NEW YORK — If the merits of porn and chicken weren’t clear before, Comedy Central is here to help.
“Our minds are oppressed, and these are the tools of our liberation.”
This according to the network’s original movie “Porn ‘n Chicken,” which premiered at Manhattan’s Studio 54 on Wednesday. The movie is based on the experiences of four Yale students, who founded a club dedicated to watching porn and eating fried chicken.
The New York traffic nearly foiled my plans to get to the event, but fortunately I was able to hail a jitney outside of Grand Central Terminal. By the time my chauffeur delivered me to Studio 54, Comedy Central’s advertising department had surrounded the bar inside.
Meanwhile, I waited in front as photographers crowded around the miniature red carpet waiting for someone important to show up. Around 7 p.m., most of the actors arrived, along with Comedy Central big shots and actress Julia Stiles. Waiting with me, it turned out, was Noelle Hancock ’02, who works for the New York Observer.
“I’ve been on the ‘Porn ‘n Chicken beat’ ever since I got to the Observer,” Hancock said.
Noelle and I consulted for a while about how best to get in touch with the Comedy Central bigwigs and eavesdropped on the US Weekly interview of cast member Ginnifer Goodwin.
Half an hour later, Patty Newburger, vice president of Comedy Central films, got onstage and introduced the film to the audience.
“I’m loath to disappoint you, but this is not a porn movie,” she said.
As the opening credits rolled, cheers erupted from the VIP side of the room each time a cast member’s name appeared on screen.
Comedy or not, the crowd’s enthusiasm quickly dissipated. The laughter was sporadic at best.
After the movie ended, the music started, and it became hard to distinguish the stage of Studio 54 from a particularly well-attended Saturday at Toad’s. The open bar was put to good use, and on either side of the theater giant buffets of fried chicken were laid out. Buff waiters paraded around the room with trays of madeleines, chocolates and miniature ice cream cones.
The event was quite well-attended by Yalies, including Jamie Ponsoldt ’01 and William Marino ’01, two of the founding members of “Porn ‘n Chicken.” All four founding members were associate producers of the film.
Ponsoldt — also a Comedy Central intern — was often on the set.
“At first I was intimidated by him,” said Angela Goethals, one of the actors in the film. “But I dig him, I think he’s an awesome guy.”
Since the story first surfaced in the national press in 2001, Ponsoldt and Marino have been quite secretive. On Wednesday, they were still reluctant to share any information about their experiences at Yale — although they said that much of the movie was quite accurate.
But Ponsoldt said it was strange to watch the movie.
“I think it’s great. A lot of things are sort of horrifying to see on screen, but there’s enough distance now,” Ponsoldt said.
Marino added that with the money they made from the project, all four of the Porn ‘n Chicken founders bought Sea-Doo jet skis.
At 11 p.m., the organizers made it clear that it was time to leave the building, but people were not ready to go home yet. Most of the actors headed to Pastis, a downtown bar. The rest of the revelers, including Larry Divney, president and chief executive officer of Comedy Central, made their way across the street to Dillon’s.
Networking was clearly the goal of the night, facilitated by the willingness of (apparently) intoxicated Comedy Central executives to dole out their business cards.
Many of those present were excited about the movie’s television premiere, slated for Oct. 13. The movie is the first project of Comedy Central’s new film division.
“We had planned to start a new movie division. It was sort of fortuitous timing that this story showed up on our desks,” said Tony Fox, Comedy Central’s executive vice president of corporate communications.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about porn, and the consensus was clear. Cast member Geoffrey Arend said that he thought porn was ultimately a good way for kids to “let out what they want to let out.”
Josh Pais, who plays the students’ professor in the movie, was more explicit.
“I think there’s not enough porn on campuses. I think this movie should set a trend nationwide,” Pais said.
About two hours later, actor Michael Goldstrom and his entourage finally decided that it was time to move on — and, as I had already missed the last Metro-North train back to New Haven, I was ready to move on too.
The five of us piled into the chauffeured car Comedy Central had provided Goldstrom and followed the other actors downtown to Pastis. The place was overrun by “Porn ‘n Chicken” people, including the big man himself, Divney. The party continued well into the evening, with Comedy Central footing the bill.
Divney left at around 2:30 a.m.
“Buona notte, signori e signore,” he crooned as he kissed the hand of each girl present and climbed into his limousine.
An hour later, as I sat in Delmonico’s Deli on Lexington waiting for Grand Central to reopen, one thing was clear — Comedy Central throws a good party.
“It’s better than sitting home and playing X Box — although that’s not bad,” Arend said of the event.
The ads for “Porn ‘n Chicken” proclaim that there are some things even the best schools can’t teach you. Apparently, that just ain’t true.