This Week In Web Videos: 'Business Work'

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 12.21.27 PMIt's a tale as old as time. Irish boy comes to America, chasing a dream of becoming a forensic pathologist. Boy realizes that being a forensic pathologist is terrifying. Boy becomes involved with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Boy discovers that he's got a new dream: being a comedian. Boy who prepared all his life for an entirely different career path finds out he's really gifted at being funny. Boy creates smart web series. Boy does interview with Splitsider — the first step on his path to becoming a household name. How many times have we heard that one, right? Oh. No times? No times. Well, now we've heard it once, and the Irish boy's name is John Purcell.

How’d you get into comedy?

I got into it only since I moved to America, which was about three years ago. I’m originally from Ireland and moved here to go to grad school. I signed up for UCB classes to meet people and have some kind of a social circle. I ended up really enjoying it and that kind of took over my life, like it does for a lot of people. I did improv and then was able to take sketch classes and have been lucky enough to have a show run at the Theatre and be on one of the improv house teams and have done comedy through that, but before that I really had no experience [in comedy]. In Ireland, I was actually involved in music and then thought maybe I’d be a forensic pathologist — that’s what I ended up going to grad school for — and now it seems like this is what I’m doing. READ MORE


This Week In Web Videos: 'Fruiting 101'

I'm not one of those people that thinks sex is inherently funny. In fact, I hate those people. Sex, comedically speaking, is easy. It gets a laugh in the most low-brow of rooms, amongst folks who couldn't give a goddamn about the craft but love hearing the word "pussy" repeated ad infinitum. To make sex truly funny, the bar should be set higher. In order for sex jokes to hit they need to be innovative, new, driven by some goal other than shock. Inspired by Auntie Angel's unintentionally hilarious guide to putting a grapefruit on your man's dick, Lily Du and David Craig created a pitch perfect Internet parody called Fruiting 101. Its intentionally reaching treatment of penis jokes as a comedy cure-all is what makes it meta and great, and its very modest production value should be an inspiration to every comedy creator reading this column. All you need is a funny idea and a camera! And, depending on your situation, some hollowed out foods to put on your man's schlong.

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


This Week In Web Videos: 'Don't Walk '

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 5.37.26 PMI’m not going to say Don’t Walk is the Boyhood of web series, because that would be pretty pretentious. What I will say, in the interest of coming across as a bit less of a shithead, is Don’t Walk’s meandering narrative, inspired by one consummately relatable experience — waiting for a walk signal at a crosswalk — stems from a core thought just as shapeless as “boyhood” with a little b. But creator Kemp Baldwin and producers Baldwin, Gates Bradley, and Mike Laskasky were tenacious enough to follow the murky lead of inspiration, turning a thought unremarkable into a project memorable. It also helps that Max Silvestri was down. I sound like a fucking shithead. READ MORE


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

videosyouhaventseenWe did it once. You guys seemed to dig it. So now, we're doing it again. Ladies and gentleman, Splitsider presents: The 5 Best New Web Videos/Series You Almost Definitely Haven't Seen, Part II. We clicked through pages and pages of Gmails to distill five of the funniest "This Week In Web Videos" submissions and then we grouped them all together here, in a neat little link we hope you'll post absolutely everywhere. Enjoy and, again, post it around, please. That's how this whole thing works. READ MORE


This Week In Web Videos: Matt Evans

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Matt Evans faked me out. Co-creator of NickMom’s Other Mothered, Evans and his wife Christine Walters are UCB alums, talented New York City entertainment professionals, and known brains behind some of Matt’s most hilariously jarring characters, like news reporter Gary Vosot and Bachelor hopeful Glen Spidge. I know that now, and I knew it when a friend shared what he thought to be a news clip wherein a reporter (Vosot) tries to take an upskirt photo of a female passerby on a city street. I knew it, but Matt’s brand of hyper-real comedy is so convincing, so spot-on in its utter lack of flash, that I — for more than a split second — thought Vosot was real. Desensitized by a digital world pervaded by actors who are pretty great at faking it, I think Evans oeuvre is pretty damned impressive.

How did you get your start?

I moved down to NYC in 2004 after working in TV news for almost 6 years. When I came down here I started taking classes at UCB right away. I went through their whole system and that was awesome and I had a lot of great teachers there. I ended up doing a one-person show there right when I came down here that was a great experience. I ended up taking classes as Magnet and did sketch classes at UCB too. So I basically came down and got involved in both of those theaters pretty quickly and I was also doing monologues at different comedy clubs. Some of those monologues turned into some of the videos that you see now. Those two theaters have been huge for me; I met my wife at UCB.

Where were you working in TV news before you moved to NYC?

When I graduated college, I worked in Massachusetts for three years at a cable station and then I moved to Rhode Island and worked as a cameraman at the ABC affiliate there.

And that obviously inspired Gary Vosot.

Definitely. When I came down here one of the first videos I did with that character was one where it showed what it was like at a live shot and it was definitely insider-y. I wanted to do something real that people on the inside would get. That stuff all came from working in the industry. READ MORE


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.


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


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


This Week In Web Videos: 'K&A'

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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


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


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


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.


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


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