On Movies: 'Obvious Child' co-star on his Phila. roots

Gabe Liedman , who grew up watching films at the Ritz, costars in the indie movie "Obvious Child," which opened Friday at that same theater. LUKE FONTANA
Gabe Liedman , who grew up watching films at the Ritz, costars in the indie movie "Obvious Child," which opened Friday at that same theater. LUKE FONTANA
Posted: June 23, 2014

They had the Hollywood premiere for Obvious Child a few weeks ago, and Gabe Liedman, who plays a stand-up comedian and best buds with Jenny Slate's lead character in the hot-button indie, walked the red carpet with the stars. "It was cool," he says, on the phone from L.A.

But for the 32-year-old comic and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer, it's even cooler to know that the film opened Friday at the Ritz Five. Liedman grew up in Queen Village, just a few blocks south of the Center City art house. When he wasn't at school (Penn Charter), or at home with his family, he was probably hunkered down in the dark at the Ritz.

"Every Saturday and every Sunday, basically, I'd see a movie by myself, no matter what it was," he recalls happily. "The fact that Obvious Child is playing at the Ritz means more to me than it premiering in Hollywood!"

Liedman and Slate have known each other since their freshman year at Columbia. "We met trying out for the improv club there and just platonically fell in love and haven't stopped hanging out since," he says. They kicked around New York, working as a team doing stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy, and they now shoot these little wine-soaked video bits, "Bestie X Bestie," that you can find on the website Funny or Die.

In Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child (a title taken from the Paul Simon song - see below), Liedman hangs out in the same clubs and coffee shops as Slate's Donna Stern, offering wisecracks and counsel. The routine he does onstage in the film is a mix of old and new material.

"The Jeffrey Dahmer stuff was improvised," Liedman explains. (Don't ask.) "But the 'I like my men the way I like my coffee' joke, that's classic Gabe Liedman."

(Punch line: He likes them "weak and bitter.")

Slate plays a comedienne whose material comes straight from her life - confessional, confused, a little crazy. When a one-night stand results in a positive pregnancy test, she opts to terminate. The film is being marketed as "an abortion comedy."

"When I heard the pitch - 'It's a girl who gets an abortion on Valentine's Day'- I think I expected Gillian to maybe hold back a little bit, or pull some punches," Liedman says. "And she just didn't - it's daring. But it's still funny and sweet."

Liedman is part of a team of writers on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the Andy Samberg Fox cop-com that surprised just about everyone by winning the Golden Globe for best television series (comedy or musical) in January. They're now busy writing the show's second season, which begins production next month.

"I grew up watching sitcoms," says Liedman. "That was always my idea of comedy. Golden Girls and Murphy Brown and Seinfeld were what I thought I wanted to do . . . .

"Something like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the dialogue, and the characters are what just fly out of me."

Déjà entendu. Speaking of Obvious Child, it's great to hear the classic Simon song - the opening track on his 1990 world-music grabfest, Rhythm of the Saints - and watch Slate and her romantic lead, Jake Lacy, shimmying around in their underwear to its Brazilian beats in a scene in the film.

And it's great - but kind of weird - to hear the song and its vibrant percussive intro again, in Wish I Was Here, written, directed by, and starring Zach Braff. Simon's "The Obvious Child" accompanies Josh Gad - playing Braff's loner fanboy brother - as he marches through the San Diego Comic-Con in a superhero space outfit, slo-mo-style. Wish I Was Here opens July 25.

The song-pluggers at Paul Simon Music have done their job.

And Robespierre probably is wishing she'd asked for an exclusivity clause.


srea@phillynews.com

215-854-5629 @Steven_Rea

www.inquirer.com/onmovies

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