Blog 21 – Is It Cold in Here?

Originally Published 12.14.08

Franks and Beans makes its glorious return with episode 19, “Is it Cold in Here?”, the first of what hopefully will be a long, universe-altering sting of episodes over the next few months (or whatever).  As you might have noticed, we do tend to go through phases where certain blocks of episodes share a particular theme, and this is no different.  This is in no ways intentional – I guess I like to come up with different variations of similar topics.  Whereas previous episodes centered around singing and music, these new episodes have food as a main prop.  And where terrible violence plays an important role in episodes past, the current batch features…well, more violence.  I guess that says something about me and my writing style.  Or just about me.  Hey, did I mention that this episode has an oven in it?

Speaking of things that generate relative amounts of heat, we begin this episode with the image of a sleeping Jeff, only – and get this – I’m NOT sleeping: I’m only PRETENDING to sleep.  I only mention this because of my award-worthy performance as “guy sleeping on the couch”.  Did you see that sudden jerking as I fake-awake?  The sleep-induced rubbing of the face?  The stumbling throughout the living room, as if I was truly groggy from an impromptu nap?  That’s called acting, folks, and it’s not something you can learn.  You either have it or you don’t.

What I’m saying is, I tried.

Moving along, I’d like to take a moment and talk about the writing process on Franks and Beans for a few seconds, and what Larry and I each bring to the process.  I find, the longer that we work together on this project, that we are both comfortable with different aspects of the production as a whole, and that includes the writing portion.  I am the type of person who needs a quiet room with no distractions, time to prepare, think, write and rewrite.  This is when, I think, I am at my funniest.  I have my moments, but as a whole I’m not a spontaneously funny guy.  Larry, on the other hand, doesn’t add much to the initial scripting process, but he always manages to catch things during the filming process that I’d never think of, and this episode is a good example of that.

In any given episode – at least after we had gotten a few of them under our belts – you’ll find obvious and not-so-obvious nods to previous jokes.  I’m a fan of these, whether they work well in the context of the next episode or not, as long as they don’t ruin the show we’re working on at the moment.  Larry, as he enters the house after I’ve managed to crawl into the oven, takes his jacket off and throws it over the railing that leads downstairs, a fairly obvious reference to our very first episode, “High School”.  This gem of an easter egg was added at the last moment at the behest of Larry – it’s something that I’m often too absorbed to think of during filming, but it’s a testament to what Larry always seems to catch.

Larry can also be seen putting on a sweater as he comes to check on his ill-fated pizza a little later on – he thought that this would be “the obvious thing to do” if he were cold.  The distinction between this calm rationale and my character’s deadly impulsiveness is one of the factors that drives this episode, and was also a brainchild of Larry’s, for which I must respond…have more children, Larry.  In your brain.

In regards to the visual effect of me putting myself in a warm oven (one of my mother’s worst nightmares, let me tell you), I’m reminded of the DVD commentary on “The Weird Al Show”.  If you don’t remember this program, don’t worry – it was a one season, 13-episode bust, but as I am a collector of everything “Weird Al” Yankovic, I own it and love it (the commentary is, in all seriousness, worth buying the box set for, though).  During the commentary, Al and his various guests discuss the problems they had with CBS during filming, especially when it came down to “imitateable behavior” on the show.  That is, they were strongly discouraged from showing things like someone smashing plates on their head or shaving their eyebrows, as children watching the program (this was Saturday-morning fare) might be encouraged to duplicate the stunts.  This served as an endless headache for those working on the show, though they usually managed to find a way to sneak a few undesirable clips in during any given episode.

It is with this mindset that I watch “Is it Cold in Here?”.  Though Franks and Beans is listed under “clean comedy” in the Funny or Die rank and file, and I generally feel that it lives up to that billing, I don’t intend it for a younger audience – if nothing else, I can imagine my parents catching me watching sometime similar 15 years ago and taking away my internet privileges (did we have the internet back then?).  But even so, I still chuckle to imagine the reaction we’d get if this episode were played on television with children anywhere in a 50-foot radius.  I sometimes fret about playing the “Milkshake” song or wearing Steelers gear in an episode, but showing me willingly entering an oven would probably get us sued faster than either of those infringements.

This episode – 19 episodes in, at that – features a first here on Franks and Beans: we actually have our first production-inspired purchase on display.  If you couldn’t guess, it’s the sad-looking pizza that Larry so gracefully slides out onto the oven tray.  On my way to Larry’s house – er, the studio – in the morning, I get a call.  “You should go ahead and buy a pizza,” Larry suggested, as it was an integral prop for the upcoming episode.  If the pizza looks like it cost a dollar fifty, that’s because it did – I bought the cheapest pizza that I possibly could.  We ate the pizza (surprisingly good, all things considered) but saved the box, knowing that a moment such as that should be saved for posterity.  We’re thinking of putting it up on eBay.  Really.  Eventually.

Another exciting feature to this episode hasn’t actually been seen yet.  That’s because in just another week or so from this posting, we’ll release the special, extra-featureish EXTENDED EDITION for your viewing pleasure.  The ending you see here is exactly what we had in mind for “Is it Cold in Here?”, but this new addition just adds a little more oomph, I think.  Look for that soon.

Finally, we come to the ever-present “NO!” ending, in which we see Larry dressed up as a character from the best movie I’ve ever seen EVER, The Dark Knight.  Rest assured, Larry didn’t concoct this getup just for F&B, but it certainly serves its purpose.  Here’s a fun fact for you fans out there – Larry is a maniac when it comes to Halloween costumes and costume parties (hence the earlier Hulk Hogan ending), and this selection stacks up there with the best of them…though He-Man might still be my favorite.

It’s that time of year again…

Perhaps you’re a regular Franks and Beans viewer who enjoys coming to this site to watch videos and read about exciting happenings with the show.  Perhaps you are an NFL mascot with a weakness for non-alcoholic whipped cream-themed desserts.  My point is, you’ve perhaps been disheartened with this blog in recent weeks, because there have been few updates and even fewer that aren’t simply episodes or production blogs.

In the weeks ahead, that will hopefully change.  The good news: my semester of teaching is officially over.  Once I turn in grades (mostly without making them up!), I’ll be free and clear until August, at which point I’ll be so busy you may never see me again.  But until then!  Oh, the possibilities are endless.  Between now and July’s big San Diego Comic-Con, Larry and I are going to be pounding the ground, hitting the phones and performing other cliche actions that make it sound like what we’re doing has a great level of urgency and importance.

This means that new episodes will be filmed.  This means that the blog will be updated with increasingly regularity!  This means that my hair will begin to grow back!  Well, two out of those three are likely (and the other was worth the wishful thinking).  It’ll be a big seven or eight weeks coming up.  Exciting times await.  The end.

Blog 20 – How To

Originally Published 9.15.08

If you’re like me, there’s nothing quite like a well placed unexpected f-bomb to make you laugh.  That being said, being me’s not all it’s cracked up to be, so take that for what it’s worth.  Get out of my head!

This blog marks the release of the presidential eighteenth episode of Franks and Beans, “How To”.  For those of you who are math wizards, you’ll notice that eighteen is divisible by six, which means that you are in store for another of Jeff and Larry’s “episodes that no one watches because they feel burned by the ‘Commentary’” episodes.  It’s okay – Larry and I don’t take it personally.  Honestly, though, if you’ve abstained from watching “How To”, you’re missing out on some of our best stuff.  And like we’ve always said, Franks and Beans is firmly against abstinence of any kind.

This episode wrapped up a long shooting week for Larry and me, but it had been planned for quite a while.  I tend to imagine the episodes in no particular order, and though it’s true that Franks and Beans doesn’t employ any hard and fast continuity, sometimes an episode is too thematically similar to the previous one to air it right away, or sometimes we run into minor issues like wanting to introduce “Hardcore Mark” in one particular episode over all others.  This episode remained entrenched in this spot due more to math than anything else, but you get the point – we film neither scenes nor episodes in order, at least not always.

One thing that I wanted to avoid, and try to avoid in a more overall sense, is too much of an overlap with previous episodes where we speak directly to the camera.  Beyond the familiar opening of “Hi, I’m…”, I wanted to make this style of episode distinct from “Commentary” and “Mailbag/Bloopers”.  With this in mind, the early line about receiving questions from fans was something I wasn’t entirely sure about leaving in, as it is rather reminiscent of the scene in “Mailbag” where we get a letter from the mythical Josh in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (as good a place as any to get mail from).  The two episodes do begin rather similarly, mostly by design, and I didn’t want people to think that we were just repeating ourselves…though we probably do plenty of that as well.  Still, the decision was made to leave the line in, because frankly I couldn’t think of a substitute that was better.  Sometimes simple works.

The premise of this episode is fairly straightforward – we start out with me making apparently outrageous claims that Franks and Beans is a collaborative effort, and Larry (not too tactfully) tries to keep his indignation to himself.  I really don’t want anyone to look to far into any of this.  While many projects that whisk members off to superstardom may end in bitter feuds and acid-laced barbs about the creative participation of others involved, Franks and Beans is still a friendly venture between all who take part in it.  Well, maybe that’s not always the case.  Larry’s parents sometimes get annoyed when we film and they want to sit down to dinner.  But other than that, this episode is very much a farcical look at such rivalries.

I’d like to point out that while I do think that swearing can be funny in specific contexts, it usually has the propensity to lose some of the humor by taking on a life of its own.  I think that sometimes movies or comedians (or whatever) who are known to use strings of expletives can sometimes get caught up in that to the point where it all becomes about shock value and one-upmanship rather than the joke.  And swearing without humor is just that – swearing.  But swearing with humor?  That’s just effing funny.

Something you may be interested to know about: okay, so that paper I’m seen writing on during this episode?  We did a few takes, and I’m actually writing what I’m saying, so I would just trace the words for subsequent takes.  At the end of the day I took the piece of paper, folded it up, stuck it in my pocket, and completely forgot about it.  I have no idea where it is.  I’m hoping that this doesn’t happen, but there’s a chance that my parents will one day soon find the sheet of paper, open it up and find nothing but my profanity scribbled over and over again, one on top of the other, bold and for all to see.  If this becomes reality, I wonder what the chances are that I’ll be able to explain that it’s not mine to any level of believability?

Before filming this episode, I explained the main ideas to Larry and told him that, at some point, he would grab me by the throat in a fit of anger.  I told him to make it look real and to not be afraid to actually choke me, and Larry didn’t disappoint.  This was pretty fun the first time we filmed it, but the luster wore off quickly, even though Larry was being rather gentle when squeezing the life out of me.  As we fall back, we’re landing on the soft support of every cushion on Larry’s basement furniture, as neither of us really wanted to get hurt during this episode.  As it was, there were some near misses with desk corners and other protruding objects.

There are a few sound effects to take note of here, the first of which is directly at the end of our main feature.  Larry winds up to punch me and seems to connect, but what actually happens is more blind luck than anything else.  Though we tend to forgo the choreography in this and any episode, our struggle was about as real-looking as, honestly, it’s going to get, especially with the smack to the face.  Larry actually took that very realistic sounding punch noise from another point in the fight an overlaid it quite masterfully.

I truly do wonder what other people think of this episode and those others like it.  While I thoroughly enjoy the regular Franks and Beans fare, these little side projects are things I take great pride in as well.  I realize that “Commentary” might not have been everyone’s most revered show (to me, that in itself is funny), but I do hope that people will give this and “Mailbag” a genuine try before rejecting it out of hand.  I said this before, but I truly do think that these are some of our best.

Speaking of our best, how about the “No!” ending for this week’s episode?  As with many visionary ideas of mine, this one came to me while I was in the shower.  It’s as if I was asking just how we could spice up our cliffhanger endings, and lo, someone from on high answered, “put Jeff in it!”  Well, okay, I don’t want to be in all of these, or, really, many at all (that’s not the point of them), but this was one that I couldn’t pass up.  Even though you can’t see it, I’m actually sitting on a toilet in Larry’s house, and that is pretty funny on its own merits.  Larry again surprised me by digitally adding in the ‘call waiting’ sound that I react to, and it is Larry’s Dukes of Hazzard hat that actually looks pretty good on me here in this scene.  The split screen, Larry tells me, was a rather difficult effect to render here, but it does look rather effortless as a finished product.