Blog 48 – Previously

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Ideas are funny things.  They inhabit a plane of existence outside the physical universe…the same universe that holds everything else, known or unknown, with the exception of these ideas.  When you think of something, and you picture it in your head, electrical signals are shooting around your body, but where does the idea itself exist?  Where is this image you’ve pictured in some ethereal capacity?  Nowhere, of course, but if that’s the case, how do we have those ideas?  How can something exist and at the same time not exist?

This is not to overmysticize the whole process and try to make it sound like something it’s not.  But the point of this all is WHERE DO WE COME UP WITH THESE GREAT IDEAS FOR FRANKS AND BEANS?  Another level of existence, that’s where.  And you can tell your friends this, because it’s true.  If they call you a liar, punch them right in the throat.

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This brings us to our 46th episode, “Previously”.  The idea for this episode sprung from two places: the unknowable nothingness that I just spoke of, and the desire to do a “backwards” episode, which is not a new concept but is probably attributed to Seinfeld more than anything else, at least as far as television and the like is concerned.  Now, you may be saying to yourself that this episode of Franks and Beans is not in fact filmed in reverse sequence, and you would be right.  Ideas, fleeting as they are, sometimes change in the process, and such is the case with “Previously”, where instead we ended up with lots and lots of fake buildup, only to have no real payout in the end (just like every other episode of Franks and Beans, amIright, fellas?).

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Speaking of change, there’s an interesting easter egg-y moment happening in this episode, as for once we try to be subtle about something.  Larry and I wear the same shirts throughout the episode, swapping them at times for no other reason than to have a background joke tossed in.

The episode took some strange turns but I think it worked to its full effect, poking fun at the really long and expository recaps that some shows put at the beginning of new episodes.  The tension builds and builds and builds (“You, all right? I learned it from watching you!”), and we even manage to keep a fairly consistent continuity throughout the “previously on…” sequence, with the exception of the non sequitur of the two of us laughing for no apparent reason.  Larry’s mysterious letter is the driving force!  What could its contents reveal?

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Somewhere out there in the universe (but in our real universe, not the strange abscess of reality where ideas exist), there’s an extended clip of our penultimate scene, where the apparently non-long-for-this-earth Jeff takes us to the cliffhanger.  This deleted scene lasts about three times as long as the actual episode, and I go on and on about whatever I can think of.  I’m pretty sure we put it on the season two DVD.  Whatever.  Maybe Larry can dredge it up for you one day, blog readers.

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The joke of this episode plays on all of our expectations, or more appropriately, the complete turn we take from everything that had come before.  Instead of answering any of the questions we post, either explicitly or implicitly throughout the episode, we end with us (in new shirts!) eating ravioli and spouting a “that’s what she said” line, which, let’s face it, is always sure to please (that’s what she said).

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Not to let the backwards theme go, our “No!” ending features a backwards scene…of sorts.  It’s a stretch, but…it is what it is.  Such is the life of ideas.

Oh, and I finally (we knew it was coming) messed up with the sequence of these episodes, as I forgot we had a commentary episode lined up for “Why So Misleading?”.  We’re all probably surprised that it took this long for it to happen.  Please watch it, and listen to Larry sound like he’s happy that he’s throwing up.

Blog 42 – 666

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Hey, everyone.  Who here likes the devil?  Now, I don’t mean you LIKE him like him, but just that you see him as more of an abstract concept, or a silly cartoon character, like a skinny guy with a goatee, painted red skin and silly horns, and you think, “hey, I like the Devil.  He’s funny and I bet he’s pretty misunderstood!”  Well, according to beloved author C.S. Lewis, you’re going to Hell.  No two ways about it!  Really, just punch your ticket now, bucco.  You should probably be ashamed of yourself, but since you’re already on a one-way trip to eternal fire and torment, I suppose there’s really no use in it.

While you’re there, taking part in having your teeth smashed in with a lava rock, please ask the Devil (he’ll be the guy in charge) what he thinks about episode 40 of Franks and Beans, the aptly-named “666”.  I’ll bet he just looks at you and spits snakes into your eyes or something, but what if he was like “Franks and Beans?  That’s a great episode!  I love the chaos montage!  They’re performing over in subsection five, right before we force them to eat their own intestines stuffed with razor blades.”  And then you could both laugh and laugh, and maybe Hell would be just a tiny bit more tolerable at that point.  But probably not, because, you know, Hell and all.

666 is a higher-concept episode than usual, with a lot of buildup and an immediate callback that, on a lot of levels, really works for me.  It does take a moderate-sized leap of faith in that we’re apparently professing that just saying the phrase “666” brings forth demonic possession and wild spasms of uncontrollable rage, but once you’re there, everything else falls into place.

If I had to change one thing about this episode, it’d be to add just a little more buildup.  I think that we would have benefited in taking things a bit more slowly; specifically, I wouldn’t jump right into the gravely “666!!” line right away.  Instead, I’d add up the numbers and say something like “and that comes to…six hundred and sixty-six dollars even.  Six…sixty six.”  And then pause for effect, look up to Larry, and THEN launch into the “SIX SIXTY SIX!” tirade.  I think that would have sold the joke better than what actually transpired, but overall I think it worked out fine, and hindsight is a tough sonofagun in any case.

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Here’s an amusing anecdote that should possibly make you sad and a little ashamed to know or even know OF your pals at Franks and Beans: it took both Larry and I several times to figure out how to subtract $6.66 from $10.00.  At first I embarrassed myself by saying $4.44.  In the editing process, Larry’s Mom (“got some mail for you”) pointed out the obvious flaw.  Contrite, we re-filmed the scene and I instead said “$3.44.”  This is ALSO incorrect, but we were lucky enough that you never see me saying it – so I just recorded myself saying the correct numbers (whatever they are) and we slapped it in.  This is what an educational system that doesn’t put enough emphasis on science and math produces, world!  What a damn shame.

666 receiptA few months ago, I went to the store and bough, apparently, three squeeze pops.  The price of three squeeze pops, plus 6% sales tax, some out to exactly $6.66.  This was a fun coincidence, and I took full advantage of it by looking at the cashier and saying “666!” in a gravely voice before gesticulating wildly.  The cashier didn’t enjoy the reference, as she perhaps hadn’t yet watched Franks and Beans, but I’m sure that has been rectified in the time since the encounter, because who ignores a sign like that?

666 Lion-O screen shotOur “NO!” ending features another of Larry’s many costume changes.  Since we’ve slowed down in filming episodes lately, it seems that all of the endings are just Larry in various Halloween costumes, but this one here is memorable for sure, as Larry had some fleeting Internet fame (that is, other fame than what is allotted to us from Franks and Beans, which is considerable) in the same outfit.

Around the time we filmed this episode, Larry and I went to the New York Comic-Con, where Wagon Wheel Comics had a booth for one of the first times ever.  On the Saturday of the show, Larry dressed as Lion-O, and everyone loved him.  LOVED him.  It was something to see.  In face, searching for “Lion-O NYCC” on Google shows that Larry is still well remembered:

Larry as Lion-O Google screen shotHe’s got the first five slots!  Wow.  It was like walking around with a celebrity, and I was just a hapless member of the entourage.

Larry as Lion-O at New York Comic-Con NYCC Hellboy Larry as Lion-O New York Comic Con NYCCLarry even campaigned for America’s Libraries…apparently.  While we were at the show, we actually sold a few Franks and Beans DVDs, which, of course, requires photographic evidence to be believed:

Franks and Beans - New York Comic-Con NYCC

Look at that exchange of money for goods!  After the show, we took the parade to the streets of New York:

Larry as Lion-O New York Comic-Con NYCC TImes SquareNice photobomb, kid.  Later that evening, Larry made the front page of IGN:

IGN ScreenshotAnd a fun time was had by all, until Larry had a terrible reaction to the cat-eye contacts he was wearing.  And by that time, everyone was cranky anyway.

This blog took a strange turn.  Perhaps the Devil made me do it.

Blog 36 – The Last Straw

The Last Straw screen shotWelcome to episode 34 of Franks and Beans, the episodic show about the many different episodes of Franks and Beans.  In tonight’s episode, we have our 34th episode, “The Last Straw”.  Franks and Beans.  Episode!

It seems that in this episode (enough already!), our main purpose, with all its lead up and exposition, is simply this: that scene with Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will be Blood” was really weird, wasn’t it?  Why did he use a milkshake as the example?  A straw that stretches acrooooooss the room?  Man, what the heck.  That was just odd.

And yet for a few months the scene stuck with me and I found myself saying the telltale line, “I – DRINK – YOUR – MILKSHAKE!”, in any number of situations, appropriate and otherwise.  It gained a little bit of traction in the general popular lexicon of the time as well, though its recognizance has since receded a bit in the five years since the film’s release.  But here it is, immortalized for all time in what feels like a very random episode of Franks and Beans.

There’s a lot to like about this episode, starting with the opening dialogue between Larry and myself, which at this point is showing signs of gaining some traction, which is a welcome relief from earlier episodes such as “eBay” and the like.  The plot is simplistic in its approach, with Larry, me, the kitchen table and a milkshake (with two straws) as the principle players and obvious deception as the motivation.  My plan, regardless of the execution, was to play up that obviousness – we all know what will happen once Larry leaves the room – and then throw in something out of nowhere to break the easy-to-follow pathway.  And what better way than to have Larry pick up a randomly-placed crowbar and hit me in the head with it?

For all my rehearsal, I never managed to get Day-Lewis’s milkshake speech right, but I think that the feel is right.  Courtesy of our friends (not actually friends) at IMDB, here’s the text of the milkshake speech:

Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I’m so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that’s a straw, you see? You watching?. And my straw reaches acroooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake… I… drink… your… milkshake!

Here’s a little-known Franks and Beans fun fact: we cut the ending of this episode not only because it shouldn’t be difficult to understand what will happen in the seconds to come (death), but also because Larry pulled up a little short with his swing and actually hit me in the head with the crowbar.  Not terribly hard, but enough to knock my head back and cause one of my eyeballs to pop out.  On the extremely collectible Franks and Beans DVD (a great gift for the holidays) we show this clip, which is actually pretty funny.

The “No!” ending came as the fulfillment of another obsession of mine – sound effects of punching.  It surprises me that well-funded television programs still use stock effects such as these in their productions.  Well, I suppose nothing about network television surprises me anymore, as I am generally horrified by anything that plays from the hours of 7:00-10:00 in the evening on lower channels, but still my point is valid.  But dammit if I don’t enjoy using punching sounds regardless.   I think this episode should prove why.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I do believe that our episodes get better in the not too distant future.

 

Blog 32 – Rip Off

Originally Posted 5.17.10

Much has been made in my comments on the last few episodes of Franks and Beans on the subject of parody and just where it fits in with the concept of comedy.  While I’ll qualify my claim by saying that when it comes to parody, there can certainly be too much of a good thing, but as a general rule, I’m comfortable with making the assertion that all good comedies have at least an element of parody in them.  Really, I defy anyone to name a good comedy that doesn’t have some parodic content to it.

Let’s take a recent example and look at last year’s comedy smash “The Hangover”.  While certainly laying its own groundwork, where would it be without its nods to “Rain Man” and “Three Men and a Baby?”  Going back 20 years to one of my favorite movies, “UHF” is chock full of parodies, musical and otherwise.  If you really want to go back to the early days of film, all you have to do is look to the Three Stooges – lost among the eye pokes and face slaps is a parody of the social class structure that 1930s and ’40s America was struggling to break free from.  I don’t claim that Franks and Beans holds much of a candle to any of these cinematic gems; I merely want to point out how important a concept such as parody is to comedy in general.  When used properly, it’s a tool that really can’t be matched, because parodies are built on information we’ve already assimilated into our own cultural lexicon.

Self-parody is just another form of this type of comedy, and our wonderfully self-referential 30th episode, “Rip Off”, plays right into this concept.  What separates self-parody from regular forms of parody, though, is devotion.  Self-parody doesn’t come along without a substantial store of very specific material.  While parody lives off of the never ending supply of popular culture, self-parody relies completely on the singular body of work it parodies.  Franks and Beans could have its ever popular “No!” endings from the first episode, and we did, because we’re mocking overplayed cliffhangers and those have been around as long as there have been cliffs to hang from, but for us to use self-parody, we had to have enough material to serve as a solid foundation.  Thirty episodes in, the result is “Rip Off”, an ambitious and context-laden episode that, in many ways, highlights some of our better moments while making fun of everything we do.

“Rip Off” welcomes back old friend of the show “Hardcore” Mark Moncheck, who is getting sincerely less hardcore the longer I know him.  Seriously, the guy’s married, has a steady job, gets regular haircuts…it’s a misnomer, I tell you.  The perfect role for Mark in any episode of Franks and Beans is that of the obsessed fan, because it’s not much of a stretch from who he is in real life.  Sometimes I think that Mark, Larry and I are the only ones who watch Franks and Beans – perhaps I’m not too far from the truth with that thought – but even if that were the case, Mark has the enthusiasm to simulate dozens and dozens of viewers.  Hell, it got him a recurring role on the show, so I guess it’s working out for him, too.

Joe Kromer is new to the show and, at ten years younger than both Larry and myself, newer to life in general.  Another fan of the show who was granted entrance in through our golden gates, Joe has since disappeared from the face of Brownsville, never to be seen again.  Seriously, I have no idea where to find this guy.  For a one-time character, though, he sure picked a memorable episode, and did a decent job with the “next time on Kielbasa and Kraut” line.  It probably took us all of five minutes to come up with that new title.

One of my great joys in working of Franks and Beans is writing lines that other people – of their own free will, mind you! – speak and act out.  Recreating the episode “The Sandwich” scene for scene, as short as it is, was great fun, even more so because we were using different actors.  Mark’s take on the “No!” ending was especially fun, because Mark couldn’t – for the life of him – not burst through the door of the room without looking really excited.  He was just playing it natural, I guess.

The premise for this episode is fairly simple – Larry and I find people stealing our ideas, and we decide to kill them, but then we end up doing the same thing they did in the first place.  Violence, another great comedic element, certainly has its part in Franks and Beans the series, and perhaps never is that more evident than in this episode.  I’m not sure how effective our out-and-out “I’m gonna kill them!” lines were – you’re supposed to show, not tell, after all – but even those served as means to an end.

Speaking of killing, Larry’s poor, wounded Jeep has finally been put out to pasture, though it still has a few more appearances before we give it its proper sendoff.  One of the reasons for its demise, however, might have come from the filming of this episode.  If you look for it, you’ll see it – as Larry is frantically backing up out of his driveway, the car makes a grinding sound, a thin waft of smoke can be seen, and then it kicks into gear.  I’m not saying that the Jeep wasn’t on its last legs as it was, but…oh, how we suffer for our craft.

The house Larry and I eventually burst into, breaking up the beginning of the famous “Mustache” sketch (keep an eye our for fake F&B’s crappy camera in the background…because they’re filming another rip off episode, not just going about their daily lives in a way that just happens to synch up with an episode of Franks and Beans), is actually Larry’s grandmother’s house.  We knew that we couldn’t film their scenes in Larry’s house (“the studio”), and our other options were fairly dim, and I think this new setting worked out really well.  It didn’t look like a house an 80-something-year-old woman lives in, did it?  That’s the magic of Hollywood, baby.

The fight scene that ensues was fun to do – so much fun, in fact, that I apparently had a hard time not smiling the entire time I’m physically assaulting Joe.  You can look at this in two ways: either I am a sadistic bastard who takes joy in causing others physical pain, or I should really be more aware of what I’m doing as I’m acting out a scene.  Pick your favorite!  It’s like a “Choose Your Own Ending” tale where one choice covers up my mental lapses.  The ‘punching’ sound effects make their return in this episode – they’re favorites of mine, and, for better or worse, I use them in a good handful of upcoming episodes.  There’s just something about them.

Tearing up a comic book is something I never thought I’d do – I’m more of the bag and board type – but I have to admit, tearing up the Punisher 2099 issue I bought for, oh, 15 cents or something ridiculous, was lots of fun.  It was like eating the forbidden fruit, only you weren’t REALLY eating it, because it was just for a show.  I hope that Stan Lee doesn’t revoke my Merry Marvel Marching Society card.  Yes, those exist.

The real humor in this episode takes place after the big fight scene, which is unusual for us.  Usually the punch in the face IS the joke, but this time it’s in turning the tables and doing exactly what we got so mad about in the first place.  I think it works, and even the line “I can’t find the Internet!” is pretty amusing.  We’ve set up the possibility for future conflict as Mark, nursing his black eye with a frozen bag of peas (a popular television remedy), expresses his hate for us.  Perhaps we’ll look back in on this theme one day, if only we could find Joe to make it happen.

Big props go out to Larry for all of the design work he did this episode, most notably the Funny or Die website parody “Laf or Perish”, which he created from electrons in the air.  It got me thinking that we should buy the domain name http://www.laforperish.com, but that’d be foolish.  Unless it’s be a BRILLIANT MARKETING TOOL!  Hmmm…

How could we top this blow-out-the-walls episode?  Why, it’s simple – with nudity.  Really, it had to happen.  Ever since iChat and its level of success (it continues to be the one episode everyone remembers), it was only a matter of time before we brought the big square censor bar back, and its effect is obvious.  Seriously, you didn’t think we’d do it eventually?  Well, here it is.