Blog 14 – Mailbag/Bloopers

Originally posted 6.10.08

Back when Larry and I made the much-underappreciated “Commentary” episode, I decided to limit the number of episodes where we’d speak directly to the camera/viewers.  The idea was that Franks and Beans primarily derived its humor from interaction between Larry and me, and any derivation from that deviated from its core concept.  The self-imposed rule, then, was that I had to create at least five ‘regular’ episodes before going back to the well for one that featured some sort of audience interaction.

This was a difficult rule to follow, as it turned out, because I had the idea for the newly uploaded “Mailbag/Bloopers” stewing for a long time.  Now that I see it edited and on the screen, I’m really pleased with the end product.

You’ll notice that Larry’s hair is once again pulled back in a ponytail, his signature look for these ‘extra feature’ type episodes.  To be honest, I’m a big fan of Larry’s ponytail look.  It’s somewhat intimidating and makes him look like a professional wrestler, which for a bachelor are not bad things.  Since I didn’t plan ahead to grow a beard again (it worked on “Commentary” because I was preparing for the episode “Mustache”), my trusty Pirate hat made its second appearance, although now that I rewatch the film, it’s apparent that I don’t put my hat on straight when I wear it.  I’ll keep this in mind for future life events.

Our bookend scenes are rather boring to look at, even though they serve their purposes – it’s just the two of us sitting on stools.  If anyone really wants to know, I decided on the Ft. Wayne, Indiana location because I had just watched Planet of the Apes for maybe the tenth time, and as any fan of the original (not that terrible remake) knows, Taylor’s home city was none other than Ft. Wayne.  But if there are any viewers out there named Josh from the same general area, then hey, we chose it entirely because of you.  Isn’t that great?

The real action takes place in our so-called “blooper,” which turned out better than I originally imagined.  Okay, that’s not entirely true.  When I envision skits or certain takes, I always imagine them with incredible effects and true-to-life visuals.  For instance, if I would write something where Larry would mysteriously fly across the room, I imagine him doing just that with cinematic realism.  Since we have a production budget of exactly zero (although sometimes Larry does make sandwiches), I try to keep the big special effect-type shot out of our show, but I hope you do understand what I’m trying to say when I claim pleasant surprise with this particular scene.

Not that anyone can’t figure this out by just watching the scene and applying common sense, but Larry and his prized Jeep are backing over one of those cement beams they have in most parking lots, not actually maiming me in some horrible fashion.  We shot this scene in a lot of one of the local colleges, and by this time the semester had ended so we were mostly unimpeded in our progress.  We did need to work on our timing, though, and on one take I did just manage to skip out of the way before Larry truly ran me over.  My hand on the back of the Jeep was a fortunate break for us, as it came at just the right time and got across the idea that I was being gruesomely mangled under the wheels of my best friend’s car.  Hilarity!

Also, when I am in supposed terrible pain and Larry is panicking in a ‘what have I done’ moment, you can hear Larry’s best impression of Kermit the Frog.  Way to go, Muppet Larry.

In retrospect, this might be my favorite episode of the whole bunch, which will make it even more difficult to follow my five-to-one rule.  I do also have to point out that both Larry and I seem to do a better job when at least one of our characters is angry at the other, which, again, I’m not sure what to make of something like that.  Maybe we would work better in real life if we punched each other every so often.  It’s worth a try.

“Double Delivery” mini update and creator bios!

Here’s a tiny update on our entry to the San Diego Comic-Con Independent Film Festival: it got there.  Hooray!  But that’s not all; not only did it arrive in sunny San Diego, but it also apparently broke the laws of time in doing so.  As you can see by the above image, our entry packet was delivered on February 1st at 11:43 am local time.  It’s expected to be delivered by February 2nd.  Perhaps that means on someone from the postal service got to take the package home for a day, tossing it up and down in a playful manner, before returning it to the PO box in time to be picked up.

Or perhaps not.  In either case, the film festival committee got our submission before the deadline!  Now the real waiting begins.

In the meantime, it was mentioned to me that displaying the creator bios necessitated by the festival might be a good idea.  And who am I to stand in the way of a good idea?  I’m considering pasting these to the Franks and Beans “About” page, but we’ll see.  In lieu of a better introduction, here are the official Franks and Beans Comic-Con International Film Festival Creator Bios!

Jeff McClelland (writer/director/actor) once saw two alligators rip a man in half, and he’s never been the same since: what had been a promising career in tromboning quickly gave way to comic books and Internet television.  Jeff currently lives in southwestern Pennsylvania where he writes the comic book Teddy and the Yeti, contributes to the New York Times best selling FUBAR series of graphic novels and creates Franks and Beans videos with his good friend Larry Franks.  He also showed up in One Tree Hill a couple times.  Find Jeff online at www.teddyandtheyeti.com and www.franksandbeansonline.com.

Larry Franks (producer/director/actor) threw a hot dog as part of the Dukes of Hazzard movie in 2005, thereby justifying his Master’s Degree in Multimedia Technology from California University of Pennsylvania.  Now that I think about it, I suppose that it also contributed to his video editing skills and camera work on productions such as Franks and Beans.  Larry lives in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, hopes to one day open a Dukes of Hazzard museum, and unrepentantly makes fun of Jeff McClelland’s hair loss.  Find Larry online at www.dukescollector.com and www.franksandbeansonline.com.

Blog 13 – Message Board Live @ Laughrica

Originally posted 12.29.09

Acting in front of a live audience is, honestly, something that Larry and I are not used to doing.  Sure, we’ve been in the occasional high school play (and I still have the nightmares to prove it), but I would venture that we are both more comfortable with a camera and the promise of multiple takes if something goes wrong.  For this reason if no other, performing our Internet-tastic eleventh episode, “Message Board”, live on stage was a good idea.

The origins of this event had nothing to do with either Larry or myself, but with some friends I knew from grad school.  As an aside, you may be surprised that I went to graduate school AND I have friends – and I still make time to produce the wonder that is Franks and Beans.  How about that?  Anyway, a friend from Youngstown, Ohio, home of the murder sandwich, invited us to be a part of a benefit for his wife, who, with another student from Youngstown State University, would be traveling on a medical mission trip to the far reaches of Africa, Earth.  I don’t imagine that they will be delivering supplies and holding clinics for ALL of Africa, but then again, I don’t know that they AREN’T.  So, we’ll see.  The event was to be called “Laughrica”, which, despite not being named by me, was the first indicator that this would be a fun evening.

I hastily agreed to take part in the festivities, and Larry agreed.  Perhaps we both said ‘yes’ without truly considering the reality of having to stand in front of people and act, because we spent much of the next weeks both procrastinating on practicing and fretting our decision.  I, for one, did actually lose sleep as I tried to come up with ideas that would work on stage and take up more than thirty seconds – it’s possible to have a really short episode work, but saying two lines and signaling for the next act to come up wouldn’t work nearly as well.

In the end, Larry and I decided that it would be best if we could simply adapt one of our episodes into a live action performance.  If we were to do something like this again, I might be tempted to write new material, but for our first time out, an adaptation was exactly the right call.  We had a known quantity in “Message Board” in that it was something we had done before and could gauge the reaction based on the episode.  We both had a general understanding of the timing of the piece, and while we did have to adjust some of the episode for the stage, we both knew what we were getting into.  And, dammit, the episode is our longest at nearly seven minutes, so if nothing else, if we weren’t funny, we were sure to fit the time parameters.  Franks and Beans, if not funny, at least won’t take up too much or too little of your time.  We should make that into a slogan!

Speaking of episode edits, most of them are obvious if you’ve seen the original episode filmed in Larry’s basement.  That is to say, you don’t have to go to Larry’s basement to watch the episode…that’s just where it was filmed.  Was that unclear?  Man, I wish there was a ‘delete’ button on this keyboard or something.  Oh well, we soldier on.

Not having the character known as “Larry’s Mom” for this new edition – it didn’t seem right to ask her to travel two hours for the line “Got some mail for you, Jeff”, as great as the overall joke was – might be the biggest difference between the two versions.  Thus, Larry was the one to deliver the mail-based joke.  I know that this might turn the world of Franks and Beans upside down, but if you think back to the infancy of the show and episode three, “The Change”, you’ll remember that Larry had his own mail joke in that one, too.  So eat it, faithful viewers!  There’s precedence to this action.  My reaction of “Oh, the new one’s out!” seems to be a little bizarre – the new what, you may ask – to which I reply, I’ve always wanted to use that line, and it’s my show so it doesn’t have to make a whole lot of sense.

“Message Board” takes place over the course of an entire day, which is difficult to pull off in front of a live crowd.  We considered ways to work around this – ways to visually show the progression of time with elaborate lighting schemes and verbal cues.  In the end, we just had someone should “LATER!” into a microphone and leave it at that, which was really all that was necessary.  We were lucky to grab someone from another act – new friend of the show Jason Howell – to provide the voice acting, which was very much appreciated.

Overall, I think that it’s easy to tell that some nerves did crop up at the beginning of the skit.  You may notice this because Larry decides to say the word “house” about fifty times in the first minute, and we stumble through our opening lines.  Larry says something to the effect of “what are you doing at my house?” (there’s that word again…), to which I respond, “I mean, I’m not always here.”  Larry is supposed to move to the part about getting my mail at his house, but instead he continues along the lines of “yes, you are always here.  Why?”

At this point, I pretty much died, and had accepted my death as preferable to the humiliation that was sure to follow.  Fortunately, both Larry and I really pulled it together after that point, and I think that the results begin to show soon after.  Our first laugh doesn’t come until we were nearly done with the first act of our performance, and those few seconds were long and worrisome for me, but the audience begins to respond more and more frequently as we worked our way toward the end.  Things really got moving with the line “because you have a disease that makes you pee in your pants” – which proves that there’s nothing like a joke about medical incontinence to really liven up a room.  Try it the next time you’re in public and I think you’ll agree!

By the end of our performance, things were going so well that I had the confidence to stand in front of the audience of fifty or so and talk about pornography.  When you are comfortable enough to do this, you know you’ve had a good night – and by most all accounts, it was a very good night.  Franks and Beans was able to broaden its audience a little bit; Larry and I mingled with some new fans after our act ended, and the response was nothing but positive…and for once, we weren’t just getting positive reviews from parents or other loved ones.

I think that if the right situation came along (i.e., someone asks) once again, both Larry and I would be happy to go out and perform again in front of an audience.  We were both excited for the experience and happy that we didn’t have to kill ourselves afterwards from the shame.  Any time an evening doesn’t result in my death is a good time, but Laughrica was a special evening in any regard.  Our thanks to all involved, from organizers to audience members.  Let’s do it again some time!

Blog 12 – Message Board

Originally posted 6.06.08

Why is episode 11, “Message Board”, so much longer than any of our previous Franks and Beans offerings?  Perhaps it is because both Larry and I now love you THAT MUCH MORE…but then again, it could be because of our new approach to scripting (which, honestly, didn’t last long).  As I mentioned previously, we’ve both found it a lot easier to work from a much looser script, and hopefully the difference shows in this and subsequent episodes.  Speaking for myself, it’s a much more natural process, and although there are some hiccups involved (Larry says “You’ve got to get some bed”; I use “logo” instead of “lingo” and I say “um” WAY too much), I think that the payoff shows up in the overall flow of the episode.

Naturally, we are getting our inspiration for this episode from real life, from which all humor springs.  I find it particularly hilarious that we’ve taken a technological advance such as the internet – one that could literally serve as a means to unite all of humanity in the bonds of friendship and love – and we use it for porn and to yell at each other about last night’s episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”  I mean, the porn I get…but message boards?  Holy crap, shouldn’t we be beyond that?

This is not to say that I am above any of this nonsense, as I enjoy reading about things like Spider-Man’s dissolved marriage and the Pirates’ continual misery from my fellow fan and as such, some of the topics we lampoon in this episode come from actual conversations found on online message boards.  Let’s take a walk through, shall we?

When Larry and I begin our first internet-related conversation (right after the very funny second appearance of the character we like to call…Larry’s Mom), the message board you see on the computer screen is none other than our very own Funny or Die message board, opened to a random page that had a good number of replies.  The idea of a “welcome to the internet!” topic is culled from any number of similar sources, and are, in my opinion, a good way to size up your electronic opponents on a given board.

We then move on to our sports conversation.  The gist of the rant I talk about comes from an amalgamation of two messages from the ever-popular Pittsburgh Steelers message board.  I love the Steelers, Larry loves the Steelers, and you, discerning reader, love the Steelers as well, but apparently affection doesn’t stop one from blowing things way out of proportion when it comes to such a topic.  The Steelers drafted an injured quarterback in the 5th round, which caused some debate to begin with, but when you mix in the possibility that this player might be considered for some “trick” plays, a la Kordell “Slash” Stewart of ten years ago, and people lose their minds.  I improvised the rebuttal with the “you have a disease that makes you pee in your pants” line, and I am particularly proud of it.

The idea of a Captain America movie (which ended up being pretty good!) apparently gives people fits.  I understand that the United States is not the most popular country on the international stage at the moment, regardless of whether that notion is deserved or not.  But wow, the boards over at newsarama.com explode every time the whereabouts of such a film is discussed.  The tragic part about all of this is that with this topic we’re given such an opportunity to open an actual dialogue on America’s electronic image, but instead we say things like what I mention in this episode.  I suppose that tragedy can be funny at times, too.

Without a doubt the best part about internet slap fights is when someone challenges someone else to a physical fight beyond the boundaries of their keyboards.  It’s like, yeah, fella…I’m going to take a plane to Arizona just so I can beat you senseless.  Such brave words; I can just imagine people tearing their hair out over some witless fool’s egregious comments about their collective mothers.

In short, what (hopefully) makes this episode succeed is our ability to relate to it.  Everyone knows what I’m talking about…and if you don’t, feel free to leave scathing comments right here at the bottom.  I’ll be sure to send you my address so I can knock your brains out…and the brains of your mom, too.  Ha!