WTF takes over the historic Paris Theater in New York City for the first live audience episode of the show in more than six years. Marc is joined by film critic and historian Jason Bailey, author of the new book Fun City Cinema. They get into what the movies tell us about New York and what New York tells us about ourselves. Marc and Jason go over this history of movie making in NYC, including a deep dive into The Taking of Pelham 123 from Jason’s Fun City Cinema podcast.
Ridley Scott has a secret weapon as a filmmaker and it probably has a lot to do with his career longevity and versatility. As a young boy, he would draw everything, and to this day he still storyboards every one of his films with his own drawings. That helps him deliver the finished product efficiently, often under schedule and under budget. Marc talks with Ridley about how he worked his craft on films like Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, American Gangster, and his two most recent films, The Last Duel and House of Gucci.
Kenneth Branagh had a lot on his mind when making the movie Belfast, a film based on his own childhood. He thought mostly about loss. Loss of family, loss of where you come from, loss of innocence. As Kenneth tells Marc, he’s been thinking about loss a lot lately and figuring out how to strike a balance between heartbreaking and heartwarming. Marc and Kenneth also talk about the importance of visiting the graves of people you admire, what discovering Shakespeare did for Kenneth at a young age, why he might be ready to play King Lear, and why he worries about something actors call The Bleed.
George Clooney is 60. Which means, much like Marc, he’s always reminding himself that he doesn’t know how much time he has left. George tells Marc how this mindset affects all his decisions, whether it’s the projects he takes on, the causes he fights for, or the time he frees up to spend with his children. They also discuss George’s directorial work, including his latest film The Tender Bar, his introduction to show business by his father and his Aunt Rosemary, and his thoughts on avoiding further tragic accidents involving guns on movie sets.
Marc is trying to get to the bottom of something. What does it really mean to be 'canceled' in comedy? Is it something comedians have always worried about? What does actual censorship in comedy look like? And who or what is traditionally responsible for censoring the comedy world? Marc talks to comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff and Smothers Brothers biographer David Bianculli about the history of comedians complaining they “can’t say anything anymore” and what it looks like when they actually do get canceled for speaking their minds.
The challenges of standup comedy were nothing compared to the obstacles Felipe Esparza faced throughout his childhood. His family was caught crossing the border and sent back to Mexico. When he finally made it to America, he found himself living with an abusive father in a Los Angeles neighborhood being decimated by crack and PCP. And as Felipe tells Marc, even when he was getting good standup gigs, he couldn’t escape his past. They also talk about Felipe’s vegan journey, the big comedy lesson he learned from the library, and the difference between doing his act in English and in Spanish.
How did Bob Spitz become the preeminent biographer of the most important and influential names in rock and roll? Before he wrote the definitive narratives of Bob Dylan, The Beatles and now Led Zeppelin, Bob was a business manager who was there for the discovery of Bruce Springsteen and flew around the globe with Elton John. Bob tells Marc how he merged his experience in the business with an investigative approach to these music biographies and then extended it to other subjects like Woodstock, European cooking, Julia Child and Ronald Reagan.
Being from Queens is as much a part of Ricky Velez’s personality as his humor, his dyslexia and his depression. Ricky tells Marc how he put it all together when he started doing standup in New York City as a teenager, which eventually led to collaborating with Judd Apatow, who produced Ricky’s new HBO special. They also talk about Ricky’s friendship with Pete Davidson, his failed attempt to join the Coast Guard, and how a TV segment with Bill Nye led to an internet nightmare.
Jennifer Lee Pryor was there for Richard Pryor’s highest highs and his lowest lows. She experienced so much with Richard that she married him twice. Jennifer and Marc talk about the brilliant, complicated, visionary, frustrating man that was Richard Pryor and how Jennifer became the guardian of his legacy, culminating with a new career-spanning box set. They also talk about Jennifer’s time as a ‘70s wild child, making her way through show biz on both coasts.
Hasan Minhaj took the pressures put on him to become a lawyer and channeled them into the ambition necessary to start a standup career, become a Daily Show correspondent, host his own show (Patriot Act), get cast on a prestige drama (The Morning Show), and have a future in comedy as bright as anyone in his peer group. Marc and Hasan break down the roots of that ambition, how it differs between different generations of comedians, and whether or not there’s a correlation between comedy and entrepreneurship.