All comedians say they want to collaborate with other funny people. We want everyone to think we’re super nice and easy going and we say things like “cool cool cool” before giving notes on any idea so as not to risk offending the person we’re giving notes to, and of course they won’t be offended because, you know, we said “cool” three times so we’re obviously very nice and diplomatic. But no matter how many “cools” we rattle off, no matter how many times we say we really work best in a group, there’s a small egomaniacal piece of every one of us that believes our ideas are the best and we’re the funniest and whoever we’re working with should really do what we want to do. Amy Rubin’s simply fucking fantastic series, Little Horribles shows us why we need to work on getting rid of, or at least suppressing, that tiny part of us. Because when we assemble a team of talented advisors and consultants and inspirations like the team behind this series (including Ilana Glazer, Issa Rae, John Milhiser, and a unique blend of MFA writing and UCB peeps), good things happen. Really good things.
What was your comedy background before Little Horribles?
Amy Rubin: I was always making stuff alone, making videos. Usually they were unintentionally comedic. Like really long videos about a day in the life of our poodle. It was funny but I didn’t mean it that way. Comedy was something that I always wanted to do, I got into UCB stuff when I was in New York. I did some improv classes and some sketch classes and I kind of loved it. I got to know a lot of people in that world and I was lucky that I got into the UCB community before it totally blew up. It seems like now it’s really big. I think I got involved in it right before it got super huge. I met a lot of good people through that like Ann Car, Ilana Glazer and Kate McKinnon. And then I also started doing stand up on my own time and it was never my main focus, it wasn’t my main job, but it was just something that helped me write. It really helped me think through ideas, more so than it being my main form of being creative. That’s how I got into writing and being around people who were making videos like this.
What was your inspiration for this series?
Amy Rubin: I think my inspiration is taken from my own experience and the experiences around me. Even with UCB and stand up and writing on the side for things like McSweeneys, I was really struggling to define my own voice. To be able to write something that came from a place that was really honest and a centered core.
The best comedy comes from the sad truth, I think.
Amy Rubin: Yeah. I totally wanted to do it in a way that’s funny but isn’t like, “Here’s a diary, I’m sad.” I loved the director Todd Solondz, he’s one of my favorite directors and I love that tone where it’s so messed up and depressing but also hilarious and I just wanted to do something along those lines.
I think there is a fear sometimes of steering away from the jokey content and the stuff that is so overtly laugh out loud funny as opposed to the things that are just super real and kind of visceral.
Amy Rubin: Exactly.
What advice do you have for those trying to break into the web space?
Amy Rubin: I think everybody’s talent comes from a different place and everybody has a lot of different talent at their disposal. Obviously you have to have a certain amount of money and be in a certain social status to know people. I feel like money is important in that. It’s different for wherever you are, it’s different for you and what you have at your disposal. My day job is working at a production company so I was able to merge what we do with production into what I wanted to do on my own, so it was a little bit easier that way. I already had resources around me, in terms of DP’s and stock people and all that, but part of me also thinks if you can’t do that you, should just do what you can do on your own. It’s gotten to the point where you can do so much with an iPhone or even with Vines. They’re just 6 second videos, they aren’t web series but they are a way to help you find characters. It’s just an example of doing whatever you can do. Just do it, don’t wait for someone to tell you what to or to give you feedback or give you some money, to give you permission in a sense. Obviously different people can do different things depending on who they are and what they have, but borrow a used camera, collaborate. I think collaboration is the biggest thing, don’t try and do everything on your own. You might be really good writer but a really shitty producer, find somebody that can help produce and really just do it. That first thing doesn’t have to be the end all, be all.
Are there any shout outs you want to give?
Amy Rubin: Everybody that agreed to be in it, it was such a huge thing. Also working with people in production outside of comedy, they are always super helpful. Working with people who can punch up scripts who are not in comedy but have a MFA degree in writing.
Do you feel that there’s a component of that side of the business—the people with an MFA in writing—that has an edge over the UCB world?
Amy Rubin: I wouldn’t think of it as what one has that the other one doesn’t, I think it’s just more that it just completes the talent. I’ve workshopped scripts with a bunch of UCB people and a bunch of MFA people and it’s so funny because the MFA people are so focused on story structure and the character development. Just more technical writing aspects, which help tremendously because then you can give that structure to UCB people and then they can say, “Oh this might be funny” or “This would be funny if you did that” and the project really comes together. Just writing stuff that’s funny is good but you also need compelling characters for TV and film, so it’s just super helpful to really combine the talent of both those worlds. Again, it’s all about collaboration.
If shows like Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm have taught us anything, it’s that making jokes about everyday occurrences that happen to everyone is a recipe for success.
I want to see and know more about every one of these characters because I have such a clear picture of who they are in mere seconds. I’m instantly hooked not just on jokes but on how these people operate in the world. That kind of development is rare in a web series.
Artfully crafted. I know that sounds pretentious but it’s true, so get over it. Sorry, that was rude to say to you guys. I’ve just had a long week.