Billerica video-making duo aims to take viral success to Hollywood
How two local guys hope to turn video success into real comedy jobs
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For a couple of comedians, Jimmy Craig and Justin Parker don’t joke around much. Not, that is, when discussing their craft.
“We don’t take ourselves too seriously, we just take this very seriously,” says Parker, wondering aloud whether he should emulate the comic Louis C.K., who Parker says cracks a joke “every other line” in interviews.
“This is what we want,” he continues. “This is what we want to do with our lives.”
They’re hoping they get that chance after the recent triumph of “Cat-Friend vs. Dog-Friend,” a sweetly funny video imagining what it would be like if friends acted like pets. The clip, shot in their hometown of Billerica and posted in late November, went viral, collecting nearly 7 million YouTube plays in its first month and a segment on the “Today” show.
But in an age of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it online fame, how do two 27-year-old dreamers parlay that success and newfound recognition into steady comedy careers? That’s the puzzle they are attempting to solve through developing a full toolbox of skills, consistently generating quality material and, of course, keeping the phone close.
Before Craig and Parker, who met in high school, started working at popularity, they stumbled upon it. In 2007, after goofing around making “a bunch of really, really bad” videos and some relatively popular techno remixes featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice, they shaved a friend’s head, slapped a jock strap on him, and painted him green to look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. As they hosed him off afterward, they kept the tape running while he executed amateur karate kicks in the spray. Craig says they laughed so hard off-camera that the hosing became the main point of the video.
The crude finished product, “turtleboy,” was picked up by MTV, VH1, and the BBC. A Japanese network licensed the clip for five years. It was the duo’s first taste of widespread video success, says Craig.
The same year that “turtleboy” broke, Craig graduated from Emmanuel College and moved to Los Angeles, where he dipped his toes into improv comedy and gained experience creating Internet content at the Independent Comedy Network. There, he produced Web comics that helped forge a relationship with the humor mega-site Cracked.com.
Craig moved home to Billerica and reunited with Parker to give comedy an honest go under the moniker they had adopted in college, Fatawesome. Parker had just received an engineering degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and lacked the savvy Craig brought from the entertainment industry. But he quickly got up to speed, says Tim Speziale, a friend of both since high school who appears in “Cat-Friend vs. Dog-Friend.”
“Jimmy kind of started with most of the knowledge of filmmaking and shooting and how to use their equipment, and Justin was kind of a raw comedy mind. Now it’s a nice balance,” Speziale says. “Justin has developed a lot in the filmmaking aspect. They both made each other grow into what they’ve become.”
To pay the bills and sharpen their skills, Craig and Parker formed a two-man corporate video production company called Methodloft in January 2011, partnering with McDougall Interactive, a marketing agency that was seeking an in-house video team that would work without a salary in exchange for office space and a client pool.
“Immediately it was a match made in heaven. . . . They were looking to keep their overhead low because they were quitting jobs to go live the dream and do the viral stuff and we didn’t have to pay salaries,” says company president John McDougall. “It was a nice way to have a win-win for both of us.”
Along with bringing the duo some clients and revenue, the Methodloft connection with McDougall allows the pair to work together and innovate for Fatawesome while at their day job, Craig says. They also regularly flesh out ideas during the 40-minute commute between their homes in Billerica and the office in Danvers.
“Sometimes they might blow us off a little bit and we’re like, OK, they’re kind of focused on their thing,” McDougall says. “We give them the flexibility and try not to overload them knowing that there will be waves of time when they’re making a new viral video. We try not to overwhelm them with the corporate stuff.”
But they can also combine the two sides of their operation, and inject humor into videos for some of their more serious clients, Parker says, likening it to notoriously lighthearted Super Bowl ads.
“Those are basically comedy sketches with a Budweiser logo at the end,” he says.Continued...