This Week in Web Videos: ‘SingleDumb’

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I’m self-centered, terrified of insects, and–I think–not the best kisser in the world. Those are three deeply personal things about me that I wrote on a blog read by THOUSANDS. Why? Because that’s what writers do. We share very intimate details about ourselves and our innermost thoughts. Sometimes those thoughts are inarguably personal, like mine just were, and sometimes they’re presented under the cloak of characters in our work. Either way, strong creative requires a suspension of an innate fear all of us have: to be seen as “other.” Alexandra Kern has successfully suspended that fear. She lets her true self out, and that’s why SingleDumb is not only worth watching, but also brave. Also, I’m not like a TERRIBLE kisser. I just don’t love kissing and think I do other stuff better. Cool?

How did you get your start in comedy?

Alexandra: I moved to New York and I went to acting school. It’s funny because I always thought I would end up doing comedy but I was so set on being a serious actor. I took more of a traditional theater route in the beginning, doing a lot of auditions and acting in kind of Shakespearean-type plays. And nothing was happening for me there, but I did find that I could make people laugh in an audition room. So I was like, “Ok, this is something that I can do.” I was also kind of sick of New York by then so I decided to move to Chicago for the summer and took classes at Second City and I was like, “Ok, this is hitting a nerve.” So I came back to New York and signed up to take classes at UCB and at The PIT and that’s really where it started, about two and a half years ago. So after that I formed a couple of improv teams and performed with them and started doing storytelling shows and stand up shows and then eventually started doing the web series.

Where did you go to school?

Alexandra: I went to the New Actors Workshop and I finished in 2009.

How did this series come about, specifically?

Alexandra: So I started going to storytelling open mics and sharing my dating stories because they were so sad. Like sad in a funny way or funny in a sad way, I’m not really sure. It was really cathartic for me and I found that, after the show, a lot of people would come up to me, girls and guys, and tell me how they had also been on a lot of bad dates or people were asking me: “Wow, how can you go on so many bad dates? What’s wrong with you?” I felt like there really was something there and I really wanted to do something comprehensive, not just a video here or there. I certainly was inspired by the Broad City girls and High Maintenance and I Hate Being Single, so I just started writing my experiences into really short episodes.

Are they all true stories?

Alexandra: Yes. Well, here’s what I’ll say, they’re all grounded in a seed of truth. Like the stuffed animal episode, no I didn’t end up stealing some dude’s stuffed animal, but there was a stuffed animal involved in a part of the evening and it was a stuffed animal both of us had when we were growing up.

What’s the hardest part about being a single woman in New York City?

Alexandra: I guess going on another date right after a bad date and just being like, “Whatever, I’ll give it another shot.”

Yeah it’s the same for men. New York is weird. There are so many people around that you would think the odds of finding someone are so much better, but everyone’s the worst. It’s the worst. LA is a little bit easier but everyone has a million obligations at night and a million brunches that they have to go to so you can really only see them once a week, maybe, and it’s hard to build a relationship that way.

Alexandra: See, I heard that LA was worse.

I’ve had a better time in LA than I had in New York. Do you have any plans to move here eventually?

Alexandra: You know, I’ve been in New York for about 7 years so I’ll go through phases. Like after the winter we had last year,  I just drove half of my apartment to store at my parents in Cleveland and I was like, “I’m moving to LA!” But then I was like, “Yeah you’re not really going to move.” I like the weather in LA a lot better.

What’s next for you in terms of the series and your larger career?

Alexandra: I thought you were going to say, “What’s next for you in terms of dating?” Like, “Wow, we’re really going at it.” Well, my plan is to just keep promoting it while also working on season two and starting fundraising for season two. Then, besides that, I’m also writing more with my sketch team and doing more stand up and storytelling.

How was SingleDumb funded?

Alexandra:  I shot this all over a year and a half. I started shooting this in April of 2013 and of course at that point I had only been writing for a few months and I had this grand idea of, after I released one of them, shooting two more, and of course I had no idea what I was doing. So I filmed them all over a long period of time because that was the only way I could afford to do it. It was all out of pocket for me.

And who was your team? Did you write it by yourself? Who did you get to direct?

Alexandra: I did write it by myself and then a friend of mine who was a writer on a UCB sketch team [Jared Newmark] directed the majority of the videos.  A friend of mine who I met while I was working on a movie last year [Jake Smith] helped direct the finale. It was kind of neat because the guy I had direct the first episodes came from a real comedy background and the guy I got to direct the finale did not come from a comedy background so it was kind of cool to have two different experiences with directors. The finale definitely has a different feel to it than all the other episodes and it’s also the longest at 5 and a half minutes where all the others are 3 or less. For all the other production positions, I had the same sound guy, the same DP, and the producer who was a friend of mine [Alex Bach] that I had met ages ago working as a hostess at a restaurant that I reconnected with and who has been an amazing part of the whole process. She helped me produce it.

Did all of these people just do it for the love of the game?

Alexandra: For the most part it was for the love of the game or, if not, it was for a very small percentage of what they would normally charge.

What else are you watching online?

Alexandra: I was actually just watching the web series that you had profiled made by that Australian girl. I thought that was great, I loved it.

BedHead?

Alexandra: Yeah exactly, that was it.

There’s a lot of really awesome comedy coming out of Australia.

Alexandra: There’s another web series that I watched recently called Breaking Up In 52 Dates and I really love that. She’s got like over 50 episodes and all of them look really different and it really impressed me. And of course High Maintenance.I also love The Actress and Tales of An Awkward Black Girl.

What advice do you have for people looking to break into the web series “game”?

Alexandra: Just do it. Just make something and then continue making things. You’re gonna be self-conscious about it in the beginning but the hardest thing is to follow through. It’s not super easy to come up with a brilliant idea, but it’s very hard to actually make it. There’s so many things involved. Getting the crew, getting the money, getting the actors. It can all be really daunting, but it’s really rewarding to make something. And maybe it wont be perfect the first time but the more and more you make stuff, the better it will get and the more you’ll hone your voice. I think finding collaborators is huge. It’s hard to find someone that you really fit with but once you do it’s really amazing and I think I really did find it in this case.

How do you define a good idea?

Alexandra: Well it’s all relative, really. But I think that if it’s something that you feel strongly about and, in my experience, something that you’ve experienced in real life, it’s gonna be a strong idea. I think any idea that’s grounded in truth is going to be a strong idea. There are tons of amazing ideas out there that are really [crazy and out there] but for me, as a starting point, I think beginning with an idea that came from my personal experience always feels a lot richer.

Oh, and folks? Your three reasons to watch are here:

1. Alexandra

2. Experimentation

3. Focus

Episode #1: Peter

It’s not just because she sounds exactly like Drew Barrymore. Alexandra Kern has a rare innocence that makes her a comedic delight and reminiscent of Barrymore at her best.

Episode #4: Charlie

It takes a lot of talent and guts to do a near dialogue-less episode. This one’s as well-executed as it is rare.

Episode #5: Patrick

Building a larger narrative arc into your web series is admirable, but it’s not by any means necessary. In fact, the more complex the story, the more chances there are for things to run afoul. If you can laser focus on the funniest part of a small, episode-specific scenario, like Alexandra’s done here and throughout SingleDumb, the product will often be more watchable. Shorter and more incisive is almost always better, especially online. The trick is: finding that indisputably relatable nugget of comedy and having the guts to explore it to the utmost.

Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.