Blog 19 – The Stalker

Originally published 9.08.08

In a moment of extreme irony, Larry now actually loves to blog.  He does!  You can follow his Dukes of Hazzard Blog here:

There aren’t very many episodes of Franks and Beans that have anything that resembles a plot.  I realize this, and I make no apology for it.  Okay, maybe a small apology, but I show no remorse in any case.  We started out so well, too – “High School” opened the series with hopes of coherent plot points to come, and “Message Board”, the seven-minute Hindenburg of a joke, gave us another glimpse, but in all likelihood, if you’d close your eyes and pick an episode to watch at random (this is fun to do at parties), you’d end up watching something that contained one joke and the buildup to it (see: “The Change”, “You’ll Never See It Coming”, “Milkshake”, etc.).  Our monumental seventeenth episode, “Stalker”, breaks the trend and has something loosely resembling a plot.  How long until we can say this again?  Don’t hold your breath.

We start off this episode with a few jokes that are held a little close to the vest, so to speak.  If you’ve ever wondered if our characters on this show were just roles that we play, your question was answered the minute you played “Stalker” and saw Larry sitting down to get his blogging fix.  You see, Larry hates blogging, just as he hates blogs in general.  There is a long, sordid story behind this that we will not get into here, but trust me, it’s true.  Larry won’t even write the Franks and Beans blog, and he’s ON the damn show!  So hey, there you go – inside information on a joke that probably only Larry and I find funny.

We also manage to squeeze a nod in to one of our previous episodes, the aforementioned “Message Board”.  In it, Larry comments that I have been spending too much time at his house, a point soon exemplified when I receive my own mail courtesy of the character known as “Larry’s Mom”.  So my head twist in this current episode when Larry gets a mail call of his own is not, in fact, a nervous twitch or the onset of some terrible disease, but my own silent recognition that, somewhere out there, I have been in this situation before.

We shot the “Larry opens his letter and accuses Jeff” scene a few different times, and to be honest, I thought that one of the later takes might been a better choice to make the final cut (as we tend to step on each other’s lines a bit in this take).  But Larry is a strict and belligerent editor so I bow to his will.  One benefit of keeping this particular try is that I get to utter one of my best lines in the series: “Pffft.”  And to think – this was IMPROVISATIONAL!  My abilities know no limits!!

The effect of the flour (not actually anthrax) puffing outwardly from the curiously already-opened envelope is a real treat, in that Larry added the entire thing in post.  The real test of an effect is how much it stands out once you see the end product, and I can honestly say that I didn’t realize that it was a special effect until Larry pointed it out to me.  I just thought we got really lucky with the way the room was lit or something ridiculous like that, but to know that it was all added in later was, I thought, very impressive.

We find ourselves joined in this episode not only by another cameo from the character known as “Larry’s Mom”, but also from our mysterious stalker.  Just who is behind the mask I will not say, other than by saying that it is our old friend and now regular extra “Hardcore Mark”.  A different character of course, but that is the nature of extras, and I should know, because I am totally on “One Tree Hill” this season as just that (an extra, not a stalker.  Though if they wanted me to play that, I probably would if I had my motivation set early on in the shooting).  It seems that Larry had this entire outfit just lying around the house, so we decided to put it to good use, and Mark does not disappoint in his two actions: standing very still and dancing like a fool.

So now we are back to our popular themes of violence and music.  I honestly did not plan to have so many episodes with either or both in a row, but it seems that we have to live with what we’re given, and you, loyal viewer/blog reader are no different.  Embrace this repetition of themes!  Learn to love the calming familiarity!  And stop walking around like you’re so much better than everyone else!  Man!

But the fact remains, there is a discernable pattern here, and I hope that it isn’t a distraction.  If it is…well, I really do apologize.  I do strive to make this show, as cut-rate and unprofessional as it is, funny to at least a select few.  That’s always been the goal, to make something that we can laugh at, and I hope that we’re doing an okay job.

Our “No!” ending this time around harkens back to a time when our endings were very simple and just featured Larry opening a door and uttering a one-word line.  The plan was to make Larry pop up from below the frame, like he was, say, riding an elevator to some fictional second floor.  You know, like how people walk behind couches like there’s some magical invisible escalator back there?  “Oh ho!  Next floor, laundry!”  As it is, it kind of looks like Larry is standing up from just below the camera lens, which is when I realized: pretending to be on an elevator for laughs is HARD!  But hopefully everyone got the inference, anyway.  If not, well, there’s always next week.  There’s ALWAYS next week…that’s something I try to think about often when it comes to this show.

Hmm, is that it?  Yes, I suppose it is.  If I missed something, feel free to let me know, because, heck, it’s always great to hear from people who have watched the show.  If you have an opinion, both Larry and I would love to hear it!

Blog 18 – Milkshake

Originally published 9.01.08

If you’ve been watching Franks and Beans for a while, you might pick up on the fact that there are certain themes present in pretty much every episode.  Our sweet sixteenth episode, “Milkshake”, brings two of those into the forefront: music and violence.  Reading this, you might ask yourself, “But Franks and Beans, isn’t music and violence a reflection of the popular culture that is so pervasive in our society?”  To which we so present-mindedly reply, why yes, Franks and Beans is a terrific social commentary, thank you for noticing!  You might look at this and comment further, “That’s not really what I was getting at…”, but by that time, both Larry and I will have moved on to something much more pressing.  But thanks for your concern!

As a matter of fact, our newest episode does tend to follow along the lines of earlier ones – “Perfect” springs to mind.  What we’re trying to do, consciously or not, is give this show a certain feel to it that viewers can relate with.  We want you, our audience, to see something completely unrelated in your day-to-day lives and say “hey, that reminds me of Franks and Beans.”  Well, that and we do tend to have a list of things that we find funny, and we do go back to that particular well every once in a while.  If nothing else, we try to put new twists on familiar themes.  Does it work all the time?  I guess you’ll have to tell us.

The premise of this episode is fairly simple, and it came about because I had recently bought a new iPod.  The iPod in this episode is Larry’s, because he already happened to have “Milkshake Song” loaded up and ready to go, but the idea is mine.  MINE!!  Very simply, I think the song in question is funny, though unintentionally so.  Just the thought of someone’s milkshake bringing boys to their yard is amusing, and seeing it featured in the movie “Dodgeball” (one of the few Ben Stiller movies I enjoy) makes me think that others get this not-so-subtle humor, too.  Adding this to the fact that I apparently like to sing with zeal on camera, the kick to this episode was born.  All it was missing was an appearance by another Franks and Beans favorite – the threat of murder – and we were all set.

The scene takes place outside not because we were looking for a change of scenery, per se, but more because we’re dealing with very shiny cutlery items – items which would probably not do so well if they were dropped inside as they are at the end of this little skit.  It probably worked out for the best, though – even thought the table in the middle of the yard looks kind of out of place, there’s room for Larry to maneuver and find cover in the shape of a well-placed tree.

The real story behind this episode comes from the choice of music.  By this I don’t mean the choice to sing the song about a milkshake (or is the milkshake a metaphor?), because I don’t know if the episode works (if indeed it does) with anything else.  No, I’m talking about the decision to play the music over top of my singing – this really gave Larry and me as well as a few confidants fits.  The original plan was to have no music whatsoever – just as you’d hear it if indeed you were there while we were filming.  It seemed more natural, more realistic, but with Franks and Beans, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be better.

Larry took the time to edit this episode both with and without the music overlay, and we both fretted about which version was better.  The version with the music syncs up so nicely with what I’m singing that it would have been a shame to toss it out, and I’m still impressed at how this particular duet looks as a finished product.  This is completely due to the fact that I have the song piped through my earphones, but I like to take credit for a job well done nonetheless.  I mean, it’s not like I know the song word for word by listening to it over and over incessantly until it bore its way into my head…that would be silly.  But no, if my words didn’t match what was in the song, this wouldn’t have mattered at all.  But since they did, and because I feel like I have a security blanket being draped over me when I’m accompanied by outside music, I soon changed my mind and Larry, I think, went along with my suggestion because he honestly couldn’t decide.

We did let our longtime fan and occasional extra “Hardcore Mark” get a sneak peek at this episode to consider another outside opinion in the debate, and he made an interesting suggestion – he proposed that we play the music only when you see me: that is, when we had solo shots of Larry (knife gleaming with the beautiful special effect-ing of Larry), all you’d hear would be my singing.  When I was in the shot as well, the music would be playing, denoting some sort of audience awareness.  This suggestion was not only interesting, it suggested a higher form of thinking, a level of consciousness for the episode that had never been reached before – a kind of prescience that would bring our program to new heights of understanding.  But since we don’t take ideas from fans, we immediately dropped the idea and just slapped the music over top of all of it.  Take that, viewer suggestions!

What this debate now offers us is a chance to build the extra features on our fictional (a hem) Franks and Beans mega-sensational DVD release.  I often think about what it’d be like to work on something of the sort, because that would mean that Franks and Beans would be at least somewhat successful and profitable to the extent that it need be.  Episode sixteen would allow us a great special feature – the “naked” version of the episode would be right in there with the musical one.  You could put the single-disc release in your player and rejoice because of all of the extra content you’d be getting for your hard-earned dollar.  We’d probably also throw in a bunch of commentaries (REAL commentaries) and some kind of behind-the-scenes featurette (ooh!  And animated menus!) as well, and all would be right with the world.

Oh, one can dream.

Our “next time” ending with this episode makes for an interesting tale just because of how seamless the editing job was.  While Larry has the size and weight advantage over me, I come back with two of my own – I am light on my feet (thus being able to strike quickly, without notice) and I have a lower voice range.  Because of this trait, I thought it’d be funny to have Larry burst in the doorway as he always does, but instead of his voice, we’d have mine superimposed.  I had a Godzilla-style voice over running through my head, where things wouldn’t quite match up, but in seeing the final product for the first time I was astounded by Larry’s new, deeper, operatic stylings.  It didn’t connect that this was actually by voice being overlaid!  Larry, I think you’ll agree, did a wonderful job synching things up – it was almost too good, in fact, that if people don’t watch closely they might not realize what it actually happening.  What I want to do with this show is make something that I find funny, so I suppose that as long as I get the joke it’s fine, but…still, it’s worth pointing out, I hope.

Tree Hugger shirt: a meaningless update

It’s been over three years since the episode “Tree Hugger” first aired, and every once in a while, Larry and I pull the shirt out of storage and it makes an appearance.  So how’s the old guy holding up?  I snapped a picture recently a the results are there to see.

All in all, it’s not doing too bad.  Considering that, to create it, Larry grabbed a decade-old sheet of iron-on transfer paper, ran it through a laser-jet printer and ironed it to a plain Hanes shirt, singeing the edges while doing it, I’d say that it’s lasted longer than expected. But there’s noticeable wear, especially on the corners.  The word “Hugger” is pretty much indecipherable at this point.  Honestly, the fact that it is becoming more and more ratty makes this frankly awful design even funnier, at least to me.

I’m in the process of making some shirts to sell at comic book conventions and the like, and the thought has crossed my mind to make some actual Tree Hugger shirts as well.  The chances of this actually happening, though, are pretty slim.  For one, no one would buy them unless, for some fantastic reason, Franks and Beans became an incredible hit (and in the event that happens…look out)…and furthermore, it would take away from some of the uniqueness and humor of this, the original Tree Hugger shirt.  But you never know.

Seriously, though, if I ever become famous (FOR ANY REASON), I’m totally donating this shirt to a museum.  Perhaps the Smithsonian.