Episode 43.1 – Disgusting Commentary on “Why So Misleading?”

Two great tastes don’t always go great together.

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Blog 45 – Why So Misleading?

Why So Misleading screen shot 01

You wanna know how I got this internet show? My friend, had a camera, and a computer. And one night, he goes off crazier than usual. I write a script to defend myself. He likes it. Just. A little. Bit. So, me watching, he puts together a set, laughing while he does it. He turns to me and says, “Why so misleading?” Turns the camera on. “WHY SO MISLEADING?” He points the camera at my face… “Let’s put a smile on the faces of audiences everywhere.” And…

And the rest, my friends, was HOLLYWOOD MAGIC.

Welcome to the blog for the video for the show for the computer, this one titled “Why So Misleading”.  If you didn’t notice, this episode marks the second Christmas episode in Franks and Beans lore, the other being “The Gift” way back at the beginning.  And while “The Gift” was fairly slow moving (I like to think of it as “understated”), this episode features a number of interesting tidbits that I would talk about if only I had the online space in which to do so.

Oh, right.  Moving on, then.

Why So Misleading screen shot 02

Our 43rd episode revolves around two separate soundtracks, at least one of which is easily recognizable.  Both Larry and I were (and are) fairly taken by the newest Batman movie trilogy, and it’d be a tough sell to claim that “The Dark Knight” weren’t the best of the three.  One of the things that stands out about the film is, of course, the ominous music that plays every time something truly awful was about to happen.

This, of course, speaks to a larger convention of music in films, and the almost hypnotic power that music holds over audiences, to the point where it’s almost become a parody of itself every time a hopeful or sinister tune plays.  Well, I guess we’re parodying it now, so you’ll just have to find some new tropes, movies.

The joke in this episode, then, revolves around the scene playing out in the exact opposite manner in which the music might indicate.  The Dark Knight music that lends an eerie tone to anything it touches?  It’s just me wishing Larry a Merry Christmas.  That happy “Peter and the Wolf” music near the end?  I GET A FRIGGIN’ KNIFE TO THE CHEST!

Why So Misleading screen shot 03

Perhaps I even die.  Perhaps.

Some notes from this episode:

– Larry is reading some pretty interesting material, in a manner that is not at all promotional or obvious, at the beginning of the episode.  What could it be?  Oh, it’s none other than Teddy and the Yeti #1 from Wagon Wheel Comics, probably still available for sale from fine online retailers!  We must have been reading it and enjoying it right before this was filmed.  What a fun story.

– If I get one, then Larry gets one: the gift I give to Larry is none other than a Dukes of Hazzard DVD.  True story: I actually did get this for Larry for Christmas this year.  Also true: Larry hated it.

– The happy music you hear at the end of the episode is from “Weird Al” Yankovic’s collaboration with Wendy Carlos in the semi-obscure album “Peter & the Wolf: Carnival of the Animals part II”:

Weird Al Peter & the Wolf

 

I got the synthetic orchestra album for my birthday a long time ago.  I’ve actually listened to it straight through a couple times.  It’s pretty strange and very different from any other album from Weird Al.  Anyway, it has some pretty light and airy stuff on it, which I thought would be perfect for the sequence of me getting stabbed in the chest (and let’s not forget…I might actually be dead).

There are some technical issues with this episode that keep it from being as good as it can be: sound being one of them (which is unfortunately not something new), and the fact that we should have made the knife more clear at the end.  I think that most people get the point (pun!) when they see me clutching the knife, but a close up or, heaven forbid, a clearer shot wouldn’t have killed us, either (obvious pun!!).  Overall, though, I enjoy the way that we incorporated music into the episode and I think that this turned out to be a pretty solid episode, front to back.  And Larry makes his bid for a catch phrase at the end with his very convincing “Today has been so misleading!”

Why So Misleading screen shot 04

 

Our wonderful “NO!” ending makes its return…for the 43rd time…with a bit of auto-tune.  We also used some auto-tune (I figured out how to make it work in Garage Band…which I’m pretty sure that I now forget how to do) for the episode “Perfect”, which featured quite a bit of singing, but it didn’t come across nearly as well as it did here.  I guess there’s nothing inherently funny about the auto-tune process, but I’ll take it if I can get it.  Obviously, I couldn’t let Larry steal all of the spotlight this time around (because I’m a terrible friend), so I stuck my head in there at the last second.  Classy.

Blog 25 – eBay

Originally Published 1.22.09

Our monstrously spectacular 23rd episode, “eBay”, harkens back to a previous episode, but it is its format that brings me to this equally monstrously spectacular blog.  I suppose the monstrous spectacular-ity may vary depending on your preferences, though…just take my word for it.

If you’ve seen the episode “Message Board”, then you’ve probably figured out that there are more than a few similarities between it and “eBay”.  For starters, my character spends most of his time discovering a new and potentially dangerous function for the Internet.  In addition, in both episodes I eventually get caught up in some of the more obvious pitfalls of said Internet tools, as Larry tries to warn me of the errors I’m committing.

I think that this episode, much like episode 11, can be and is still funny even though the two are quite similar because of how common the situations are.  Everyone who has haplessly wandered onto a message board can understand how overly dramatic a seemingly harmless situation can become, just as anyone worth his or her virtual salt has seen firsthand how an Internet auction can get out of control.  Bidding wars are nothing new, as I’m sure face-to-face auctions hold the same dangerous tendencies where some get caught up in the moment (I once outbid my high school science teacher on a box of random Star Trek paraphernalia…really), but the vendettas that spring out of an eBay auction are at the same time horrible and hilarious.  The shared experience with the creators and viewers is what makes this episode work, which hopefully it does.

What really strikes me as interesting about this episode, though, is the format and how it compares to the standard episode of Franks and Beans.  “eBay”, clocking in at a little under five minutes in length, is one of our longer episodes.  However, it was one of the quickest to shoot, and I think that Larry will agree that it was one of the easiest to edit, as we basically have a steady-camera shot of a few difference scenes that were filmed in basic sequential order.

The speed in which the episode was completed happened for a couple reasons – first, Larry and I were wrapping up a day in which we had spent a lot of time filming for other episodes, and I was anxious to leave (but not because I don’t like Larry.  Why do people keep insinuating that?!).  Second, and more important, we didn’t use much of a hard-and-fast script.  Not that we usually spend our time memorizing written lines, but in this case we really just dove head first into the episode relying on a lot of improvisation.  And just like in “Message Board”, it seemed to go off without a hitch.

Once the final product was up and ready for viewing, I noticed the length and it struck me as, for lack of a better term, odd.  As anyone who pulls up the F&B playlist (thousands and thousands of you) can readily see, the average length of our episodes might be, what, two minutes?  Two and a half?  And this is with more preparation, more writing, and more filming than this episode, usually by a lot.  What makes it so hard for me to write four minutes of dialogue, when Larry and I can randomly rattle off as much if not more without breaking much of a sweat?  This is something that I can’t wrap myself around quite yet – all the preparation that goes into a ‘regular’ episode (and there is preparation…I promise) and we come up with something twice as long by just turning the camera on and going with it.  Naturally, a longer episode doesn’t necessarily mean a better episode…but I think you know what I mean.

This also leads me to think about more ‘conventional’ sitcoms, the 22-minute, broadcast-ready television sitcoms.  “eBay” is, roughly, one-fifth the length of your average CBS sitcom when you discount commercials.  If this one conversation about how easy it is to get sucked into spending too much money on eBay took up 20 percent of, say, as episode of “How I Met Your Mother” (or any other in that generic lineup), how does anything get done in your typical program?  How do they not run out of time after the third scene?  I can’t figure this one out – it took us four and a half minutes to tell ONE JOKE – and they’re expected to turn out complex characters and interesting situations in not all that much more time.  Amazing.

A few more random notes about this episode before I wrap things up for this blog:  At the beginning of the episode I make a call to a fictional toy shop (there aren’t many around anymore, to be honest) and ask for a “Rhinox” action figure.  This is because I will do anything in my power to talk about the show “Beast Wars” with Larry, as it’s one thing we can agree on – “Beast Wars” was a great show.  Tremendous.  And Rhinox was the best character on the Transformers spin-off, though Larry may not agree with that.  But I’m right.  As we were filming, I actually did type “Rhinox” into eBay’s search function, and what do you know – there was a new Rhinox figure on the market.  A few weeks later Larry bought it and mailed it to me – because that’s just the kind of guy he is.  The kind of guy who mails stuff to you.  Thanks, buddy!

One of the most frustratingly deceptive actions on eBay is the scheme of charging too much on shipping costs.  Hey, there’s something I want and it’s ONLY 99 CENTS!  YES!  I WILL BUY IT AND – oh, wait, it costs 30 dollars to send a book…through MEDIA MAIL.  You only have to let your guard down for one second and bam!  They get you.  I hate people who do this.

Our much anticipated “NO!” ending was, honestly, a thing of desperation.  For the life of me, I couldn’t think of a good twist on our little tradition, and let’s face it – Larry wasn’t coming up with any pieces of gold either.  Finally I said, “oh, just put your clothes on backwards or something” and we went with it.  Just before we shot the dubious scene, though, Larry said, probably as an aside, “do you want me to walk in backwards when I do it?”  BRILLIANCE!  This is what made the ending.  I was just going to have Larry walk in as always, only with his pants on backwards (shirt and hat, too, but “pants” is a funny word and I didn’t want to take away from that).  And it would have been awful.  But having Larry walk in backwards, stick his arms behind him and give ‘em that Larryesque shake did wonders for it and for our ending.

Blog 24 – The Sweater

Originally Published 1.18.09

Every time I watch this episode (not often), I reconfirm what a great idea it was, at least to me.  I don’t know that I did a great job with the execution, but there are a lot of weird, funny ideas buried in “The Sweater”.

Thinking back to it, “iChat” has been one of the more successful episodes of Franks and Beans.  That’s not to say that our 13th episode has garnered us fame or a huge increase in wealth (any more than our others have…that’s right, we’re rich…perhaps), but it seems to get more views than many of our other episodes.  Despite having a rather awkward pause in the middle of this episode, “iChat” continues to be both memorable and popular.  The question then becomes why this could be, and the answer seems to stand out – I take my pants off.  Yes, after thinking long and hard for a reason (get it???), this is what is certainly causing the upswell of interest (okay, enough of that) in the episode.  The next question, then, is simple.  How do we replicate such success?

To this effect, we find episode 22, “The Sweater”.  Although we come to the conclusion in a much different manner, the joke remains relatively the same – at some point in this episode, there will be people who are not wearing pants.

In truth, there aren’t many similarities between the two episodes in question, but there really doesn’t need to be to have the comparisons made.  Look, we’re talking about simulated nudity here, the rest practically writes itself, right?  Well, not exactly, but the point is a valid one.

Our scene dawns with what I believe to be the first appearance of my beloved Toyota Camry as a prop in Franks and Beans.  I don’t know if “beloved” is the right term to use here, but Larry loves his Jeep so much that I feel obligated to have feelings toward my primary mode of transportation.  I’m honestly just glad that the side with the missing hubcap is out of view, as it really brings out the auto negligence that many would probably otherwise accuse me with.  At any rate, when my car eventually breaks (possibly in half), I can look back at this episode and feel comforted that it has at least been captured for posterity in some corner of the Internet (this has since happened).

As we needed a driveway and we needed to have Larry do something other than aimlessly stand for this scene, the basketball hoop, sad and neglected at the Franks household, served a purpose and became a small joke in and of itself.  No one has ever looked at me and said “I’d be afraid to play basketball with that guy”, unless I had a gun or other weapon on me at the time, in which case the fear would be justified.  Larry at least has an edge in height, though neither of us are what you might describe as “skilled”, “competent”, or even “having a better than 50 percent chance of beating young girls at a game where the hoop is twice as wide”.  When Larry throws the ball over the backboard as I watch to see where it lands (it did actually travel pretty far), the underlying humor is that a game between the two of us would probably be pretty similar: I’d just stand there and Larry would throw the ball all over the place.

The main focus of this episode – the unsightly sweater – came to me as I was packing to return home for my Christmas break.  As I rifled through the possibilities of what I could wear for church on Christmas Eve, it came to me: what is appropriate one day out of the year is inappropriate in every other instance.

Think about it.  The sweater I have on in this episode (some of the detail of which is lost because it’s white and the sun is particularly bright) is a fluffy nightmare, and even though I’ve never been one to care much about fashion, I’d never think of wearing it outside of the house except for the stately once-a-year Christmas Eve church service.  Think about it – 364 days out of the year, people would look at me like I was from another planet if I wore that thing, but on the day before Christmas, no one would bat an eye.  It’s the incongruity of it all that I find funny.

The idea with this episode was to make it more and more ridiculous before finally revealing it to be a dream, which, hopefully came as a surprise without making everyone first write the entire thing off as too confusing.  This is why we get the applesauce comment and the no pants gag, culminating with the wonderful effect of Larry flying out of the scene.  This was one of the most difficult stunts to pull off simply because reversing film is usually so obvious that any humor is lost in the attempt.  The idea behind it is easy to grasp – we’re just taking Larry jumping into the scene and playing it backwards.  Quite often, though, it looks cheap and dumb, just like speeding up a scene (which the Munsters made famous or infamous, depending on the overuse) has the same effect.  I think, though, that we were able to do a pretty good job with this one, maybe because the only line of dialogue is “Wheeeee!”  I’d like to point out, though, that I was staring almost directly into the sun for most of this shot.  At then end of our various takes, I was seeing spots and my eyes were watering, but the end product is probably better than I originally hoped for.

This all leads up to the end of the episode, of course, where we’re dealing with not only the sight gag of a pantsless Larry, but the culmination of most of the visual lead up from the earlier dream sequence.  If this episode succeeded in its goals, there were a few things to take in at the end, and the buildup toward the shock of seeing my character’s nightmare become reality was that much more rewarding.  Plus, I just love jokes that end with uncomfortable stares and the line “…what?”  Seriously, much of the stuff I write ends with that.  I should probably try to be less of a one-trick-pony.  Whatever.

Our “No!” ending might be one of my favorites, and not just because I’m in it (although…).  Around this time I gave thought to putting an end to this style of ending, but then this one came from out of the blue, with really no preparation or forethought.  If we can come up with endings of this stature, we might as well keep them going until they really fall apart.  The physical humor of getting hit by a door, I think, is obvious.

Blog 23 – Essence of Jeff

Originally Published 12.27.08

Now that Christmas has come and gone for 2008 (quaint!), it’s time to self-assess.  It’s time to think over the past year and assign meaning to it.  As I create my own personal top 10 countdown list (so popular these days!), I find that Franks and Beans, for me, falls under the category of “too fun to stop doing even if everyone would hate it.”  And so it is with great pride that I saw with a bellowing voice, “Eat it, world!  Franks and Beans is here to stay!”

“Essence of Jeff”, our 21st episode that just happens to sounds like it could possibly be the title of a soft-core pornographic movie, definitely covers some familiar territory.  Even when factoring in that all of our episodes hold at least some similarities in thematic events, this most current offering still probably ranks on top of that particular list.  This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with “Essence of Jeff”, or that it’s at all unimaginative (I’ll leave that for others to decide), but if nothing else, there’s a familiarity to it that probably makes it hard to find many distinguishing characteristics.

Let’s start at the beginning.  We open with a shot of fried eggs in a skillet, one of my favorite euphemisms for breasts.  It seems that any time we highlight food in an episode, which is fairly often, we have a really tight extreme close up of it.  Specifically “Grapes” and “Mustache” come to mind.  There are a couple of reasons why this is, though it probably comes back to the fact that I have a strange sense of what constitutes a creative camera shot, because I do enjoy a good, detailed close up…and our camera’s electronic capabilities lend itself to just that (even if it doesn’t always show up in the finished online product).

Another reason is for continuity, that warm, comfortable feeling you get when watching a show and the same thing happens over and over again.  It’s like a friend – predictable, assuring, and non-judgmental!  Or…at least predictable, depending on your friends of choice.  I find myself falling back more and more into some of the patterns we’ve established before, and I like those subtle nods to what has come before.  I don’t think it takes anything away from the actual joke, and it might itself become part of the joke after the pattern has been adequately established.

So…eggs.  If you’re quick to notice, we’re showing one solitary egg in our opening shot.  The next shot isn’t as accessible to viewers, but if you’re really observant (and can make use of that handy “pause” tool), you’ll see that Larry is in fact later cooking two eggs when I go ahead and throw the concoction into the mix.  This was strictly an editing decision, because for whatever reason, I completely botched filming the second egg dropping into the pan.  There was no real excuse for it – I was filming the shell, the pan, the crack, and then…nothing.  Maybe the stove behind the pan.  Why is this?  I can think of two reasons, and the more serious involves a brain tumor that distracts me and my concentration abilities from time to time, so I’m hoping that I just slipped up this time around.

The subsequent conversation plays on many familiar themes that have become a staple on Franks and Beans: my harebrained ideas, Larry’s curmudgeonly mentoring, an ultimate failure on my part.  The episode that most springs to mind is the first, “High School”, which probably ended with a funnier outcome, in all honesty.  This one hinged mostly on my ability to make pathetic crying noises, which can really only go so far.  But the conversation at the beginning, with Larry’s “skin-scraping” comment and my “herbs and spices” line, is one of my favorite and at the very least serves as a pretty good setup for the clash to come.

The crying that you hear as I run out of the room and Larry reluctantly follows, now that I think about it, shares some of its influence with Julia Sweeney and any number of Adam Sandler movies.  In this particular scene it’s extended in the editing stage by Larry – so that’s why it seems I’m wailing on for such a long period.

Why I chose the chewing gum/sock reference is really anyone’s guess.  I do think “chewing gum” in a nasally whine is a little funny, and the sock leads to the initial confusion, but why exactly I put that in the episode is not exactly clear.  Is it funny?  It has the potential to, at least.  Whether or not it delivers is up to others to debate, but the fact is that it’s not the primary focus of the episode – the punch line of sorts in “Essence of Jeff” comes from the running away and crying.  The second time it happens, it’s a matter of repetition and predictability; we’ve calmed Jeff down, we’ve taken control of the situation one more time, and then it happens all over again.  That inability to keep control of an extreme situation is what makes or breaks this joke and, by extension, this episode.

Our “NO!” ending is one of my favorites, at least in theory.  The idea of Larry falling down only to reappear with blood streaming down his face is not only visually distinctive but also pretty damn funny, in my opinion.  The problem with the execution is that I wasn’t allowed to break Larry’s nose to finish the effect – not even a little.  The question then became what could be an acceptable substitute, and I originally settled on ketchup.  In addition to being disgusting to have smeared all over your face (Larry assured me that he could still smell it lingering in his nasal cavities hours after washing it off), ketchup isn’t as red as it might appear in the bottle or your memory.  In fact, it comes off a little orange on film, or at least on our film, and that would do little more than confuse anyone watching – and this is beyond the initial confusion of what the endings mean in the first place.

We kept the ketchup, for its liquid consistency, on Larry’s hands for the final shot, and ended up using some Halloween costume makeup for the blood on Larry’s face (and thus the Joker costume played a new role in the show).  The results, as I’m sure is obvious, are so-so.  I’ve learned that it is challenging to show realistic-looking blood on film, meaning that I may have to scrap a future episode where one of us kills the other on screen, only to be sprayed in the face with blood from the stab wounds.  Well, maybe we’ll just have to go through with it for real.  Save the date on that one!