Everyone says “Write what you know.” Well, not literally everyone but a lot of people do — people who give advice on writing. And that trick of the trade can seem daunting because most of us don’t know about explosions or steamy love affairs or astronauts exploding on their cheating spouses for having steamy love affairs…in space. No, most of us are most familiar with more normal stuff like family or school or work and, because none of those buckets seem exciting in and of themselves, our first reaction is often to buck the pro’s wisdom and write something that we think is cool and will set us apart. That’s almost always a huge mistake. Either we don’t get past page 4 because we realize we’ve got no idea how a submarine works and all our expert shipman are referring to the sub gadgets as “that knob” or we do finish the piece and it feels equally unauthentic.
Whether we think so or not, the key to creating work that will mean something and, for our purposes, make people laugh is sticking to what we know best. Chances are that thing — no matter how mundane or “done” the larger theme is — will be well received because it’s highly relatable and rings true to a lot of people. Broad City co-creator Abbi Jacobson knows this full well, focusing her new web series Annie and a Side of Fries on a very unique childhood experience couched within a larger, highly familiar topic — divorce. She’s writing what she knows. Not surprisingly, it works and is completely fascinating. READ MORE
If you like inviting friends to Facebook fan pages you’ve created for yourself or your series and enjoy tweeting links to the latest episodes of… whatever the fuck, then there’s probably something a little bit wrong with you. If you feel sort of uncomfortable about self-promotion and do it anyway because you know it’s the only way to get your hard work out there, then you’re just like me (fan page here, I apologize) and John Trowbridge — the writer/creator behind a hilarious new series called Last Night, featuring a troupe of New York web comedy mainstays like Ben Warheit, Molly Gaebe, and Boris Khaykin and directed by Dave Bluvband.
Posting about yourself may be stomach turning at first, but the world of modern web comedy has become a place where everyone needs to be pimping their work all the time if they have any hope of getting it seen amidst a deluge of content. So, grit your teeth, clench your butt cheeks together and start selling you. Just make sure you’ve got the work to back up the pitch, like my good man Mr. Trowbridge here. READ MORE
Web series are different from TV shows for lots of reasons: They’re lower budget, they’re shorter, they’re not on TV. Unless you have a Roku or Apple TV or a smart TV something; then you can actually stream them on TV so I guess that part’s not completely accurate. Whatever, they’re definitely shorter and lower budget. What they are not is easier to get off the ground and keep in the public’s eye.
With scores of new web projects bombarding us on every social media channel each and every day, a season of good work isn’t enough to stay top of mind. No, the new model for web success has to be constant viewer engagement, and if creators want their shows to be remembered during the hiatus between season 1 and season 2, they have to be tweeting, Facebook fan paging and vlogging, yes vlogging, to keep interest and attention alive. READ MORE
All comedians say they want to collaborate with other funny people. We want everyone to think we’re super nice and easy going and we say things like “cool cool cool” before giving notes on any idea so as not to risk offending the person we’re giving notes to, and of course they won’t be offended because, you know, we said “cool” three times so we’re obviously very nice and diplomatic. But no matter how many “cools” we rattle off, no matter how many times we say we really work best in a group, there’s a small egomaniacal piece of every one of us that believes our ideas are the best and we’re the funniest and whoever we’re working with should really do what we want to do. Amy Rubin’s simply fucking fantastic series, Little Horribles shows us why we need to work on getting rid of, or at least suppressing, that tiny part of us. Because when we assemble a team of talented advisors and consultants and inspirations like the team behind this series (including Ilana Glazer, Issa Rae, John Milhiser, and a unique blend of MFA writing and UCB peeps), good things happen. Really good things. READ MORE
We’ve covered so many superb web contributions in the almost two years that this column has been running. 78 of them to be exact. And today, we return to the series that started all this silly web magic: Tiny Apartment. Sort of. We’re really returning to the creator/stars behind it: Jesse Cantrell, Mike O’Gorman, and Pat Driscoll — veritable titans in the Internet comedy realm, familiar faces on many a TV commercial and late-night variety show, and now, bonafide TV big wigs with the sale of a Comedy Central pilot we’re eagerly awaiting.
With so many TV successes, it wouldn’t be unfathomable to think they’d stop breaking their backs on producing their own, low-budget stuff and spend more time relaxing in the sunny poolside glow of…well, wherever, there’s a sunny poolside glow. But no. The Tiny Apartment trio is still playing for the love of the game, now hard at work on their latest passion project, stand alone sketch site Omelette Sunday.
Check out the first episode up top and the second below and let me say this: If you like Tiny Apartment, you’ll like The Shawshank Redemption, and if you like The Shawshank Redemption, you’ll LOVE Schindler’s List and if you love Schindler’s List, you’re really going to enjoy Omelette Sunday.
Here’s to Jesse, Mike, and Pat. You guys were my first. READ MORE
Last week, I got to live out a childhood dream and talk to Maria Bamford, a woman I watched on many a standup special as a wee lad. She makes me laugh now just as much as she did then and her new My Damn Channel series, Ask My Mom! has a lot to do with that. Maria was kind enough to talk with Splitsider about the series and, without further ado, I present a very talented individual who’s also as humble as they come.
Did you make these on spec, just kind of for fun?
Yes. Well for me it was fun, but Precision Productions + Post and the producer Joseph Arnao put all the money towards it so it was risky for him, but yeah we were just doing it for fun.
A lot of established comics like you are taking the web space seriously. Is the web becoming more of a viable TV alternative?
It’s empowering for all of us, we can all make our own shows now whenever we want. People are making thousands of shows a day all over the world, which is awesome. I’ve made a web series before in 2008, I did a 20 episode web series, The Maria Bamford Show and I did that and that was a really positive experience. It’s great because you don’t have to settle in a business meeting where you have to have bottled water and talk about why you can’t do things. It’s wonderful, but I’m sure there’s less money in it, it appears. READ MORE
If you were to click over to your Facebook tab right now and give your news feed a couple of hardy scrolls down, you’d likely find a smattering of announcements, invitations, and solicitations all coming from friends who’ve decided to give up the 9 to 5 in favor a life less ordinary. Great, good for them. That’s fantastic and cool. If they stick with it. Unfortunately, the allure of creating a smartphone app that tests water’s purity or starting the first ever social network for adventure-minded senior citizens wears off when these hopeful souls realize the hardest part of making it on your own is not writing a status update announcing you’ve decided to make it on your own. The same barriers hold true for the legions of hopeful comedians, littering the web with aspirations and never creating a single piece of tangible content. Good Cop Great Copcreators Matt Porter and Charlie Hankin are not among that all-too-familiar group.
Writing and producing almost 60 episodes (some of which they also star in), Porter and Hankin are not only wryly funny impresarios of short-form comedy, but they’re also hard working, dedicated, and original voices actually doing great things in a social-media-obsessed society where wannabes have a larger mouthpiece than ever before. With the help of cinematographer Ryan Nethery and a host of other series angels including comic Janine Ditullio and production designer Tara Perry, Good Cop Great Cop is a prime example of what that rare mix of talent and determination can create. READ MORE
A Kickstarter campaign and a twisted mind. That’s all it took to take this week’s selection from idea germ to offbeat comedy reality. That, and a ton of free labor from people who believe in a web series that’s dark and sick and gets out quick.
Tragic Relief isn’t the kind of show you’re going to watch with a bunch of friends as you pregame on a Friday night (people still do that, right?). It’s the thing you’ll watch at 4am, as you lie in bed alone, digesting the chicken parm grinder you ordered off Seamless. And you’ll laugh nervously to yourself because creator Ryan Mazer knows about the thoughts that swim in the dark, dingy pools of your subconscious and he’s not afraid to make you face them.
Created and EP’d by Mazer, produced by Michael Goldburg, Amalia Bradstreet, Nick Mohammed, and Josh Elmets, shot by T.J. Misny, and directed by a who’s who of UCBNY folks, including Matt Klinman, Matt Mayer, and Adam Sacks, Tragic Relief is a web series for the 21st Century, a steady ship in the choppy comedic waters of biting social commentary and cynicism. READ MORE
Never in the storied history of this column has there been a series that is more viscerally relatable than Passive Aggressive Friends Talking About Their Ambitions (PAFTATA). In an age of millennial disillusionment with traditional jobs where you have to “…work like 40 hours a week and not even be famous for it,” this web series is the perfect mantra for legions of twenty-somethings who were brought up to believe they are special and taught that being quietly evil is better than being overtly rude. As mom and dad said, networking’s important and you never want to burn a bridge.
Created, written by, and starring Max Azulay and Alex Mullen and directed, shot, and edited by Matt Porter, PAFTATA is a hilarious (and painfully real) product of an all-new incarnation of the “me generation.” READ MORE
Spring is finally here, and that means sunglasses, Frisbee tossing, and lots of dudes prancing around in Slutty Clothes. "Wait, what?" You heard me. That's what it means. At least according to New York-based sketch group Simply Unemployable's latest release — a goofy ode to 1980's "hot girl" movie montages and a male culture that annually celebrates girls bearing springtime skin.
The production value is fantastic as is the (prolonged) straight-faced devotion to a completely ridiculous and highly visual conceit. Well done, sirs. I look forward to seeing you in the park. I'll be the guy doing Pilates in the see-through lululemons. No, but really — great job on the video. And my lululemons are black.
Chilling words. Words that may be every parent’s worst nightmare, not necessarily because moms and pops hate laughter, but because a comic’s life is a hard one — often replete with substance abuse, loneliness, and the kind of poverty that stops being cool around your 476th cup of Ramen noodles.
I’d guess that very few parents want their kids to go into comedy, unless they’re in it themselves. That’s precisely the case for Tyler Alexander, head honcho at SecondCityNetwork.com and the heir to a Chicago comedy empire started by his dad, Second City co-owner and CEO Andrew Alexander.
Whether or not Mr. Alexander ever cautioned young Tyler about the pitfalls of making people laugh, we can be sure he exposed him to much of the business’s glory — glory that Tyler has channeled into a delightful web series called Shrinkage and an exciting effort to make the Internet chuckle Chicago style. READ MORE
In the immortal words of Biggie Smalls, “Here’s another one.” A great effing web series, that is. A web series that I’m head over heels in love with in a way that defies all of love’s boundaries and conventions, in both the platonic and sexual realms. Not that I want to have sex with this week’s series. I’m not saying that. What I am saying is: The feelings of respect and admiration that Ingrid Jungermann’s hilariously poignant F to 7th has inspired in me, have had a transcendent effect. During the 30 minutes I spent watching the show, I was transported to a world of identity crisis, crippling neuroses, and botched social cues—a world made beautiful not because it was unlike my own, but because it was so exactly similar even though I’m a dude and this is a series about lesbianism.
Created by, directed by, and starring Ingrid Jungermann alongside a sparkling roster of New York’s best indie comedic talent, F to 7th is a gem for all the usual reasons — stellar story structure, writing, acting, etc. But, more than that, it’s a project about female homosexuality — a subject that hasn’t achieved the same level of Hollywood exposure as its male counterpart—that manages to stay universally relatable and powerful while delivering a consistent rhythm of moments that are coffee-spitting funny, much like Ingrid herself, as you’ll soon read. READ MORE
For every 10 college seniors who tell friends that they're going to pursue a career in comedy after graduation, maybe 1 actually does. (Unless those 10 go to Harvard. If they go to Harvard, then every one will probably go on to write for SNL or the New Yorker or Conan or all of those things because their big Harvard brains allow them to do everything that's great all at once.) Don't get me wrong — the other 9 probably had every intention of making a go in the funny business and maybe they did for a little while, but comedy's brutal and most can't stand the heat of the relentless failure that comes with the territory. (Again, Harvard people, you don't have to read this — unless you're in the mood for a laugh.) But that 1, that 1 will try and, if he tries hard enough, for long enough, that 1 may succeed. 2012 Brandeis grad Paul Gale (along with his writing partner Adam Lapetina) is proof of that. And a visit to his YouTube channel, PaulGaleComedy will make you understand why.
The kid is relentless, bravely exploring and exhibiting the craft almost every week, on a budget of $0. He's a model of what every aspiring young comic should be: determined and tireless in his creation of new content, no matter what his experience level, no matter who sees. Getting good means getting better first and Gale is certainly doing that in a way that's worth keeping an eye on.
So, as we near graduation season, be not afraid young jokers. Joke well and often. And make sure you press the record button when you do.
Do you know who Scott Rogowsky is? No? Well, then you’re among the vast majority of people in the world but, and this is a weighty “but,” the 28-year-old comic’s relative anonymity may soon blossom into fame, and maybe even a one-line Wikipedia entry that requires further citations — the most any of us struggling, silly folk can really hope for. “Why the bright forecast for Rogowsky?” You might ask. The answer: He manages to shamelessly self-promote while being funny and likable — a feat very few entertainers can pull off (Dane Cook, anyone?).
We first became acquainted with his unique brand of alluring obnoxiousness in July when we covered the man on the street antics he pioneered for Someecards, we’ve watched as he inked a partnership with MyDamnChannel to promote his weekly live comedy show, Running Late With Scott Rogowsky, and now Rogowsky’s caught our eye with a knowingly desperate Kickstarter plea called The Lorne Michaels Project. The upshot is Rogowsky is trying to raise $94.51 so he can buy an Edible Arrangement for Michaels in hopes of winning over NBC’s resident king of late night laughs and snagging the chance to fill Jimmy Fallon’s shoes now that he’s replacing Jay Leno.
Will Rogowsky get what he wants? Not likely, considering competition like Seth Myers and Chelsea Handler. Will he be remembered by Lorne Michaels? Probably not, no. But am I writing an article about Rogowsky’s quirky approach to getting his name known? Clearly. And now more people know his name and are smiling at his contagious enthusiasm for making it in a business where so few do. It’s this kind of determination that makes me think we’ll be seeing more of him and that gives me confidence in the power of the web as an instrument that all career-minded comics should wield without inhibition. You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. Take it from Rogowsky, the man who crowd-sourced $101 for a yummy bouquet of forget me not. READ MORE
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