This Week In Web Videos: ‘K&A’

I’m supposed to write things that are at least marginally insightful about the world of web video. That’s part of the whole “column” deal, you see, because insights qualify my words as a “review” and not just a verbal fire hydrant of fandom. While I have plenty of professional things to say about K&A – created by Katie Shannon and Katie Thompson and starring Audrey Claire and Ashley Elmi – like how its leads are perfectly paired improv dynamos, how it looks better than most indie films with 50 times the budget and is rife with cool and fresh storytelling accents that help us segue from act to act, the thought I most want to convey is one of a rabid, lunatic supporter of one of the most human, laugh-out-loud smart series I’ve profiled to date. K&A is the kind of project that gets audiences hooked on comedy.

How did you get your starts in comedy?

Ashley: I got my start when I was withdrawing from UMass Amherst in 2009 and I didn’t know what to do, so I just decided to crash on my sister’s couch in the north side of Boston. I thought it was the perfect place for me to be at that time. Then she told me that Improv Asylum was just down the street from us so I did one of those classic things where I asked them if I could sweep the floors or hand out flyers to work there and no one responded. Then, I found an ad for a film intern there so I got that position and got my foot in the door that way. Being an intern or employee means you get to take the improv classes for free, so basically since 2010 I started taking the classes and then did the house teams which is a way for people who haven’t performed before to get their feet wet.

Audrey: I went down to Boston and auditioned for a new media project that was made by one of the creators of K&A, Katie Thompson. It was for an ensemble web comedy series and they ended up casting me as this sort of needy best friend character. I was ecstatic, I didn’t have a lot of experience doing comedy or film but they just thought that I was a good fit for the role. I shot that with Katie over two weeks and it was the most fun I’d ever had. I got to improvise on camera, which was something I had never done before, coming from a dramatic acting background. Katie and I just clicked and that series went the way of the buffalo unfortunately, but then she came back to me a year later and said, “I’ve got this idea for a comedy about two females based on my life and I want you to be in it.” So that’s sort of how it happened for me. I do web sketch comedy with close friends who are all in film production. We do really weird things, from people eating dog poop to Shia LaBeouf impressions, to really bad stuff that’s sort of creatively inspired me throughout the years. K&A is by far my favorite project I’ve done.

What’s been your strategy in getting the word out about this series?

Ashley: I’ve been lucky to be a part of a big comedy community here in Boston because I’ve been involved with Improv Asylum for 5 years now, so all my friends and peers have been super supportive, sharing it on Facebook. I’ve primarily gotten the word out through them. I know Katie does it much more professionally, but for me, I was just lucky enough to have Improv Asylum because they really spread the word by doing things like Tweeting it out, and they have a lot of followers.

Audrey: Between Katie and myself and the other executive producer, Mike Madden, we kind of made all the mistakes you could’ve made when making a web series three years ago. Mainly not knowing how to distribute it. Our previous work was great in all stages of production but then we had this big 30-minute juggernaut gulp of an episode and we were like, “Let’s re-cut it, let’s sell it to this channel” and that’s unfortunately how it ended up dying. So going into K&A, we looked at all the successful R-Rated web stuff that was really high quality, and saw how long they were so we could see how much people wanted to digest, so when we were shooting the series we knew how many of these episodes we were going to put in. We had lots of ideas and, fortunately, Katie is a lesbian in real life and one of the characters in K&A is a lesbian so the web series has been a real hit in the LGBT community. We’re really excited about it and have done promotion with a lot of Boston LGBT groups who are really great at social media and promoting stuff through social media on their own. We initially thought about doing it in one-minute bites so that we could compete with all the other short videos on the web, but I’m glad we ultimately decided to keep it a little bit longer so we could hold onto the high production quality that we had. I don’t think it matters anymore what you’re making on the web, because everyone is making great stuff, I think what matters now is where you can push it to. And it’s great that in Boston we have this community we can push it to.

Ashley: And in comedy I find that every time I do something I find it’s more successful and fulfilling when you have a specific point of view, that’s when you’re able to make people laugh.

What’s next for the series and then for each of you?

Ashley: Come September, I think I’ll either be moving to New York or Chicago and I think this series was great for my acting reel, but I still really want to add more to it. If I go to New York, I’d definitely do UCB and if I do Chicago, I can do so much improv there. I know I’m still going to do shows here, Sundays through Tuesdays, but I know I definitely want to move and carry on with what I started in Boston.

Audrey: We would love to do a season 2. We have, I believe, three full episodes that we wrote last year that didn’t make it into season 1 and then just the more Ashley and I get to know each other, the more ideas we’re coming up with that we can use for the future. We’re also looking at our audience and seeing what everyone liked so that will definitely influence what happens in the next season. I also think about moving all the time. I’m acting right now and some people from Hollywood are coming over to see us, so that’s exciting. I’m working on some really cool acting stuff this summer and I’m also going to be producing a director’s challenge. They asked me to come on as the talent wrangler because they wanted to get more comedy folks involved and I guess I’m now the go-to person to find comedy people. That’s becoming a cool little adventure, finding all these different comedians in the city and helping producers and directors.

What advice do you have for people looking to break into the digital comedy scene?

Ashley: There’s definitely stuff that I’m still learning from Katie, Audrey, and Mike, but, from my perspective, it’s always the best to choose something very specific to make your show about. Trying to make it easy on yourself, trying to make something that is easy for you to shoot or something you can shoot in just one location. We were lucky to have been able to raise a lot of money on Kickstarter and have a really amazing crew, but that’s not always going to be the case. When you keep the production as simple as possible, you can churn out these videos easier and get them out faster without all this time going by. You wanna keep producing material and keep getting it out there. The way to do that is to keep your ideas as simple as possible.

Audrey: I think you have to be with people you like and who have the same goals as you do when you make the videos. The goal for K&A was to make a full first season, but if you wanted to make one video or want to take an impression you do in your stand up act and turn that into web sketch, be around people that have the same goal as you to make your idea happen and then talk to other people that are in sketch and ask them who they shot it with and who does their editing because the community, at least for Boston, is very forward. We have people coming to our sketch group now, asking us how to make their ideas a reality and we love it, we’re also making people’s dream’s come true.

Three reasons to watch are coming at you NOW.

  • Seamless improv
  • Beautifully bizarre interstitials
  • Photography
  • Episode #1: “The Herps”

    Ashley and Audrey have impeccable instincts and the kind of timing that makes you want to sue Final Draft for being USELESS.

    Episode #2: “K&A Do Nice Shit for People”

    Much of what makes K&A so good is its subtle whir of chaos, a bubbling sort of functional insanity that laces much of the dialogue and is overtly, beautifully present in the form of blink-and-you-miss-them interstitial segments.

    Episode #3: “DETOX”

    It looks so so good.

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

    This Week In Web Videos: ‘K&A’