Framing Steven Briggs’ Web Comedies

If you follow comedians on social media like I do, it’s always a pleasant surprise when you feel like you’ve discovered someone new. 

That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?  Not just clicking on the latest 5 minute clip from Anthony Jeselnik.  But in fact finding someone new.  Award winning comedian Steven Briggs is “new”, though he’s been at it for a short while and is making incredible strides.  I, for one, am a fan.

His short-form videos are non-consecutive, non-linier, and non-unfunny.  Very well structured stories which always have a satisfying payoff, Briggs brings his own terribly unique outlook and embodies sort of a random universal element to all his, for lack of a better term: short comedy films.

Larf Magazine caught up with Briggs on the set of his latest film venture:

LARF: What inspired you to put so much craft and effort into what essentially is an episodic web-series?

BRIGGS: I wouldn’t call it a episodic web series because most of them don’t connect with each other. I would call it sketch comedy. I started out writing short sketches and then accumulated a bunch to where I wanted to see them made. I didn’t know how to get them made so I invested in a camera, editing software and taught myself how to make them. The goal was to eventually get them to come out the way I saw them in my imagination.

“John leguizamo is one of my biggest influences.”

LARF: Are you tracking the numbers? How are they?

BRIGGS: Yes, it’s weird. Some that I think will do nothing end up doing the biggest numbers.

LARF: How many episodes have you produced and how many more are you planning?

BRIGGS: I’ve lost count now but it’s over 100 sketches. I plan to keep on doing them because for me it’s a very satisfying creative freedom. Also it’s a great excuse to get together with friends and play around.

LARF: How long does it take from concept to finished product?

BRIGGS: That really depends. For example I wrote a sketch that required a horse and buggy. That took me months to find.

LARF: What kind of team do you have?

BRIGGS: At first it was just me. As the sketches started getting better I got some really talented people that wanted to help.

LARF: Where are you originally from and what brought you out to Hollywood?

BRIGGS: Originally born in New York. Landed in Hollywood on accident.

LARF: You recently won some kind of stand-up award?

BRIGGS: The presidential comedy festival. That was a incredible experience. Ryan Schendzielos put together an amazing festival and I would recommend it to anyone.

LARF: What do you ultimately want to get out of the videos? For example, would you like to direct a feature film one day? Or are you “selling” you as a comedy actor?

BRIGGS: I love writing. Currently I am working on finishing up my 5th pilot. Through making these videos though I have had to work every position on a film set and directing is a lot of fun as well and would like to do that for a feature some day.

LARF: How would you describe your character in the films? He seems to be hapless and yet likeable.

BRIGGS: A lot of my characters are like that. I like to find problems and work my way through them with the character in a unconventional way.

LARF: Who are your filmmaking and comedy influences?

BRIGGS: John leguizamo is one of my biggest influences. I grew watching John and have seen all of his one man shows and read his books. I love how he created something for himself and still continues to do it.

LARF: How are you finding being a stand-up on the LA circuit?

BRIGGS: I like it a lot. It’s very diverse and constantly keeps me motivated.

LARF: What’s next for you?

BRIGGS: I am going to continue producing the sketches but am also going to start producing some bigger projects. I am already in pre-production for one that I am very excited about.

For more info on comedian/filmmaker Steven Briggs, as well as performance dates, visit his website.

SAG 6/26/19

 

 

Lighten Up! – One comedian’s view of fat shaming jokes – by Adam Ellis

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Terry Jones as the continuously famished Mr. Creosote in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life; 1983.

There is an unfortunate trend in today’s society to try and censor comedy (not to mention almost everything else), in an attempt to remove anything that might possibly offend anyone.

Whatever form the attempted censorship takes (tweets, reviews, calls for boycotting), it is almost always done in the name of Protecting the Feelings of the Innocent! “How dare you make fun of the left handed!? It’s not their fault they’re freaks!”

What seems to go unnoticed is that, largely, these protestations come from the outside. If the issue becomes large enough to warrant news coverage, the stations always manage to find a member of whatever group is supposedly being targeted to throw in front of the camera, but dollars to doughnuts (Homer: “Umm…doughuts…”)  it isn’t the person that started the outcry.

Fat Shaming in Comedy?

Which brings me to the issue of fat shaming. It’s not hard to find examples of thin people mocking their heavier counterparts, but try finding examples that are funny! The funniest fat jokes come from fat people themselves. And don’t give me that crap about their being fat giving the audience license to laugh, because they ALWAYS have license to laugh if the joke is funny enough!

Largely, these protestations come from the outside…

When Louie Anderson stepped onstage, already mopping his brow with a handkerchief, and said, “Pardon me for sweating, but if I don’t, I’ll explode,” he took the audiences immediate perception of hey, this guy is huge and one-upped them before they had a chance to form their own jokes. When John Pinette did his Chinese Buffet bit, he turned his size into an asset. I saw him a few years before he died, and he’d lost quite a bit of weight, but was still quite large. He quipped, “I’m the only guy I know who could lose a hundred pounds, and people look at me and go, ‘You get a haircut?‘”

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Not even Oliver Hardy sailed as smoothly as Jackie Gleason when it came to the perfect balance of fat shame and who gives a fuck.

 

Fat comics have been mining the rich vein of material that their size gives them a unique perspective as outliers, and have done so since the days of Vaudeville, silent movies, and probably before that. Hell, at one time, the biggest (no pun intended) star in this country was known as Fatty Arbuckle!

The Rib-Eye of the Beholder

There’s a great comic named Bob Zany, who used to be fat. Almost the entirety of his act was fat jokes. Damn good fat jokes at that! “I got pulled over the other day. When the cop got to my door, he asked, ‘You know why I pulled you over?’ I said, ‘Because you’re lonely and you’ve never been with a fat guy?’ He said ‘Bingo!’” Then Bob lost a whole lot of weight, and by consequence, his entire comedy act. He had to reinvent himself as an insult comic, because he knew that those jokes wouldn’t work for him anymore. You can’t tell fat jokes from a third person perspective and slay the audience. If they aren’t about you, they just don’t work. The joke is still the same, but you are no longer in the joke, so it falls flat.

The great Louie Anderson as Mrs. Baskets on the hilarious “Baskets” on FX.

Now, some people (mostly thin) want fat comics to stop telling fat jokes, for fear of offending other fat people. If fat comics stop telling fat jokes, then no one will be telling them, and a large (again, not a pun) part of the population stops being talked about on stage.

If we allow this blatant artistic censorship to happen, how long until it reaches the point where fat actors aren’t even considered for roles anymore, as seeing them on screen might make someone uncomfortable? Maybe it’ll get to the point where someone will take a print of The Maltese Falcon and digitally slim down Sidney Greenstreet, and alter the audio track to remove all references to “the fat man.”

So my advice to all those looking to stop us (yep, I’m one of ’em) from telling fat jokes (and, pointedly, not to those telling them) is the same as this article’s title:  LIGHTEN UP!

Later,

Adam

Adam Ellis is a Las Vegas based comedian.