Sunday, April 28, 2013

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Nick's Great Idea

Ah, the straight man vs. the funny guy. The oldest double act in comedy,and explored in detail this week. Anthony Backman's deadpan is so perfect in this. Dang near steals the whole sketch despite the way I loudly carry on, not to mention Douglas Gabrielle's hilarious cameo. And look at that picture quality/editing job! We're spoiled this week, folks.

I think the closest friendships stem from people who enthusiastically participate in each other's terrible ideas. There's a bonding quality to finding yourselves neck deep in trouble from all sides. My high school pals and I used to have at least one terrible idea every day, and those friendships have lasted for years. (Though we did spend most of our teenage years horribly grounded.)

That seems to be the relationship ol' Nick and Jerry have. I was kinda surprised at how epic in scope this little three minute video wound up feeling. You get a pretty clear picture of the past, present, and future of the entire relationship. Too much fun, I tells ya.

Also: I wasn't joking about seducing Beyonce. It's gonna happen.

Friday, April 26, 2013

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Zach's Day Job

I'm pretty sure Zach kept Netflix in business last year all by himself. There's nothing quite like coming home to find Zach surrounded by empty beer bottles and screaming at whoever just relapsed on Intervention. He's a man who likes to hit life at 1000%, even the boring days when he's trapped in the apartment.

Which, of course, makes him perfect for this video. I just want to point out that there were a solid hundred different takes that I had to sort through to edit this bad boy, and I didn't have a script. Nor was I there while he shot most of this. I guess what I'm saying is... I'm really good at this.

We finally fit in our old college buddy Amanda Carter into the ATX madness, haha. Thanks Amanda!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Serial Killers at Sacred Fools: Mom's Dead

Five shows enter... three shows leave. So goes the creed of "Serial Killers" at Sacred Fools, in which five original short serials are performed every Saturday night. At the end of the show, the audience votes on which three they'd like to return the next week and which two they want to kill.

It's a pretty intense machine, and I was lucky enough to run for three episodes this past month with my dysfunctional family drama "Mom's Dead." I went into the process being pretty certain that we'd be a "one and done" piece. Writers of SK tend to stay on the flashier comedic side to ensure maximum votes, and my piece was about as dark as it gets, featuring a dysfunctional, selfish family who murdered its own mother. Characters screamed at each other and cried pitifully into their liquor. Even the jokes had a warped cruelty to them.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I got voted back not once, but twice! That first night of victory was filled with very flattering compliments, cheap drinks, and the inevitable dance party at 2am.

But then Sunday morning came and I had myself a problem. Time to write Episode Two! People the night before had been asking me what would happen next, and I'd somewhat smugly shrugged and said "I have no idea." It had been a funny joke the night before, but now I was staring at a blank Final Draft document and I still had no idea!

See, I'd had a "one and done" go up the year before in which I'd written out Episode Two ahead of time, and even had a general outline of where I wanted the story to go five or six glorious episodes down the road. So you can imagine how stupid I felt when it was viciously butchered on the first night. I decided to throw every good idea I had into the first round. Well... that worked. Now what?

The terror was invigorating though. I can't tell you how much fun it was walking up and down Vanowen street with all of Leo, Alice, John, and Arthur's problems rattling through my head. For me at least, this edge of my seat approach wound up being pretty effective. Everybody seems to have a different approach to writing these things.

But the writing phase was only part of the frenzy. I'd decided to direct as well, so it was off to the theater with me at 10 in the morning every Saturday to try to get all of my light/sound cues ready to go in thirty minutes! I built my first sound cue for this show. Because I guess I enjoy creating problems for myself, I also had to roll a giant hospital gurney to the theater for my third episode.

Then comes thirty minutes of stage time with the cast. (Pros, each and every one of them.) Then the run-through of the whole show, where you pretend like you aren't secretly sizing up the other four pieces to see if you have a shot at surviving another week. Then it's showtime, baby!

I think it's a testament to Sacred Fools's audience that something as dreary as "Mom's Dead" could flourish and develop there. It's nerve-wracking to do drama for me. You don't get laughs to let you know what parts people are enjoying. I once directed a production of Oleanna and sat in agony for an hour and a half on opening night, confusing the audience's silence with boredom. They wound up giving it a standing ovation. That's kind of what getting voted back felt like. "Wait, you LIKED it? Well... what parts did you like?!"

And even though I wound up getting beaten out by an incredibly fun piece featuring a crazy clown hellbent on destroying vegans, (seriously) what an awesome ride it was! Can't wait to do it again! And who knows? Maybe those awful drunks will be back for the playoffs this summer.

Monday, April 15, 2013

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Brian Against Bullying (Did I go too far?)

I suppose for as long as there are people writing comedy, there will always be the difficult concept of what is "too far." We shot this waaay back in August in an attempt at making a slightly obnoxious though ultimately light-hearted poke at all those bullying videos saturating the internet. The end result wound up being pretty intense, and while I thought it was still funny, ultimately I decided not to post it. We actually wound up making a much more harmless bullying sketch a little later.

It probably would have wasted away on my computer forever if I hadn't been too busy with my late night show at Sacred Fools (also a tough sell: it's a comedy about matricide) to finish editing our next piece. So I brought this bad boy up, edited it a bit to make it shorter, and threw it up there.

Weirdly, this thing has gotten views waaay faster than any of our other Supreme Saturday sketches so far. People seem to have stronger reactions to it than usual. I've had people get in touch with me specifically to say how funny they thought it was, which never happens. Not that it's going viral or anything, but it's still cool.

That being said, not four hours after it hit YouTube, a viewer commented on it. Strangely polite for the internet, he said that he found the video cruel and offensive, and that he was disappointed in me. I guess that kind of bothered me a little bit. 

Now I'm not really one of those First Amendment thumping comedians who's under the impression that I should be able to say whatever I want without any consequences. I do want everybody to like my stuff, but I also want to be able to experiment and try to find new ways to make people laugh. I think sometimes that means treading through some rocky territory.

I guess the trade off is that if I have the right to put out risky subject matter, my viewers have the right to think of me as an insensitive jerk if they don't like it for whatever reason. I'm fine with that. And hopefully my viewers are fine with giving my stuff another chance even if they don't like one specific video. (Fact: My brother hates Cat Bowties more than life itself.)

So thanks, Justin Cook. (And anybody else who might comment later.) I appreciate the feedback, and I look forward to hearing what you think of our other videos.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My High School Might Cut Its Theatre Program

I recently became aware that my high school is thinking about cutting their Theatre Arts program. I wrote them the following letter. If the arts mean anything to you, maybe you could share your experiences with them?  Here's the link to their emails:

Ironic motto there, eh?

Members of the Board,

I'll try not to make this too long. I know you're all busy people and I thank you in advance for taking the time to read this.

A lot of my former classmates are buzzing about a rumor that the theatre arts society is potentially being cut. If you'll forgive my bluntness here: I am appalled, for reasons I'll try to explain.

I'll start off by saying that since graduating Paul Blazer in 2007, I went on to study theatre for four years at Morehead State University. I'm currently a working actor in Los Angeles where in only one year I've been in commercials, television, the stage, and music videos. (You can check out to see more specific examples.) My love of theater also led to my passion for writing, and i've had short stories published in eighteen different publications, plays performed all over the country, a novel published by Amazon, and screenplays produced by respected people in the industry. I cannot overemphasize how different my life would be if I hadn't been a student of Jane Modlin's theatre classes. I honestly can't even picture what it might look like.

Perhaps even more importantly, I came to Theatre 1 as a shy Freshman who didn't have any friends in basically the whole school. Being given a venue to consistently perform over those four years gave me confidence in myself at a stage in life where, let's face it, confidence is usually in short supply. I've seen it happen in those classes time and time again. Quiet kids who would rather fade into the background are forced to be looked at and acknowledged on the stage, and even though this concept usually terrifies them at first, over time they realize that they do have something to express. 

The importance of this program is critical. Not even taking into account the many people I know who've graduated from Paul Blazer and gone on to pursue acting professionally, theatre gives kids the confidence to believe that they have something to say in a world where sometimes it feels like nobody's listening. It breaks kids out of their own shells and gives them the courage to succeed. I wouldn't trade my time at the Blazer Theatre Arts Society for the world, and I beg you not to take that opportunity away from future generations.


Nathan Wellman BA in Theater, MFA in Creative Writing
SAG-AFTRA Eligible

PS: Thanks for all the snow days.

52 Sketches in 52 Weeks: Tough Guys

I got in a fight a few times with my babysitter's kid back in the day for knocking over his Lego's. People don't seem to be very impressed with that story. Or the time in college my friend and I decided to duke it out on New Years just to kinda see what it'd be like. No, you aren't a real man unless you just KICK THE CRAP OUTTA SOME PUNK!

Which, alas, I've never done. So I must be contented with smudging the front window of the Man Club with my nose for now. At least until I can get somebody to try to beat me up...

Hey you! Reader! You're stupid! I hate you! If you were a baby seal, I'd club you over the head! WHAT'RE YA GONNA DO ABOUT IT?!!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My Fan Letter to Gerard Way

Gerard Way,
            I was sad when I heard My Chemical Romance had recorded its last album. Guess I just took for granted that the party would never die. I still have my Black Parade jacket even seven years after buying it. Probably gonna be buried in that thing.
            You guys were my favorite band. That’s something that I’m sure you all get a lot, and deservedly so. I discovered MCR in high school, at a time when I was just starting to discover that I could have my own sense of style, that maybe I could wear something flashy and cool instead of a T-shirt and jeans all the time. More importantly, I was starting to discover that it was okay to be noticed, and that maybe nobody would laugh if I chose not to fade into the background all the time. The first piece of clothing I ever bought that I LOVED was an MCR shirt. You guys made me feel cool in an awkward stage of life where coolness was everything.
            And oh, the music. MCR was there for me through shitty break ups, wild parties, and everything in between, like a trusted friend who’ll never turn his back on you.  MCR’s still there for me. I suspect it always will be. I have this image of myself as a seventy year old man blaring “Welcome to the Black Parade” while my exasperated grandsons are begging me to switch to whatever newfangled music genre will be popular in the future.
            But then again, they might be screaming along right with me. That’s the kind of power your music has. It taps into something beyond the constraints of 21st century rock in roll. It’s human, in all of our confusing, pissed off, lonely, primal, ugly, beautiful, hateful, loving glory.
            I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say here. I’ve never been passionate enough about an artist to write fan mail before, so forgive my clumsiness. I guess I’m supposed to encapsulate everything MCR has meant to me, which is why I’m bumbling on about fashion and grandkids. Because there’s really no way to fully express it in just a few pages. I guess I’ll just cut things short and say thank you, Gerard. And of course Mikey, Frank, Ray, Matt, and Bob. This letter is for you too.
            And even though MCR’s journey is complete, I can comfort myself by knowing that there will always be art coming from Gerard Way in some medium or another. It’s just in your blood. I look forward to your next masterpiece.

Nathan Wellman