Blog 28 – Replacement Larry


Originally Published 4.01.10

This is one episode that I don’t mind watching again (as opposed to some of which I am IMMEDIATELY ASHAMED!), and I think it holds up.  Josh, my brother-in-law, really stepped up and made this work.  Larry did okay too, I guess.

Sometimes it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  Other times it just makes Larry mad at you for not writing a new Franks and Beans blog for months and months.  Which is it this time, I wonder?  Only the wind knows.  And Larry.  Because he knows all.

Franks and Beans returns this week with an all new retrospective look at the fantastically super episode 26, affectionately known in some circles as “Replacement Larry”.  This episode features a number of memorable lines, but more notable is obviously the inclusion of a brand new character in the F&B universe.  Before this episode, the only secondary character not played by superfan Mark Moncheck was a member of Larry’s immediate family.  To start pulling my weight around here (because really, I should stop riding the coattails of my past success) I brought someone in from my side of the family, namely my brother-in-law Josh Rager.

Josh is, as you can see in this episode, a natural when it comes to Franks and Beans.  And by this I mean he sure is good at playing up his part to the point where it becomes a caricature of himself, which I believe Larry and I tend to do as well.  Josh is really like this in real life – kind of.  By looking at the roles we all play as just characters who are part of a larger story, it was just a matter of time before we came up with something similar to the plot we have in this episode, where one of those characters gets replaced by one a little more agreeable.

The majority of this episode is filmed – ON LOCATION! – a mile or two away from our normal location of Larry’s house; interestingly enough, when deciding what the best place to film outside, walking down a sidewalk, we chose a spot right outside of a house Larry’s grandmother owns.  Keeping it close, I guess.  Outside shoots always add a different element to the process; namely, there are more distractions.  Sometimes it’s a car blowing its horn, sometimes it’s a dog barking, sometimes it’s a nudist sunning himself in a conspicuous location.  This time it was one of Larry’s neighbors, who decided that a few guys setting up a video camera on a tripod was a good time to shoot the breeze.  Such is the price of stardom, I suppose.

We here at Franks and Beans have referenced Ed McMahon twice on the show – once in the pilot episode “High School” (“I have this recurring nightmare where Ed McMahon’s chasing me…and I’m naked”) and now just slightly more subtle in “Replacement Larry”.  I am, of course, referring to the catch phrase “HEY-OOO!” which we repeat a few times during the episode.  Other than the fact that I apparently always have Ed McMahon on the edge of my thoughts, this was very much unintentional.  It has had, though, an unintended consequence: because of this episode, I have begun saying “HEY-OOO!” in real life situations whenever I get excited.  And I don’t know how to stop!  Perhaps Ed McMahon’s ghost is haunting me; perhaps it forever will.

Larry plays an understated role in this episode – perhaps we both do when compared to the over-the-top character that Josh plays – but he has a few memorable actions that are worth mentioning.  Even if they aren’t, I’m still going to mention them, so I guess you just have to deal with it…or stop reading.  Please don’t stop reading!

When Larry first approaches me in this episode – we just happen to be the only people walking down this desolate street – he comments on all of the various ways in which he’s tried to contact me in recent days.  Here’s one thing you need to know about Larry – he likes to add references to his stuff in episodes, whether they fit or not.  (And he hasn’t grown out of it yet.)  This is why Larry never refers to his vehicle as a car in any episode, which normal people would do.  No, Larry ALWAYS refers to it by the proper noun “Jeep”.  In “How To” he even backtracks so he can include a reference to his beloved emitter of greenhouse gas.  In “Replacement Larry” he mentions my Blackberry mobile device, by which of course he’s mentioning HIS new Blackberry mobile device.  But the joke’s on you, reference Larry, because you took your Blackberry back to the store just days after filming this episode!  That’ll learn you.

Another Larry-ism that bears mentioning is the long walk Larry takes after leaving Josh and me to discuss our future plans.  None of the things Larry decides to do in the background – trip over a rock, check his shoe while leaning on a telephone pole, etc. – were planned, at least by me.  All of these improvisations really add a level of humor to the episode that I think raise the quality to another level – a level that couldn’t have been achieved simply through dialogue alone.  Seeing it come together as seamlessly as it did was truly an auspicious moment, and one I hope we both can learn from.

I honestly wonder if anyone gets offended when Replacement Larry goes into his “maybe we could make out a little” speech.  The humor in this episode, as it’s intended, comes from the prospect of having a jovial conversation take a very unexpected turn.  I do actually fret that one day someone will watch this episode and think that the gay proposition is the only joke we’re making – and while shock value does of course come into play, as it has to, I’d like to think that the overall intention is much more innocent.  If you’re reading this and you are a bit miffed…you have my apologies.  Maybe I’ll buy you a Coke or something.

The final scene in this episode, which should be quick enough to have the right effect, probably would have worked better if I could have stopped myself from smiling after saying my line.  I’m working on it.

Our “No!” ending for this episode reaches hall of fame proportions, as I’ve heard that it surpasses all previous and surely all future efforts in this regard.  This would normally be daunting and just a little bit insulting, but I have to admit, the “silent movie” effect combined with “The Entertainer” music really does make for a nice effect.  What really sells this scene, though, is Larry’s dramatic acting and dramatic choice of wardrobe – who just has a hat like that?!  In any case, like many things in this episode, things really came together nicely for the ending.  We’ll be trying to live up to this as season two rages on.  And by “rages on” I mean “violently surges forward”.  Hope to have you on board for what is sure to be a fun ride!

Franks and Beans go to Comic-Con

The great state of California has an event so big that people there will even buy Franks and Beans memorabilia.  It is true!  I kind of have proof.

The big trip to the San Diego Comic-Con is now behind us and it’s time to get back to serious, adult things, like blogging about Franks and Beans.  But don’t worry, pictures are involved.

Larry and I made our way to the Golden State for Comic-Con 2012, and it did not disappoint.  While the primary mission was to sell comics like Teddy and the Yeti and FUBAR, we also took the time to run around the show floor (literally) once or twice and partake in some of the festivities.

Before the show, I made some new discs of F&B seasons one and two.  Previous versions were in a clamshell case and on a Lightscribe DVD.  This time around, I wanted to do something a little different and made painted DVDs such as the one above.  I’ll post more about these gems later.

If you look to the left of this picture, you might see the DVDs on sale.  Or you may not.  But they are there!  And at quite a reasonable price, too!  We sold a handful of these and handed out dozens of cards to both willing and unwilling attendees, so hopefully there’ll be some more traffic checking out our videos.  Also, if you are new to this site and found us because of Comic-Con, let me know and I’ll send you a dollar.

One of the highlights of the trip was getting to dress up as Jet Boy and Jet Girl from the Venture Bros. cartoon.  And when you look good, people stand up and take notice.  The top picture features VB creators Doc Hammer and Jackson Public, and directly above, here we are with Matt Atchity, EIC of the Rotten Tomatoes website that we all love so very much.  What began as an innocent lunch of burritos from the nearby Taco Truck (TM) turned into an interview with Sirius/XM Radio.  We plugged comics and FRANKS AND BEANS OH YEAH WOO!  So at one golden moment, for but the briefest of moments, you could hear us talk about our stupid Internet sketch comedy show across the globe.  I’m sure the world stopped for a moment to recognize the occasion.

After the show, Larry and I toured the Warner Bros. studio and some stuff.  Along the Way, we visited the FRIENDS set, where we took this very intimidating picture.  Perhaps the WB would like to pick up a great series based on an Internet comedy show made by guys who probably aren’t that young anymore, at least in Hollywood terms?

Comic-Con was overwhelming and successful on many different levels.  There are things we could have done better, but overall I think it went well.

This blog wasn’t as funny as it should have been, and for that I apologize.  But what can you do?  I’m only one man.

Blog 27 – The Long Run

Originally Published 3.29.09

I’m posting this from an airport in Phoenix.  It feels quite business-like.  This is how dedicated I am, people!

If you never knew just how self-referential Franks and Beans could get, just watch the dramatic reenactment of our very first episode in this tale of new beginnings, this springtime flower that is episode 25, “The Long Run”.  In addition to sounding like a mix between a Bob Hope road movie and an Ernest Hemingway novel, this episode asks some underlying questions that “High School” left tantalizingly unanswered.  Or perhaps you never asked those questions and find my assumptions unbecoming.  Either way, dammit, I’ve got a story to tell, and I’m going to tell it.

“The Long Run” obviously has its origins in the beginning of the series; in many ways Larry and I saw this as a symbolic nod in the direction of everything that our self-proclaimed first season had become.  As the first episode in our second season (why we chose this as our relaunching point is anyone’s guess), this episode is more than just an extended version of “High School’s” signature opening scene, but it still serves as a reminder of what came before.

Thinking back to the show’s first few days, I can remember just what I had planned for the series.  The first episode, complete with character development and an easy-to-follow storyline, would be followed by a second in which the main plot – trying to get back into high school in order to reclaim some long-lost glory – would be furthered by new jokes and an expanding cast.  I had plans to film in the actual high school of record (the one we drove to and quickly from in the first episode), and even a lengthy joke where Larry would point out how my ever-encroaching hair loss would make it difficult for me to pass as the average student (“I’ll wear a hat!” would have been my well planned reply).

As it turned out, putting together something of that magnitude would have been next to impossible to accomplish.  If nothing else, two guys in their mid-to-late twenties walking around a high school with a video camera was sure to arouse some suspicion.  And beyond that, this plan might have netted us…what, five episodes?  A half dozen if we were lucky?  No, the evolution of Franks and Beans into what it is now was quick and necessary.  We do have recurring characters and plotlines, but by and large, the show is propelled by the “joke of the week” mentality.

“The Long Run”, in some subversive way, is the expression of that mentality in relation to the show’s original intentions.  Here I am, running with an apparent goal in mind, determined to accomplish whatever I’ve set out to do, when all of a sudden I get flattened by a car.  This IS the evolution of Franks and Beans.  Do you get it?!  Is it funny?!  I hope so.

Other than being a representation of the show in general, “The Long Run” discusses some other questions that I’ve had since the first episode aired roughly fourteen months ago.  In “High School”, much of the opening sequence is simply my character running as fast as he could.  I think you could look at this in one of two ways – either what I had to tell Larry was so important that I couldn’t stop for anything, or this is how I arrived every time I decided to visit.  The second option is, I think, the funnier of the two in a physical sort of way, and as such I had plans of mentioning my character’s exhaustive sprints in every few episodes – showing me running up the driveway or bursting in the door or what have you.  Would I have had an important announcement or a new impossible challenge with every entrance?  It’s possible, but as with anything, the possibilities were limited.  So if nothing else, this episode again begs the question, “why does he run like that?!”  Not answering it in episode 25 makes it all the better, I think.

Another connection I wanted to make, at least at first, was the importance of my message in relation to the distance I traveled.  I ran for about ten seconds in the first episode with news that I thought would be life changing.  What kind of message would I have if I then extended my journey by as much as I did?  I wanted to raise expectations – the longer I ran the more pressing the question would be.  And then it ends with a solution that is not at all satisfying, but at the same time the only one possible.   An ending as abrupt as my apparent death hopefully had the desired effect: unexpected surprise.  I wanted the episode to be all buildup and just a tiny bit of solution, which hopefully it was.

As the shots in the episode progressed, we see a number of different occurrences that might have the propensity to slip on by: the dog that decided to chase me the entire length of its property; the reality shot where Larry chugs on after me down the road; the many times I regretted eating right before I decided to undertake this; the similarity of the last few shots with the opening of “High School”; Larry’s masterful editing job in making all of the scenes match up even though some were filmed at different times of day.

If you’re wondering why we never actually see me getting hit by Larry in his Jeep, it’s because that faking something like that is HARD!  When it came down to it, out biggest obstacle was the slant of the road, followed closely by the fact that concrete is hard and my body is covered almost entirely by soft pink flesh.  My momentum would carry me downhill to the point where it would be almost impossible to stop myself and fall backwards at the rate the Jeep was traveling.  If we had more time (all of our episodes are filmed on a relatively tight schedule), I would have extended the running even more until we came to a more level piece of ground.  Even so, the solution to our problems was probably the most effective way to end the episode – cut it just a little short and leave the obvious to the imagination.  That way the physical restrictions don’t have a chance to overshadow the joke.

I understand that “The Long Run” isn’t going to be the episode that puts Franks and Beans on the map, but it was satisfying from a creator’s standpoint, if nothing else.  It tied our first season in with our ongoing second, and it brought back some more of the absurdities from our much-beloved pilot episode.  Why does Jeff do all of that running in “High School”?  Well, now we’ll never know.  Because he’s dead.

Blog 26 – Studio Audience

Originally Published 3.01.09

Here’s our ode to reality television.  I’m really happy with the way it turned out…but wow, the ability to export and upload in high definition has really come a long way in the past few years.  Look at the screen shot directly above!  We’re all a blurry mess.  It’d be hard to charge Mark with a crime if all you had was this episode as evidence.  Not to start a rumor that Mark is anything but a fine, upstanding citizen.  And who’s to say that church fire didn’t start itself?

As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  If Franks and Beans is the broken clock in this allegory, then the unabashedly sensational episode 24, “Studio Audience” is 5:33 on that hunk of glass and gears.  It’s not a perfect metaphor.

Even so, it’s hard to deny that what we have here before us is something special, an occurrence of lightning in a bottle that we hope to perform than the image might conjure up (again with the metaphors!).  Simply put, both Larry and I are extremely proud of what we accomplished with this little episode that could.

This episode is in many ways a culmination of our entire body of work, but at the same time, it represents the randomness that is the calling card of this series in a way that people who watch this show have hopefully come to expect.  While much of “Studio Audience” is a callback to several of our previous episodes, its origins are much less referential – very simply, I thought it would be fun to film a “mockumentary” where Larry and I would be speaking directly to the audience, but in a way that would be different from other episodes like “Commentary” and “Mail Bag/Bloopers”.  The result is an episode that is actually pretty similar in format to a number of reality shows that are on the air today.

After watching this episode, you might have been tempted to fold your arms and say “hmm!  Looks like Jeff and Larry did some research for this one.”  And you would be right, anonymous viewer – we each watched roughly twelve seconds of clips from “The Office” And “Little People, Big World” just to figure out if we should be looking directly at the camera in our ‘confessional’ shots.  As it turns out – and as a result of our tireless research – no, looking right at the camera is a major faux pas.  Instead, as is evidenced in the finished product, when filming a reality show you must look just SLIGHTLY to one side of the camera.  Thank you, Internets!

“Studio Audience” welcomes back friend to the program ‘Hardcore Mark’ as he reprises his role as ‘whatever we ask him to do’.  This is an invaluable role, as it turns out that Larry and I cannot play every single character in the show, although we do a bang-up job at trying.  While dozens (and dozens!) of people actually watch Franks and Beans, Mark is probably the show’s biggest fan outside of its creators, and thus gets all the good character roles that might otherwise go to waste.  He’s quick to critique a new episode with gusto and commitment that is, quite frankly, a little disturbing given the show’s nearly invisible status on the pop culture radar.

The plot of this episode is fairly simple, though the execution was lengthy and detailed: Franks and Beans takes on a studio audience (Mark), which quickly divides the two main characters in their levels of appreciation for it.  Conflict is a hallmark of quite a few episodes, but it’s usually less focused and more a result of one particular insult or perceived slight.  In this episode (longer than the standard fare at nearly five minutes) we do our best to draw the tension out and show a relatively long progression to the ultimate rift that takes place at the end.

Interlaced with confessionals are clips from mostly fake episodes of Franks and Beans, the exception being a revisiting of “The Sweater”.   I had to make this call back, I felt, for a few reasons.  First, nudity is most always funny, and Mark’s chase scene really sells it here.  Second, “The Sweater” is probably one of the episodes that I have the most problems with (it’s better as a concept than in reality, I think), and reopening this wound whenever possible adds to the humor.  No one gets “Commentary” and I’m not the biggest fan of “The Sweater”, so let’s talk about them as much as we can!  This is how I think.

The other fake episode clips, the “20-car pileup” scene, the “Can we still be friends?” scene and the “Mixing Bowl” scene were just based on props or one liners and I have no idea what the rest of these snippets would produce…but I have to admit, I did become quite fond of that bowl and wire whisk.

The scene in this episode that stole the show, though, was undoubtedly the confrontation scene, where all that buildup finally leads to something.  The walk-and-talk took a few times to perfect, and the whole scene is one entire shot, so this took some doing – one mistake and the whole thing had to be shot again.  We practiced slapping Mark’s fake script a few different ways, and once I swiped them straight into Mark’s face, hitting the poor guy right in his eyeball.  I feel bad for him now (sorry, Patch), but at the time I was thinking, “that was perfect!  Don’t lose character!!”

The ending of this episode was left a bit ambiguous for a few reasons.  Most importantly, there didn’t need to be some methodical resolution scene…or at least I wouldn’t know how to make one that was also funny.  Secondly, Larry and I decided to make this the official end of Franks and Beans, season one.  I know, I know…I said the same thing after episode 13, but still!  This time it’s for real.  What does that mean in the big scheme of things?  Well, it depends on how big you’re thinking.  If we’re talking about life or death struggles, surviving against all odds, then it probably doesn’t mean much.  But if you’re right at the level of “I’d be somewhat interested in collecting all of these episodes in a handy playback format”, then you’re in luck!  Because a DVD is in the works.  I know this because I bought like 25 empty DVD cases and we have to fill them with something.

So, if you want one…it’ll probably be free.  Because selling it would just go against our moral codes…and no one would buy it.  Maybe Mark. (We actually do have DVDs for sale now.  AND THEY ARE NOT FREE!!)

Before filming the “No!” ending for this episode, Larry and I had some decisions to make.  Trying to come up with a different way to enter a room and shout one word after two dozen episodes is something of a creative strain, and there was real discussion on moving on to another theme with this next ‘season’.  Ultimately, though, I thought that the challenge was worth it, and I could at least go another 24 episodes of unique endings.  So if we completely run out of ideas after, oh, episodes 30 or so, it’s on me.

As it was, we had the idea for me to switch roles with Larry for quite some time, but it seemed like this was the perfect opportunity to go with it.  It’s very simplistic but it represented something of a benchmark for the show and for Larry and me personally.  Franks and Beans has become a great source of pride and enjoyment for me, and I’d wager that Larry feels the same way; so reaching this point in the show brings with it a certain sense of accomplishment.  I’d say that we couldn’t have done it without fans and viewers alike, but in reality, this is something I’d like to do even if no one were watching, if we hadn’t gotten a steady stream of encouragement from the get go.  I think that this is the measure of any show – commitment in the face of little to no recognition from the outside world – and dammit, we’ve got that in spades with Franks and Beans.

Franks and Beans action figures!

Perhaps it’s because life is so fleeting – What is the point of existence?  Where do we go when we die?  Are you going to eat that? – but mankind is continually obsessed with the idea of immortality, of leaving a part of oneself behind for future generations to remember them by.  Different people go about trying to achieve this in different ways.  Some write the Great American Novel.  Some sing popular songs.  Some assassinate Archduke Ferdinand of Austria.  Larry, in his own inimitable fashion, would like nothing better than to be remembered for the ages with his very own action figure.  To this end, I can only respond in one way: welcome to those hallowed halls, my friend.

One thing that has become increasingly clear over the past years is that the world will not wait for Franks and Beans to become famous; Franks and Beans has to bring that fame to the world.  Here at Franks and Beans HQ (judge for yourself what secluded location that must be), we’re always thinking of new ways to impress our brand on the outside world, much like the cattle farmer sears his indelible mark into the resistant flesh of the herd.  One solution always springs to mind: marketing.  Neither Larry nor I really know what it means beyond the standard dictionary definition, but we both think that marketing is the key to wealth and fame the likes of which we’ve never seen, which is why we now so proudly introduce to you the official Franks and Beans series one action figures.

I can personally take no credit for these other than in my overwhelming presence in Larry’s everyday life.  No, it was Larry who created these prototypes and Larry who came up with the many inside references ALL BY HIMSELF.  I know what you’re saying – “but Jeff, some of these jokes are actually funny!”  Who knew that Larry had this in him?  Well, shame on you, distinguished reader, because I knew it all along.

First we have Larry in all his resplendent glory.  What may come as a surprise is that Larry’s muscular build is perfectly represented in molded plastic, a rarity for miniature (yet scale) figures.  We see him here wearing his trademark boots and with a casual yet confident pose, a really nice detail that fans of the show will surely pick up on.

The extra features in this set (besides the many points of articulation) are surely highlighted by the inclusion of the Action Door, complete with the Batman light switch cover that we’re so familiar with seeing in every episode.  Also featured to give Larry that true-to-life feel is a knife to help him interact with other figures and the very camera that brings Franks and Beans to life every so often.  Just think about all the things you could do in your lives if you only had two things, a camera and a knife.  I’m sure you’re as surprised as I was to find that you can actually live a fairly fulfilling life with just those two objects!

Next up we have Jeff’s figure, and once again we have to marvel at the level of detail shown in my very first molded likeness.  I’ll admit, I’ve watched a number of episodes and responded by saying “is my head really that freakishly disproportionate?” as I’m sure you, our many viewers have, too.  The answer to that question is a very solemn “yes”, which is why we’re fortunate that you’ll get a total of three Action Hats with my figure – only two of which are copyrighted!  As if my face isn’t scruffy enough in this great detailing job that also includes my favorite shirt and hand wrappings, you also get an attachable child molester-esque mustache to add to the mystique.  Larry’s iPod also accompanies this figure, which you can actually watch all of our videos on.  To create a prism-like infinity effect, pull up a picture of the figure on it and see if spacetime collapses!

No action figure set would be complete without a limited “chase” figure, and we certainly cater to the collector with our exclusive figure of “Hardcore Mark”, our favorite extra/stalker/guy who comments on every episode.  You may notice that the robe behind the extremely long-necked figure is extremely well formed – that’s because you get not only one, but TWO exclusive figures stuffed into one package, and each of the figures has just gotten a recent haircut – that’s how dedicated we are to realism and continuity.  Now they can both team up and try to kill Jeff and Larry – but watch out!  Larry’s figure has a knife.

Don’t forget to check out the other extras that come with this figure – both the Action Radio and Action Notepad will give you literally minutes of enjoyment if viewed from a safe distance.

You might be thinking, “These are great, but how will they all travel around the mythical land of Pennsylvania?”  That’s a great question, and it’s one that can only be answered by trying to absorb the incredible expensiveness that is our only series one vehicle, the Action Jeep.  As seen is such episodes as “High School” and “Mail Bag/Bloopers”, the Action Jeep has all of the real-world capabilities that regular sized Larry’s regular sized Jeep has.  Roll down your passenger side window – but only a little at a time, and never all the way down!  Play the same radio station you listened to in middle school and probably should have outgrown by now!  Park in the same spot for days, hoping to preserve its working lifespan and squeeze just a few more decades out of this devoted childhood friend!

It’s easy to see why both Larry and I are extremely excited about this new toy line, but here’s the real treat – series one lines always feature the boring, every day figures that everyone knows and expects.  It’s in further series that we’ll delve more deeply into our catalogue of characters.  Will the character known as “Larry’s Mom” finally get an action figure devoted to her wonderful talent of passing out mail?  Will we see what Larry and Jeff might look like in swimwear?  Will we have a glow-in-the-dark Hardcore Mark figure?  It’s possible – ANYTHING’S possible.