Bill Hader, Fred Ar­misen back in spoof spot­light

‘SNL’ veter­ans keep laughs com­ing in ‘Doc­u­men­tary Now!’

USA TODAY US Edition - - LIFE - Bill Keveney @bil­lkev USA TO­DAY

Cam­paign man­agers. Rock mu­si­cians. Door-todoor sales­men.

Fred Ar­misen and Bill Hader are comedic chameleons, dis­ap­pear­ing into var­ied roles for a se­cond sea­son of IFC’s Doc­u­men­tary

Now! (Wed­nes­day, 10 ET/PT). Par­o­dies of ac­claimed documentar­ies, cooked up with fel­low

Satur­day Night Live alum Seth Mey­ers, give them a chance to cel­e­brate a genre they love as Ar­misen and Hader try on enough per­sonas to make Sy­bil dizzy.

On a warm sum­mer day, Ar­misen is tak­ing the mul­ti­char­ac­ter mo­tif to a new level on a stu­dio lot, por­tray­ing an Ital­ian film star who plays a slap­stick bell­boy chan­nel­ing Jerry Lewis in a film within a doc­u­men­tary in­spired by pro­ducer Robert Evans, the sub­ject of 2002’s The Kid Stays in the Pic­ture.

His over-the-top char­ac­ter, Enzo, “is only ex­pres­sive,” says the red-suited Ar­misen, who ratch­ets up the char­ac­ter from friendly aide to fawn­ing, suit­case-drop­ping bum­bler dur­ing a suc­ces­sion of takes.

Hader, who plays a suc­cess­ful pro­ducer of pop­u­lar pedes­trian fare who yearns for Os­car pres­tige in Mr. Run­ner Up, says the two-part episode in­cor­po­rates a les­son pro­duc­ers learned dur­ing Emmy-nom­i­nated Now!’ s first sea­son.

“What al­ways helped was when we had a strong emo­tional through-line, and this one is about a guy need­ing re­spect and the lengths he goes” to win it, he says dur­ing a shoot­ing break. Sea­son 2 opens with The Bunker, loosely based on 1993’s The

War Room and fea­tur­ing Ar­misen and Hader as cocky 1990s po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tives work­ing on an Ohio gov­er­nor’s race.

Other episodes, and the documentar­ies that in­spired them are: Parker Gail’s Lo­ca­tion Is Ev­ery­thing, based on 1987’s Swim­ming to Cam­bo­dia with Spald­ing Gray; Fi­nal Trans­mis­sion, a mu­si­cal doc­u­men­tary pat­terned on 1984’s Talk­ing Heads film, Stop Mak­ing Sense; Globes­men, a take­off on 1968’s Sales­man, from Al­bert and David Maysles; and Juan Likes Rice & Chicken, a spoof of 2011’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi. He­len Mir­ren plays the se­ries’ straight-laced host, and SNL vet-

er­ans, in­clud­ing ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Rhys Thomas and co­me­dian John Mu­laney, write, pro­duce and direct, while Maya Ru­dolph guest-stars in Fi­nal Trans­mis­sion.

“They’re friends and the most tal­ented peo­ple I know,” Port­lan

dia star Ar­misen says of what can seem like an SNL post-grad­u­ate sem­i­nar. ( SNL’s Lorne Michaels is ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer.) “I’ll never get over how in­sane it is. These would nor­mally be my heroes (at) mak­ing com­edy.”

Pre­vi­ous col­lab­o­ra­tions make pro­duc­tion eas­ier, Hader says.

“It’s like hav­ing a band. Ev­ery­body has their spe­cialty they work on and you go, ‘They got it,’ and you work through it. There’s so much trust,” he says. “You just know each other’s short­hand.”

Late Night host Mey­ers says va­ri­ety helps. “Each episode is so dif­fer­ent. What we set out to do is make you feel like you’re go­ing to a video store and grab­bing six

documentar­ies, and they’re all over the place in tone and sto­ry­telling. Some episodes are re­ally jokey and some aim to be a lit­tle sweeter.”

The Bunker made sense in an elec­tion year, and it also makes the most of the chem­istry Ar­misen and Hader have de­vel­oped over the years, Mey­ers says.

“We re­ally like when Fred and Bill have the chance to play off each other,” he says.

They picked other films for vary­ing rea­sons, Mey­ers says. Ad­mi­ra­tion for the Maysles brothers, whose Grey Gar­dens was a jump­ing-off point for Sea­son 1’s

Sandy Pas­sage, re­sulted in Globes­men, the se­ries’ first blackand-white episode.

A grow­ing sub­set of food docs led to Juan, filmed in Colom­bia and al­most en­tirely in Span­ish, and writ­ten by Mey­ers.


Fred Ar­misen, left, and Bill Hader hun­ker down as cam­paign op­er­a­tives in a timely mini-doc, The Bunker.


Dame He­len Mir­ren adds a se­ri­ous touch as the host of IFC’s Doc­u­men­tary Now!

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