Fire up your Internet and go on a web series hunt. What you’ll probably find are the creative outputs of twenty and thirty-somethings—folks clamoring to express sensibilities seasoned by the years of pain that drove them to become comedians. Much less common are web series created by teens. (I’m looking past the YouTube glut of make-up tutorials and weekly twerk sessions posted by 13-year-olds and met with unfailingly creepy fanfare.) Created by and starring Susie Yankou, 101 Ways to Get Rejected attracted me not because it’s flawless, but because it’s an anomaly and because this Freshman effort is as impressive as it is brave and pure.
How did you get your start in comedy?
Susie: I got obsessed with the TV show Friends at a very young age, probably too young, and then from there I just fell in love with comedy and it all just sort of snowballed into me deciding to go to school for screenwriting. I was kind of an awkward kid in high school so I wrote a sort of exaggerated version of my high school experience and that turned into this web series.
Where did you go for screenwriting?
Susie: I’m at USC right now; I’m still a student actually. I’m a junior.
Is this the first big project that you’ve done?
Susie: 100%. I made a short freshman year and this was my first thing after that. The summer between Freshman and Sophomore year I decided to shoot this. I wanted a project under my belt that I could show to the world.
What was your biggest challenge in getting it off the ground?
Susie: Well we made this between the summer of sophomore and freshman year. We had no resources available; we were just a handful of USC students trying to secure locations for no money, which was so hard. We approached so many people and we were like trying to get all these people together without having anything to offer them, except experience on a set and hopefully a script they might like. I would say getting it off the ground and producing it with no money and no experience was huge for us.
Do you think that film school is worth it or do you think that you could’ve done this using your untrained talents and ambitions?
Susie: Part of me is biased because sometimes I think this is something that I couldn’t have done at home in Toronto, where I’m from. That said, the group of people I’ve met here [in Los Angeles] and the people I’ve met in film school comprise just an incredible collection of ambitious people that I don’t think I would’ve found anywhere. But that being said I do think that it is something that could be done by anyone with a little bit of talent and a lot of ambition and work ethic. I really think it could’ve been done either way, but personally I think this would’ve been a lot harder for me to get off the ground without film school.
What was the inspiration for this series specifically? I know you said were an awkward kid in high school. Does it stop there?
Susie: The inspiration started out as a monologue that I wrote for an acting class. I wrote it the summer right after I had graduated high school. My prom was kind of a ridiculous thing. Me and all my friends were struggling to find dates and then we all decided that we were going to go as a group of friends; we were gonna have so much more fun. Then, one by one, all my friends broke down and got dates that they didn’t even want to go with. So that was sort of the inspiration for the pilot—the chaos behind prom. Then I thought, “Hey there’s something here that I could expand on and add more characters to and make a series about. Make a series about high school and friendship.”
What’s next for you?
Susie: I’m looking to start a new web series this summer. I’ve started writing it and I’ve got a director attached who usually works with me on the 101 Ways. So I’m just trying to get that off the ground and see where that takes me.
What advice do you have for people looking to break into digital comedy?
Susie: Just make things. I know that’s so much easier said than done, but if you have a friend with a camera, just come up with dumb stuff and shoot it. Obviously try to make them good, but get as much content as you can out there. You’ll learn with each thing that you put out. I’m sure I’ll look back at this web series in 5 years and think, “Oh there’s so many things I could’ve done better.” But hopefully by then I’ll be making better things. Especially in this age with the Internet available for you to get your work out in the click of a button, I just think it’s such an incredible opportunity and it shouldn’t be passed up for lack of resources. If you have a camera and a few willing performers, you’ve got stuff to put out there.
Who are your comedic inspirations?
Susie: Tina Fey for sure. I feel like a lot of girl comedians would say the same thing. Mindy Kaling is doing incredible things right now. I grew up in the age of SNL with Maya Rudolf and Kristin Wiig and Amy Poehler. They aren’t afraid to make themselves look stupid, to commit 100%.
What other web series are you into right now?
Susie: I got really into Squaresville; I discovered it halfway through making this. It’s another heartfelt high school comedy but it’s a little bit darker. The web series that really turned me onto serialized content for the Internet was a series called Dating Rules for My Future Self. It came out just before I started working on this series and it was like a television show on the Internet. It was very serialized, it could’ve been on The CW and I thought that was really cool. And the production value was amazing, that’s something that made me realize I could do this.
And here, ladies and gents, are your three reasons to watch.
3. Multi-episode arc
101 Ways absolutely has a student filmy vibe. That’s usually jarring, but the subject matter fits neatly with the rawness of its aesthetic so it actually adds to the series’ authenticity.
It’s nice to watch something that reminds us of the hopefulness of youth, even if it’s about high school struggles. The fact is: adult life is like an everyday prom for which you never have a date.
Yankou may’ve sacrificed clicks for a multi-episode narrative arc (it’s almost impossible not to), but the end result is a cohesive, entertaining showpiece.
Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.