Katja Blichfeld and Russell Gregory Are Making the Funniest, Queerest Weed Comedy on TV
High Maintenance, a show about a cis white pot dealer, isn’t an explicitly queer show in the canon of Will & Grace or Pose. Yet the show is decidedly queer – very queer, some might even say queer AF. Co-created by a queer person, executive produced by a queer person, and featuring a slew of queer characters and actors, including Bowen Yang, Larry Owens, Margaret Cho, Guillermo Díaz, and more, High Maintenance, in the vein of Broad City and Orange Is the New Black, has shown that queerness need not be a show’s focal point in order to be strung throughout its DNA. Russell Gregory, the show’s executive producer, was an agent just trying to “Figure it out” when he met the show’s co-creator Katja Blichfeld, then a casting director, over the phone in 2005. Right when the pair were starting to enter best friend territory, Katja abruptly moved across the country. “We were talking the other day and I thought to myself, ‘oh, this is where we met, over AIM.’ It was my first adult relationship in New York where I missed someone. And then she came back. And I never let her go.” In 2012, Blichfeld and her then-husband Ben Sinclair co-created the web series High Maintenance and recruited Gregory to executive produce the show. ‘s Now List, Gregory and Blichfeld reflect on the series, representation, Pride, Black Lives Matter, and more below. Katja, I absolutely loved your 2018 Vogue story, “How Coming Out Made Me Whole.” I wanted to read you one of my favorite excerpts from it: “Why did I run from myself until the age of 37? I wish I had better answers. I have gay friends whom I love and admire. I’m surrounded by people with liberal values like mine. Repression is blinding, is all I can say. Self-acceptance impossibly hard. It can take a lifetime.” That story came out nearly two and a half years ago. Though people close to me had known for years that I wasn’t really “Straight,” to finally be able to fully identify as queer in public felt really profound for me. My understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation has expanded so much over the last few years. Still, I’ve had a number of people reach out to me since that piece came out to tell me that it’s helped them in some way. I wanted other closeted adults to know that it’s never too late to come out.
Wander into the weed with pot comedy ‘Disjointed’
“Disjointed” is an enjoyable mess, available Friday, Aug. 25, on Netflix, that probably makes more sense if you’re stoned, which would be appropriate for a comedy about an older Jewish woman who owns a medicinal marijuana store in Los Angeles. Kathy Bates stars as Ruth Whitefeather Feldman, who was a pot advocate for years before she opened Ruth’s Alternative Care with her recent college graduate son, Travis. The other budtenders include modern-day hippie Pete; Jenny, who lies to her Chinese mother about her job; and Olivia, who is distinguished from the other two staff members by the fact that she doesn’t seem stoned all the time. Also on the staff is military veteran Carter, who suffers from PTSD and serves as the store’s security guard. Chris Redd and Betsy Sodaro play Dank and Dabby, a pair of completely unhinged Internet stars who are regular patrons of the dispensary; Nicole Sullivan is Maria, an overstressed mom who wandered into the store one day thinking pot might offer relief and seems to never have left; and Michael Trucco is Tae Kwon Doug, who runs a martial arts studio next door, has no use for a pot dispensary in the neighborhood and is given to all sorts of malaprops with sexual connotations he never gets. Olivia and Travis flirt here and there, Pete thinks his pot plants are talking to him, Jenny breaks out in song at one point and imagines she’s singing in a nightclub, and Travis wants his mother to adopt more pragmatic management techniques, such as putting her money in a bank and not in the ceiling. A little of Pete, Jenny and Tae Kwon Doug goes a very long way, but most of the focus is on Ruth, Travis and Olivia, with off-the-wall moments for Dank and Dabby. Many times, the best parts of each episode are the fake pot commercials, including a hilarious ad with dancing cannabis containers all shot in glorious 1950s’ black and white. In further conscious defiance of logical episodic structure, there are even a few sophisticated animation sequences, including one representing the torment of Carter’s mind. If you watch Wolf Blitzer stoned, you’ll probably laugh, too. This isn’t primo TV, but it’s also not stems and seeds. David Wiegand is an assistant managing editor and the TV critic of The San Francisco Chronicle.
‘We’re the Millers’ is a soothingly retro gross-out weed comedy
Marijuana slows down the reflexes, which is why it’s rarely ideal for a genre as visceral as comedy. Most of the superior pot films – “The Big Lebowski,” “Smiley Face” – tend to be not about weed, but its effects on characters trying to navigate heavy situations in a state of foggy inebriation. “We’re the Millers” is likely the highest profile “Weed comedy” ever made – a major summer release with bankable stars and the now requisite supporting roster of ad-libbing ringers. No one even gets high in the film, although the setup is basically the same as Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke.” Jason Sudeikis plays David, an aging, low-rent drug dealer forced to smuggle rather a significant amount of herb across the border. He decides to play it safe: To better throw the man off his scent, he’ll get a bland haircut, adopt a less miserable mien and round up some local low-lifes – including a surly stripper and a street kid – and pose as a Winnebago-wielding suburban family from somewhere Midwest. Getting the haul out of Mexico proves easy, but they run afoul of both an angry cartel and, perhaps more burdensome, an actual Winnebago-wielding suburban family, populated by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn. The script for “We’re the Millers” has been in development hell since the mid-Aughts, which is probably why it actually has a shape, as well as a parade of gross-out gags. Still, scenes where these pros are just riffing – especially Hahn, who as in “Step Brothers” throws herself into her oversized character with wild abandon – are preferable to set pieces where, say, a poisonous spider bite enlarges the testicles of the nice guy virgin “Son”. Even these sequences have a pleasing shape, thanks to the performers and director Rawson Marshall Thurber, who, as in “Dodgeball,” doesn’t know how to make a comedy pretty but does know how to pace jokes, gags and sequences. This is a retro Farrelly Brothers clone, right down to the eventual appearance of “Heart.” But now that not even the Farrelly Brothers are making Farrelly Brothers movies anymore, one that gets the job done, and even possesses a winningly pissy turn from the talented but often wasted Sudeikis, is worthy of a glove clap.