Fishing With John (1991)

“The fishermen wake up excited to be alive …” John Lurie may be best known for his hilarious deadpan performances as “Willie” and “Jack” respectively in two classic cult films from director Jim Jarmusch: Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Down by Law (1986). Lurie (who knows absolutely nothing about fishing!) directed and starred in this short-lived, laid-back series that spoofs those outdoor fishing shows you can often catch on late-night TV during the weekends. Lurie invites one of his celebrity friends to an exotic locale for fishing accompanied by some extremely surrealistic, frequently amusing narration provided by Robb Webb. The six episodes include Jarmusch, shark fishing off the coast of Montauk, New York; Tom Waits, fishing for red snapper in Jamaica; Matt Dillon, fishing in Costa Rica; Willem Dafoe, ice fishing in Maine; and Dennis Hopper, searching for a giant squid in Thailand. Not much happens (Waits gets seasick!) and that is part of the strange appeal of this series. Apparently Waits was so pissed off by his portrayal that he refused to speak to Lurie for several years. Also, if the episode with Dillon seems a little awkward and forced it’s because he and Lurie were not even close friends (Lurie reportedly had wanted Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers but his investors insisted on a name actor). Oh yeah, the offbeat soundtrack by Lurie is pretty cool too. The Criterion Collection has released a couple of different versions of Fishing With John, which first aired on IFC and Bravo in 1991. Bottom line: Fishing With John is highly recommended for fans of Lurie or any of the celebrities listed above. However, if you are addicted to fishing shows and are expecting to learn some new angling tips, stay the hell away from this one. In 1978, Lurie, a saxophonist, cofounded the Lounge Lizards, an eclectic jazz group, with his pianist brother Evan.

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