Hader, Armisen, Meyers comedy ‘Documentary Now!’ spoofs their favorite docs

Fred Armisen, left, and Bill Hader in the "Sandy Passage" episode of IFC's "Documentary Now!"

Fred Armisen, left, and Bill Hader in the “Sandy Passage” episode of IFC’s “Documentary Now!”

(Tyler Golden / IFC)

Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Seth Meyers have fully immersed themselves in the mockumentary business with IFC’s “Documentary Now!”

The former “Saturday Night Live” stars created the six-part series that lovingly parodies famous documentaries and “honors some of the most important stories that didn’t actually happen,” the network said.

Eccentric musicians, filmmaking Eskimos, backwoods socialites and unwitting journalists get the documentary treatment -- and that’s just the first season.

“We figured out a way to keep working together,” Meyers said Friday during the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour in Beverly Hills, where he was joined by his costars, executive producer Rhys Thomas and director Alex Buono. (Andrew Singer and “SNL’s” Lorne Michaels also serve as executive producers.)


FULL COVERAGE: Television Critics Assn. press tour 2015

“Documentary Now!” joins IFC’s Thursday comedy slate alongside new comedies “Benders” and “Gigi Does It.” Written by the trio, each episode is introduced by a straight-faced Helen Mirren and stars Hader, Armisen and a revolving door of guest stars in stand-alone works each shot in a different style of documentary genre.

“There are so many more places that are doing comedy. IFC’s been such a great home for this from the beginning. If we were in an era with three networks this would be a tough sell,” Meyers, the “Late Night” host, said. “For us, this is sort of an extension of what we got to do at ‘SNL’ every week. The thing you work on one week doesn’t have to tie in to the thing you’re working on the next week.”

The self-proclaimed doc fans said they’re not trying to take down documentaries but actually paying homage to them by bringing “an authenticity to it and making it feel like one of those movies,” Hader said.

“We did try to stay away from moves that have become mockumentary moves and tried to very much stay within the documentary moves,” Meyers added.

Nailing the look of real documentaries was important to the show runners, who went as far as tracking down the original camera lenses used in the 1920s, consulting famed documentary cinematographers and inadvertently recruiting graphics creators from famous docs such as Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line” and Albert and David Maysles’ “Grey Gardens,” director Alex Buono said.

SIGN UP for the free Essential Arts & Culture newsletter >>

In the debut episode, which premieres Aug. 20, the “Trainwreck” and “Portlandia” stars cross-dress as bickering former socialites Vivvy and “Little” Vivvy Van Kimpton, a mother-daughter duo living in a destitute country home called Sandy Passage. The Maysles-inspired episodes follow fictional filmmakers Larry and Alfred Fein as they “observe” the women’s eccentricities and come face-to-face with their dastardly secrets.


“Documentaries are kind of having a moment,” Meyers said. “People are consuming documentaries now, so we’re hoping they’ll be drawn to [our show] for that reason. But I think if you’ve seen ‘Grey Gardens,’ you might enjoy ‘Sandy Passage’ more than people who haven’t. But I would hope that maybe someone out there who sees ‘Sandy Passage,’ it’ll make them want to see ‘Grey Gardens.’”

The “Kunuk Uncovered” episode sets out to uncover the back story of the fictional film “Kunuk the Hunter.” The interview-and-voice-over documentary sheds light on a director’s (John Slattery) sham 1920s film about an Inuit Eskimo (Armisen) who revolutionized filmmaking as told by its cinematographer (Hader in heavy prosthetics). That episode was shot in Iceland, as was another episode that explored the country’s fictional Al Capone episode. (That was “the most Fred Armisen idea” ever, Meyers said.)

“Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon” is a “Vice"-style episode that features Hader and Armisen as “ballz to the wallz” correspondents for Dronez founder Jamison Friend (Jack Black). As hipster journalists, they travel to Ciudad Juarez to report on drug cartels in Mexico, completely oblivious to the dangers awaiting them. The team shot parts of that episode in Tijuana to achieve a more authentic feel.

“We showed it to Shane [Smith] from ‘Vice,’ and he really enjoyed it,” Buono said.


“He thought it was funny,” Hader added.

Follow me on Twitter @NardineSaad.


Tom Cruise, Jimmy Fallon get all Maverick-and-Goose in ‘Tonight Show’ lip-sync battle


‘Wet Hot American Summer’ creators talk about their days ‘at camp’ during filming

‘Doctor Who’s’ Steven Moffat shuts down a big Maisie Williams rumor