How many groups of friends get together, tell jokes, laugh really hard, and think, “Our lives should be a sitcom?” One bunch of friends who met years ago at Northwestern Michigan College decided to do something about it.
They’ve formed a sketch comedy troupe called Falling Down Stairs Productions and they produce short, funny videos that can be found on YouTube and Funny Or Die.
“One of the things that we’re really good at is making each other laugh at the drop of a hat,” said group member David Graves. “Whether we’re any good at making other people laugh, we’re not sure yet.”
COFFEE BEAN SKETCH
The troupe’s nine members take turns writing scenes, and when a script is chosen to be filmed, the writer of the sketch serves as director.
On a recent evening at the Coffee Bean Café on Silver Lake Road, where the owners allowed the group to use the café after-hours for a shoot, that meant Elizabeth Klueck was directing one of her scenes.
Her sketch that evening pivoted around a poor young man trying to impress his date, who it turns out is not impressed with him because she doesn’t like the font he selected for a flyer for a friend’s band.
It was the first scene to be shot on a night when they plan to shoot six or seven.
That meant hours of work for the group that evening, and hours more later on.
Elizabeth’s husband, Jamie Klueck, is the owner of the camera used by the group, an impressive looking Canon XL1s. Jamie also edits the videos using Final Cut Pro.
HANG OUT WHERE THEY WORK
The café was a typical location for the group. They select places where they hang out in real life.
“We like to try to write scenes that are easy for us to relate to,” Graves said.
That makes it easy for them to inhabit the spaces as actors. Most of their sketches take place in an apartment, on the street, at a coffee shop, or, in an innovation developed by Jamie, on a split-screen webcam, a device he came up with to overcome the fact that he lives in Frankfort and doesn’t get to Traverse City that often. It enables him and Graves to get together, if only online, and create more content.
Members of the comedy troupe are:
Graves, 28, Jamie Klueck, 30, Elizabeth Klueck, 30, Jody Kluck, 30, Craig Golden, 29, Jack Clemente, 30, Zach Kenny, 29, Ashleigh Hanchett, 28 and Esther Kluck, 26.
Josh Riddle, owner of the Coffee Bean, said he’s glad to have the group use his shop as a scene location and as a hang-out.
“They are some of our nicest customers,” Riddle said. “As for their shooting, we just get out of the way and let them do their thing.”
Riddle said he’s only watched a few of their videos because, as a new business owner, he doesn’t have a lot of free time, but he said he’s liked what he’s seen.
“I looked at a couple of them and some of them were really funny,” he said.
The group met, more or less, around 10 years ago when several of them enrolled in a play production class at NMC.
“We did a terrible rendition of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’” Graves said.
They bonded and formed friendships and would stay in touch, but it would be years before they’d decide to get together to form a sketch comedy troupe.
That happened when Graves got together with some of his old friends in June, 2011 after he moved back to Northern Michigan from Texas.
It didn’t take long before Graves remembered why he liked his old friends so much, and how much they made him laugh.
“It was one of the only times in my life when I literally rolled around on the floor laughing,” Graves said.
‘SUPPOSED TO BE HORROR’
No one in the group has formal comedy or improv experience, but they all have theater backgrounds.
And they are all passionate about comedy. Some of them came to comedy on an indirect route.
Jamie Klueck made a movie around 10 years ago, which, although he did not set out to be funny, may have unintentionally taught him a thing or two about comedy.
“It was supposed to be a horror, but, you know, when you’re 17 and you write a horror movie around a stuffed teddy bear...” he paused, unable or unwilling to finish that sentence. “It was a really good experience, let’s leave it at that.”
FELL DOWN THE STAIRS
The name, Falling Down Stairs Productions, also comes from NMC from an incident that happened a few years ago in the administration building on campus, when several members of the group got together. One of them, Jody, fell down a short flight of stairs.
He was not injured, but he made his friends laugh.
That was funny enough, Graves said, but Jodi started to joke about it almost before he had landed on the ground.
It made a very funny impression, and when plans arose last November or December to form the troupe, the unplanned slapstick proved to be the perfect name.
The group has modest goals, for now. Graves said he hopes they can start to make a little bit of money with their videos so they can sustain what they are doing and perhaps expand their scope. It’s possible to make some money on YouYube if you get enough hits.
They also talk
about filming a sitcom pilot. But this is niche comedy, after all, and
they hope to draw an audience wider than just Northern Michigan. Their
videos so far have been watched in many countries, according to YouTube
stats, including Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam.