VICE feed for https://www.vice.comenFri, 18 Jan 2019 00:28:54 +0000<![CDATA[Only One Thing Can Save the Kevin Hart 'Monopoly' Movie]]>, 18 Jan 2019 00:28:54 +0000The last time we checked, no one was clamoring for a live-action Monopoly movie. Just like no one really begs to play Monopoly, the board game. Yet as Deadline reports, we are indeed getting such a film, starring none other than Kevin Hart.

Hasbro, the toy company that owns Monopoly, has been angling to make movies out of its games for a while. This is how we wound up with the Transformers franchise, as well as the 2012 Battleship movie starring Rihanna. Back in 2008, The AV Club reported that Universal Pictures was in talks with Hasbro to adapt a bunch of its games, including Candy Land and Ouija. Then in 2015, Deadline reported that Lionsgate had signed on to push the Monopoly movie down the field. The project stalled for a while—in the meantime, plans for a Monopoly musical on Broadway were inked—but now the film is really happening, and producers have begun to assemble a creative team.

With Hart and his Oscar drama overshadowing the announcement, the overlooked aspect of the Monopoly movie news is director Tim Story, who makes the prospect of board game-based filmmaking far more interesting. He's behind some of the funniest movies of the early 2000s, like Taxi from 2004, which featured Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah chasing down a gang of supermodel bank robbers.

Story also directed the cult classic Barbershop from 2002, starring Cedric the Entertainer and a host of other black comedians at the height of their craft. Story killed it with action movies like Fantastic Four (2005), and he’s currently directing a remake of John Singleton’s 2000 hit Shaft. Story also directed Ride Along and Ride Along 2, starring Hart and Ice Cube.

It's hard to know what to expect from the film interpretation of Monopoly. We're sure it'll involve a lot of jokes about "passing go," whatever that could mean. But one thing's for sure: with Story at the helm, the Monopoly movie probably won't be dull.

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<![CDATA[Humanizing Portraits of Mentally Ill Inmates at Cook County Jail]]>, 17 Jan 2019 23:49:43 +0000Occupying 96 acres in Chicago, Illinois, the Cook County Jail is one of the largest pre-detention facilities in the nation. Most of the 8,000-or-so inmates housed there each day are awaiting trial. And according to the jail’s Office of Mental Health Policy and Advocacy, about a third of the prisoners are mentally ill.

Between the years 2009 and 2012, Illinois cut $113.7 million in mental health funding, resulting in the shutdown of two state inpatient facilities and six Chicago mental health clinics. During this same period, there was a 19 percent increase in emergency room visits for people experiencing psychiatric crises, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Instead of receiving specialized care, mentally ill Chicagoans charged with a crime are being treated behind bars, and Cook County Jail, by extension, has become the largest mental health care provider in the United States.

In late 2015, photographer Lili Kobielski began visiting inmates in Cook County Jail and documenting the plight of prisoners living with mental illness. Her new book, I Refuse for the Devil to Take My Soul: Inside Cook County Jail, is a powerful examination of the intersections between poverty, mental illness, mass incarceration, and race.

Kobielski recently spoke with VICE about the importance of amplifying the voices and circumstances of some of America’s most vulnerable citizens.

© Lili Kobielski, courtesy of powerHouse Books

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<![CDATA[My Boner-Killing Quest to Find the Worst Erotica on Amazon]]>, 17 Jan 2019 23:11:05 +0000Everyone likes bad things. In my opinion, they're easier to like than good things. Sure, a well-written book or uplifting movie can you make feel inspired or whatever, but that's ephemeral. It will fade. Deep down, we're all inherently spiteful beings, and ridiculing the efforts of others is sometimes what the soul needs.

In pursuit of the worst possible content, VICE has explored the depths of Netflix, Instagram stories, and Christmas movies. But could the key to campy glory be found on the shelves of Amazon erotica? After all, if there is anything my own sexts have taught me, it's that nobody is weirder than horny people.

After researching the most popular sub-genres, I scoured Amazon's erotica database, determined to find the crappiest smut of them all. Here are some of my least favorites:

Stallions by Jade Carr

“Shifter” romances—where people turn into animals—seem to be very in style right now. Every other title I encountered ( Sold to the Alpha, Claimed and Mated, Hungry for Her Wolves) seemed to have an anthropomorphic theme. I went with Stallions for a couple of reasons.

First, horses are rather endowed, and I liked the idea of a phallically-inclined piece. Second, most of the other shifter covers advertised chiseled hunks with vaguely Samoan tattoos, so the softer, All The Pretty Horses-meets-Animorphs art here was a nice change.

The book tells the story of a Native American photojournalist named Terena Westbrook who returns to her home state of Arizona because she needs to get away from it all.

The author’s modus operandi is like if Nathaniel Hawthorne conceptualized the internal dialogue of the “Confused Woman” meme. There’s no sex in the first three chapters, but Terena pulls a bunch of deer-in-the-headlights moments where her crippling horniness freezes her in place, leading to rambling passages like this one, that describes some guys walking down the stairs: "The man in the lead had already reached the bottom and the other was a step away from joining him when the second paused, turned, and looked at her. A fair measure of her career success came from her ability to read expressions, but she had no idea what he was thinking. He studied her, his deep-set eyes threatening to pull her into a place she'd never been."

Things started picking up in the fourth chapter when the POV turned to the hunky stallion-shifters Nokoni and Hah-Tee, but the phrase “sweet-smelling moisture dribbled from her vulva”—about a horse—reminded me why I prefer bears in the first place. 251 pages seemed like a heavy investment this early into the journey, so I finger-galloped to the 88 times "cock" was used, like when they all smeared cum on each other in the final threeway. Not horrible, but way more horse sex than I’m usually looking for in a piece of literature.

Worst line: “Seeing Hah-Tee's aroused state made the hairs at the back of his neck stand up. He was herd stud! Any and all females belonged to him. At least they did when he was in horse form.”

The cover of the book A Very English Christmas
Cover courtesy of Keira Andrews

A Very English Christmas: A Gay Amish Romance Short Story by Keira Andrews

Nothing was particularly wrong with this book, it just didn't seem very realistic, being that it was gay male sex as imagined by Keira Andrews, a woman. I have no problem with women taking literary stabs at our bedroom antics, but the sex depicted in this book didn’t ring especially true.

The sex between our Amish protagonists Isaac and David has a huge emphasis on carpentry, because they're transfixed by the idea of building their own BDSM-friendly bed, which is a nice couple's project I guess? It’s not something I can see myself incorporating into my own sex life, though.

Worst line: "Isaac kissed him roughly, and the thought of being actually tied down sent blood rushing in his ears. They could design the posts and headboard so that he could be bound with his arms straight above him, and also at the corners. Ideas and shapes flashed through his mind, and he almost wanted to stop and sketch the design."

Str8 2 Gay#4 - Gay Seduction Downlow Erotica (Twink Collection gay seduction on the downlow erotica) by BJ Twink

After the disappointment of the last title, I figured it was only fair for me to try some gay erotica by a gay author. And there's never been a gayer pen name than B.J. Twink, whose name is so gay, when you type it into Google, porn comes up.

I don't know how any of the other six Str8 2 Gays are, but Str8 2 Gay#4 was, uh, bizzare. Reading like a bland diary entry, the protagonist details an uneventful slice-of-life where he goes over to his friends Rick and Becky's house to swim. Sandy, another man, is also there. He jumps in the pool, eats hot dogs and stares at Rick and Sandy's junk. Then he goes home. And then Becky's dad has to get surgery, so B.J. goes over and skinny-dips with Rick while she's gone. That's it.

Red flags stood out throughout that something was amiss. The extremely long title seemed extremely SEO-optimized, the text was littered with strange punctuation, and at one point it even looped and repeated the entire first half of the story. Serious amateur erotica writers wouldn't make these mistakes, but B.J. Twink did, because…

...B.J. Twink is an A.I. I think. Early in its development stage, yet learning. I don't have much else to back that up, and I didn't read the subsequent volumes to see if the writing improved, but I highly advise anyone who's ever clicked on his byline to invest in a VPN in case your data is at risk.

Worst line: "I was having a hard time not staring at the tube of flesh wrapped so tightly and held so firmly against his left thigh, as it lay against his firm hairy pelvis and angled up and to the left."

No One is Ever As They Seem by Charisse Aloi

I picked this because an erotica piece that's also a study on the dynamics of interracial dating between minority groups seemed like it could be cool! Sure, it referred to black women as "sistas" in the blurb, but still—could be cool!

Not so.

It was genuinely shocking how race is treated in this thing. Angela, the protagonist, is a "slim thick" "5’6, brown skinned, Black woman with a sassy attitude" who has a "habit of making everything about race." She's a nymphomaniac who at the sheer presence of sexual innuendo has to flee to her upstairs bathroom and masturbate with a showerhead.

From Asian-owned beauty stores to black absentee fathers, No One is Ever As They Seem is the minority sexploitation that no one should ever read.

Worst line: “‘Oooh girl. Don’t fuck this one up. Hey, I gotta go, Ja’Shon done grabbed my wigs out the closet.’”

Michael And Jenna’s Christian Domestic Discipline Marriage by Leena Darling

Despite what the title might lead you to believe, there is nothing wholesome about Michael and Jenna's Christian Domestic Discipline Marriage. There are four chapters, which all have the same theme: Jenna does something that Michael doesn't like, and he spanks her for it.

In "Jenna's Punishment Spanking,” Jenna's upset that Michael booked a Caribbean getaway out of the blue, so he spanks her for it.

In "Jenna's Reminder Spanking,” Jenna doesn't actually do anything wrong, but Michael still spanks her for it.

In "Jenna's Hairbrush Spanking,” Jenna fakes an illness to get out of a spanking, and Michael spanks her for it.

And in "Jenna's Bathtime Spanking"... you get the idea.

While this would, presumably, be a must-read in the Pence household, I think I'll hard pass on this one if I ever see it again.

Worst line: "’I believe a husband has a right to punish his wife, and I shared this belief with you before we got married.’"

This Time with Love: A Christian Romance (The McKinleys Book 1) by Kimberly Rae Jordan

Scratch everything I said above. I'll take weird discipline sex any day over whatever this was. Self-described as "heartwarming Christian romance," this is the Kindle Unlimited version of a chastity belt. With a description emphasizing "love, faith and family," a toned down, modest erotica didn't seem like such a bad explore upon completing Michael And Jenna’s Christian Domestic Discipline Marriage. My "customers also bought" section even suggested it on that page! In this tale of devotion, a guy called Eric McKinley finds himself at a singles church retreat with his ex-girlfriend Anastacia Stapleton, who is single-mothering a kid he doesn't he has. Things didn't work out for them when they dated six years ago because they weren't Christians, but now they both are, and now everything's great and blah blah blah. Turns out there isn't actually any sex, just four lightly-described kisses. It's not even erotica. I got Godfished.

Worst line: “What about what God wants?”

Lipstick Lesbian Tales #1: My First Time by Anonymous

The plot of this one concerns two catalog models named Clair and Josephine who have sex in a dressing room in the most awkward way possible. Here's a play-by-play:

They "squirmed around in ecstasy" and "caressed" each other's "upper arms" and kissed each other's "clavicles" and "nibbled" on each others' cartilage, and there was "surreptitious liquid" that came out of holes, and they pinned each other down and "gyrated on the couch" and fondled each other's breasts while also fondling their own breasts and did "exploratory probes" into each other's assholes and the "inner flesh" became melded and then someone was "panting like a hyena" leading to an "orgasmic coma."

Lots of weird verbiage and phrasing. Josephine also complains a lot about how she can't see all of Claire's body from certain angles. But that's, like, how vision works?

Worst line: "I ate her musky patch with abandon slobbering tongue over every centimeter of her flower. She ground her sex into my oral entry, gyrated her hips, fondled her tits, and rode my face like a cowgirl. Her wetness threatened to drown me. She became so drenched she slid over my face like a skater on ice."

The Feminizer 2 (Fem Book 2) by Eva Long

Pinpointing what was wrong about this piece is difficult. There's so much!

Maybe it's the fact that psychologist Joni fashions herself a douchebag vigilante and roofies and kidnaps guys a la Dexter? Or it could be the fact that she electrocutes and uses sexual torture devices on them? Also, I mean, I guess it could be the fact that she lets her colleague Jake molest them? And it's definitely the fact that over nine pages of sexual assault she turns guys deviously gay. Yeah. That's it.

Worst line: Literally all of it.

In Conclusion

To reiterate: nobody is weirder than horny people. Perhaps I took the whole reprogramming aspect personally, but The Feminizer 2 was 100 percent the worst piece I read on my search. Yes, I know erotica should be taken with a grain of salt, but the book contended you could torture someone into homosexuality, and that's a no-no for me, sweetie. Whether it's the worst piece of erotica on Amazon out of the thousands I didn't read, I'm going to guess probably not.

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<![CDATA[100 Copies of John Oliver’s Gay Kids’ Book Got Sent to Karen Pence’s School]]>, 17 Jan 2019 22:28:40 +0000Karen Pence just took a job as an art teacher at a private school in Virginia with a strict, deeply fucked ban against LGBTQ students and faculty. The Second Lady had worked there for 12 years before taking a bit of a sabbatical, but now that she's back, an LGBTQ nonprofit is sending her a kind of welcome-home gift: A bunch of copies of John Oliver's children's book about a gay bunny.

Not just any bunny, mind you; her family's bunny, Marlon Bundo, whose presumably tortured existence as Mike Pence's pet was chronicled in a kids' book written by the couple's daughter and illustrated by Second Lady Pence herself. Right around the time it came out, the folks at Last Week Tonight put together their own version, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo—only in their tome, old Bundo winds up getting married to another boy bunny.

Screenshot via Amazon

On Thursday, the Trevor Project—a nonprofit dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, which split the proceeds from Oliver's book with an AIDS nonprofitannounced that it had shipped 100 copies of the thing to Immanuel Christian School, where Pence teaches, along with a note encouraging the K–8 program to "include [it] in your school’s library or classrooms."

"Policies and rhetoric that exclude or reject LGBTQ youth can lead to increased risk for suicide and depression, and it’s our organization’s mission to end suicide among LGBTQ young people," the letter reads. "With your help, we hope you will change your school’s student and employee policies to accept LGBTQ students and employees."

Per Immanuel's "parent agreement," the school refuses to admit and would possibly expel students if they or their families are found to be "participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bi-sexual activity," citing a passage from the Bible that calls homosexuality an "abomination." Immanuel's application for faculty contains similar language, prohibiting any prospective employee from "homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy," or having a "transgender identity."

Ostensibly, the school's galling anti-LGBTQ stance extends to what kind of literature it's willing to show its students, so there's a slim chance Immanuel will actually accept a box full of gay Bundo books, but hey—who knows. Here's to hoping whoever opens the thing confuses Oliver's version with the Pences', and 100 copies of a kids' book about same-sex marriage wind up in the library.

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<![CDATA[Amazon's New Office Propaganda Campaign Has Begun]]>, 17 Jan 2019 21:04:32 +0000We’re not even three weeks into 2019, but Amazon is well on its way to infiltrating America’s largest city, spreading the gospel of a new wave of West Coast-style tech development in New York.

Shortly after the New Year, the company distributed a round of mailers in Long Island City and surrounding neighborhoods on bright orange, oversized postcards. The message was simple: “Happy New Year From Your New Neighbors at Amazon.”

Published in tandem with a similar open letter, the postcards were stacked with broad promises that have long been tied to Amazon's much-hyped “HQ2” project, which was formally announced for NYC back in November: more state and local tax revenue, thousands of Amazon jobs (as well as other jobs created in local businesses), a new public school, and support for small businesses through cloud services and patronage from new employees. (We reached out to the company for comment on the PR campaign but did not receive a response prior to publication.)

On Tuesday, local outlets like the Long Island City Post reported that another Amazon mailer was coming soon, this time with an added message to contact local politician and outspoken HQ2 critic Senator Michael Gianaris to voice support for Amazon coming to Long Island City. (Politicians like Gianaris could theoretically help thwart or at least complicate Amazon’s plans.) And on Wednesday, the company published its first public job listings in the area that appeared to be tied to the NYC move, though a spokesperson told CNBC these listings were for gigs in existing office space.

If Amazon’s PR foray into Long Island City seems aggressive, that’s because it is—a testament to the wave of resentment that emerged once word of the plan went public in a city where organized labor is strong (if divided) and housing activism a way of life.

“I haven’t heard of mailers in other moves where somebody’s building their corporate center or mall,” said Nathan Burgess, an independent marketing professional and adjunct professor at New York University focused on corporate public relations. “It’s much more assertive than it would normally be.”

But Burgess noted the usual PR strategy does not apply in this situation. Typically, an already-large company is moving headquarters to a smaller city or suburb, not New York—and not the "HQ2" of one of the largest and most powerful brands in modern history. “There’s not a lot of precedent for the biggest company in the country to set up shop in the biggest city,” he said. Amazon did not appear to be employing the same tactics in its other new proposed campus in Arlington, Virginia's Crystal City.

It's worth remembering that the first major poll of local sentiment about the HQ2 move mostly found favorable sentiment in NYC, at least in Queens. But reactions to the PR push ranged from muted indifference to mounting rage that the company remains set to receive generous tax breaks to land in the area. Some residents even took to social media to destroy their mailers.

“I’m frustrated and a little anxious,” said Claire Kinnen, a 30-year-old video producer living in Sunnyside, Queens. She said the fact that there was no public notice of Amazon coming into Long Island City before the gears were in motion, and that the brand had a history as a decidedly anti-union company, made her dread their arrival. “When a company sends a mailer that says you’re my neighbor, that doesn’t change anything.”

The content of the mailers touched on contentious issues for local residents like her. While Amazon could provide the jobs they’ve promised, it’s still not clear whether—or how much—they will hire local recruits. And while the company is touting “indirect jobs” that might emerge from the undertaking, there’s also the possibility that the sprawl of its influence will choke out some local restaurants, bars and small retailers. Kinnen said she was also concerned about their involvement in education. “Funding a school is one thing, but I don’t want them involved in public education,” she told me.

Meanwhile, the politicians leading the anti-Amazon charge were not holding back. Senator Gianaris sent out his own mailer—this one publicly-funded—featuring supportive words from Democratic rockstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last month.

“It’s ironic that Amazon wants billions of our taxpayer dollars and is spending so much to convince the people of western Queens that it is entitled to those dollars. People will not be fooled by slick advertising—they will continue to be against the Amazon deal and so will I,” Gianaris said in an emailed statement, responding to reports of the second mailer.

For his part, local City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer went off on Twitter.

With a second public hearing about the planned HQ2 coming up at City Hall later this month, Amazon will find itself facing renewed scrutiny from all sides. If it wants to win the messaging game, Burgess argued, the company will have to do a lot better than it has so far.

“They need to give the impression of authenticity and transparency,” he said. “Otherwise there’s going to be a man on the street saying they gave canned responses, and that’s the message that will last.”

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<![CDATA['Doctor Dog,' Today's Comic by Scott Travis]]>, 17 Jan 2019 19:41:59 +00001547752300948-VICE_HDS6

Check out more of Scott's art on his website.

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<![CDATA[Meet 'Dick Run Claire,' the Woman Who Draws Dicks with Running Apps]]>, 17 Jan 2019 19:00:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE Australia.

For a little over three years, Claire has been running the streets in the shape of dicks. The 33-year-old New Jerseyan says it started as an accident on Thanksgiving 2015 when she visited her brother in Kansas City, went for a run, and got lost. Claire eventually found her way back, tracing a roundabout route through the streets of the city. But looking back at her GPS tracker she noticed something. Sketched out on a map, her course almost perfectly resembled the outline of an erect phallus—balls and all. Claire had unwittingly run her very first dick. And thus, @dick_run_claire was born.

Claire's first ever dick run
Claire's first ever "dick run." All images supplied.

“I love looking for dick run routes,” Claire tells me over email. “I feel like I should be on My Strange Addiction now that I’ve heard how that sounds… But honestly, I just love running: It’s my favorite way to get a workout in—and drawing a giant dick across a town is really just a bonus.”

Claire’s Instagram page is filled with dicks of various shapes and sizes: long dicks, short dicks, fat dicks, skinny dicks. Some of them have been detailed with veins, or wrinkly balls, or a hand wrapped around the shaft. And all of them have been “drawn” through Claire’s carefully-plotted running circuits; by turning at the right streets and going down roads she otherwise wouldn’t. Through years of experience, she’s become a self-proclaimed “master” at spotting penises on a map.

“I always plan out the dick runs and follow the route I’ve saved on my phone,” she says. “It’s actually kind of tough—especially the more detailed routes, like the ones with hands—and the worst is when I get caught up in a run, miss a turn, and ruin the drawing. Then I have to go back and do it again later.”

It’s a demanding hobby, this dick running business—especially when taking into account the full breadth of Claire’s extensive portfolio. Fortunately, there appears to be a real market for the stuff. At the time of writing, claire’s Instagram page boasts a little over 15,000 followers.

“I have like three friends in real life, and one of my followers is my dog,” she admits, “so basically all of the rest of them are from dick runs.”

There’s just something about a crudely drawn member, it seems, that really resonates with people. An artist should never rest on their laurels, though, and Claire’s recently been expanding her creative horizons to also include “twat trots”: her own aesthetic tribute to the female genitalia. Claire says she’s been trying to perfect the twat trot “FOREVER,” but always had difficulty in mapping it out correctly. As she points out, “Not a lot of roads converge to a vagina shape.” Then, in July last year, she realized her vision—and has since gone on to create several more. Now “everyone’s asking for boobs.”

Ever since that Kansas City Thanksgiving, Claire has slowly but surely turned dick running into a worldwide phenomenon. People from around the globe are sending her snapshots of their own phallic routes “all the time,” she says—prompting her to wonder “how many road dicks exist in this world?” It’s worth mentioning, though, that Claire herself is no dilettante. Her biggest dick run of all time clocked in at a whopping 14 miles—somewhere in Vermont while she was training for a marathon—and now she’s trying to “get one in each of the 50 US states.”

She does, however, encourage anyone and everyone to give the sport a go. “It’s fun planning them and it gets me out there on days that I would otherwise skip a run,” she says. “And you can do it literally anywhere. Obviously city grid systems are easy to come up with a drawing, but the best are the smaller towns and neighborhoods. All you need is a keen eye!”

Some routes, she adds, have already been drawn for you. “When they have some kind of awesome detail, I can’t help but think that some town planning committee literally built that dick into their road system. Honestly, sometimes they’re so detailed and so obvious that I think someone did it on purpose.”

Words have been edited for the sake of clarity and brevity.

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<![CDATA[William Jackson Harper Never Thought He'd Get to Play Chidi in ‘The Good Place’]]>, 17 Jan 2019 18:12:00 +0000This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

William Jackson Harper can’t help but admit his neuroticism. “Even as I’m talking to you on the phone, my armpits are getting damp,” he says as I gag on a mug. “That’s the stuff I’m thinking about more often.” It’s here where I feel one with Harper, even as the joke lingers. Both of us want to run away from the interview for safer comforts, and it’s largely what makes Chidi Anagonye a household name on The Good Place—a nervousness you can touch.

Throughout the three seasons of the philosophical comedy, its managed to achieve the inconceivable. Showrunner Michael Schur (The Office and Parks and Recreation) has translated the absurdity of the afterlife into a surprisingly high-brow mishmash of morality debates and jokes. The show began with extremely lovable people trying to become good enough to make it to some absurdist idea of heaven and turned into discussions around what drives integrity.

In the case of Chidi, the highly indecisive philosophy professor was just one of many at the center of this; whose rigid views added basic explanations for complex concepts. What’s really funny though is the William Jackson Harper who really isn’t all that different from our man Chidi.

It turns out the Broadway star of over a decade had no intentions of continuing acting before landing on The Good Place. He admits to dealing with his freak outs in perhaps not so healthy ways. And speaking over the telephone only weeks after his first late-night interview, and first Critics Choice nomination, we spoke about it all, including the afterlife, philosophy, and all the things that will make him far more neurotic by the time our conversation is over.

VICE: You’re doing a lot of firsts: first late night appearance, award show, being humbled my Taylor Swift. How are you handling all this?
William Jackson Harper: Man, It's one day at a time for me. It's like, if I think about it too much I'll freak out so I'm just trying to chill and take it in. It's very atypical.

That’s the kind of stuff that will make a person neurotic. And what do ya know, you’ve been playing one for three years. How do you compare to Chidi?
Well, I’m pretty neurotic and indecisive to start. But I think that Chidi actually talks about it, whereas I don’t as much. I just sort of go into a weird catatonic state and disappear when I’m feeling particularly freaked out. We just have very different ways of dealing with it. He also has the benefit of being super extroverted and I’m a little bit more introverted on that front.

So what has The Good Place done for you? Because unless I’m wrong, you considered being done with acting before this role.
Like you said, I was definitely considering a transition out of acting before this show came along. I had no idea what I was going to do. But I knew that I needed something resembling, I don’t know, stability? [laughs]. This show was honestly a lifeline. It was exactly what I needed at the exact right moment. It’s also kind of nice to know where your next month’s rent is going to come from. As an artist, that’s never a given and it helps to not be panicked all the time. I think a lot of struggling actors live in a state of constant worry and anxiety about how they’re going to make it over the next several months or weeks. It’s just nice to have stability for once in my career.

So it came down to the demands of the profession?
Pretty much. I mean I love acting and creating. But I was 36 years old and it was becoming a week to week, pay check to pay check thing. The baseline thought was, will I make it to the next month? That’s a question that ran through my mind every day of my life like a recurring theme. I needed something to change because it was too long of a life to live in that sort of constant anxiety-ridden, anxious space.

And you didn’t think you’d even get the role. What were you thinking at the time?
The same sort of things that any actor thinks about when they believe they can’t get the part. Maybe you’re not good looking enough. I know plenty of dudes on TV that are just way better looking, way funnier, and way more talented [laughs]. It just never seemed like it was the kind of job that I would ever have access to. It’s one of those things I kept telling myself over the years even when I wanted it. Every actor is used to hearing no and you come to expect it. So when you finally don’t hear no, that become the anomaly [laughs]. You know, there’s a million people auditioning for these roles and all of them are good at their jobs. They’re professionals, they’re smart, talented, and it’s a rolling of the dice to see if you could be the one to hit the lottery. At that point, it becomes a matter of luck because everyone in your bracket has just as much skill and that makes them just as deserving.

But you also mentioned that you never thought you’d land the role because your character was set to have a relationship with Eleanor (Kristen Bell).
I came down to that conclusion based on what I had seen in Hollywood before. With the guys that look like me, dark-skinned, and who also sit on the left center of the looks department, they aren’t exactly penned as romantic leads worthy of landing on a network TV show. Even today, I still haven’t seen someone like me in a role like this. And I couldn’t at the time understand why I would be any more special. That definitely factored into my beliefs. Obviously, when it comes to the creators of The Good Place, I don’t think it’s a thing that sits at the front and center of their minds. That... well we need to make sure that this guy is light-skinned, or a typical Hollywood type. That’s not how they think. But it’s how I thought because well, I hadn’t seen it so why would I ever get the chance over someone that could.

The thing I love about our show, and what I love about the rendering of interracial relationships, is that it’s not what’s at the heart of this show or our relationship. Race is secondary to the fact that we’re dealing with issues of life, death, eternity, and morality. It’s really important to just see that and not have it be like, hey look... we’re doing something interesting by having diversity at the heart of this show. I’ve instead found a reward in something that looks to normalize it. I think it’s important to do that.

Well I’ve been writing about diversity in Hollywood for some time. And this is one of the few shows that continues to make it feel normalized. As far as your viewpoint, what do think Hollywood can learn from The Good Place ?
I think it’s great to embrace it. Let me say it like this, it’s worthwhile to not consider white as the default setting for everyone. And I think if you look at the world through the casting of The Good Place, there’s a lot of different people, but again, race is not necessarily the most salient thing about any character on the show. It’s a part of who they are and it should not be erased. It should be addressed in some way, sure, but most of us don’t just walk around talking about how, like in my case, what it’s like being black. We don’t just publicize that you know? [laughs] I’m more thinking about the fact that my name is Will, and I’m a neurotic nut, and even as I’m talking to you on the phone, my armpits are getting damp [laughs]. That’s the stuff I’m thinking about more often. I think it’s a matter of being open to the idea that the default doesn’t necessarily have to mean white.

It’s such a fun but consistently stimulating show to watch. The episode "Janet(s)" being one of my favorites. As things get crazier, what’s it like to take on a script that's both humorous, but challengingly philosophical?
There’s something undercoating all the humor right? There’s a thing that grounds it. Something that we’re actually trying to do which is improving as people and also save our mortal souls. I feel like honestly, the fact that there are all these moral philosophy and sci-fi fantasy elements helps give us some real stakes and circumstances when playing out some of these scenes. In a way, it almost makes it easier because it’s like, you know what you’re trying to do and you know what you’re trying to get when you head into a scene. It’s not just about trying to sell a joke. There’s a long narrative that’s actually carrying us through as an actor. And that’s a real blessing when you have something you’re actually invested in. It’s not just silly comedy that you can see coming a mile away. It’s wildly unexpected and a great way to stay ahead of the audience. When you invest into that sort of aspect, it just makes you want to do the best work you possibly can because you know you’ve been given a really great script and there’s absolutely no reason why it can’t work.

Were you invested into philosophy before the show?
No. Not at all [laughs]. I mastered some philosophy courses in college and they pretty much just vanished from my brain. But this show did sort of wake up some of those old ideas that I had buried somewhere. And maybe forced me to think about where I would come down on a lot of these topics and issues.

Like what exactly?
Actually, particularism and relativism. I feel like those two things are specifically me. I don’t believe there are universal laws for what’s right and wrong. It just depends on the situation. The show deals with that and it sort of picks those ideas apart in ways that re really interesting to have rendered. That’s all me. And that’s sort of how I think. The fact that someone has really done a deep dive in a way that I could never begin to do, is crazy interesting.

Given that you don’t apply particular rules to morality. Where do you stand as far as your views on what it means to be a bad person?
I think that... and this is a very, very small sort of definition, but honestly, if you’re enforcing your will on someone else purely for your own gain, I think that you’re not really flirting with anything good at that point. I said this before and I feel like there’s a lot more nuance there because obviously, if you’re a parent and you’re trying to keep your kid alive, you have to enforce your will and tell them exactly what to do to stay alive. What really makes me angriest, and what I feel is the most readily recognizable definition of evil is the exploitation of other people. I feel like that’s the catchall for any kind of bad behavior.

Chidi going through an existential crisis. Image courtesy of NBC

As far as growth with your character. I love the dynamic between Chidi and Eleanor, and how that’s progressing. How has it been to see your character do these out of character things in season 3?
It’s great. Character growth is always fun. Especially this season for me in the “Jeremy Bearemy” episode where my character goes off the rails. For me, that sort of gonzo, crazy humor is my favorite thing to do. Sure, I love just about everything I do on this show, but I think that in particular, it’s the random stuff that kind of makes no sense that makes me exceedingly excited. Seeing Chidi root his responses to the world in how he can help is friends is a growth I absolutely love. It’s not just him growing into a more discerning person. It’s in all of his decisions and everything he’s doing that revolves around his friends. Making your life about other people sits as pretty noble, and it’s something that Chidi is starting to do more often as opposed to the rigidity of Chidi doing good as an answer to what’s defined as right, as opposed to doing right for the sake of it.

I've got to ask, what was with you teaching Ted Danson the floss dance ?
He wanted to know. And I've got to leave it there for right now [laughs].

Fair explanation. The Good Place obviously deals with versions of the afterlife. What’s your own belief system in those dimensions?
I’m open to the possibility. I feel like in quantum physics, the rules of our visible world don’t apply. I imagine that if we just go one level up from us, the rules of our physical world also don’t apply to whatever realm that is. Maybe that’s me not making any sense [laughs], but I do wonder about it. I’m open to the idea that I don’t think there’s a way we can quantify those realities with our brains.

If you don’t mind me asking: I know you had a religious background. What made you agnostic?
Honestly, college. College does a lot of people in on that front. I took a few religion courses and saw so many similarities across different religious traditions. It seemed like there was one common thread, like in the instance of explaining creation and how we got here. There are so many thematic similarities between different religions. Like, if we were talking about the beginning, that can either be like... so either something happened and everyone witnessed the same thing on earth, or people are borrowing from each other’s stories and using it to explain the world around them. I haven’t decided which one it is for me, so that’s what pushed me to agnosticism a little bit more. Because it was like, okay, both of these could be true, I just don’t have the answer, but I certainly have way more questions.

So what can you say about the last couple of episodes we’re about to see? Or at least what you’re excited for fans to see.
The next couple of episodes are really special to me, so I’m going to play it close to the vest on those. But as a unit, the humans along with Michael and Janet, we’ve all become so very important to each other. It’s evidenced through this season. We’ve all bonded and that bond will only continue to grow. I think I want to leave it there because I really want people to take in the last few with a blind eye. It’s going to be really special.

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<![CDATA['Egg Is Just an Egg,' Says Man Who Photographed World’s Most Famous Egg]]>, 17 Jan 2019 18:06:24 +0000Hello and welcome to 2019, everyone, where the TSA blares Travis Scott, the White House is full of fast food buffets, and the single most popular image on Instagram is currently a rather nondescript stock photo of an egg—and even the guy who shot the picture has no idea why, Insider reports.

According to Insider, the photo was taken by Serghei Platanov, who uploaded the thing to Shutterstock along with a bunch of other images of hoagies and croissants and shit. Platanov never thought there was anything special about the egg photo, he told Insider over email. He never knew it would achieve such great heights.

"My goal was to take a simple picture of an egg. For fun. Never ever I could think that it would be a sensation like this," he said. "Egg is just an egg."

For you lucky, internet-averse few who haven't been following this simple egg's rapid rise to stardom, let's recap: First, on January 4, the Instagram account @world_record_egg posted a photo of an egg with the caption, "Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)!" Then, it did.

That's it. That's the whole story.

It is a baffling tale seemingly tailor-made for these baffling times, just some meaningless shit gaining popularly based solely on its inherent meaninglessness. But nevertheless, the masses have somehow deemed this speckled brown egg worthy of love, so here we are.

Platanov was surprised to find out that his photo had become so popular thanks to what he called a "meme campaign," but, in his view, it is the very ordinariness of the egg that makes it so great, he told Insider.

"It does not pretend to be an image for getting fans, it does not pretend to be a Fabergé egg or imagining 'Would I look better if I am colored for Easter, what color fits me best.' It is not hunting for anyone's attention," he said. "It is simple egg."

Maybe there is some great, zen-like wisdom in the egg after all. Maybe it is a koan for our modern times. Maybe we must all strive to be more egg-like, moving forward—more open, more earnest, more honestly ourselves. Egg is just egg. You are just you. We are all simple eggs. The egg's success is our success. Thank you, Platanov, for the reminder.

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<![CDATA[Keanu Reeves Goes Fully off the Rails in the First Trailer for 'John Wick 3']]>, 17 Jan 2019 17:19:54 +0000The first two John Wick movies are some of the greatest action films of the decade. They are pure and simple and give you exactly what you want—if what you want is Keanu Reeves royally kicking ass and nothing more. But on Thursday, the trailer for the upcoming third John Wick movie came along and, in one fell swoop, delivered what all the previous movies desperately needed, though we never could have known it: John Wick on a goddamn horse.

We first got a taste of the horseback riding thanks to a few set photos that made the rounds online last July. But it turns out that no static image could capture the supreme majesty of Keanu Reeves perched high atop a stallion, laying waste to a motorcycle gang of katana-wielding assassins. It is spaghetti-sauce levels of Keanu greatness.

The annoyingly punctuated John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum picks up right where the last one left off, with Wick expelled from his former assassins club or whatever and a target on his back. He's got a $14 million bounty on his head, trying to run (or gallop, given the whole horse situation) out of New York City before a veritable army of assassins brings him down.

Of course, he's John Wick, so he'll probably pull it off—especially since director Chad Stahelski has promised to keep the sequels coming until we get bored or humanity ceases to exist, whichever comes first.

Stahelski is again directing Parabellum, with Reeves reprising the titular role alongside Ian McShane and Laurence Fishburne. Halle Berry is joining the cast this time around, as another assassin named Sofia who teams up with Wick to keep him safe. It's still unclear whether she will also ride a horse in the movie, but we can hope.

John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum is set to hit theaters May 17.

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