This Week in Web Videos: ‘Hart Street Lemonade Stand’
I want to call Hart Street Lemonade Stand (HSLS) the funniest thing since Stella, and that’s untrue. There’s been so much other funny stuff between 2005, when that show concluded, and now. Still, in that particular field of straight-faced insanity, downplayed dumbness, HSLS stands among very few. Marika Zappas and Trevor Lyon have a style and they’ve shown it boldly. The fact that I even have the urge to be so stupidly hyperbolic speaks volumes about the final result.
How did you guys get your starts in comedy?
Marika: I didn’t start doing comedy until about a year-and-a-half out of college. I’d moved from Portland to New York with the intention of taking a year off and applying to grad school. When I realized I didn’t want to do that, I felt like I needed a reason to stay in New York. I, on a whim, took an improv class, liked it, and kept going from there, doing sketch and videos too.
Trevor: I joined The Bureau, a comedy group at the University of Maryland and started doing stuff with them. Then, shortly after graduating, I moved up to NYC and started doing improv at UCB and slowly started making videos and doing more sketch, first (and still) with Cowboy Hotel and then with more people over time.
What inspired this project?
Marika: Channel 101 was a big reason, we liked the idea of the show and it was a nice structure to get started doing something. We’d made some stuff together and were excited about doing something episodic where we could explore characters more and develop things over a longer arc of time. Lemonade Stand was just a simple premise we’d brought up and thought would be a fun setting for that. We also liked the idea of something propelled by a really positive but not dumb outlook.
Trevor: We wanted to do something for Channel 101. I had done a show with them before with Cowboy Hotel, and from there we started to talk about what would be a fun thing to do repeatedly.
What other things have you worked on together?
Trevor: We’ve done improv together, which I guess was the first thing, and then did a few videos that were called Craigslist Commercials. They were essentially improvised Craigslist ads, like little character pieces. Then, the two of us and our friend Joe Martin were part of a group called Games and we did videos and improv with them as well. Like a parody on whey protein, muscle milk type ads.
What else are you watching online right now?
Trevor: A lot of Channel 101 stuff, we really like this series our friend Rekha does. There’s a group Meat that does a lot of really cool stuff. We know all of them within the NYC community.
Marika: They mess around a lot with the visuals, like the coloring of their videos, which is something we try to do too. There’s one show that’s been on Channel 101 for a while and that’s called NWAR. It’s a cartoon show.
What was the biggest struggle in making Hart Street?
Marika: We didn’t do a great job with planning, we found ourselves a couple of times just scrambling to get it all done.
Trevor: That’s definitely true. It was also difficult putting stuff together, but also helpful in a sense. A big part of the show came about in the editing and after the fact, seeing what we had. We ended up having the benefit of using botched takes for things, things that, when we were shooting them, we were pretty sure what a shit take. Those then ended up being our favorite and other people’s favorite parts of the show.
Marika: Editing in general was difficult because we were trying to do it all together. It’s typically a solo thing to do so working on it two people at a time can be frustrating.
Did you find yourselves retro-scripting a lot of this stuff or is every episode written out before hand?
Trevor: It’s written out, but there are definitely beats that get extended and jokes that get added. A lot of the actors we had on the show also came up with a lot of great stuff that we ended up using.
Marika: We start with a script, but I don’t think we’ve ever stuck 100% with one.
What is your writing process?
Trevor: When we first start, we usually just throw out a bunch of ideas of fun places we’d like to go in episodes and then we think of a basic, plausible thing that could happen to an actual business like to our lemonade stand if it was an actual business. That’s where all of our episode titles come from. Then, from there, we think about how the episode will go and how we can present it in a different way. This is where we came up with the stop motion parts in one episode and music playing underneath various montages and stuff like that.
Marika: In terms of the actual process of writing, it’s varied. At first we would both sit down and actually write it out together but, more recently, we’ve been doing it where one of us will be on the computer and one of us will be talking it out. Other stuff will just come to us randomly during the day, that we then make sure to incorporate later.
Trevor: Like we said before, the editing is a huge part of it too.
Give some advice to people looking to do what you do…creating comedy about having sex with human feces.
Marika: Just do it.
Trevor: Do stuff that you think is fun and then follow through with whatever you think is funny regardless of the marketability or the potential success of it.
Marika: We have a pretty consistent 4th or 5th place spot at Channel 101 and have gotten by every time, but every time we’ve been really happy about what we’ve made and proud of it, so it’s something that makes us laugh and even if it can’t pull in a commercial audience, that’s okay.
Here are your three reasons to watch HSLS”
Episode #1, Opening Day
Not many people would deign to talk about “fucking [literal] shit” in a series. Even fewer could make it funny.
Episode #2, Health Inspector
HSLS has an almost dreamlike quality to it. It’s beyond absurd. It’s other worldy, all while managing a tone that’s painstakingly grounded in the stops and starts of reality. That’s as much a credit to director Todd Gilbert as it is to Zappas and Lyon’s writing.
Episode #4, Morning Commute
Beyond creators’ gall to be super gross, this series finds a way to break stayed digital barriers with real narrative originality.
Luke is a writer/director for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.