The Underdogs of Comedy

After happening into The Underdog and The Empress for their comedy nights, we were amazed at the indie comedy talent in this city. So, along with laughing uproariously at the many great comedians we saw, we got to plotting about somehow capturing even a glimpse of this great scene.

We decided a web series would the quickest way to get some of these funny people in front of an audience who hasn’t yet been out to one of the bars and venues hosting both regular and pop-up shows. Today we’re releasing six episodes featuring live sets from some of the comedians. More on what we learned making the series after the jump. 

Underdogs show logo

One helpful thing we did:

Make it look like something familiar.

We watched a bunch of comedy specials on Netflix, from Comedy Central, and The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail to make sure our show looked something like comedy that people were used to watching. Since The Meltdown is filmed in a space in the back of a comic book store in Los Angeles we thought this might be the closest thing that we could adapt for a look and feel to our show.

This was a really big help! Watching other comedy video allowed us to figure out where to place our cameras during the shoots, meaning we could have multiple angles to choose for reactions and punchlines and it meant (we hope) that the show would look good enough for people to focus on the fantastic jokes and not shaky shots of our feet.

Brett McCrindle

It’s Brett McCrindle, looking fine and funny!

One helpful thing we learned:

Get all that video sorted out.

Our four and five camera shoots left us with a lot of video. This was, by far, our largest undertaking for shoots, all of them lasting about two hours (we shot three different nights). We ended up with a crew of five people both nights we shot the majority of our video at The Black Dog and not only did that mean buying more SD cards for all the cameras, it meant figuring out a way to sort all that video (and audio) for editing.

One trick that helped was labeling all of the SD cards. Every camera got its own card, with creative names like “Nikon” and “Canon”, and the audio recorded from the stage microphone(s) from our Zoom also got a labelled card. It sounds like a simple, obvious thing but it sure made it easy to sort everything into folders right from the first upload.

The second note here is to make sure you talk to your editor or post-production supervisor about how they prefer folders to be sorted and named. Otherwise you could end up having to re-name everything (which gets messy with a lot of similar file names) and moving things around to new folders once or twice. Not that we know what that’s like…

Also, as Mark and Gregg can attest, GoPro cameras are hard to figure out. Are they recording or not?

Also, as Mark and Gregg can attest, GoPro cameras are hard to figure out. Are they recording or not?

Another helpful thing we learned:

Get that release date nailed down.

We shot last summer (August 2015) and had planned on getting the show out in the fall or winter. That became getting the show done by the end of the year. Then the spring of 2016. Eventually we had to just pick a date and tell people who weren’t Sally and Jeff that the show would be out on that date. Basically, we kept letting the show slide off our radar until we knew other people would ask us why it wasn’t out yet.

Next time out, we’re going to be better about choosing a release date. We’ll let someone external know our goal and that should keep the pressure up to actually get it done.

Many people making art and creating on to side of their day jobs probably know this feeling. There’s this amazing thing you are so pumped about that you just can’t wait to put out into the world but you get distracted by a busy stretch at work, or a new job or something personal. It doesn’t mean your art is any less important. It just means you’ve just got to find a new way to motivate yourself or get the thing done.

In our case, we got busy with work and the general emotional distractions that come with being a human. In the end it was buying an ad for the show (yes, the show that wasn’t even done yet) that finally allowed us to jump over all our hurdles and decide we actually needed to get the show done. As great as that new-found energy was, dedicating all extra hours the last few weeks to finishing the show is not necessarily something we’d want to do over and over again.

Underdogs ad

The other thing we learned:

We learned that Edmonton has an amazing indie comedy scene that is literally bursting with talent.

This was sort of the whole reason we wanted to do a show, but watching so many comedians on stage at The Underdog, The Empress, Arcadia and the many other regular(ish) and pop-up shows not only confirmed our feelings that this is something special, it continues to blow us away. Other great things: The comedy scene is eclectic and diverse; the people running these shows push comedians to punch up with their humour; the audiences in the indie rooms don’t appear to tolerate the same old jokes, especially any that tread on sexist or racist tcliches.

We hope you’ll watch these six episodes, laugh a lot at the clever and incisive humour, and then check out one of the many comedy nights around Edmonton.

We are honored more than a dozen comedians allowed us to record their sets. We really do hope to see this scene continue to grow until a giant ball of Edmonton funny overtakes the prairies.