MEET NICK BARTON ’08
Member of the Internet sketch comedy group “Friends of the Family”
Favorite kind of soup: Cream of mushroom, but the chunky kind — make sure you say “chunky.”
Favorite drink name: Nipple. I’ve heard of “slippery nipple,” but I bet just plain “nipple” would be good.
Halloween costume: A guy whose senior prom date ditched him.
QWhy the name Friends of the Family?
AWe chose it because it was something we wouldn’t get tired of saying. We had another name which we’re still going to use for a rock group, “Crunklestiltskin” — we would have gotten really tired of saying that name after a couple of months … like, really tired. Also, we thought some people wouldn’t get the joke … Crunklestiltskin … it’s a joke. Also, because a lot of our comedy is not family-oriented, we thought it would be funny for our name to create the image of wholesome, friendly folk who show up to a gathering with Tupperware and a pot roast.
QHow do you know each other?
AWe went to high school together.
QWhy sketch comedy versus another form such as sitcom?
AWe had a lot of really out-there ideas which would have been hard to incorporate into one narrative with the same characters that was long-form. And we all came from an improv group in high school which did mostly short-form, so we’re used to the idea of funny things in the Upright Citizen’s Brigade’s sense of finding the “game” of sketch and hitting that until it dies — although doing a sitcom is not something we would be NOT interested in. We just saw short-form sketch as a bigger opportunity to make fun of a wider range of things.
QWhere do you get your sketch ideas?
AI wish I had something better to say, but basically from joking around, and thinking “oh that’ll be funny.” And then we’ll revisit it later. We also make notes of funny things we’ve seen and heard. We write them down and try to make them accessible.
QWhat are your comedy backgrounds?
AWell, we had the improv group in high school. And I took Comedy in Performance with Larlham last year which I guess influenced me personally, though the comedy we studied in that class is not as “modern” or as “strange” as some of the stuff that Friends of the Family does. But the idea of the clown and the separation between me doing something that is retarded and me knowing that I am doing something that is retarded … I’ve definitely gotten into that. I can’t speak for the other members. A lot of things influence us — we’re well-read individuals.
QDo you consider yourselves comedians?
AWell… yeeeeaaaahhhh. I think the word “comedian” implies stand-up to the average person. We’re not really close to having that be a part of our thing. But if someone were to ask me what I do right now, I guess I would have to say “comedian” because, well, otherwise I am just unemployed.
QDo you all have side jobs?
AOne of us does. The other two (one of which is me) — we’re working on it. This economy is not particularly kind to entry-level folk. Especially since I personally don’t really have any marketable skills.
QHow does living in LA affect your group? Did you move there with the intent to pursue comedy?
AI did move here with the intent to pursue this group. I don’t know about comedy as a wider opportunity, but if someone came up to me and said, “Hey — you wanna be in my sitcom for money?” — I would not turn that down. I didn’t move here with the intent to pursue “comedy,” per se, but we’d been planning this group for years. It seems to me, with my limited knowledge of the ways this stuff works, LA seems more oriented to sketch and comic stuff on the Web as opposed to live shows or improv shows. Those do exist, but … we know personally three or four Internet sketch comedy groups, whereas I don’t really know anyone in New York who’s doing the same things.
QWho’s your audience?
AWe can tell who’s going to our Web site. Sometimes, it’s crazy like, “Oh wow, somebody in Israel went to like 12 pages and spent 20 minutes on our site! Whoooah!” Then, usually, I’m like: “Oh wait… I know who that is.” But we continue to get hits from completely random places in the U.S. and sometimes overseas. Our audience now is definitely a lot of people we know personally, but I don’t really mind that because we haven’t done a viral explosion sketch — yet. It’s more like we’re building a firm base, and we’re building our repertoire of sketches. Pretty soon we’re going to focus on doing something that is completely ADD and whorish to get our name out there. We would have done something of that sort earlier if we’d thought we’d been ready — a McCain/Palin making-fun-of bullshit thing, maybe — but we wanted to do stuff that we were really proud of, first.
QDo you see Friends of the Family as just a hobby or an end in itself?
AI hope that it’s both. I hope that I’m working on this for a long time. If we could all afford to do nothing but this group, that’d be amazing. But if this group got us opportunities outside the group, that’d be amazing too. I trust the people I’m in the group with, and I think there’s an audience for our stuff. My parents said they thought the sketch about me trying to get a hand-job from my friend was funny, and if my parents think that, then there is hope. If I am ruining my family name all over Internet with that, and they can still laugh, yeah … I’m not worried.
QHow do you technically make the videos? Final cut?
AGreg owns a camera. We have a boom mike. We’re pretty low-budget. We’ve been pretty lucky because we have a lot of friends who are involved in film or another sketch group, so we’ve been able to get people who have access to better equipment to help us out. About a week and a half from now, a sketch we filmed using really nice equipment is coming out. We’ll upgrade as we get money.
QHow would you get paid?
AThere are a couple of ways you can get paid in this business. One way is Web sites that pay for content. You have an agreement to pay for a sketch, and, depending on the company and the sketch, they’ll pay you such-and-such money for exclusive rights to your sketch. Or they’ll pay for the first two weeks of the sketch being on the Internet. The other way is corporate stuff. A company will pay you to make a video for their homepage that they hope is funny and somewhat relevant. For example — and I’m totally making this up, here — www.tide.detergent.com might have a video that plays automatically on its homepage that has some 20-somethings doing funny or weird stuff, and the punch line is about Tide or some bullshit like that. That’s something we’re interested in. Money is … what’s the word … helpful. Yes, that’s it.