A comedy radio piece I wrote & co-produced for the Stanford Storytelling Project. A story about pain, healing, wild dogs, and margaritas.Read More
Even with the accessibility of digital video tools these days, It's rare that video projects--good ones--get made on a whim. This is one of those rarities.
A favorite comedic actress, Allison "Ally" Johnson, recently moved from the Bay Area down to LA, to pursue her fortune as an actor. Believe me when I tell you that she's a true talent: wonderful actor, great comedienne, flexible voice chops, a great collaborator, attractive--she's even got clown skills! Ally is the real deal. Casting agents take note!
She, like any actor these days, pays attention to where she shows up in search results-especially YouTube, where she has a number of videos showcasing her considerable performance chops.
You know, "Ally Johnson" writhing on a bed, "Ally Johnson" taking her top off in a shower, and "Ally Johnson" cooing in that sexy-baby voice that is annoyingly de rigueur among the wanna-be-famous crowd.
Ally pointed this out on Facebook, and I responded by suggesting this should not stand.
I reached out to one of our favorite KML videographers (and recent LA transplant himself) Rand Courtney, who agreed to shoot it. I wrote up a script that parodied "Ally The Slut" (as our Ally called her) for the shallow, oblivious character that her Playboy videos make her out to be. Our Ally threw her heart into it, as she does with all her roles. Rand made it look great, as he always does. All this, from a few Facebook comments.
So if you enjoy the video we ended up making, please share it. Let's get (our) Ally's view counts up to send a message that bed football and consensual exposure are not actual talents.
I have a theory that creativity, at its core--stay with me, Internet, almost done--is just putting two things together that you feel like you haven't seen together before. Picasso's cubist portraits. Dickens' epic tale of a lowly orphan. And now, my mix of NBC's "The More You Know" PSAs with WW2 Nazi propaganda. You're welcome, Culture.
We released one of these in the spring as a show teaser, and saved the rest for a fallow period in the KML video production schedule. In a break from our usual release process, we released them first on Funny or Die, one-a-day for a week, to establish more of a presence there. Let's say it worked.
I got to work with many of my favorite KML members on these, including DP Jon Burton, VFX guru Ty Bardi, and of course gifted, funny actors Millie DeBenedet, Calum Grant, and Jon Wolanske, the latter of who stepped in to bail us out of a last-minute casting crisis, killed his role, and then went back to his day job a block away. Like a boss.
I costumed this shoot myself, by the way, driving all over the Bay Area asking wardrobe departments if they had any Nazi uniforms. That's a story in and of itself.
Bless Killing My Lobster for giving me giving me the opportunity to dig my own holes. My latest comedy short was featured in KML's Spring 2013 mainstage show, Killing My Lobster Learns a Lesson. The vid's a parody of college and technical school ads that makes fun of art school as a career choice.This vid could not have been made without the contributions of Francine Torres, a hilarious actress and fantastic theater instructor who actually plays a theater instructor in this vid. She saw the opportunity to give her students some real-world experience, helped us to shoot at her workplace and offered her students as PAs and background players. Two of her students are actually leads in this piece--I'll let you figure out which two. Oh, and I'm in this one, briefly. I forgot to cast the Advertising instructor, and when we got to that scene, I strapped on a froofy scarf and took one for the team. At least I got the hairline right.On a sadder note, this may well be the last project I get to work on with my regular KML production partner, Jonathan Burton, as he's since moved to NYC. Hopefully not!
PS a disclaimer: I have a lot of talented, successful friends who studied art, and there are several good art schools here in San Francisco. But there are one or two that are kind of questionable, and one for-profit university that (and I could be wrong about this) doesn't make its money from tuition so much as from being the #1 real-estate holder in the city. Just saying.
You can hear the call all over non-union SF castings: We need a stiff-looking scientist-type with no lines. Get me Grobe! Here I am in Atlassian's latest promo video for the new Jira 6.0 update. Video by the able and very funny hands at Paper Dog.
And here I am in "The Phone," playing the exact same role. Seriously. Stiff scientist has serious legs. I smell series.
This one is straight-up comedy, folks. Write Club is a monthly reading series held in various cities across the US, my home of San Francisco being one. Here, it's run by Casey Childers and Steven Westdahl, two excellent writers who curate the series.
Each event consists of three matches of two writers apiece. Each writer reads an original seven-minute piece, and the audience judges as to which piece is the "Winner."
Me being me, my pieces tend towards the humorous, none more so than my recent channeling of the legendary Tennessee Williams. If he wrote a 1970s XXX screenplay. No actual swear words but definitely not for young ears.
The clip of the reading is almost worth watching just for Steven Westdahl's announcing of my name.
Thanks to Evan Karp for shooting the video.
And the videos keep on coming! I wrote this one for Killing My Lobster Learns a Lesson, KML's latest sketch comedy show. This is the first of a series of videos that accompanied the show's sold-out run here in San Francisco.
It's not every day that "What if the Nazis made 'The More You Know' PSAs?" crosses my mind (I swear!), but once it did, show director Jon Barcellos and head writers The Bardi Twins trusted me to go for it. Further props go to to my DP and production partner Jon Burton, VFX maven Ty Bardi (who gave us the amazing visual punchline at the end) and actor Jon Wolanske, who stepped in at the last minute to just kill it.
I like the corporate gigs, no doubt, not least of which because they let me cherish the other projects (where I get to cut loose and get silly) all the more. Here's my latest of the latter, Babies on a Plane. Made for the latest Killing My Lobster show, Killing My Lobster Chops Down the Family Tree, it's a parody that you'll get pretty quickly. I made it mostly in Photoshop, mashing up found photos with a still-shoot featuring KML Actor Andy Alabran. Throw in some royalty-free stock music, intermediate-level sound engineering, excellent VO work from Andy, Allison Johnson, and resident KML Voice-Of-God Calum Grant, chuck it all into iMovie, and the rest is comedy. In theory.
Unbelievable because it was inspired by, off all things, the Jewish holiday of Purim, and created for the annual KML show produced in that holiday's honor.
Good because I handed off my outline and few storyboards to the talented Bardi Twins, a husband/wife writing team (who are also an animator and a librarian to boot!).
Ty and Gina turned it onto a killer script with layers of inside jokes, then cranked out an SFX-heavy blood-and-guts ad spot for the ages. In Spanish! Add a pitch-perfect VO from Lobster alum Jon Wolanske and we could do no wrong.
Think we can't do edgy comedy based on something you'd normally see in a synagogue? This video suggests otherwise. Imagine what we could do with Flag Day.
Brace yourself. This one features The Human Centipede, it of the gruesomest horror movie of the year. But I swear this has no gore, and almost nothing that would otherwise nauseate you assuming you've recovered from the concept of a "human centipede." Produced for the Killing My Lobster/Z Space show, KMLZ Holidaze.
I put this one together myself, right down to the festive ending. See you in hell!
Written for the Fall Killing My Lobster show, the Sci-Fi-themed Killing My Lobster Conquers The Galaxy. I've always gotten a kick out of the bombastic Mr. Heston, and besides, why should the Statue of Liberty get all the props? We had a hell of a time matching the classic footage, and getting the audio on a beach where f**king cargo ships blare their horns every ten seconds. But I'm over the moon with the results.
Acted by the ever-charismatic Calum Grant, shot by the excellent Jon Burton, and written & directed by me. But watch it anyway, won't you?
Done for my sketch comedy compatriots Killing My Lobster. A long day but the results are just damn funny. Sketch Wars 1 was executed by rival gang PianoFight, but I think we out-did them. Thanks to MURDER.
Shot by Jon Burton with awesome new DP Paul Burke. Acted by some of my faves. Idea by Chris Parisi (who also donated his truck) & Miriam Wild-Smith (who did the FX makeup). Written and directed by some hack.
Or as Coilhouse put so beautifully: Ground Control to Major Tom: You're a Dipshit. Script by Miriam Wild-Smith and myself. Images by Gregory Wild-Smith and myself. "Animated" by me. The voice that is not Mr. Bowie is Yours Truly as well. This one also got props from Sci-Fi blog leaders iO9, bless 'em.
A series of four quick, fun quizzes to take your mind of our country's crippling financial debt! Answers are uʍop ǝpısdn to prevent cheating!
QUIZ #1: USA TRIVIA
Sure, we’re deeply in debt and risk a nation-wide financial default. But we’re interesting! Distract yourself from our national dilemma by answering these questions:
QUESTIONS: [table id=1 /]
QUIZ #2: STOCK MARKET TRIVIA
Severely broken financial system troubling your pretty little head? Take your mind off our current crisis for a split-second with these adorable bits of stock-focused trivia.
[table id=3 /]
QUIZ #3: FINANCE TRIVIA QUIZ
Who says debt and bankruptcy can’t put a smile on your face? Check out this fascinating trivia quiz about money and not having any!
[table id=4 /]
QUIZ #4: SUICIDE TRIVIA
Crippling financial debt got you down? WAY down? Why not distract yourself with this creepily foreshadowing quiz about suicide?
[table id=5 /]
Don't worry, I didn't direct this one. Fellow Killing My Lobster-ites Chris Parisi & Damon Brennen asked me to play "a surly scientist" in this video, and as they make killer vids, I rushed to accept. Written & shot for the latest KML show, Killing My Lobster Reboots, here's "The Phone":
It's been up for about four days and has topped 53,000 views as of this writing. No doubt as a result of my bravura performance. Enjoy!
My latest video is a collab with some great folks: Killing My Lobster writing compatriot Annie O'Rourke, actress Lauren Burns, and Adult Swim & Funny or Die staple Brian Burgoyne behind the camera. Produced by the effervescent Natacha Ruck, natch.
A parody of dating advice videos, it's also the perfect way to ring in the first day of Spring! Enjoy!
The Lonely Venus Guide to Meeting Men in a Park by Ken Grobe & Annie O'Rourke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
This latest KML video has a special place in my heart--and not just because I co-wrote and co-produced it. It's because I've spent the better part of my career juggling vocation and avocation. When I was an editor, I would write prose and comics scripts on nights, weekends, and, one very lonely Key West holiday. While in advertising, I performed weekly gigs with an improv troupe, wrote and produced a sketch comedy show, and played Joe's Pub and CBGB with my comedy/rock band. My point being, more often than not, I've used my day job to fund the stuff I loved.
That's what inspired our second of the two "Feed the Lobster" campaign spots: There's just too many of us out there with a day job and a dream.
Ably directed by the legendary Chris Parisi and my co-writer/producer, Miriam Wild-Smith. See for yourself, feel free to donate, and have a great 2011.
If there's one thing I've learned from my comedy-rock-band days, it's to be grateful for any press, good or bad. So I feel extremely fortunate that two of my KML videos received positive pixels within a day of each other! The SF Egotist, my favorite resource for local Advertising industry news, just big-upped our Feed The Lobster year-end appeals campaign, calling us "a great tax deduction." That's miles better than what AgencySpy called me the other month over "Coffee Wars." And no, I won't link to it (although I'm still grateful for it!).