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Comedy Stars Glad To Spill Heckler War Tales To Jamie Kennedy/'True Blood's' Carrie Preston Touts New Kind of Vampire Story

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Getting such stars as Craig Ferguson, Lewis Black, Henry Winkler, Criss Angel, Jon Lovitz, Kathy Griffin and Louie Anderson to weigh in on today's world of criticism was no problem for Jamie Kennedy. It seems he touched a raw nerve. "Everyone just loved telling their stories. Everyone had stories," he says.

Kennedy's "Heckler" documentary serves as a snapshot of a cultural phenomenon of our times, as America veers toward becoming a denigration nation — with hostile naysayers from heckling audience members to critics, to those exponentially increasing numbers of mean Internet bloggers and chat contributors.

Not that the comic meant to do anything so ambitious at the start.

Kennedy says he and Michael Addis began "Heckler," which gets released on DVD Sept. 9, around three years ago, after he'd been besieged on stage by "a couple of hecklers. I thought they were pretty funny." He started to do interviews with fellow comics about their hecklers, then interviewed hecklers themselves, then put a heckler on stage, then started ferreting out critics who'd been especially brutal. "When I'd be in a city where the critic had gone after me, I'd say, 'Let's go interview him.'"

Kennedy — who joins the cast of CBS's "Ghost Whisperer" this fall — found himself facing off with hostile detractors, including a reviewer in Dallas who wrote that he was so unfunny he shouldn't have a career. "But he really couldn't understand why I wouldn't like him."

He notes, "You still have great people who care about entertainment and write thoughtful criticism, whether it's a guy on the Internet, a small paper in Ohio or the New York Times. But there are too many outlets now — too many people out there are saying stuff that shows they don't care about anything. More and more, you're getting met by people with that 'This is my moment' kind of attitude, whose review is 'It sucks.'"

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: "Six Feet Under" creator Alan Ball is expected to have another hit on his hands with the premiere of his new HBO show "True Blood." And actress Carrie Preston says it is much different than any vampire project we've seen before. "It's spicier than, say, 'Interview With the Vampire,' which is more romantic and gothic. It's definitely got a real Southern flavor to it," she touts of the dark comedy. "True Blood" follows the world of vampires who are able to co-exist with humans by drinking a Japanese-manufactured synthetic blood. "The whole premise of the show is that the vampires are out of the coffin, so to speak. It adds a whole new element because they're not trying to hide out. I think the show is really fun. It's really different for HBO.

It's got humor, it's got sex, it's got violence. I think it's going to appeal to a lot of different people."

Preston hopes the show becomes a hit because she says it's been the perfect project for her. "I get to come in and support, add a little humor to the show, and then it affords me time to do all of the other projects I've got going on because I'm a director and a producer. Also, my husband is on 'Lost,' so it gives me time to go visit him," she adds of being married to the show's villain, Michael Emerson.

Not only has she been able to work with him on the small screen, but she's also been able to see him interact with the rest of the cast, which she admits can be quite interesting. "They treat him with a little more formality just because his character is formidable, and I think they're deferential to him because of that. But it's a perfect role for him. We're even going to the Emmys again."

EXPANDING HORIZONS: With "The Cheetah Girls: One World" Disney Channel Original Movie coming up Aug. 22, costar Rupak Ginn says he's most stoked about the film's potential to break down cultural barriers. "What's great about it for me personally is that kids in America are going to get a taste of Indian culture," says the Harvard-educated, San Francisco-born Indian American, who plays the Bollywood superstar in "One World."

"We haven't seen too much of India in the mainstream. After 'The Simpsons,' every character became Apu from the Quickie Mart, so it's nice they're finally giving us a real voice," notes Ginn, 25. "I really applaud the producers and Disney because it was really kind of progressive. Most Indian roles are marginalized, one-dimensional characters, so it was very cool to be offered a part that wasn't."

He adds, "I am so excited to see the response from the kids out there, to see what they do with this When you introduce kids at such a young level to new things, their minds are open. Maybe there'll be more people interested in going to India. Indian clothing is very beautiful; maybe it will influence fashions for kids. It's great to introduce something like this at that point in their lives because it is a global village we're coming into. And 'Cheetah Girls' embraces that."

AND: Ginn was among the handsome faces at this week's "Cheetah Girls: One World" Hollywood-Meets-Bollywood premiere at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, followed by an Indian-style bash at the famed Roosevelt Hotel down the street. The Cheetah Girls and other Disney Channel stars were on hand as well, and there were lots of comments about the vibrant musical numbers in the movie. "Wizards of Waverly Place" cutie David Henrie let us know he's just recorded a song for his show's new season — but as for future musical aspirations like doing an album, he laughs. "Oh, no. Nooo. I'm not a Jonas Brother. I just did it for fun. I played guitar on the track, and that's it." Henrie's non-acting goals include directing films of his own.

With reports by Emily Feimster.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2008 MARILYN BECK AND STACY JENEL SMITH

DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



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