’t have to, I guess) and this was fine. Though, this feels like one of those sketches that I’m supposed to like – hey, it skewered a contemporary example of popular culture! – than a sketch that I actually do like.)
”What Are You Even Doing” (Pedrad, Dunham, Moynihan, Mooney, Hamm) Well, Jon Hamm showed up, so that’s fun. You know, I get the feeling that his look of “What am I doing here?” wasn’t 100 percent acting, in that, “Of all of the sketches I could be used for, this is the one you choose?” (Kind of incredibly, all of the cameo appearances aside, Jon Hamm hasn’t hosted “SNL” since October of 2010.) I didn’t love this sketch, but I hope they try it again at some point. It just feels like a recurring sketch with a lot of potential that isn’t quite there yet. (Well, except for Bobby Moynihan, who looks like he’s been playing that part for ten years.)
”The Katt Williams Show” (Pharoah, Wheelan, Dunham, Killam, Wells) Yeah, I kind of had a feeling that with Dunham hosting that it would be a rough night for Noël Wells. And, here, she got to do her Lena Dunham impression, which just seemed a little odd. Dunham was fine as Liza Minnelli – she perhaps hammed it up a bit too much, but it’s not like Dunham is known for her ability to do impressions, so good on her for even attempting this. Taran Killam’s unfocused Harrison Ford is, sadly, about right. But, in the end, this all just felt like “an excuse to do impressions.”
”Lena Dunham Monologue” (Dunham, Bayer, Bryant, Moynihan, McKinnon) Dunham seemed nervous at first – which is fair! – then seemed to settle into her monologue. The problem is the concept of the cast revealing their sex secrets to Dunham went nowhere and actually made little sense.
”Concert Tickets” (Bennett, Mooney, Wheelan) Honestly, this just feels like a lesser version of some of the other shorts that Bennett and Mooney have put on throughout the season. It’s like, here’s our quirky concept (in this case, Will Smith tickets); here’s our monotone banter; here’s where we talk to a normal person who is confused by all of this (in this case, Brooks Wheelan). I like Bennett and Mooney and these two have come the closest out of all of the new cast members in actually making a real impact on the show, I just wish they’d do something new.
(Not online due to song rights issues.)
”Jewelry Party” (Strong, O’Brien, Bryant, Dunham, Pedrad, Bayer) Boy, this was a dud. It’s like someone decided that there needed to be a sketch about “issues,” but forgot to add any comedy. Then, at the last minute, someone realized there wasn’t any comedy so it was decided that Cecily Strong would do “a voice.” It was really weird: Instead of satirizing the goofy concept of “men’s rights,” they put poor Mike O’Brien in the sketch and he comes off as a nice guy (it’s impossible for O’Brien not to come off as a nice guy) while everyone tells him he’s awful. Where’s the joke? It was interesting to see “SNL” get somewhat political, but this feels like a huge missed opportunity.
Average Score for this Show: 5.77
· Lady Gaga 6.06
· Melissa McCarthy 6.03
· Edward Norton 5.91
· Paul Rudd 5.90
· Drake 5.82
· Jimmy Fallon 5.80
· Lena Dunham 5.77
· John Goodman 5.76
· Josh Hutcherson 5.75
· Jonah Hill 5.73
· Bruce Willis 5.68
· Kerry Washington 5.60
· Jim Parsons 5.51
· Tina Fey 5.35
· Miley Cyrus 5.20
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter. Click below for this week's "SNL," Not Ready For Primetime Podcast featuring Mike Ryan and Hitfix's Ryan McGee.
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Cuaron and sci-fi auteur J.J. Abrams ("Lost," the "Star Trek" movies) are executive producers of "Believe," a drama about a child whose supernatural powers put her and the world at risk. The premise came to him while he waited during "the endless process of special effects" on "Gravity," Cuaron said at a media event.
"Well, first of all, I wanted to do something in which people were not floating," Cuaron said, drawing laughs.
"I wanted to do something more grounded, and we wanted to do it with real people, real locations," he continued. "And I wanted to do something really exciting, but, at the same time, something that would be highly emotional."
He recounted sharing the idea with Abrams and his reaction: "Wow."
The pair met more than two decades ago and, Abrams said, "I've wanted to work with him desperately ever since. I was a huge fan of every movie that he made, and each one made me more and more desperate to try and figure this out."
When Cuaron contacted him with the idea for "Believe," Abrams said, it created the opportunity for him and his company, Bad Robot Productions.
Johnny Sequoyah stars as Bo, a 10-year-old who appears to have won the special-gifts lottery at birth: She can levitate, has the power of telekinesis, can control nature and see the future.
But she can't control or understand her powers and is at risk from those who would use them to conquer Earth. Delroy Lindo co-stars as Bo's protector, with Jack McLaughlin as a wrongfully imprisoned death row inmate enlisted in the effort.
The cast also includes Jamie Chung and Kyle MacLachlan. A preview airs at 10 p.m. EDT Monday, with the show debuting in its 9 p.m. EDT Sunday slot March 16.
Cuaron has dabbled lightly in TV in years past, but big-screen projects like "Gravity," ''Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Children of Men" have been his focus.
He shepherded "Gravity" with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney to a leading seven Oscar trophies March 2. Among them was the best director award for Cuaron, with the Mexican filmmaker becoming the category's first Latino winner.
Oscar dazzle and box office grosses aside — "Gravity" pulled in more than $500 million internationally in 2013 — cast members said it was Cuaron himself who drew them to "Believe." He directed the series' pilot.
"The things that Alfonso said creatively were very exciting to me," said Lindo. "So from my standpoint it was not necessarily a no-brainer, but it was certainly very exciting, the prospect of working with him on this project."
But one of my biggest pet peeves in life are people who point to the original five years of "SNL" as some sort of bastion of comedy that could never be replicated by the current cast (and "current cast" can refer to any combination of actors since the departure of original cast).
This is nonsense.
What people remember about that original cast are the classic sketches that have been replayed hundreds of times since they originally aired. But if you go back and watch those shows in their entirety, you'll notice a familiar pattern: Some sketches are great, some are good, some are bad. Those early seasons pretty much established the rhythm of the show that you still watch today.
What those seven original cast members had going for them is that they were such large personalities -- and that there were only seven of them. The audience got to know them. Even when a sketch failed, the audience felt more of a connection with the cast members in that failed sketch, so maybe it didn't seem quite so bad.
The current "SNL" cast has 17 cast members. And that's a problem.
Now, this gets tricky because I would never advocate that anyone on the show lose his or her job. Every single person that lands a job on "SNL" has (most likely) just achieved his or her dream. So I'm absolutely not going to sit here behind a computer screen and scold a new cast member for not having enough airtime this season. Especially because there are 17 (!) cast members. It was hard enough for new featured players to get their work on the air when the show had 12 or more cast members. Now, with 17, it seems almost futile.
But! This also means that we are sitting here in March -- 14 full episodes into the season -- and this particular cast has no real group personality. It's almost impossible to get to know these guys because we see them so sporadically. I've covered "SNL" on a weekly basis for four years and I've watched this show my entire life, and I've never felt so unfamiliar with the cast.
When Lorne Michaels was asked about the diversity problem on "SNL" in a recent interview with Lane Brown of New York magazine, he responded, "This past year, having lost Fred [Armisen], Jason Sudeikis, and Bill Hader and knowing I was losing Seth, we were focused on finding guys."
But the problem is that Lorne replaced three "guys" with five "guys," along with Noël Wells and Sasheer Zamata. And it's great that Lorne finally hired an African-American woman, but she's been thrown in with such a large cast, her presence really hasn't been felt -- nor has that of pretty much every other new cast member. Each actor's contribution has been stunted by the bottleneck in front of the camera.
The last time the cast was anywhere near this large was way back in the disastrous 1994-95 season. That cast, too, had 17 members, but never at one time. (The largest the cast got at any point was 15.) That season was crowded, bloated and filled with a strange mix of long-standing members like Mike Myers; top dogs like Adam Sandler and Chris Farley; and new cast members who were already veteran comedians, like Chris Elliot and Michael McKean.
After that season Michaels cleaned house and brought in an almost entirely new cast for the 1995-96 season. Michaels was smart enough then to keep the cast to a modest 11 cast members (later expanding to 14 toward the end). At that size, it gave the audience a chance to get to know the new cast members, and stars like Will Ferrell, Cheri Oteri, Molly Shannon and Darrell Hammond quickly emerged.
In the 2005-06 season, the cast briefly reached 16 cast members when Kristen Wiig joined mid-season, but by the next season the cast was cut down to 11 again.
I've heard rumblings that some current cast members are frustrated at their lack of airtime. And that's understandable: This might be the most difficult season in the show's history in which to make a name for yourself. Instead of going with the "let's give this cast room to breathe" strategy of '95-96, It's almost as if Michaels went with a strategy of "let's throw a bunch of them against the wall and something will stick."
The problem is the wall is too small and nothing is sticking.
The frustrations are likely not limited to the cast; the audience is also frustrated, because we like getting to know the cast members. And I don't know what the short-term solution is. It's not like there's a large swath of veteran cast members who are going to leave the show soon. This cast is filled with young talent, but not enough airtime to accommodate all of it. Sure, everyone seems to have featured in a highlight or two -- most notably Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney -- but the show is too crowded now to gather any momentum ... and that's a shame for them and a shame for us.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
The Oscar-winning actress is in talks to star opposite Daniel Craig in the courtroom drama "The Whole Truth," according to The Hollywood Reporter. HuffPost Entertainment contacted Zellweger's reps to confirm the news and will update this post upon receiving a response.
The plot details are under wraps, but THR notes that Craig will play a district attorney in the thriller. Courtney Hunt, who's helmed episodes of "Law & Order: SVU" and the 2008 movie "Frozen River," will direct from a script written by Nicholas Kazan ("Matilda," "Bicentennial Man").
This is big news for Zellweger because she hasn't appeared in a movie since 2010's "My Own Love Song," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival but went straight to DVD the following year. It's been an upward battle for the celebrated actress to reprise the successful string of movies she made in the late '90s and early 2000s, such as "Jerry Maguire," "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "Chicago." Her most recent acclaim came for Ron Howard's 2005 boxing flick "Cinderella Man," which won glowing reviews but saw poor box office reception.
In the wake of Zellweger's big-screen absence, much fuss has been made over her evolving appearance. Most of the Internet did a double take when she appeared at a screening of "Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story" in November looking decidedly different than she did when she was the "it" girl a decade ago.
Will this be the comeback Zellweger deserves? The 44-year-old actress needs a splashy film to weave her way back onto Hollywood's A-list. Chime in below and tell us what you think of Zellweger's future career trajectory.
A Twitter follower of the queen of all media recently gushed over the dress Oprah wore on the cover of Essence magazine's March issue, and asked if she could have it.
And then this happened:
@snobaby28 you're right I won't wear ever again contact my asst. and show her this tweet.— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) February 15, 2014
A week later, the Brian Rennie for Basler gown was hers:
@Oprah THANK YOU! Recv beautiful dress. Plan to wear at my wedding when I find a groom lol but will twt pic wearing it soon. Luv u to life!— snobaby brandi (@snobaby28) February 21, 2014
Our initial reaction to this story was simply "OMG!" Rest assured, readers, that if this had happened to us, we would be freaking out.
Oprah originally wore the dress while posing alongside Forest Whitaker, Chiwetel Ojiofor and Michael B. Jordan for Essence's Hollywood issue. See Oprah wearing the dress in the cover below.
But in the popular new film "Son of God," Jesus is so, well, easy on the eyes that some are revisiting an age-old question that has vexed scholars for centuries: Did Jesus really look like Brad Pitt, only slightly better?
OK, that exact question hasn't vexed scholars for centuries. But those who study religion as portrayed in popular culture do note that depicting Jesus on the screen has always been a tricky business, one that balances weighty theological concerns — how divine to make the son of God, and how human? —with more earthly ones, like how best to sell movie tickets?
"Listen, films are big business," says Steven Kraftchick, professor at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. "They're probably not going to cast Jonah Hill as Jesus."
Not that Hill wouldn't provide an interesting spin. But the producers of "Son of God," Roma Downey (who also plays Jesus' mother Mary) and her husband Mark Burnett, were clearly going for something different when they chose the strapping, 6-foot 3-inch Diogo Morgado, a Portuguese actor who's dabbled in modeling, for "The Bible," their History channel miniseries. ("Son of God" is culled from footage shot for the series).
Downey won't deny her Jesus is good-looking — not that she'd get very far with that — but explains she was seeking a subtle mix of qualities. "Someone with strength, presence, charisma, tenderness, kindness, compassion and natural humility," she says. "Someone who could be both a lion AND a lamb."
Casting came down to the wire. A few weeks before shooting was to begin in Morocco, there was still no Jesus. Downey fired off an email to church and business contacts with the urgent header: "Looking for Jesus."
Salvation came from an unexpected place. In Ouarzazate, Morocco, a member of an advance team remembered an actor who'd been there more than a year earlier on a different project. He searched through hotel registries and found the name.
Not surprisingly, Morgado's looks have been a big part of the conversation ever since. "We not only found Jesus, we found 'Hot Jesus,'" Oprah Winfrey told him in a TV interview, referring to a Twitter hashtag about the actor.
"A hunkier Jesus than necessary," Variety noted in its review of the movie. The Hollywood Reporter called it "Jesus as pretty boy," and noted a resemblance between Morgado and the young Marlon Brando.
But box office is booming. "Son of God" came in a close second last weekend to Liam Neeson's "Non-Stop," beating out the blockbuster "Lego" movie.
To Morgado, it's all good. "Long after I'm gone, this is going to be my legacy," he said in a telephone interview. "So why should I worry about people calling me 'Hot Jesus'? I'm really proud of this movie."
His key acting challenge, Morgado notes, was getting that balance between divine and human: "It's a really tricky thing."
That's always been a problem, says Jeffrey Mahan, professor at the Iliff school of theology in Denver. "Jesus films go back to the very beginning of cinema, and there's always that tension between human and divine."
Mahan notes that "this isn't the first sexy Jesus on film." When Jeffrey Hunter played the role in the 1961 "King of Kings," he says, people dismissively dubbed it "I Was a Teenage Jesus," a reference to Hunter's youthful good looks (though he was in his 30s).
Some films, like the 1959 "Ben-Hur," avoided problems by not showing Jesus' face. Others, says Adele Reinhartz, author of "Jesus in Hollywood" and professor at the University of Ottawa, show a sanitized figure "that could have walked right out of a Renaissance painting." But they were always fairly good-looking: "These are marketing decisions."
The deeper problem with portraying Jesus, Reinhartz says, is that "to make a compelling movie character, you need flaws. And that doesn't fit into most conceptions of Jesus."
One exception was Martin Scorsese's 1988 "The Last Temptation of Christ," starring Willem Dafoe as a Jesus conflicted about his identity and experiencing earthly temptations, like lust. That didn't please everyone — a Christian fundamentalist group hurled Molotov cocktails at a Paris theater where it played.
Then there was Mel Gibson's 2004 "The Passion of the Christ," starring Jim Caviezel, an enormous hit which is deemed one of the most controversial films of all time, both because of its bloody depiction of the Crucifixion — Roger Ebert called it the most violent film he'd ever seen — and allegations of anti-Semitism.
Caviezel, Dafoe, Morgado — all give different interpretations, but they all look a certain way. None, for example, are dark-skinned, as some have speculated Jesus was. Others have noted that men of the time were significantly smaller than they are today.
"The fact is we just don't know how Jesus looked," says Kraftchick, at Emory. "How big was he? Did he have a speech defect?"
Downey, asked about the issue, points out that her Jesus is a Latino, and that in itself is groundbreaking. (The film is also being released in Spanish.)
What troubles Mahan is that heartthrob Jesus portrayals ignore that "Jesus was an outsider. And this 'pretty Jesus' is an attempt to make him sort of a celebrity. That isn't accurate according to the tone of the Gospels. "
Morgado says he's taking the long view.
"When I was in Jerusalem, I saw a man and a 10-year-old kid praying," he says. "And I looked at the kid and thought, 'Wow, I will be his visual and spiritual reference."
That's what producers are hoping.
"I think people who don't know Jesus will fall in love," Downey says. "And those who do know him will fall in love all over again."
Green -- who rose to prominence after playing Vesper Lynd in 2006's "Casino Royale" -- will never be accused of phoning in this performance. She struts and swashbuckles her way through this "300" sequel with confidence and gusto. Actually, "sequel" isn't quite the right word here. Green plays Artemisia, a commander of the Persian navel forces who battle the Greeks at the same time as the events of the original "300" are playing out. (Many times during this film, we will see glimpses of Gerard Butler's King Leonidas and even Michael Fassbender's Stelios.)
For being such an overwhelming force on screen (at one point Artemisia makes out with a decapitated head of a man she had just killed), Green, in real life, could almost be described as shy -- and when we spoke, she hadn't even seen the movie yet because she doesn't like watching herself in movies. Boy, is she in for a treat.
I love that you went "all in" with this movie.
Oh, thank you ... I haven't had a chance to see the movie yet. That's terrible -- I'll see it at the premiere.
So you don't even know how good you are in this yet, do you?
Oh, I don't like watching myself. But thank you for the kind words.
Oh, God. I don't know. I'm very self-conscious, or something. Maybe it's kind of a narcissistic thing, but not in a good way. I just can't watch myself. You know how some actors when they film, they go straight to the monitor and kind of go, "Okay." I should learn and do it -- maybe one day [laughs].
But that's the opposite of narcissism, right?
Oh, yeah. It's like negative narcissism, or something. Yeah, it's weird. It's a paradox. I like doing it, but not watching me. And I'll see it definitely on Tuesday and all of that hard work -- the training -- I can't wait to see the fights. That's the most exciting thing I'd like to see.
Well, you look like you know what you're doing with a sword.
We worked so hard, my God. So, that's good. I mean, it was all green screen, so you don't know what they've done with it. I saw the trailer and it looks like paintings and it looks gorgeous -- like a total different film.
The way you mention the hard work, it almost sounds like relief that it's over.
It was hard work! I mean, the main appeal for me to do this film was the physical stuff because I'm so not physical. I run every day and all this, but that was a big challenge to do the core work in the morning and squat and things like that. Actually, my favorite bit was learning how to fight with three swords ... the thing is, when you finish shooting, it's like a drug and you don't do it every day anymore. And your body kind of asks for it again. I asked my trainer what I should do -- what kind of sports would be good for me -- and he said that boxing would actually be good for me.
Are you going to box?
I'd like to hit! But, I don't think I'd like to receive them.
You should do this.
Or Thai boxing, with the legs and everything. I'd be into that.
When you get a script like this for an over-the-top, stylized kind of movie, do you say to yourself, "I can't half ass this."
I mean, I was worried a bit at the beginning of not being believable as a woman commander.
Why would you think that?
You know, to have the authority to be believable -- because you have all of these strong men and have to be believable as a great enemy. I think, actually, the physical training kind of gave me some kind of confidence, weirdly. And of course the costumes and all of this. It's funny because in drama school I used to like playing Lady Macbeth or Cleopatra, so to be at the head of a ship was kind of -- I felt like a little girl. Like, fun and, as you said, to go "all the way." And she's such a mad character; she's bonkers, you know. She's a man in a woman's body. She's so driven by vengeance, that she becomes quite blind.
You mention fun. Maybe that would have been the better way to word it because you look like you're having the time of your life.
It's jubilating! Of course, you cut heads and kill people, which is all great. But she's so mad that you kind of, yeah, you just let it all out. With playing evil characters, you have to find some jubilation in it. Otherwise, it's kind of not fun.
You mentioned being worried about having authority. For me, once I see someone make out with a severed head, I am not going to defy that person.
[Laughs] Yes. Exactly. I mean, she can't tolerate cowards or incompetence.
What was the actual thing you had to make out with?
Well, it was the actor in the beginning, then we had a dummy -- like a fake head on a wire. And I had to hold the head and it was so heavy. Ah, that was mad. I had some guys helping me to lift it.
I'm harping on this, but it's fun to watch an actor have fun with a role because an audience member can tell.
It's important. You know, I'm a big fan of Jack Nicholson, actually. And there's always that jubilation he has and that's the key -- to find those nice butterflies in your stomach when you go on set.
And now, technically, you can say you've worked with Michael Fassbender.
He's in the movie.
It's old footage, but he's there.
I can show off now. You're making my day.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
The studio will "fast-track" Johansson's scenes, an insider reportedly revealed. She's scheduled to begin production on the movie on April 5, immediately following a press tour for "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."
HuffPost Entertainment contacted Johansson's reps to confirm the news; this post will be updated if they respond. There's no word on whether her pregnancy may impact the movie's action sequences.
Johansson, who's due in August, has several other movies on the horizon. Two are already complete: this year's "Chef," a Jon Favreau-directed comedy that reunites her Robert Downey Jr., and "Lucy," another action movie that casts her as a drug mule who develops superpowers after swallowing her stash. She's also set to reprise her "Avengers" character in the standalone movie "Black Widow."
"Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron" opens on May 1, 2015.
Erica Easley just wanted a pair of socks. A simple desire, the kind of thing most of us would order online or pick up while we were out running errands. But the harder she searched, the less she seemed to find. So the former advertising copywriter, who was known not only for her love of words, but her sense of style, decided to have them made. Not one pair or two -- but 1200 -- all with one simple phrase.
“Obama. I wanted socks that said Obama,” Erica said with a smile. “It was 2008 and there was all this enthusiasm around the presidential campaign. Everywhere you looked there were Obama t-shirts, bobbleheads, even toilet paper. But I couldn’t find socks.”
Erica was trying to make more than a political statement. She wanted to make a fashion statement as well. She likes to say that she left her advertising job because she couldn’t adhere to the dress code. So much so, that on her last day, her colleagues threw a party with a “Dress like Erica” theme -- and her friends came outfitted in bright colors, rock n’ roll t-shirts and tutus.
“I’ve been a clothes horse my entire life,” Erica explained. “It’s not that I follow fashion. But I’m passionate about it as a form of expression. I’d always loved Cyndi Lauper and Boy George’s style and funky vintage clothes. And I’ve worn a uniform of shorts and knee socks most of my adult life.”
“No one was going to make me one pair of socks. So I ordered 1200 of them. I think I thought about it for all of five minutes. My boyfriend, Ed, owns the largest vintage clothing store on the West coast -- so I figured at the very least, we’d be able to sell the rest there.”
And while Erica thought she might turn a few heads, as she walked through her Los Angeles neighborhood, she never expected what happened next. Ed put a sign outside his store, announcing that they were selling Obama socks, and suddenly the press started calling. Erica’s red and blue knee highs began making headlines and the accidental entrepreneur decided to see what would happen if she made an even bigger splash.
“I bought a plane ticket and made my way to the Democratic convention in Denver. I had a giant duffle bag that I dragged around town, and I set up outside the stadium where Obama was giving his acceptance speech. I had a captive audience. I was wearing the socks, kicking up my heels and screaming, ‘Get the world’s first presidential knee socks.’ And I sold every pair I brought.”
Erica had made a $2,400 investment and came home with her pockets filled with cash. $7000 in cash. So she thought, Why not try it again? What if she took some of the money she made and picked another word? What she never expected, was that one word would lead to the next, and that her passion for fashion would not only help her build a million dollar business, but land her socks a spot in one of the most talked about music videos of the year.
“I was just doing this as a side thing,” Erica said. “I didn’t see myself as a business owner. I was happy buying vintage clothing for Ed’s store. But I had the extra cash, so I thought, What if I made socks with the word 'beer?' People love beer and it’s a great word. I figured we’d stock them at the store and however long it took to sell them would be fine.”
But what Erica didn’t realize was that she’d created a walking billboard for her business. Store owners began spotting her trendy sock wearing customers on the street and asking where they’d found the unique fashion statements. And she began getting calls from people around the country who wanted to open up wholesale accounts.
So word by word, Erica, who happens to have a degree in English, started adding to her sock vocabulary. She’d find a word that made her laugh or seemed to be trending on social media and she’d call her manufacturer. Words like nerd, geek, pickle and bacon.
“People love the bacon socks! Store owners started calling to ask if ‘bacon’ meant something else, other than the obvious -- whether it was some sort of street drug or something -- because people were buying five pairs at a time. People are just bonkers for bacon!”
She named her fledgling company Gumball Poodle -- a colorful tribute to the antique bubble gum machine and collection of vintage stuffed dogs that make their home at Ed’s store -- and just the right words for a company that’s committed to selling fun. And before she knew it, Erica’s socks were being spotted on marathon runners, at softball games -- and on roller derby queens around the country.
“Roller derby is all about self expression, so our socks are perfect for them. And because they call the new girls on the circuit ‘fresh meat’, our ‘meat’ socks are big sellers.”
“It took me a couple years to realize what this could be,” Erica reflected. “I started hearing from people all over the world. And that’s when I realized I needed to buckle down and start thinking of this as a business.”
Slowly but surely, Erica continued to add new colors and designs -- increasing her word count to 83 styles and taking her wares to trade shows around the country. But the one thing she never invested in was marketing. Somehow she didn’t need to -- because the socks seemed to speak for themselves -- and to make their way to the wildest of places.
“Ed and I were at the store just before Christmas and we were so busy I didn’t have time to answer my phone. I noticed that I had two missed calls from his niece, Ariana. I thought they were just for fun and that I’d call her back that evening, but then I noticed texts that she had sent. When I stopped to read them, I saw the words, ‘OMG! Beyoncé is wearing your socks!’ I was sure it had to be a mistake. But we googled and found the ‘Pretty Hurts’ video that she’d just released and there they were! Beyoncé was wearing our metallic gold ‘Gangsta’ socks!”
“At that point, I just started hyperventilating,” Erica laughed. “We’re a small company. I don’t have a press department or a publicist on retainer. But Ed has a cooler head. He reminded me of the friends I have in the entertainment industry, so I called them and they told me what to do. I put out a press release, so when journalists starting writing about what Beyoncé was wearing, they’d include our $10 Gumball Poodle socks!”
Erica’s socks not only made their way onto Beyoncé’s feet, but as a result of their starring role in her video, they were featured on MTV Style and in Vogue Italy. Last year, the business that began because one woman wanted to make a statement, brought in a million dollars. And Erica is projecting nearly double that amount this year.
“There were a lot of people who blew me off when I first started out,” Erica recalled. “I remember contacting someone when we were looking for warehouse space, and he accidentally sent me an email that I think was meant for his partner. It said, ‘Socks? Can you imagine if we told people we had a new client that sold socks? The only way we’d do this is if she’s really hot.’”
“I keep a copy of that email on my wall, to remind myself of how far we’ve come, and not to let other people’s words get in my way. You just have to do what you believe in. The best ideas come from left field. Remember the pet rock?”
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Goldblum is in this weekend's new Wes Anderson film, "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Goldblum plays Deputy Kovacs, a man responsible for dividing up the vast fortune that was left behind after the death of an eccentric widow who frequented the aforementioned Grand Budapest Hotel.
It's almost impossible to present here a "preview," if you will, of what to expect below with an interview with a man as purposefully discombobulated as Jeff Goldblum. (Well, except for that whole table incident.) In person, Goldblum -- who is without a doubt a sharp-looking man -- will drift in and out of topics, giving the whole proceeding the feeling of whimsical frenzy. Anyway, the good news is that even though my clumsiness could have killed Jeff Goldblum, Jeff Goldblum escaped this interview unscathed.
Jeff Goldblum: What's your last name?
Mike Ryan -- movie star name. You could play a sheriff in a movie. The action hero, Mike Ryan -- all fighting, all loving, once again.
I believe that's you in "Silverado."
Oh, yes, really? All fighting, all loving? Yeah, that's me. That's me. Jeff Goldblum is sheriff Mike Ryan. Yeah, that would be good.
I like this interview so far.
Let's talk about "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
I bet a guy like you liked this movie.
It's great, isn't it?
You're a whimsical guy, I'm surprised you're not in more Wes Anderson movies. Why haven't you done more since "Life Aquatic"?
Maybe nothing was right for me. I don't know why. Who knows why? Or, if I never do another one, I'll be satisfied with what I've done. But, I would work with him any time and every time -- as I think every actor would. And, a final product! That's what you want to do: to do something that contributes to a movie that works.
So when you see it for the first time, you're thinking hot damn, we have something here?
Yeah, who knows what will happen to it, but, yeah, he's trying to make something beautiful and it's all subjective. I dig what he's doing.
I can guess what will happen: It will be a modest success at the box office, then it will be a beloved film forever. Wes Anderson movies seem to have that pattern.
Well, who knows? Who knows? This may be special in any way.
There is more action in it than what we're used to seeing.
There is more action. I love it.
I see the trend now. You're in his "violent" movies.
[Laughs] "Life Aquatic" was violent. Yeah, I swatted the dog in that.
It's always weird when I'm flipping through channels and see you in an old episode of "Laverne & Shirley" or "Starsky and Hutch," or something. Do you see those when you're flipping around?
What do you think?
How lucky I am to have stayed active. Sometimes I see things and not only is it a reminder that I've been at it, but, jeez, I got another chance after that.
"Annie Hall" is the famous one, but there you are as "Freak" in "Death Wish."
You don't just blend in. It's so obviously you.
I stick out like a sore thumb.
I'd say a recently manicured thumb.
Thank you so much -- with a sweet, sweet thumb ring on it.
Was there a particular movie you did when you realized those kind of television appearances were over? Was it "The Big Chill"?
I still make guest appearances! "Glee" and "Portlandia" and "The League."
That's different. You're doing those as "Jeff Goldblum," because you want to, not "actor who needs work."
Well, you know, I've progressed. I was never particularly careerist or, "Gee, how am I doing?" I've got good representatives and I check in with my market continuum. But, thank goodness, I mostly got in it for the wild, passionate adventure of doing something I loved. Luckily, those seeds have sort of germinated into even more clear activities everyday of putting my head down and just kind of enjoying making stuff. I do love it, more than ever, for the sheer sake of its own pleasure.
Is that a conscious decision? You've been showing up in stuff like "Portandia" and "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" ...
I love them.
Off the wall stuff. But there was a part of your career where you did a television show like "Raines," which was very mainstream. Are you now embracing wackier material, compared to just a few years ago?
Hmm. That's interesting. Like I say, I've never been particularly strategic or careerist -- and I don't separate one period from the next. But, I think I've gotten more and more clear that I just want to do things that excite me for the sheer pleasure of it and work with people who interest me and delight me. And this would certainly fall into that category. There's nothing to get out of this -- that I'm looking for, at least -- except the sheer pleasure of doing it.
You mention being delighted, one of the scenes that delights me to no end is the closing credits of "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension."
Thank you so much! I love that movie. And Peter Weller and I started a band that I'm still playing with.
Is he still playing in it?
He hasn't been in it for awhile. He's off and doing spectacular things, but I have a core group that is a later version of that thing that started and I do it every week -- at Rockwell in Los Feliz, whenever I'm not working. How did we start talking about that? We were talking about? We went from music with Peter Weller to ... "Buckaroo Banzai"! The last scene of "Buckaroo Banzai"!
A lot of those characters die in the movie, but they all come back to do that fun walk.
Well, you know, Wes Anderson, when we did "Life Aquatic" said -- well, I don't know who said it first, maybe I said, "Hey, you know, this little bow that you do at the end, that sort of reminds me ..." And he said, "Well, I'm a big fan of that movie and that's kind of it. That's kind of what I'm doing." So, there you go.
[The publicist comes in to tell us our time is up.]
Oh, we're done? We're coming to the end? [As we stand up, my knee hits the underside of the table we are at, sending the table and the contents of the table, which include a bottle of water and half of a cup of coffee, toward Goldblum, who somehow dodges both.] Jesus! Almost a disaster. That should never happen. You saw me, did I lean on it? [A waiter comes in to ask if we are okay.] Yeah [laughs], everybody is okay. Mike says he's suing for everything.
How did that happen? I think I might have done that.
I don't know. That was a magical occurrence.
I almost killed you. I'm sorry.
It was almost tragic.
I would have had a good title for this story, though. But I would have felt terrible.
"Jeff Goldblum Dies, But We Had A Nice Chat."
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.