Sherman Ave Interviews: Jeffrey Sconce
Earlier this month, Sherman Ave’s Clint Taurus, Officer Richard “Dick” Fuzz, and Bootylicious S. Grant sat down with their RTVF 230 professor, Jeffrey Sconce. They talked about Ian Curtis’ suicide, arson, and Dillo Day. Everyone had fun and they’re all going to get As in the class.
Clint Taurus: So, by doing this interview, you are agreeing to give us special treatment in the class.
Jeffrey Sconce: (Laughs) No, I can’t give you special treatment.
Taurus: Well, worth a try.
Officer Richard “Dick” Fuzz: Let’s go.
Bootylicious S. Grant: Can you guess which one of us is the RTVF major?
Sconce: That’s tough. So, you’re all not RTVF majors? Just one of you?
Taurus: We all have different majors.
Sconce: I’m going to assume you’re the RTVF major. [Points to Clint]
Taurus: Ok, which one of us is the engineer.
Sconce: Well, you are. [Points to Officer Fuzz]
Fuzz: She [Bootylicious S. Grant] just said it, you idiot!
Bootylicious S. Grant: I’m sorry. I’m stupid.
Sconce: I want to see if I can guess the last one.
Taurus: Ok, so one of us is a teaching major.
Sconce: That’ll be you? [Points to Bootylicious]
Taurus: Bootylicious is RTVF and I’m in SESP.
Sconce. Wow. I’m such a sexist.
Fuzz: I’m glad I didn’t bet $100 that he would say Clint was the engineer.
Taurus: What part of Texas did you grow up in?
Sconce: Well, I wasn’t born there which they will remind you of endlessly. I’m not a true Texan. Fuzz: Do you want to be? [Editors Note: Officer Richard “Dick” Fuzz mumbled this to herself like a coward]
Sconce: I lived in Dallas and Austin. Then, I taught in Houston for a year.
Taurus: So are you super psyched for Ted Cruz?
Sconce: He’s not my favorite. The one who’s my favorite is Louie Gohmert. He’s dumb as a stump. He may be the stupidest man in Congress by far. It’s been so long since I’ve been there. When I lived there, Ann Richard was the Governor and she was awesome. She was amazing. The state’s gotten a lot crazier since I’ve been there. I haven’t been there in 20 years.
Taurus: Not even to visit?
Sconce: No, I don’t have any family there. My parents both retired and moved to different states. After I left to do my PhD, I’ve only been back a few times.
Taurus: Were you hanging out with Richard Linklater all the time?
Sconce: I actually do know Rick. We were a part of this thing called Cinema Texas in Austin. I don’t think he was a film student at UT but I was. That’s right when he started his own film society. I knew him really well. He used to book prints of really hard to see movie. This is back when it was really hard to see movies. We would show them on a sheet at the community center. He’s a great guy. I don’t think he went to UT’s film school but he was always around there. You see it in Slacker, the apartment he lived in which was right next to the RTF office. Taurus: So, because of your name did you feel like you needed to go to Wisconsin to get your PhD?
Sconce: [Laughs] Oh very nice. I think I remember hearing that a lot when I was in Wisconsin. Sconce is actually a Scottish name. I don’t know where Wisconsin is from.
Taurus: I think it’s made up.
Fuzz: Did you ever go to Lazy Jane’s? They have those scones.
Sconce: In Madison? I don’t remember that place.
Fuzz: [Thinking fondly of scones] Oh my god. So good.
Sconce: People in Madison are not hurting for places to eat and get fat. There’s a lot of places there that make appalling amounts of really good, fattening food.
Taurus: How many Wall Sconces do you have in your home?
Sconce: Zero. Sad to say.
Fuzz: What’s the most disturbed you’ve ever been at a movie?
Sconce: The sad thing is, especially when you teach horror and exploitation, that nothing shocks you. It’s troubling because it makes you feel dead inside. I do know that a film that really bothered me was Eraserhead. I went to see it eight weeks in a row when it was a midnight movie. My friend and I were so obsessed with it that we went to see it eight Friday’s in a row. He thought it was the funniest movie he’s ever seen in his life and I thought it was the most terrifying movie I’ve ever seen in my life. We both feel the same way with It’s a Wonderful Life. He loves it and I think it’s terrifying.
Taurus: Mine is Gummo. When the kid eats spaghetti in the bathtub. I threw up when I saw that.
Sconce: Have you two seen it?
Grant: I saw a clip in class.
Sconce: I used to show Gummo in 230. It’s a great film to talk about interpreting that film because you’re not really sure what it’s about. Taurus: So, you’re not really disturbed by films. What’s the most disturbed you’ve ever been at a student?
Grant: Was it earlier today in class when that girl said she watches Nashville?
Fuzz: That was me!
Grant: That was you!?
Sconce: But, I had a student once who asserted that World War II ended when the Germans bombed the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. I remember thinking how did you get into college?
Taurus: To get to know you a little better, we wanted to know what some of your favorite TV shows and movies are. I know that’s a broad question-
Fuzz: What is. Choose one.
Sconce: Whenever someone asks me what my favorite film of all time is, I say it’s Werner Herzog’s Stroszek and it’s not. I only say that because it’s an amazing film. It’s a really challenging movie, and I always hope that somebody would go see it that wouldn’t ordinarily go see it and be utterly destroyed by it. It will just destroy you if you’ve never seen Stroszek. [To Fuzz] You’re smiling as if you’re familiar with this film?
Fuzz: No. I just heard the word destroy.
Taurus: You’ve never heard the word destroy before? It’s a very common word.
Sconce: That was the film Ian Curtis watched before he committed suicide.
Taurus: Oh yeah, I guess that’s the movie that’s he’s watching in 24 Hour Party People.
Sconce: So I would say Stroszek is my favorite movie of all time.
Taurus: [To Fuzz and Grant] I know what we’re doing after this.
Sconce: Uh television. I do think I like TV comedy better than drama and that’s probably why you’re seeing so much stuff like what we’re seeing in class...I think television comedy is infinitely more diverse and interesting right now than TV drama. Breaking Bad, The Sopranos... they’re all the same show. They’re all basically high-quality dramas about middle-aged men having a crisis in their career or marriage and it’s all about HBO viewers. Whereas comedy...it’s just amazing...I mean everything from something that’s as horrible as Two Broke Girls to something like The Terrys, it’s just amazing what’s on TV in terms of comedy.
Taurus: So I’m glad you mentioned Two Broke Girls, because in preparation for this interview, I looked at your twitter feed and you really love to live-tweet Two Broke Girls, so I assume you’re a big fan.
Sconce: Well it just turned out that it was on when I got home and I started watching and you know, that’s how that started, but I’ve quit doing it because I’m just not home when they’re on anymore.
Taurus: Well are you more a Max or a Caroline?
Sconce: [Sighs] I would have to be Max. I can’t relate to the rich blonde.
Taurus: Where were you when Max and Deke broke up?
Sconce: Is that Eric Andre?
Taurus: Yeah it’s Eric Andre.
Sconce: He’s gonna come back I bet. They were such soulmates that it made no sense why they broke up.
Grant: If you could yell at an NBC executive...let’s say, somehow, Jeffrey Sconce is let in to 30 Rock... what would you say?
Sconce: Woah. They make so many bad decisions. You know, I don’t think I would yell at them.
Taurus: Aw, that’s very sweet of you. Sconce: Because I feel like they tried to take the high road, it’s just they didn’t realize that their time had passed, because they were still putting all of these shows on like Parks and Recreation that, you know, had no business being on TV, but were really good. Whereas, they could easily have fallen into the CBS formula. I’m more likely to yell at the CBS people, but they’re doing fabulous so why would they care if you yell at them? But if you look at how CBS has climbed to the top, it’s through bad police procedurals and bad comedies. It’s just Chuck Lorre, CSI phenomenon.
Taurus: Grant’s father is actually a producer for NBC.
[Grant speaks fondly about her father, Ulysses, for a while]
Sconce: So no, I love NBC, I’ve always had a soft spot for them.
Fuzz: Fuck, Marry, Kill: HBO, Showtime, Netflix.
Sconce: Well, I think fuck has to go to Showtime because they have like the mad, sexy, exploitative programming, right? Um, I would kill Netflix. In fact, I let my Netflix lapse, because I got to the point where I realized I was basically paying eight dollars a month to wait for Orange is the New Black to come back.
Grant: The trailer came out today.
Sconce: Yeah it’s coming out this summer. Then I realized that in between, I’m just paying for the ability to watch a bunch of really terrible movies that I don’t really want to watch and, I mean, I’ve been kind of intrigued with the Bore Schmidt thing, whatever it is- Taurus: Kimmy Schmidt.
Sconce: But I figure, if I re-enroll to watch Orange is the New Black, I’ll just watch all of those real quick and then I’ll just let it lapse again.
Taurus: You can steal Grant’s password, I’m sure she’ll give it out.
Sconce: I mean Hulu’s much better, I think. If you’re gonna pony up the money, you should do Hulu Plus because at least then you get a lot of Criterion films. There’s so many there that you can’t even possibly watch all of them.
Fuzz: Amazon Prime?
Sconce: Amazon Prime’s not bad. They have a lot of really terrible science fiction horror movies. A lot of that stuff is so cheap now that it’s all prime...it’s all free. And they tend to get things that are more interesting, like they have a lot of the early Scandinavian cinema that they’ll just put up for free as a part of the prime service. I guess Netflix has had the most success. Probably because they have those unbelievable metrics, you know? They’ve gone through your playlist or your queue.
Fuzz: I hate technology.
Sconce: Engineer. I take it you’re studying nautical engineering to build big ships or something.
Taurus: You have a lot of cover photos of chain restaurants burning down.
Sconce: Um-hm. Taurus: What did they ever do to you? Like what’s wrong with a good Outback Steakhouse?
Sconce: Have you ever worked in one? Taurus: No I have not.
Sconce: I rest my case.
Taurus: Fair enough. Asked and answered.
Sconce: I don’t know, there’s something so wonderfully horrible about them because we take something that should be this natural, wholesome process of eating and we turn it into these weird stupid feeding restaurants…so it’s always nice to see one on fire. It might be that I always had that fantasy while working at one that all it would take is for me to throw a little more grease on this fire and I can go home tonight.
Fuzz: Waffle House is one of the most charitable organizations.
Sconce: Way too much time spent talking about fast food.
Taurus: Surprise, we’re also a food magazine.
Grant: Nah, Spoon is the food magazine on campus.
Sconce: That’s something I don’t get. I’m just shocked about how high-falutin the taste of twenty-somethings is nowadays. Grant: Those kids don’t actually like that food.
Taurus: Kids like Fruit Loops. They just hear their parents talking about food and wine.
Fuzz: So, we’ll end with this, Dillo Day is coming up. What is your dream Dillo lineup?
Sconce: It’s like an all-day concert? Who do you usually get?
Bootylicious: Here’s who’s coming this year. [Shows Sconce a picture of Charli XCX]
Sconce: She’s a singer?
Taurus: Yeah, she sings that song “Boom Clap.”
[Clint and Officer Fuzz begin singing “Boom Clap” and it honestly sounds pretty good]
Sconce: She looks like a Chanel model. So this is the part where you embarrass me when I pick some dinosaur act? I would pick Sonic Youth but they just broke up after 30 years. So I can’t ask them. The Fiery Furnaces. I would ask them. They wouldn’t. Well, maybe they would because they used to be from Chicago. The problem is that they might not exist anymore.