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This Week In Web Videos: 'Compliments'


Banter is such a polarizing comedic art. To appreciate the humor in unremarkable conversation is to know the nuances of human interaction, both in their audible forms — rich, often conflict-ridden dialogue — and in those manifestations which must be seen to be truly appreciated — the facial ticks, the pregnant pauses that adorn acted words with that special kind of hyper-realism that makes one half of the population crack up, and the other squirm out of its skin. As readers of this column know, I fall squarely in the camp of "Banter Lovers" and the reason why I go out of my goddamned gourd for a well-executed banter piece is this: it demands active and intimate audience engagement. People have to pay close attention to really bathe in its cool waters of subtle brilliance. Those who don't have the interest (or ability) to do so instantly identify themselves as people with whom Banter Lovers could never be stuck on a desert island. And isn't identifying those kinds of people what self preservation and, really, life is all about? Yes, and "Take Care, Brush Your Hair" comedy duo Max Azulay and Alex Mullen and guest actress Sammi Cains are folks with whom I wouldn't mind sharing a (very plush) desert island (where we all had our own rooms so we could get away from each other for "me" time, because you need "me" time, even when united in Banter Love). Compliments is just one example of why.

Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.

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This Week in Web Videos: 'The Comedy Nut '

a0997124563_10Created by Gregg Zehentner (The Nut, himself), Pat Stango, and Clayton Gumbert, The Comedy Nut doesn’t seem to be much of a novel undertaking at first glance. A weird interviewer makes straight men feel sort of uncomfortable — that’s our premise, and it’s one that everyone from Martin Short's Jiminy Glick to Zach Galifianikis’s morose cynic in Between Two Ferns are very familiar with. What makes The Comedy Nut unique is a subtle lampooning of the trope we’ve all come to know and love. READ MORE

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This Week in Web Videos: 'The Amazing Gayl Pile'

Amazing-Gayle-PileCasting ain’t easy, but it’s necessary: wise words spoken by…no one in particular, but felt deep down in the heart cockles of everyone who’s ever produced any piece of performance art. Strong writing is nothing without human vessels to bring those words to life. This is especially true in faux-reality content that lives and dies on characters who must inhabit a world much closer to the messiness of actual life than the delicately crafted chaos in most TV and film. When creators need real, they usually mine the improv set. Few have the cojones to stake their project’s success on a bunch of randos solicited on Craigslist, but The Amazing Gayl Pile creators Morgan Waters (Gayl Pile) and Brooks Gray are cut from a different cloth.

What are your comedy backgrounds?

Morgan: My start was making stupid videos with my video camera with my parents and then learning how to edit, learning what cuts to make and what music you could add to make it funny.

How old were you when you started doing that?

Morgan: I guess I was about 12. I think I did a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers spoof called Mighty Moron Power Rangers. Pretty advanced level of satire for a 12-year-old.

And you taught yourself to edit?

Morgan: Back then, it was editing using two VCRs so I taught myself.

Brooks: I guess I have a similar story, when I was in high school, any chance I could get to get my hands on a video camera, I took. It was basically turn every video that I was assigned into a comedy video and basically kept that going to university and met some like-minded buddies. They were majoring in film and I was a history major but I learned about everything by helping them out with their projects because I just naturally gravitated towards that. Just making videos and using those two VCRs to edit.

Morgan: And Brooks, you would do prank phone calls to religious call-in shows and mess with them.

Brooks: Yes, I am not too proud of that chapter in my life. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'K&A'

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 2.00.57 PM
I’m supposed to write things that are at least marginally insightful about the world of web video. That’s part of the whole “column” deal, you see, because insights qualify my words as a “review” and not just a verbal fire hydrant of fandom. While I have plenty of professional things to say about K&A — created by Katie Shannon and Katie Thompson and starring Audrey Claire and Ashley Elmi — like how its leads are perfectly paired improv dynamos, how it looks better than most indie films with 50 times the budget and is rife with cool and fresh storytelling accents that help us segue from act to act, the thought I most want to convey is one of a rabid, lunatic supporter of one of the most human, laugh-out-loud smart series I’ve profiled to date. K&A is the kind of project that gets audiences hooked on comedy.

How did you get your starts in comedy?

Ashley: I got my start when I was withdrawing from UMass Amherst in 2009 and I didn’t know what to do, so I just decided to crash on my sister’s couch in the north side of Boston. I thought it was the perfect place for me to be at that time. Then she told me that Improv Asylum was just down the street from us so I did one of those classic things where I asked them if I could sweep the floors or hand out flyers to work there and no one responded. Then, I found an ad for a film intern there so I got that position and got my foot in the door that way. Being an intern or employee means you get to take the improv classes for free, so basically since 2010 I started taking the classes and then did the house teams which is a way for people who haven’t performed before to get their feet wet.

Audrey: I went down to Boston and auditioned for a new media project that was made by one of the creators of K&A, Katie Thompson. It was for an ensemble web comedy series and they ended up casting me as this sort of needy best friend character. I was ecstatic, I didn’t have a lot of experience doing comedy or film but they just thought that I was a good fit for the role. I shot that with Katie over two weeks and it was the most fun I’d ever had. I got to improvise on camera, which was something I had never done before, coming from a dramatic acting background. Katie and I just clicked and that series went the way of the buffalo unfortunately, but then she came back to me a year later and said, “I’ve got this idea for a comedy about two females based on my life and I want you to be in it.” So that’s sort of how it happened for me. I do web sketch comedy with close friends who are all in film production. We do really weird things, from people eating dog poop to Shia LaBeouf impressions, to really bad stuff that’s sort of creatively inspired me throughout the years. K&A is by far my favorite project I’ve done. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'With Friends Like These'

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 11.11.48 AMThe digital age of entertainment is no longer “on the horizon” or “about to break” or whatever other stupid phrase any number of automaton trends bloggers vomited out over the past three years. It’s here. Ask Reed Hastings, ask Kevin Spacey, ask Jeff Bezos, and… Mr. Hulu. We no longer watch TV. We watch content. That means two important things. First, the term “web series” is useless. Second, we, as independent producers, have to start upping our game. Created by and starring Christopher Graves and TJ Del Reno, With Friends Like These is an interesting foray into the world of intricately narrative, highly produced content built for a new generation of video.

What’s your comedy background?

Christopher: I’ve been a commercial and voice actor for a couple of years and I started doing comedy with TJ Del Reno, a buddy who went through all of the training at UCB with me. We had done a little bit of writing here and there but decided that we really wanted to work on a project together and play off of our crazy opposite lives. So we kind of made so jokes about that and that eventually lead to this project.

What were your specific inspirations for the series?

Christopher: We would go out to places and his outlook is kind of a very unpolished, goof ball kind of, and I come from a background that’s a bit more prepared, a bit more PC. So we would run into a lot of different experiences like going to the movies together and almost getting into fights with someone because he’s mad that they’re talking too loud or they brought food in or something like that. So we thought that it would be a funny dynamic to write something like that that was a little deeper than just a two or three minute sketch. Like he grew up as a scrappy mall rat and I’m from Texas and grew up with a completely different background, so we decided to throw those two together. Sometimes I’m the hero of an episode, but then sometimes his goofiness randomly saves the day. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'The Residuals '

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 12.31.21 PMEvery morning, New York City's streets are filled with millions of people, walking toward work and hoping beyond hope that their next step will somehow take them a little closer to realizing their dreams. That’s until about 9:30. At 1, the streets are filled with actors on their way to commercial auditions. You see, these folks are professionals at re-sculpting their dreams so that they feature roles in commercials for toothpaste or hot wings or wireless companies looking for a spokesperson who’s a "cross between Jonah Hill and Rachel McAdams." They’re not just performers, they’re warriors; and their day-to-day travails are perfectly captured in The Residuals – a subtly brilliant insider’s series created by and starring husband and wife team, Gillian Pensavalle and Michael Paul Smith.

How did you guys get started in comedy?

Mike: I first did improv in high school and then, right out of high school, started working with the group that would eventually become Basement View Improv and our focus was on live shows. We ended up doing shows at Caroline’s and Gotham. The guy who plays my roommate in this series—Nick—was one of the original five members who founded the group. Eventually, everyone decided to go focus on their separate projects, which for me was doing more video stuff. Gillian and I met doing a web series for the now defunct website Black 20 Network.

Gillian: I didn’t really do a lot of improv until after college. In school I was doing plays and stuff like that, but I guess my first comedic experience was a lot of sketch comedy and the web series, things like that.

What was the inspiration for this series?

Mike: This series came out of real experiences, because Gillian and I have been on a ton of auditions for commercials and had a lot of uniquely bizarre, awkward encounters in the waiting room and the audition room. It’s been a few years doing that now and you really see the whole spectrum of the good and the bad and as a writer I thought there was room for that as a series, so we used that as a jumping off point. I originally wanted it to be treatments I would write and then we would film it Curb Your Enthusiasm-style, but then my co-producer and editor told me that would be a total editing nightmare and Curb Your Enthusiasm has the advantage of people dedicated to over dubbing the sound and I’m sure a whole team of editors working to make sure there’s continuity. So we went into a much more scripted process after that. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'Are You Better Than Don Draper?'


Most good comedy is thought provoking at its core but few creators are better at walking the line between hilarity and appealingly erudite social commentary than UCB stalwart Zack Phillips. This week, in honor of Mad Men, a series that has already inspired countless sketches (some good, many not), we present one of the good ‘uns. It’s fast, it’s smart, and it may even make you think twice about criticizing folks who smoke in elevators, drink in the office, and have sex in the middle of Ted talks. Does that happen on Mad Men? I haven’t watched in like 3 years, but the sketch…the sketch is good.

Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.

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This Week In Web Videos: 'Studio Heads'

I realize I’m about to tread on some touchy territory but just hear me out. Maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little prejudiced when it comes to our entertainment choices, and it’s sort of understandable. Because pleasure is usually derived — especially in terms of comedy — from content we relate to, it makes sense that the more focused a particular piece of content is on situations endemic to a certain demographic (race, creed, age group, whatever), the better it’s going to hit within that group. That concept is kind of what the whole TV and advertising industries are founded on. “Oh, we’d like to target 35-year-old white women with this, so lets load up on jokes about Lululemon and ads for Luna bars?” and “Hmm, this is really more of an AA-targeted show. Yes, we say ‘AA’ when we mean African American — fun right?” and “Okay, to reach the Latino set, ages 18-34, we really need to be joking more about boisterous matriarchs in brightly colored house coats or low riders or something.”

It’s sad but, probably more often than we’d like to admit, the entertainment industry accurately guesses what we’ll respond to…because we’re all secretly, without even knowing it perhaps, a little prejudiced. In order to bust out of that mold, to become less predictable, less easily manipulated by brand algorithms, we need new material that crosses demographic lines and appeals to us on a more universally human level. “It’s not funny because they mentioned a stereotype I should be familiar with as a 25-year-old white male. It’s funny because it’s smart and good.”

Luckily, hope is not lost. Studio Heads, created by Mike Diaz, Jaime Fernandez, and Anthony Palmini, bodes well for a less segregated comedic future.

How did you get started in comedy?

Jaime:  I started doing stand up around the City at a couple of spots and from that I ended up starting a sketch comedy group called Room 28. The main guy [Mike Diaz] who has the YouTube video in studio heads, he was in it, and we would do a lot of shows uptown. It was a lot of comedy like this; a lot of sketch that we were doing uptown and then I just kept writing and made a couple web series. From doing stand up, I got a manager so I’ve done some voice over’s because of that. I’ve been doing different kinds of comedy, stand up, sketch, then web series, and through doing all of those, I’ve gotten into writing more and my passion is really writing.

How did Studio Heads come about?

Jaime:  Well the videos that Mike did in the studio, those ended up getting a lot of hits, and then we started hanging out together in the studio a lot, just doing bits and video things. Then we just thought that we have this one, stand alone environment of the studio that we keep going back to and we thought it’d be a good setting for a web series. A lot of different stories could come from just these two guys owning a studio in the city. That studio’s actually in this building uptown where, if you looked at the building, you really wouldn’t think that there could be a studio in there. It’s a kind of a ghetto looking apartment on the outside but then, on the inside, it’s this really nice studio. We really wanted to use the studio location as the basis for our web series and then, because we’re both looking to get into the entertainment field, we decided to make the characters like that, two people looking to get into the industry helping people do their thing but they also have their own aspirations. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'Small, Medium, Tall'

We’ve discussed the adage “write what you know” many times in this column and have provided well over 100 examples of creators following it toward fantastic results. “Write who you know” has never been covered and that’s a huge oversight on my part. While writing what you know allows for the construction of believable worlds and set pieces, writing who you know brings these to life through the mouths and motions of characters without whom there would be no story. It occurs to me after watching Samantha Schecter’s Small, Medium, Tall  (starring Schecter, Danya LaBelle, and Elyse Brandau and shot by Russell Hasenauer) that writing who you know is the most important part of penning believable, nuanced material. So the next time you try to color a character, don’t think so much about celebrities on shows you watch or movies you’ve seen. Think about your friends, family, and co-workers and write to make alive the quirky brilliance that can only be inspired by real people.

How did you guys get your start in comedy?

Sam: I got started when I first moved to the city from Boston after college at the Boston Conservatory for Musical Theater. I moved here to be on Broadway and the month that I moved here I instantly started doing comedy instead of auditioning for theater and then I started taking sketch classes at UCB after seeing Sketchfest. I was super inspired after seeing that and took all the sketch classes, did that for about six months, did all the improv levels, and met all my friends along the way. I met Donny and Elise at One-on-One classes for camera stuff and it was fate.

Elise: I was that drama kid, always doing that stuff. I did theater throughout high school. Came up here to do American Academy of Arts and even in my scenes, my dramatic Tennessee Williams scenes, people would laugh. I remember the first night I came up to NYC, when I was in my dorm, everyone was getting together and saying, “You’ve gotta go to this show, we’re going to Asssscat, come see the show with us!” I went down into the UCB basement and I was like, “Dayum, this is… wow.” I was blown away but I kept saying “No, I’m going to be a serious actress,” but it always kept coming back to comedy. I graduated and a friend of mine who was working on some comedy shows was telling me that I needed to do more comedy. Just to have that person who was higher up believing in me inspired me to start taking classes at UCB and then everything else kind of snowballed after that. READ MORE

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The 5 Best New Web Videos/Series You Almost Definitely Haven't Seen

We’re doing things a bit differently this week. Instead of profiling one web series or one really hilarious, merit-worthy sketch, we’re grouping some of the top submissions we’ve received over the past few weeks and uniting them in an ode to what’s beautiful and great about those pieces that, up until now, have flown under all of our radars, untouched by the hand of virality or comedy nerd buzz (yet) but still really really good. Today at Splitsider, we’re becoming kingmakers of sorts. At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves as we wear these huge crowns we bought from Party City. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'Esther with Hot Chicks'

Esther Povitsky doesn’t give a fuck, and that’s why I think she’ll be very famous. Let me explain. You see fame, at least as I see it, so often tends to lie just beyond the grasp of even the most talented people if those people fall prey to charting their upward progress like an investment analyst. Making it BIG requires constant attention and work, of course, but it also takes a person able to create a marketable body of work while remaining true to their art—the thing that got eyeballs on them in the first place. That means being able to say “no” to offers you’re uncomfortable with even if it they’re flashy. It also means feeling secure enough with your style to bring to life the weird inner sanctums of your mind without really caring about what the suits say. Not…giving a fuck. And the irony is: that sort of thinking often brings about massive fame. Maybe Esther with Hot Chicks– created by Esther Povitsky, directed by Doug Lussenhop, and produced by Annelise Hewitt—will catapult Povitsky and maybe it won’t, but the impulses that drove her to make it—and the way she interviews—tell me we’ll be seeing her on a much larger stage sometime soon.

How did you get your start in comedy?

Esther: I started doing comedy just by taking sketch and improv classes at Second City and then at iO Chicago when I was in high school and then when I moved to college, I started doing standup because I didn’t get into any of the sketch or improv groups in my college and I thought, “What is something I can do by myself that is still related to comedy?” Then I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to do that full time at any capacity in my college town and that’s when I ate way too many cookies one night and decided to quit college. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'Being a Better You'

Creative feedback is paramount, especially in comedy. That’s because very few people have the comedic equivalent of perfect pitch — that special ability to pinpoint what will work from a funny POV without actually working on it with anyone else. Most of us need partners to brainstorm, to write, to revise, and once a script is set, most of us need help producing, directing, lighting, and editing it. Most of us are not Being a Better You creator Zach Broussard. As a matter of fact, none of us are. Just Zach. And he really knows what he’s doing.

How’d you get started in comedy?

Zach: Well I’m from Louisiana and went to LSU for college and I did some video stuff with friends, but I feel like that’s kind of something everyone just casually does in college. And as I got towards the end, I found I was the only person left who wanted to keep doing videos, so I started plotting my escape to New York and then when I got here I didn’t know anyone, so I did stand up just as an alternative. Slowly through that I started meeting new people, I did a two-man sketch thing with Zachary Simms called Zach and Zach and we did a little web series and had a sketch show once a month in Williamsburg. So I did that for a while and also did some guest performances with the group Meatsteak, I don’t know if you remember that group. I was buddies with a lot of those guys from stand up so I just started doing a lot of different bit parts in their shows. I think my biggest part was in a show they did called “Meatsteak Goes to Hell.” And from there I got on a UCB sketch team, a Maude team. I was on Fambly for 3 years and now I’m on Ripley. Those Fambly years were pretty pivotal and everybody on that team was doing a lot. Just being on a team with Marnie Hart and watching her kill it every week was pretty awesome. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'The Actress', Season 3

I told myself I’d never cover the same series twice, but when I made that promise, I hadn’t conceived of a couple like Ann Carr and Warren Holstein — the hearts and brains behind one of the web’s longest running and consistently excellent series, The Actress. In a digital environment saturated with folks making shameless grabs at quasi-fame and fleeting HuffPo notoriety and then trying something new if they don’t get instantly huge, this series stands out not only because it’s quality, but also because its creators are so apparently committed to putting the time in, nurturing The Actress in its native state to make it the absolute best it can be for them, not for a development executive who may be scrolling through this site.

Tell me about how you each got into comedy and what the beginnings of this series were? 

Ann Carr: Everything really started with this one-person show I did at UCB probably about 4 years ago. It was called “Use It”; it was just a bunch of different vignettes of different experiences from my day job and auditions. Then after that stage show was done, it ran about a year, I was kind of at a loss. I was really missing it and wanted to do more. I felt like one of my vignettes from my show would make a good episode so I put it online and we sort of started from there.

Warren Holstein: Me and Anne have been together for twelve years. I don’t really do a lot of acting, but I do do standup and writing so even when she was doing the stage show I would help her with punching it up. Just putting jokes in it. About four of the episodes come from the one woman show that Ann did and it’s kind of strange because in the show the characters were all played by Ann but for the web series we had to cast people to play these characters Ann had played in the show. We would get into arguments about what should happen in episodes because we both were so invested in it and the compromises we ended up making ended up making the episodes even better. By the second season the arguing became less, it didn’t become as heated, and we both got into this process where either Ann or I would write the first draft and then we would go back and forth between the two of us. Eight times. This is probably the most regimented that we’ve done it, this season. Like this season, “The Dermatologist,” is based on my real dermatologist that I recommended to Ann. We did exaggerate but that scene where he’s squeezing her face, that guy really did that to her, he really squeezed Ann’s face. READ MORE

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This Week In Web Videos: 'Reporter Slapped in the Face for Upskirting'


Making a fake thing look real is one of the hardest things. And I’m not talking about “scripted” real, as in movies and TV, as in mediums that evoke the reaction “Yeah, I suppose that could theoretically happen in real life.” I’m talking real as shit real, as in “Holy hell, did you see that reporter just get slapped for trying to take an upskirt shot of a woman walking down the street?!” That’s the kind of real that gets people talking and when that kind of real is totally fake it’s one of the highest art forms I know. (I know VERY little about art.) This week’s featured piece, recently produced by the great Matt Evans, is a nod to that kind of startling verité.

This video deserves a whole lot more views and you’ll soon see why.