Just What Is PAINTING WITH JOHN?

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HBO offers something new with a non-scripted comedy called PAINTING WITH JOHN but what is it all about and who in the heck is John? He is John Lurie and his show runs Friday nights at 11:00pm ET. However, HBO asking him via a Q&A to tell us just who he is and what his little gig is all about proves not very helpful, though it is true to his style it appears. 

HBO: Who is John Lurie?
John Lurie: I am John Lurie. Thank you for asking. 

HBO: Who else appears in Painting With John?
Lurie: Nesrin Wolf as Scooch the Oocher. Ann Mary James. Leroy Jacob. And Rudolph, the man who sleeps in the mango tree. 

HBO: What is Painting With John about?
Lurie: I tell stories from my life. Then I paint for a bit. Then I roll tires down a hill. PaintingWithJohn.Art_

HBO: Who is Painting With John for?
Lurie: I made a half hour TV commercial for my paintings. The show is for me. 

HBO: Will Painting With John teach me how to paint?
Lurie: God, no!

HBO: What happens in each episode? 
Lurie: I crash a drone. I complain about my polite smile. I paint for a bit. Introduce the audience to Nesrin and Ann Mary. Then I look at a sunset. 

HBO: How would you classify John’s artwork? 
Lurie: It is very pretty.

HBO: Do I need to be an art aficionado to appreciate the series?
Lurie: No, art aficionados will hate the series. Like they hate everything else. 

HBO: Do I need to see Fishing With John to understand Painting With John?
Lurie: No, but a careful reading of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past would prove helpful. 240}”> 

HBO: Why should I watch Painting With John?
Lurie: Who said you should?

Uh, okay? Does that make you want to check it out? Maybe, some more in-depth input via a Variety session will help? 

Variety: It’s been almost 30 years since you did “Fishing With John [aired on Bravo]” Why did you want to do another TV show?
Lurie: It happened by accident. I was doing this [painting] technique, but I had to visit New York. And I was going to forget the technique, so we filmed me doing it. And I thought we would just put it on Instagram, or on my website, these one- and two-minute things. It was kind of funny and delightful. People seem so depressed these days, and I just thought it would be a nice thing to give people. We had Erik Mockus come to film it, and he turned out to be so good that it just kept developing. Then I did this podcast with Mat Dwyer, and he said, “Do you mind if I send this to Adam McKay?” And I said, “Sure.” Then [McKay] says, “I’m going to get this seen.” And he sent it to HBO. And then I had a show on HBO, by accident. Whenever you try to do something, it never works. But this just sort of happened. 

Variety: Once you started thinking about it not as short videos, but as a TV show, what did you want it to be?
Lurie: I didn’t have that. What was nice about it for me was I really liked working with Erik, and we liked working on it. He stayed for a month, and we would film things like rolling the tire down a hill. And there were some stories I wanted to tell. But there wasn’t a plan for it, which I think is kind of what’s nice about it… 

Variety: But when you look at the episodes now, what do you think the effect of them is?PaintingWithJohn
Lurie: I have no idea. I’m really curious about what that’s going to be like. People are going to be like, “What the fuck is this shit? Why am I watching this?” When I paint, I kind of go into a trance, a self-hypnosis thing, and that’s when the best stuff comes out. And I didn’t think I was going to be comfortable painting on camera. But Erik filmed the painting for a while and then put it with music, and I was like, “Holy shit, this really works.” I didn’t expect it was going to work so well. But there’s some real connection between my music and the painting, they seem to come from the same source. 

Variety: Do you feel like the timing is fortuitous? The world is a lot more difficult to be in than it was even when you started making the show.
Lurie: I did make it to cheer people up a little bit, to just show that, look, you can have fun. Because the pandemic was starting when we started. But you know, you go to look for a movie and it’s all “zombie apocalypse, zombie apocalypse.” It’s like who needs the zombie apocalypse? We have a real one. I wanted to go the other way from that stuff. I wanted to make something funny and beautiful. I also wanted to do an end run around the art world. More people are going to see my paintings than any living painter, and I didn’t have to deal with the art world at all. 

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So, there you have it. John Lurie wears many hats producing music, commentary and watercolors. He wants to pass on some peace and fun all while displaying his talents and have his paintings viewed by others. Linking up with the right people, like Adam McKay, who has a deal with HBO, and viola you get a show filled with art & ramblings. That about sums it up.  

 HBO gave us NYC’s John Williams and his camera; now, if you dare, you’ve got John Lurie and his paintbrushes. Find PAINTING WITH JOHN with new episodes Friday nights at 11:00pm. Enter at your own risk.  

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