My writing an article in support of Huffin’ It will almost certainly prompt a nervous call from my mother where she’ll ask if I’m on drugs and, after that — a furious call from dad where he’ll question why I’ve made the career choices I have. He’ll also breathe heavily and shout concerned advice about how I need to go back to finance. Raw, insane, a little frightening, and righteously hilarious (I feel like a surfer saying that), Huffin’ It is the troubled but cool kid in your eighth grade class distilled into web series form.
Created by and starring Holden McNeely and Henry Zebrowski, written by McNeely, Zebrowski, and Ed Larson, directed by the very busy Adam Wirtz (he’s done Kicking Dan Out, Compulsive Love, Jared Posts A Personal), and airing on the venerable YouTube comedy factory, My Damn Channel, Huffin’ It is probably the most alternative of any series we’ve covered in this column. Kudos to the creators for being so sick and the financiers for allowing it.
Can you give me a quick snapshot of your comedy backgrounds before this series?
Holden: Henry and I met in college. That’s where our sketch group Murderfist was formed, in Tallahassee Florida. There’s a big group of us, it’s down to 8 of us now.
Henry: At the height of our size we were about 15 deep but now we’re down to 8. We say down to 8 but it’s still a massive sketch group.
Holden: We started performing regularly at the only gay bar in Tallahassee. It’s since closed down, but it was our hub.
Henry: It was closed down because it was riddled with ghosts. We were performing in sort of a vacuum for a long time. There was us and only one other sketch group so we really had to vet what we thought was funny. We had no reference points besides Mr. Show and our collective love of early SNL and lots and lots of music and lots and lots of weed.
Holden: Tons of drugs and partying and just figuring out what our comedy voice was by just doing anything and everything and allowing ourselves to fail a million times before we figured out how to write good sketches and work together.
Henry: Now we just fill up on failure, that’s our goal is to keep failing towards success.
How did the idea for this series come about? Talk a little bit about your pitch process to My Damn Channel.
Holden: Well, we were pitching some ideas to My Damn Channel and we sort of got to the point where we were like, “You know what? We’re just gonna go do something insane and film it and send it to you and you can say yes or no.” Because we got to the point where it was just sort of our shit is so insane that it’s really hard to describe it in a pitch context
Henry: We find that is what is helping us fail upwards—our inability to properly discuss some of our ideas but that’s exactly what we did. We said, we’re gonna go back to the Muderfist lab, we’re gonna come back with a thing and hopefully you’re gonna like it. And it just started when Holden wrote “Huffin It with Biff and Stu” on a piece of paper. When he showed me that I knew exactly what we were going to do.
Holden: The basic idea for it was: “Can we come up with something that’s simple, that mainly takes place in one location, that we can do, that is pretty much a blank canvas for us to do as insane of shit as we could possibly do?”
Henry: Because Holden and I and Ed Larson we all write on the series and we wanted to find a place where we could put out as many ideas as possible. This is all technical speak because what it really comes down to is we just wanted to do something that would allow us to extend our imaginations. The world has it’s own rules, but those rules are very fluid.
Holden: I kind of took a note from Dan Harmon and he was talking about how the first season exists to set up the space and keep it in that location and it wasn’t until the second season that they started leaving the campus more. So I think in our second season we’ll get out of the apartment more.
Henry: Absolutely and we’ll discover more about their lives and we’re gonna find out more about their individual, interior psyches. Even if [My Damn Channel] doesn’t want more, we’re gonna make more. We’re just gonna make more and put them out as still shots, print them out and put them on the street. Hand it as a disk to people and say, “You like Huffin It?” Like how people say, “You like hip-hop?”
How has My Damn Channel’s response been?
Henry: They’ve been very, very supportive.
Holden: We got this fantastic email from Rob, the owner, who just told us that he was so happy that they gave us the go ahead. They want to support it and it’s really awesome because that’s really where Henry and my brains are at. And the whole group is getting someone to explode out.
Henry: It’s getting someone to drop and then trying as hard as possible. So the first half of the series is out now but the second half of the series, honestly, I think it’s so much funnier and better and weirder.
Do you have any wisdom or advice that you can impart to newbies looking to get into the web series game? Sound off.
Henry: Come up with a simple idea, one thing we did with our series is we make it look like Biff and Stu are making it their own web series, editing it, and making their own costumes. So the concept allows for a micro, micro budget.
Holden: The shooting style works around the camera that we have.
Henry: Shoot with what you have. What we’re trying to do with Huffin It is capture a Murderfist vibe that we have never been able to do before and now I feel like we’ve finally found it and that’s what you want to do. If you want to do something really unique on the Internet you really just need to strike out there and be prepared to fail. You need to be prepared for people to hate it because it’s so unique and it’s so you that sometimes it can be polarizing, but the fans that you get are gonna be incredibly passionate and want to fight for you. We had a number of comedians come forward who love our web series and have shown us a lot of love and respect, it’s been awesome.
Holden: To add on to that, unless you are one, you need to get a great camera person/director person who can come in. For us that’s Adam Wirtz, who is the shit. He’s the best and is ready to go and make it happen. And make it look good and sound good. Because the problem is that it also has to sound like not total shit. That’s more important that anything else, that sound is something you need to nail down. If you’re going to spend money on anything, spend money on that.
People are starting to turn to their computers more for content, but we’re not at the point yet where it’s replacing TV. What do you think is the future of web video and how should content creators adapt to it and predict it, if they can? Should they just kind of do what they’re doing and hope it pans out?
Henry: Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix are making their own content and basically side-stepping that TV idea but once TV’s can also be a web browser the idea of what a web series is and what a TV series is—eventually we’re gonna stop saying web series. It’s just going to be content that streams on your television.
Holden: It takes a long time to say all of those words; do you really think it’ll be all of those words?
Henry: Yes I think it will be all those words.
Holden: Will we call them something new like Doogies? Nunies? We’re gonna go watch some Nunies.
Henry: It’ll just be 7-minute videos of dogs barking all mixed in with House of Cards season 11 it will be very interesting.
Holden: It’ll be a streaming set of images and you’re going to put a helmet on to inject liquid into your brain to give you visual thought.
Henry: There’s this thing called The Matrix that we’re all a part of. Once we for sure know that there are worms harvesting us for energy, that’s for sure when the web content conversation will be whether or not TV will be replaced by the Internet.
Holden: Don’t get Henry talking about the Reptilians.
That’s the best answer I’ve heard.
And now, here are three reasons to watch, if you dare. Just don’t let your parents see you and, if you’re a grown up and live by yourself like me, don’t write any public articles about watching. Talking about it in AOL chat rooms, using a pseudonym like CyberDude602 is totally fine.
It’s tough to look at such a whacked out series with any degree of practicality, but the simplicity of this concept made it cheap to produce. That’s a must when you’re pitching an idea that may make people’s heads explode.
Going hand in hand with originality is bravery. I might not have had the balls to put Huffin’ It out into the ether. The fact that McNeely and Zebrowski did speaks volumes about their confidence in their unique brand of comedy — usually an indication that they’ll be around for a while.
Sorry to parents everywhere, but hurray for weird kids!
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