Two years ago I wrote and filmed a webseries about superhero sidekicks called…well, Sidekicks. It was a project funded mostly by love and muffins and we ended up filming it in Errol’s backyard.
I’m pretty sure I wrote about it here in this blog. I didn’t even check that link. I hope it’s the right one!
The original plan was to have it ready to go a few months after filming wrapped up. Then our DOP/editor Clayton got a paying gig touring the world filming a documentary which of course he took because travelling around the world to exotic locales would be a really stupid thing to turn down.
But then he came back! Life finally settled down enough for all of us that we could turn our attention back to our little webseries that could. And now…our first episode is OUT to the public! And you can watch it here!
I will admit to being more than a little nervous releasing it. Watching my own work is always the most difficult thing to do and I can’t help but notice all of the areas I could have done better.
Basically, I feel like it’s opening night and I am having my classic Manda “It’s not too late to bail” nervousness. But we’ve come this far and I’ve been told that apologizing for your art is not the way to go. And I AM proud of our work. I wanted to write something about friendship and we did so.
So here it is! Episode 1! We will be releasing weekly! If anything, watch it for Errol’s performance. He continues to crack me up and is awesome to work with. I’ll probably have something more poignant to say the last episode. For now, HOLY CRAP OUR WEBSERIES IS DONE! ENJOY!
And so I’ve done my last Whitless Letter in the Test Chamber. And since it’s the Test Chamber it was only fitting that I do the letter to GlaDOS. And because I’m moving into Errol’s, it was also only fitting that he be involved. And it’s crazy.
Having Errol as a creative partner has its benefits. He’s got a good sense of humour. He is a fountain of awesome ideas.
But then there’s also some rather frustrating sides to the deal. And no, I’m not just talking about the fake butt pictures.
You see, Errol has many other creative partners. Including a band which eats about 80% of his time. And a full time job. And a family who occasionally needs him around. And… Read the rest of this entry
So TIFF (The Toronto International Film Festival) is having a showcase this month of all the Studio Ghibli films (creators of Totoro, Spirited Away, etc.). Don’t know who Studio Ghibli is? Then you have clearly not met Errol.
Errol is one of the biggest Studio Ghibli fanboys there is. Heck, the name of this blog is an homage to My Neighbour Totoro. So naturally upon hearing that he could spend an entire month seeing their films in theatres, Errol got a titch excited. Read the rest of this entry
I thought it was done. I thought it was over with. I thought that perhaps Errol had gotten bored or distracted or had simply run out of body parts.
I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up. There in my texts this morning was a brand new “Guess the body part” photo. And yes, it was a body part that looked like a butt.
But you know what? This time I refuse to suffer alone in this. He wants to play a game? Well, I want others to play the game too. So I’m sharing it with you. The Internets. So that you too may share in the joy that is guessing which of Errol’s body parts looks like a butt.
Warning, the below picture, while the most tame of the bunch so far, still kind of looks like a butt. So cast your votes!…Which body part is this?!
Yesterday I woke up, showered, got dressed and began to make my lunch. Then I stopped. Something was odd. Errol hadn’t called yet. Normally I couldn’t finish getting on my socks before Errol called. Yes, my life is that habitual.
So there’s this game called Terraria.
It’s basically a 2D version of Minecraft. You create a character for yourself and then you are plopped down into a randomized world, full of trees and bunnies and plants and caves and various things that want to kill you. Read the rest of this entry
Hello my name is Manda and I…am a Straight Man.
Not the heterosexual male type, the comedy type.
For those who are new to the term, the Straight Man refers the more serious half of a comedy duo or the serious character among a crazy ensemble. Their job is less to act and more to react to the crazy eccentric, also known as the Comic, they have gotten saddled with. Think Abbot and Costello.
For many years I was the Comic in productions. I would often be cast as the kooky, eccentric crazy lady and I had loads of fun doing it. I didn’t want to be the Straight Man. The Straight Man was boring. Nobody laughed at the Straight Man. These were the roles I was born to play.
But the more people got to know me, the more they got to know the shy, neurotic, sarcastic side of me that naturally fit into that Straight Man role. So I started getting cast in those roles. I fought against it, trying to go for as many zany roles as I could, dead set against taking on the Straight Man role.
Then I met Errol, who is the natural Comic and my fate as a Straight Man was sealed. My nervous and easily overwhelmed personality was a natural fit for his exuberant insanity and our chemistry was apparent right away.
In our comedy duo, weTangent, I serve as the Straight Man 99% of the time. Errol is loud and crazy and spouts some hilarious punchlines. I am shy, embarrassed and get frustrated with his antics. I am the Simon Pegg to his Nick Frost, the Bert to his Ernie, the Marlin to his Dory.
Being a Straight Man is tough. Nobody really wants to be the Straight Man. They rarely get the punchlines, they don’t get to go wild with joy, and their existence seems purely to serve as a foil for their more enthusiastic partner. Most of the laughs and praise go to the Comic who is far more memorable.
But just because they are not as noticeable does not mean they are not important.
For one, they have to do a lot of the set-up to the jokes. Yes, the Comic gets the punchline and therefore they get the laughs but it’s up to the Straight Man to help with a lot of the leg work in pulling it off. Think about it this way: have you ever heard a friend tell a joke like this?
“A blonde, a brunette and a redhead rob a bank. So the police are looking for them and…oh wait, sorry, I forgot, first they get away and then they hide and the police are looking for them and the blonde one says “Potatoes!”…No wait, I forgot to mention they’re in barrels and…hang on, let me start over…”
The punchline is nothing without the set-up. Without it, the joke falls flat and the audience is left to throw acorns at you. The ability to set up the perfect joke is incredibly important, and it often falls to the Straight Man to achieve this.
I’m not just talking verbal set-up either. I’m also talking about emotional build-up. Comedy is rooted in misery and pain. It’s a truth you quickly learn the more you do it. The emotions a character feels in even the most whacky of comedy must be just as genuine and real as if it was the most serious of dramas. A lot of the reason we find comedy funny is because we love identifying with and laughing at the pain those characters are feeling. If the pain isn’t real, it just isn’t nearly as funny…yup, we’re that sadistic.
The Straight Man is also there to ensure that the Comic’s personality is considered funny. By himself, the Comic would be considered by many to be an unfunny, overbearing annoyance. They are loud and obnoxious. The Straight Man acts as a counter balance to that. More importantly, they act annoyed on behalf of the audience.
Think of…oh, I don’t know, Adam Sandler.
By himself? Freaking unbearable (at least to me). He shouts in his baby voice as loudly as possible while running like a lunatic. But put him next to normal people…well, he’s still kind of annoying but he also suddenly starts to become funny. The Comic is funny, but only with someone to bounce off of and to act as the audience surrogate. Likewise, the Comic provides the zaniness that the Straight Man lacks. It’s a wonderfully balanced and symbiotic relationship.
But that isn’t the most important thing I learned about being a Straight Man. The most important thing I learned is that despite appearances, being the Straight Man is just as much fun as being the Comic. You don’t get a lot of the glory and you don’t get the punchlines, but you get to play around with some really challenging comedy. Being a good Straight Man is a lot harder than it looks. You have to be willing to give up the spot light, you have to have impeccable timing, and you have to be genuine.
I’m getting used to being the Straight Man. To be truthful, it wasn’t easy at first. I was pretty quick to assume that being the Straight Man meant that I simply wasn’t funny. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It only meant that I was a different sort of funny, and it’s okay that this happens to be where my talent lies.
It certainly helps that I have a creative partner that I mesh with and who is easy to play off of. Errol’s at his best when he has someone who will react to him. He is crazy energetic and fun.
I’m the straight man. I’m at my best when there is someone to react to. And most of the time, those reactions will range from frustrated to worried to petrified. And I’m quite okay with that.
How about you guys? Who are some of your favourite straight men?
When you get to be close friends with someone, you can’t help but want to give some token of your affection for them, to show them how much they mean to you. Friendships are still relationships, after all. It makes sense.
Some friends buy each other gifts. Some write quirky songs. Some make crafts.
Errol…has different ways of showing affection… Read the rest of this entry
Friday night. Errol and I are playing Tomb Raider. Errol arrives at 11pm. I have a train to catch the next morning, but I figure I can do an hour of video gaming no problem…
Me: (hmmm…I wonder what time it is)
Errol: (explores every nook and cranny of the shanty town we have just decimated single handedly)
Me: (maybe I’ll go check the time)
Errol: (continues to get Lara Croft to leap around like a gazelle)
Me: (looks at phone) Um…Errol?
Me: It’s 2am…
Errol: (without taking eyes off screen) Ya, I know.
Me: You know?
Errol: (actually taking the hint) Oh, do you want me to go?
Manda’s logical brain: Why yes I do. This has been fun, but I have to get up early tomorrow and I’ve lost enough sleep as it is. Plus it’s really freaking late! But thanks for coming over!
Manda’s fear of offending everybody brain: DON’T BE RUDE! HE’S YOUR GUEST!
Manda’s stupid video game/friend hang-out loving brain: TOMB RAIIDEERRR!
Manda’s mouth: Um…no, it’s okay.
Errol: Okay! (goes back to playing)
This. This is why I deserve pity from no one.
To be fair, he DID leave a few minutes later :D.