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.