If you're hip to indie film or British comedy, you might already be familiar with the work of Richard Ayoade. If you're not, you soon will be, thanks to his role in the ensemble comedy "The Watch," with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte and a host of other funny folks.
"The Watch" (formerly known as "Neighborhood Watch") could be the project that launches Ayoade into the US mainstream as readily as "Bridesmaids" did for his former "IT Crowd" costar Chris O'Dowd. Ayoade, Stiller, Vaughn and Hill play four dorky suburbanites who run an ineffective neighborhood watch. They're also totally obsessed with aliens -- the ones from space, that is.
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They get what they wish for when they find some crazy alien object, but unfortunately, that kicks off a war between outer space residents and humanoids. It's got comedy cred, too; it was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who wrote "Superbad" and "Pineapple Express" together, and Jared Stern. Akiva Schaffer (the criminally underrated "Hot Rod," "Lazy Sunday") is directing.
O'Dowd, Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson starred on the British sitcom "The IT Crowd," about two computer dorks and their manager, a businesswoman who knows very little about technology and even less about how to relate to her weird employees. (Let's ignore the whole women-don't-understand-technology thing, okay?) It's the type of bizarre comedy that Brits take for granted. For instance, a goth lives in the server room; he was an up-and-coming businessman until he discovered Cannibal Corpse. (Technically not a goth band, but let's not split hairs.)
As Moss, Ayoade donned high water pants and said nonsensically nerdy things in a nasal voice, like "I came here to drink milk and kick ass. And I've just finished my milk." (See it for yourself here.) O'Dowd's character Roy was equally nerdy but with a slovenly comic book dude vibe, to boot. Ayoade went on to appear on a pilot for a US version of "The IT Crowd" with Joel McHale that thankfully went nowhere, except for the hidden recesses of the Internet.
Before that, Ayoade appeared in a number of equally, if not more, bizarre comedy shows like "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace," "Man to Man with Dean Learner," "The Mighty Boosh" and, more recently, "Noel Fielding's Luxury Comedy." All of these shows have some of the same players in common, like Noel Fielding who appears as the goth in the server room as well as one of the Boosh, and Matt Berry, who appears on "The IT Crowd" as the chauvinistic boss, "The Mighty Boosh," and "Darkplace." You'd need a spreadsheet to keep track of it all! Comedians from all of these shows, including Ayoade, also appeared in the sweet and weird movie "Bunny and the Bull," an eccentric road trip tale with tons of visual treats.
However, Ayoade's genius isn't limited to his acting. Other than writing and directing a slew of sitcom episodes himself, he also adapted and directed the marvelous indie romcom "Submarine," which is what snagged Ben Stiller's attention and got him on board as an executive producer. (Read our interview with him from Sundance here. And here's our review of "Submarine" from Park City.) If you pay attention, you'll even see a snippet of Stiller in the movie. Ayoade also directed a fan favorite episode of "Community" that referenced "My Dinner with Andre," "Critical Film Studies."
Although it seems like Ayoade enjoys mixing it up with acting, writing and directing, he'll be back behind the camera for "The Double," which he co-wrote with Avi Korine. The movie, which was inspired by the novella by Dostoevsky, stars Jesse Eisenberg as a man who sees his own doppelganger -- never a good sign. Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, and Noah Taylor and Yasmin Paige from "Submarine" will also appear in the movie. It reportedly began filming last May.
Whether your taste veers towards mainstream comedies or intellectual indies, Richard Ayoade is your man. In the famous words of Moss, "I like being weird. Weird is all I've got. That and my sweet style."