"Comedians are the new rock stars!!!" breathlessly gushes three-fifths of the Internet. But this weekend at Cinefamily, comedians will endanger the jobs of a different kind of cultural trendsetter: film festival programmers.
The inaugural Wayne Federman International Film Festival is the brainchild of the titular comic character actor. You may not know his name, but you've probably seen his face on Curb Your Enthusiasm or in the movies of Judd Apatow — by phone last week, Federman joked that he earned the clout to organize his own film festival with his "two lines in Knocked Up."
Federman's festival will feature five screenings of films selected by name-brand stand-ups. Before the show, the comedian of the hour will take the stage for 10 minutes — "They can do a set, riff on the movie, make fun of me, whatever," Federman says — and after the movie, they'll come back to answer questions from Federman and the audience.
Federman says he got the idea a couple of years ago after watching Patton Oswalt present The Foot Fist Way, directed by Eastbound and Down creator Jody Hill, at the New Beverly. "People who liked Patton Oswalt came, people who hadn't heard of the movie came, and I thought it was a nice way for stand-ups and movies to collide a little bit," Federman remembers. "And also, this wasn't a movie that had Patton Oswalt in it — he had no financial interest in showing it — it was just, 'I love this movie.' "
But the ball was really set in motion by Garry Shandling, whose brother Federman played on The Larry Sanders Show.
"I have to say, the guy most responsible is Shandling," Federman admits. "I talked to him about the idea, and he immediately goes, 'Yeah, I'd like to do that, and I'd present The King of Comedy, and talk about how it informed certain aspects of The Larry Sanders Show.' And I was like, 'Oh, you'd actually want to do this?' "
Federman then reached out to comedians, telling them, "There's only one rule: You can't be involved any way in the production of the movie. It could be a movie that you just love and want to see on the big screen with a bunch of people, or something that was influential in some way, or just something that you think people should see."
That approach resulted in a wildly diverse lineup. The events kick off with Shandling's presentation of Scorsese's Comedy tonight at 7 p.m., and conclude tomorrow with a 10 p.m. show of Albert Brooks' wildly influential Modern Romance, selected by Andy Kindler. "This is my all-time favorite movie, and not just in the comedy category," Kindler tells the Weekly. "I love it because the comedy is truly reality-based. ... Albert's portrayal of the entertainment industry is hilarious, and yet the movie is all about him and his emotional state."
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In between fall a few unexpected selections, such as John Schlesinger's Darling (picked by Margaret Cho), and Topsy-Turvy, the 1998 historical comedy-drama about musical theater legends Gilbert & Sullivan, written and directed by Mike Leigh.
"Even people who like Mike Leigh movies, it's a movie they don't mention that much," says Paul F. Tompkins, the nattily attired comedian who will present Topsy-Turvy on Friday — and host his monthly show at Largo at the Coronet the following night. "It's such a departure in so many ways, even though the emotional aspects of it are very much in keeping with his other films."
It's not every day I get a comedy star on the phone for an earnest, passionate discussion of Mike Leigh. What's exciting about the festival is that the programming seems to be so sincerely personal — in a sense, it's curation as memoir. "That was the idea of the festival," Federman says. "There's a revelatory aspect."
WAYNE FEDERMAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL | Jan. 12-14 | Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater | cinefamily.org