Blog 49 – Green

Green screenshot 02


Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world where Franks and Beans posts updates

Take a look
And you’ll see
This is actually an update

What a day!  A nice day to come back to this damn website and act like I’m not ignoring it.  If it makes you feel any better, content-starved reader, I’ve also been ignoring my other website obligations over at  Go ahead, click the link!  It’s the same as it’s been since October.  This probably does not make you feel any better.

Let’s not let that get us down, though.  Let’s talk about the psychedelic 47th episode of Franks and Beans, the barely named “Green”!  Why is it called “Green”?  That’s a mystery for another time, folks.

And that time is RIGHT NOW!  You may be saying, “but time hasn’t passed at all!”  To which I reply, the barely noticeable portion of existence that has moved inexorably forward counts as “another time”.  Also, I just remembered that the title actually had two meanings, one obvious and the other…slightly less obvious.

This episode of Franks and Beans marks the very first appearance of the official Franks and Beans green screen!  I am legitimately proud to have this item, even though I bought it from eBay and it’s basically just an oversized table cloth.  But it’s one of the few props we own and we’ve put it to good use in both this and subsequent episodes.  It currently sits in the Franks and Beans vault, folded neatly in an airtight container.

This episode also features a Larry who is very…green with envy (see what we did?  That’s called depth).  Why does he feel the pull of avarice?

Green screenshot 01

Because of another Franks and Beans prop…a big pile of money.  There is easily $500 here, enough to buy things like sound equipment or something, and most of it is thanks to Larry’s real and strange need to carry hundreds of dollars around on him at any given moment.  That’s right – if you see Larry out in public, rob him and gain access to hundreds of new (to you) dollars.  If you rob me…I will have less.

What follows next is an obvious take on the “angel on your shoulder” gag:

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We honestly learned a lot about what we could and probably shouldn’t do with the green screen from this sequence here.  Simply to fit on Larry’s shoulders, it might have been a good idea to shrink tiny Larry and tiny Jeff down a bit more, but at that point we started to lose character recognition.  It’s also a good thing that Larry has since cut off his Samson-like locks, as his ponytail phases through our tiny doppelgängers more than once.  Maybe next time we’ll use one of those tennis balls on a string or something.

Our goal for this episode was to devolve into weirder and weirder things as Larry’s fantasy went on, which started off with a lovely rendition of “Pure Imagination”, straight from the 1971 classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” as we explored the solar system (from a since-lost YouTube video) in the background.

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Our green screen worked overtime as Larry and I flew in the background of the scene.  We draped the screen over a stool and tried our best at planking, which I’m not even sure was a thing at the time we filmed it.  Sharp-eyed viewers will notice a tiny cameo in this sequence from Mitch Mitchell, who I think stopped over to take some pictures of baked beans or something.  He shows up again in a few episodes.

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The final freak-out sequence concludes with multiple versions of Jeff, all singing the same note, and wouldn’t that be something?  But alas, it was not to be, as one by one, as clones all straining to share the same life force, they started to fall.

This brings us to our big conclusion, in which we discover that Larry has a terrible medical condition that should probably be termed seizures, but for some reason I call a stroke.  In either case, we’re making fun of a serious condition, and I for one couldn’t be happier with the payoff.  All of the genuinely weird things that happen all come to a head in one tragic incident.

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Our “NO!” ending continues what I feel is a very ambitious episode as Larry, apparently, has been transported to a world where people only speak by foghorn.  The double foghorn at the end (which really sells the ending) is actually just another version of the “same note” joke that multiple Jeff performed earlier in the episode.  I don’t know why repeating the same sound on top of the original does something for me, but it does.

Well, we’ve got one more episode to go in our illustrious second season.  How long until we get to season three?  Um…2015.  Let’s go with that.

Blog 18 – Milkshake

Originally published 9.01.08

If you’ve been watching Franks and Beans for a while, you might pick up on the fact that there are certain themes present in pretty much every episode.  Our sweet sixteenth episode, “Milkshake”, brings two of those into the forefront: music and violence.  Reading this, you might ask yourself, “But Franks and Beans, isn’t music and violence a reflection of the popular culture that is so pervasive in our society?”  To which we so present-mindedly reply, why yes, Franks and Beans is a terrific social commentary, thank you for noticing!  You might look at this and comment further, “That’s not really what I was getting at…”, but by that time, both Larry and I will have moved on to something much more pressing.  But thanks for your concern!

As a matter of fact, our newest episode does tend to follow along the lines of earlier ones – “Perfect” springs to mind.  What we’re trying to do, consciously or not, is give this show a certain feel to it that viewers can relate with.  We want you, our audience, to see something completely unrelated in your day-to-day lives and say “hey, that reminds me of Franks and Beans.”  Well, that and we do tend to have a list of things that we find funny, and we do go back to that particular well every once in a while.  If nothing else, we try to put new twists on familiar themes.  Does it work all the time?  I guess you’ll have to tell us.

The premise of this episode is fairly simple, and it came about because I had recently bought a new iPod.  The iPod in this episode is Larry’s, because he already happened to have “Milkshake Song” loaded up and ready to go, but the idea is mine.  MINE!!  Very simply, I think the song in question is funny, though unintentionally so.  Just the thought of someone’s milkshake bringing boys to their yard is amusing, and seeing it featured in the movie “Dodgeball” (one of the few Ben Stiller movies I enjoy) makes me think that others get this not-so-subtle humor, too.  Adding this to the fact that I apparently like to sing with zeal on camera, the kick to this episode was born.  All it was missing was an appearance by another Franks and Beans favorite – the threat of murder – and we were all set.

The scene takes place outside not because we were looking for a change of scenery, per se, but more because we’re dealing with very shiny cutlery items – items which would probably not do so well if they were dropped inside as they are at the end of this little skit.  It probably worked out for the best, though – even thought the table in the middle of the yard looks kind of out of place, there’s room for Larry to maneuver and find cover in the shape of a well-placed tree.

The real story behind this episode comes from the choice of music.  By this I don’t mean the choice to sing the song about a milkshake (or is the milkshake a metaphor?), because I don’t know if the episode works (if indeed it does) with anything else.  No, I’m talking about the decision to play the music over top of my singing – this really gave Larry and me as well as a few confidants fits.  The original plan was to have no music whatsoever – just as you’d hear it if indeed you were there while we were filming.  It seemed more natural, more realistic, but with Franks and Beans, that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be better.

Larry took the time to edit this episode both with and without the music overlay, and we both fretted about which version was better.  The version with the music syncs up so nicely with what I’m singing that it would have been a shame to toss it out, and I’m still impressed at how this particular duet looks as a finished product.  This is completely due to the fact that I have the song piped through my earphones, but I like to take credit for a job well done nonetheless.  I mean, it’s not like I know the song word for word by listening to it over and over incessantly until it bore its way into my head…that would be silly.  But no, if my words didn’t match what was in the song, this wouldn’t have mattered at all.  But since they did, and because I feel like I have a security blanket being draped over me when I’m accompanied by outside music, I soon changed my mind and Larry, I think, went along with my suggestion because he honestly couldn’t decide.

We did let our longtime fan and occasional extra “Hardcore Mark” get a sneak peek at this episode to consider another outside opinion in the debate, and he made an interesting suggestion – he proposed that we play the music only when you see me: that is, when we had solo shots of Larry (knife gleaming with the beautiful special effect-ing of Larry), all you’d hear would be my singing.  When I was in the shot as well, the music would be playing, denoting some sort of audience awareness.  This suggestion was not only interesting, it suggested a higher form of thinking, a level of consciousness for the episode that had never been reached before – a kind of prescience that would bring our program to new heights of understanding.  But since we don’t take ideas from fans, we immediately dropped the idea and just slapped the music over top of all of it.  Take that, viewer suggestions!

What this debate now offers us is a chance to build the extra features on our fictional (a hem) Franks and Beans mega-sensational DVD release.  I often think about what it’d be like to work on something of the sort, because that would mean that Franks and Beans would be at least somewhat successful and profitable to the extent that it need be.  Episode sixteen would allow us a great special feature – the “naked” version of the episode would be right in there with the musical one.  You could put the single-disc release in your player and rejoice because of all of the extra content you’d be getting for your hard-earned dollar.  We’d probably also throw in a bunch of commentaries (REAL commentaries) and some kind of behind-the-scenes featurette (ooh!  And animated menus!) as well, and all would be right with the world.

Oh, one can dream.

Our “next time” ending with this episode makes for an interesting tale just because of how seamless the editing job was.  While Larry has the size and weight advantage over me, I come back with two of my own – I am light on my feet (thus being able to strike quickly, without notice) and I have a lower voice range.  Because of this trait, I thought it’d be funny to have Larry burst in the doorway as he always does, but instead of his voice, we’d have mine superimposed.  I had a Godzilla-style voice over running through my head, where things wouldn’t quite match up, but in seeing the final product for the first time I was astounded by Larry’s new, deeper, operatic stylings.  It didn’t connect that this was actually by voice being overlaid!  Larry, I think you’ll agree, did a wonderful job synching things up – it was almost too good, in fact, that if people don’t watch closely they might not realize what it actually happening.  What I want to do with this show is make something that I find funny, so I suppose that as long as I get the joke it’s fine, but…still, it’s worth pointing out, I hope.

Blog 17 – Hats Off

Originally published 8.29.08

Our magical 15th episode of Franks and Beans is here in the way of “Hats Off”, the episode title of which I egregiously mislabeled in our last blog, and in it I think we’ve blown our entire graphics budget for the entire year (where did that zero dollars go?!).  The end result is, though, worth it in my opinion with the last ten or so seconds of this short sequence.

The premise of this episode came from a rather everyday phone call between Larry and myself.  The song “Hats Off to Larry”, the bubblegum break up/make up song from Del Shannon, has been something akin to an inside joke between the two of us since our college days (all the way back in the year…2002!) and my campus radio show.  Larry would call in and I’d pretend that he was an expert on some random subject and we’d talk on air – usually for to long for the station’s format – eventually devolving into television show ratings or news about comic books.  At any rate, when I would finally end Larry’s portion on the show and return to the regular music format, I would always lead us out with the Del Shannon hit of 1961.

Back to the recent phone call – Larry mentioned to me, in a rather offhand manner, that we might think about making a Franks and Beans episode similar to our fan favorite episode, “The Change”, but with the song as our main source of inspiration.  Larry would, he told me, walk through different settings, each time wearing and removing different hats.  The idea had promise, I thought, but I came to the conclusion that I’d rather point out that the joke we would be making would be almost 50 years old by this point.  Seriously, a lot of people can hum the tune to “Runaway”, but how many people know offhand who Del Shannon is?  I mean, I’m a big fan of music from that general time period and I don’t think I could name half a dozen songs from that particular group.

So the scene was set, and the result is what you see before you.  What I like most about this episode is the different, almost jarring feel you get with our two separate sequences.  When I take my hat off after the playing of the song, it seems like we just might end the episode there – and really, it would be a good enough, if not outdated joke if we had…very much in line with the Franks and Beans we’ve put out there before.  But when “Hardcore Mark” (remember when we used to call him this?  That was cute.) bursts through a side door into the scene (looking unabashedly dashing in his unbuttoned green shirt), even I have to admit that if I didn’t take place in the filming itself, I wouldn’t have seen it coming (if that makes any sense).

The line “Is it in the public domain?” was a late addition which I think underscores my general worst fear about Franks and Beans – getting the pants sued off of us due to all of our blatant copyright infringement.  In this episode alone, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the estate of Del Shannon might as well be holding a blade over our heads, as well as those performing the public domain composition of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  And while it would be fantastic to have this show become really popular and spread all across the country and the world, I’d also really hate to get a cease-and-desist letter in the mail, a la the great internet program House of Cosbys.  It’s something that, honestly, neither Larry nor I think about as much as we probably should.

The graphics and sound effects at the end of this episode, as I mentioned before, are well beyond anything we’ve tried before, but Larry managed to pull it off masterfully to give it the amount of over-the-top flash that it called for.  In editing and typical episode of Franks and Beans, we’re probably dealing with two or three layers at the most: a video track, and audio track, and the title and end graphics – all fairly simple in design.  In the final “congratulations!” sequence alone, we used: the video feed of the three of us celebrating; video and diminished audio of fireworks bursting overhead; “Stars and Stripes Forever”; a bell ringing (which consisted of me ringing…get this…a bell outside of Larry’s front door); two different takes played back-to-back of Larry’s family and me cheering and clapping; three different graphic layers rotating simultaneously.  The fact that it all came together as nicely as it did is probably a combination of luck and skill, but I’d like to imagine it’s more of the latter.

In all, I hope that we captured the unsuspecting feel that we were going for in this episode.  While Franks and Beans carries with it a healthy feeling of uncertainly as far as continuity or even a dedication to reality, I hope that the sight of someone jumping unannounced through a doorway was as shocking as we intended it to be.  While the graphics (how’d you like the sing-a-long aspect of the song portion?  It was harder to make work than you might think!) might steal the show – and deservedly so – I dare to think that the overall punch line here was just as clever.

Blog 05 – Grapes

Originally posted 7.31.08

In many ways, episode five, “Grapes”, is quintessential Franks and Beans.  It has (attempts at) singing, a lesson to be learned, seemingly unrelated asides, uh…the word “ass”…

Our fifth episode takes us back to the beginnings of Franks and Beans.  I’ll probably get all retrospective when we finally get to talking about episode one, but it bears at least some mentioning now because the first five episodes were filmed over the same several days.  You can tell, I think, that there are a lot of similar themes being played out over these first few shows, culminating with “Grapes.”

The first shot we see in this episode is a rather ingenious one.  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I like at least the idea of unconventional camera shots and angles, and having the camera sitting in a refrigerator along with the leftovers certainly qualifies.  If there’s one thing that bugs me, though, it’s that due to some file size restrictions, viewers are never going to see how well this shot actually turned out.  We are, in reality, filming this show with a very nice camera (not in Hollywood terms, I’m sure, but relative to other shows with zero budget we’re ahead of the game), one that records digitally and has the capability to shoot in HD, but Larry has to decrease the signal quality in the editing process to make it fit under the 256 megabyte limit enforced by the Funny or Die team (oh, how we grew to hate Funny or Die.  HATE I TELL YOU!).  How this first shot looked to us and how viewers can see it really illustrates the difference.

For us, it was like we were the grapes – born and raised on some sunny California grapevine, plucked by underpaid migrant workers and shipped to the extra-moist shelves of the local Foodland.  For you, loyal viewers, it’s merely like you’re the grapes’ socially ostracized cousins, seeing some of the glimmer but not getting any of the communal benefits (and do you even have a Foodland?).  The metaphor is weak, I know, but seriously – we could see individual drops of moisture on the playback after shooting.  To see the opening shot dulled, regardless of the necessity of the matter, is a little disappointing.

As we move a little further through the episode, we come across what just may be my favorite line of the entire series – “They’re good for my libido; don’t worry about it.”  For a while, this was going to be the title of the episode, but we went with something a little shorter in the end.  There is no meaning to this phrase at all, at least in connection to the overall joke in this episode, and yet it still sticks out in part because of that randomness.  As Larry and I were rehearsing for the conversation in this scene (we actually do practice…sometimes), it just seemed to show up unannounced.  It had to be kept.  I’d like to point out the nice editing work Larry did at this point, as he added in a zoom where there was none originally.  It saved us from having two shots placed back-to-back that were too similar to be of any use.

Singing in Franks and Beans is nothing new, and mocking Larry for his freakishly large head in real life is likewise rather commonplace, so it felt natural to combine those two elements into this next overall joke.  It should be pointed out, however, that Larry does still have all of his hair, while mine is becoming precariously thinner by the day, so I guess that’s one for ol’ Lar, and good for him.  Saying that no one will ever love Larry does come off rather mean, I suppose, but – and I might just be falling for my character’s own line of thinking in saying this – I think it is easier to handle just by the fact that I’m singing the bad news.  I could be wrong.

We have in this episode the first appearance of the character “Lauren”, named for a friend from grad school.  This just might end up being her only appearance, as Larry’s sister (if you didn’t notice the resemblance you should probably be shot) isn’t necessarily the biggest proponent of acting in some random internet television show (for whatever reason); I had planned on using her in the episode “Mustache”, but she backed out and has turned down any subsequent requests to reprise her role.  This is a shame because it limits Franks and Beans in the jokes we can tell.  Well, I guess it only limits us in one area – I had planned on using Lauren as my character’s source of unrequited love, a big subplot where I would get humiliated and rejected time and time again.  There’s really nothing funnier than a guy getting his hopes crushed, in my opinion, and let’s face it – we’re kind of limited with our pool of available extras as it is.

“Bring that sweet ass over here” is bound to be on a t-shirt one day…if it isn’t already, and ‘Lauren’s’ responding distain is perfect.  We had to shoot this scene about thirty times before we got it right, delaying dinner at Larry’s house…and if you’ve ever been to Larry’s house, you know just how serious they take their early evening meal.  Even though I ate all the spaghetti I could stuff down my gullet that night, I did so with a wary eye to those around me.

When we had finished filming this entire sequence, I thought that “Grapes” was the best episode we’d ever done.  I have other favorites now, but this episode, to me, shows a lot of the promise of Franks and Beans.  I really think that we’re getting better at what we do, and this episode was a step in that direction.