When it comes to female camaraderie in comedy, The Golden Girls left behind a void that has yet to be filled. You just don't find four old broads living, laughing and eating their weight in cheesecake together on TV anymore. Sex and the City was a second-rate knockoff. (Blanche Devereaux was the original Samantha Jones. And Bea Arthur looked like a man in drag, so The Golden Girls had a bigger gay audience). Now there's HBO critical darling Girls, a younger, poorer and homelier version of Sex and the City, but with a lot more screwing — a lot more.
Matt Price and Ilyse Mimoun have found the correlation between the senior gals of Miami and the hipster gang of Brooklyn. As part of their regular L.A. event the Great Debate, Price and Mimoun will match wits in front of fans and haters of both shows in “Girls vs. The Golden Girls: Who Empower Us and Who Are A Bunch of Stunted Oppressed Degenerates?” at the Zephyr Theater June 12, 19 and 26. The audience gets to pick some half-dozen topics per show, and each opponent has five minutes to argue his or her point. Expect to hear thoughts on “Hannah vs. Dorothy,” “Emoticons vs. Actually Talking to Each Other” and “Butt Plugs vs. Holding Hands.”
Price and Mimoun are both L.A. actors and writers whose writing credits include two seasons of Lewis Black's Root of All Evil on Comedy Central (Price also won a writing Emmy for Cartoon Network's Regular Show). They started performing the debate series in 2006 at venues like Upright Citizens Brigade and the Comedy Central Stage. First it was “Revenge of The Nerds: Morality Tale or Affront to Civilization?” followed by “Ferris Bueller: Hero or Sociopath?,” “Weird Science: Creating the Perfect Woman or Creating a Storm of Wildly Unethical Behavior?” and “The Smurfs: Utopian Society or Brainwashed Cult?” Mimoun usually took the feminist stance, while Price defended all the '80s male buffoonery. But who knew “Papa Smurf's tyranny forever infantilizes the Smurfs and robs them of the only key to freedom”?
“Usually what it comes down to in these debates are mine and Matt's values, whether it's him valuing popularity and pleasure or me spotlighting ethics and responsibility,” says Mimoun during a recent interview.
During the debate on Weird Science, Price even challenged Mimoun to a wrestling match. “It goes to Matt's long-standing desire to dominate women,” says Mimoun.
Price and Mimoun spoke about their upcoming event, as well as other remembrances on past debates, which soon turned into a heated war of words. Here's what went down.
On Girls vs. The Golden Girls:
Ilyse: Our contemporary era is really fraught for women. They have a lot of obstacles. And I find that the Girls deal with them in creative and intelligent ways. Yes, they can be self-centered. But it's a form of self-protection. Unlike The Golden Girls, who are amazingly self-centered, but it's not often talked about. It's very important for me to have this forum, because for all of us who were raised on The Golden Girls, we're still recovering from the effects that we might not have even known. There's a lot of talk about the Girls' promiscuity, but Blanche makes Samantha from Sex and the City look like a nun. She was a human mattress, as Sophia once told her. She's just as self-centered as Hannah, who wants to be a writer, which at least is a noble profession.
The way The Golden Girls relate to each other is with verbal and physical abuse: Calling someone blubber butt or a bubble-headed, bleached blonde baboon or hitting them over the head with a rolled up newspaper. I think it's demoralizing to women.
Price: Calling someone blubber butt isn't really abuse.
Ilyse: The Girls talk a lot. They share. They have slumber parties. They bathe together. There's a lot of emotional communication. If I have a problem and I go to Rose, she's just gonna tell me some dumb story about St. Olaf.
Price: Rose is a wonderful grief counselor. That's a lot more than writing an e-book. These were wonderful women exploring their sexuality. They would talk to each other. They'd sit around a cheesecake and hash out their problems, like when Rose was addicted to back pills or when Sophia burned down her retirement home. They have learned and loved and lost.
Mimoun: The Golden Girls don't learn. They stagnate, they congeal, not unlike the grandparents in Weird Science, who were literally frozen.
Price: That's an ageist argument.
Ilyse: My mother grandmother is ever evolving. I wish The Golden Girls could take a look at her. And my female friends are the most important thing in my life. They never put me down and I treasure that.
Price: At the last debate you said your friends were all whores.
Mimoun: I said they were promiscuous.
Up next: Revenge of the Nerds, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and more
On Revenge of the Nerds:
Mimoun: The revenge the nerds take wasn't really on the jocks so much as it was against women in general. They spy on them in the shower. There's a very disturbing non-consensual sexual act. There's a lot of regressive attitudes towards women. Just because they're downtrodden doesn't mean they're good guys.
Price: Oh c'mon. These guys are underdogs. They just want to be treated equally. Why do you have to step on them so much? Why do you have to hate America?
On Weird Science:
Mimoun: Another situation in which nerdy men learn all the wrong lessons. They create their vision of a perfect woman, who's basically an adult nymphomaniac who teaches them how to be men by showering with them and having them point guns at monsters. And they freeze their grandparents.
Price: Were I young, I would have loved to have been taught by the perfect woman on how to act around women so that I wouldn't have made so many mistakes as I've made now or in the past. Yeah, these kids are really irritating and they use a fax machine to create a woman. But you know what? They're using science. They're using their brains. And it's a lot more than what kids do now.
On Ferris Bueller's Day Off:
Price: To me, this is very clear cut. He was a hero. I'm from Chicago and he was from Chicago. I wished I could be Ferris Bueller. I love how he just made people happy, all races and creeds. He basically took an ordinary day and created a lifetime of memories. He took his best friend, who was on the verge of suicide, and taught him how to treat life. I don't know how you could argue with that.
Ilyse: I, too, loved Ferris Bueller. I think he was my first screen crush. His charm is undeniable. However, I feel like we have to look at our heroes critically. He lies and deceives to get his way. Everything is about the pursuit of pleasure. He's abusive to Cameron. He relishes in torturing his sister.
Price: And his sister ends up with a criminal (Charlie Sheen).
Ilyse: Exactly. That's a direct effect of living with her older brother.
Price: Ilyse focuses on a world of darkness and chaos. I focus on a world full of hope and wonderment.
Ilyse: What Matt calls wonderment to me looks a lot like denial. I just like to look at things the way they are so I can see how I can learn.
On The Smurfs:
Price: Again, you have Ilyse, who looks at this wonderful group of happy villagers living peacefully and points out how Papa Smurf is a dictator, Smurfette is being abused and Brainy Smurf is a knowall-it-all. They seemed to have a wonderfully idyllic life. No one's complaining, except occasionally Grouchy Smurf. Let them live!
Ilyse: Matt really takes issue when I look at the complexity of things. He likes to live a false happiness, which comes from not looking at the deeper issues.
Price: You'd look at the complexity in singing “Happy Birthday” to somebody. 'Why are you highlighting one specific person? Why doesn't everybody get a song today?'
Ilyse: I've never made that argument.
Price: But I think you would.