Preston Barta // Film Critic
THE HUMAN CONDITION | 15 min. | Creator: Arnie Pantoja, Keith Pratt, Brandon Henry Rodriguez | Stars: Arnie Pantoja, Keith Pratt, Brandon Henry Rodriguez, Deanna Russo, Kamila Davies, Natalie Dreyfuss, Caroline Fogarty, Raechel Zarzynski, Ralph Michiel, Damu Malik, Ryan Gowland, James Cousar and Shannon Torrence[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he age of internet videos and YouTube has left many of us with short attention spans for comedy. There are so many videos out there that you couldn’t finish them all in a lifetime. However, instead of watching another Vine of a woman falling flat on her face or a dude getting whacked in the no-no parts with a baseball bat, direct your attention to “The Human Condition.”
Shot like a nature documentary, this sidesplitting web series follows three friends and their misadventures with themes such as perversion, mating, death, and more. Together they will unlock the secrets of mankind, or laugh at it.
NT Daily had the opportunity to speak with the co-creator, writer, and star of the series, Brandon H. Rodriguez. We talked about our short attention spans, balancing the comedy of the show, and what college course would he teach.
Ever since Vine videos became popular I’ve noticed that our attention spans have really gone down. You really only have people for 30 seconds until they tune out. But this show is so great! It’s short, funny, and keeps you wanting to click the “next video” button. How did this come about?
Brandon H. Rodriguez: “Well, thanks, man. That’s cool. Yeah, me, Keith [Pratt] and Arnie [Pantoja] were just sitting on the couch, watching ‘Meerkat Manor.’ We see all these documentaries with animals with these narrators, and that’s what the show was— these meerkats had this narrator that would give them life. And we thought, “Why hasn’t there been a documentary study on humans?” So we made this documentary-like show within the same vein, but we picked the worst three specimens possible to represent the human race.”
[Laughs] When do ideas usually hit you? I’m just imagining you hanging out with your friends or calling each other up saying “I got it!”
Rodriguez: “Yeah, that happens for sure. I’m always like, ‘Hey, guys! What about this?’ My writing partner, Sam Reed, who I write a lot of other stuff with, he’s used to it. I call him up or send him an email asking him what he thinks about my latest idea. He’s either like, ‘Wow! That’s great!’ or ‘Nah. We should focus on something else.’ [Laughs]”
You guys seem to find the right balance between having your characters be horrible to each other, but it’s still funny and it doesn’t get too uncomfortable or feel too cruel, whereas other shows don’t quite find that line. How do you write it so you don’t go over that line and you find the right balance? Did that take awhile to find it?
Rodriguez: “We’ve all known each other for so long. I think it’s one of those things where, you know, at the end of the day, it’s really just us but at a heightened degree. We still care about each other and look out for each other. Same with the meerkats: they may mess with each other or exile each other, but at the end of it, they are still a family and a pack.”
Yeah, that makes sense. You’re just playing an extreme version of yourself but under imaginary circumstances.
Rodriguez: “Yeah. I don’t know if we did this consciously or subconsciously, but some shows that we admire, like ‘Workaholics’ or ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ they’ll smoke weed, get super stoned and get into a certain circumstance. But for us, we are just that dumb. We don’t need to be stoned or hammered; the situation just finds us and we get into it.”
What’s your opinion about the future of comedy? Are gimmicks and situational comedy going to win over highbrow, intellectual comedy?
Rodriguez: “I think there is always going to be a knack for both. I think ‘network’ comedies will begin to fade, unless they pick up after cable comedies that allow more freedom to happen. In my opinion, I think there’s going to be a lot more comedy coming from the cable aspect of things. You know, where you do have that increased freedom to play around. You don’t necessarily write the jokes, but you write the situation and the joke is the situation.”
In the first episode, “Perversion,” we see that your character has to babysit for his neighbor. Initially, he thought that it would be a walk through the park, but it turned out to be quite the opposite. What’s the worst favor that you did for someone that you thought would be easy but wasn’t?
Rodriguez: “I’ve got to be honest with you [Laughs], all the situations in this show were made up. I’ve never had to babysit someone’s kid. But I would have to say helping anyone move, especially in Los Angeles, is the worst. You’re like, ‘Yeah! I will totally help you move next week!’ And then the day comes and you’re like, ‘Why did I do that?’
Where did you get that shirt from the first episode? I’m really curious.
Rodriguez: “[Laughs] That shirt is awesome! We have a good buddy, mutual friend named Drew who thought it would be hilarious if we had the little girl in ‘Preservation’ wearing it. I thought any young white girl wearing that shirt would be hilarious, but I ended up just wearing it the whole episode. It became a part of the episode.”
I am going to have to find that shirt. That’s hilarious.
Rodriguez: “It’s actually based off of an Evian campaign. That’s what it’s from. They would just have these shirts with babies’ bodies on them and your head sticking out the top. But I am sure you could find it somewhere online. But I just had to wear that shirt for the episode.”
All these episodes, which are about 15 minutes all together, are split up into three parts. Each part is about 3-5 minutes long. Do you shoot the whole episode all at once? How do you know where to end each part of an episode?
Rodriguez: “We write for the break. We know when it’s going to end. But we did those three episodes, all nine chapters (or parts), in nine days. But I think that’s the thing with web content— it was difficult for us to try and write a full episode with a beginning, middle and end. So we split it up into three parts that are about four minutes long. Instead of it being ‘season one,’ it’s more like ‘volume one.’ We are like an encyclopedia almost that gets put back on the shelf. It helps us a lot to be able to have that freedom to write almost a full 22-minute episode, taking into understanding of commercial breaks. So we have our breaks to do that. It’s fun. It’s definitely a lot of fun.”
I agree with David Zuckerman (“Wilfred” developer) when he said this show is cable ready. I think people are really going to respond to it.
Rodriguez: “That’s so cool. Yeah, David loved it. He said, ‘This is really awesome, man. You should be really proud.’ You know, I worked with all those knuckleheads on ‘Wilfred’ a lot as a casting assistant. David and some of the ‘Wilfred’ producers told me to not rule it out being ready for cable. It was really nice hearing that the people that I admire and respect so much have that opinion on it.”
How long have you been a casting assistant?
Rodriguez: “I was a casting assistant on ‘Wilfred’ for two seasons, but I’ve doing it for almost five years now. I’ve been very blessed to be able to consistently work as one. It’s nice to work in different offices and on different projects.”
And lastly, if you could teach a college course, what would you teach?
Rodriguez: “Oh, wow. I think I would like to teach a class on people and different individuals— to observe, watch, listen and learn. I would teach the understanding of human nature, how they act, and why they do what they do. How we are all so different, but how that makes the world so awesome.”
Any parting thoughts? Anything that you would like to say to the students at UNT?
Rodriguez: “Just if they have idea or want to do something that they do it. I’ve heard so many people say, ‘Oh, well, if you’re going to make something to make sure it’s good.’ But who’s to say what good really is? What’s the definition of good? You won’t know until you put it out there. So if you find it great, put it out there. Make it happen and see what people think. And hopefully they’ll like ‘The Human Condition.’
To watch “The Human Condition” for free, click here!