“Keep it simple.” Hear it once, it’s one person’s opinion. Hear it twice, maybe that second person’s friends with the first guy who said it. Hear it 100 times, it’s good, true advice that you need to follow. In the web space, location and cast-light projects are the ones that survive the test of time because they’re the easiest to make. And if you’re like Two Jasperjohns creator Vinny Lopez, that consistent artistic outlet and experimentation space is one that churns out some pretty fantastic content no matter what the view count. So it’d be a shame to have to plug up the idea spigot due to lack of scratch. We all want to be fancy and unique. We all want to make a splash, but the sooner we realize that bare bones funny is the key to Internet chic, the sooner we’ll all become fabulously successful…right?
How’d you get your start in comedy?
I write promos for VH1. I don’t come from performance, I’ve always come from writing. Less from sketch. I’m a huge sketch nerd but I never went that route. Even with this. I could’ve done sketch stuff but I think I’m a completionisht. I like to follow stories, I like to follow characters. This came out of wanting to follow these two brothers instead of doing something sketch-wise.
What was the challenge on this one that you didn’t see coming?
I think in general, when you’re asking people for favors it’s sort of like you’re at their beck and call and it’s not a complaint, but when you’re saying hey can you donate all this free time on this, you can never say like, “I need this done in 2 weeks.” Because you owe them. I think that’s a frustrating thing— the slow process of it. In commercials, you get half a carrot, you get to be creative with this idea but then it becomes a meld of 15 people’s ideas and it’s never as weird or as warped as you wanted it to be. I wanted to make something that had no notes and that wasn’t so expensive that I could only do 2 of them and then have to wait 6 months. I had to shoot in my apartment. That’s why my first season only has 3 people in it. I constricted it with money and space and let the ideas be as weird as I wanted them to be. That said, there were difficult production elements. There’s a party scene in episode 3. That party scene took like a month and half. You had to work around everyone’s schedule.
Getting 20 people to show up at one time is no easy task.
The key is you give them free liquor and you feed them too. And there’s a shift, You’ll see people who are in one part of the episode and then the other half. We felt like if it shifts then people weren’t stuck there for 10 hours.
So in terms of your writing process, talk me through how you approach each episode.
I still construct a little ahead of time even though I don’t really do sketch. This season there were moments I wanted to build stuff around. Episode 4 where Ed Herbstman’s family and I wanted to do something about my neighborhood. I live in Boerum Hill and it’s becoming just like the upper west side. Just very bland khaki families. I wanted to do something like that where people like that take over my apartment. It was based on a dad I saw on the street; his two kids were fighting and he started to get mad at the daughter and he said, “If you don’t stop right now, I’m gonna make you write an essay on how it feels to have your hair pulled.” So little experiences like that are the jumping off point. I put sketches in them. I write the whole season at once and I’m a real beginning and end guy and I have to have both to start.
What advice you have for people looking to break into the comedy web space?
One of the best things about web series is that there’s no one stopping it. That’s what makes it so exciting. When you come from a directing and a writing background there’s always someone in the way. The web has changed that. It may not look like or have the budget of the TV, but you can just test stuff. Make it and fail. It’s an opportunity to do whatever you want. And now you can shoot it in a way that looks like it looks like it’s on TV. With a 5D. Between that and being able to edit at home, why don’t I just do this? No one is stopping me. I was one of two people that was needed for me to be there. So it was awesome.
Why should you watch? Here’s three reasons. THE BIG THREE, as we like to say, in celebration of the third season of Two Jasperjohns! How fitting.
Neuroticism is the reason why Woody Allen could marry his step daughter and still sell out theaters.
If it’s easy to make, you’ll get to make more of them. And if they’re as high quality as Two Jasperjohns, well that’s what we like to call an all-around win.
I want to hang out with these guys because they read like real guys I could feasibly hang out with. Sure, they’re a little nuts but they’re real and that makes me care. Getting your audience to do that is paramount for any long-running series.