With #VOFF 2 underway, we took five minutes to catch up with the co-creators of The Justice Lease—winners of #VOFF 1 back in April—Paul Ayre and Jeremy Brull. We wanted to know a bit more about how their work came about, what makes a successful parody, when we can expect their next project—and whether or not the prize money has resulted in any newly discovered expensive or unhealthy habits.
V: Hello lads! First things first, and probably the same initial question you’ve been in asked in any previous interview: What’s The Justice Lease all about?
P/J: It’s a superhero comedy series featuring the real-life versions of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and The Hulk as they struggle to live together in an Australian sharehouse. Here, they are defeated not by super-villains and natural disasters but by endless bickering over popularity and the weight of their domestic obligations. With Superman long forgotten by the public and Batman enjoying the fame and fortune of his Dark Knight trilogy, Supes seems doomed to a lifetime of domestic servitude and babysitting Aquaman. But with the release of his upcoming blockbuster ‘Man of Steel’… could all that change?
V: What’s that one thing about it (there’s always a “thing”), that you think cut it out to eventually score you the $70k?
P/J: I think our “thing” is intensity. For us, comedy is about taking absurd situations seriously. Really seriously. Our company name is SevereComedy for that very reason.
V: How did it all come about? And why did you guys decide on the superhero theme?
P/J: As embarrassing as it is, the idea came from Bachelor Girl’s “Buses and Trains”. It’s hard to explain, but Paul did a 10-day silent meditation in Blackheath and the song was running through his head and he imagined Superman singing it, looking like Kurt Cobain, playing guitar to a webcam and… look, there’s no “non-weird” way to explain it. It just happened. Plus Jeremy just loves Superheroes. So it wasn’t a hard sell.
V: What is absolutely essential in making a good parody?
P/J: Stakes. If you’re making a comedy, particularly parody, there has to be something at stake – something has to be important. Now, this can be something objectively important (like the world ending). The best example of this is College Humour’s Batman parody. The comedy comes from “Fatman” being oblivious the life-threatening scenarios. For “The Justice Lease”, Superman’s struggle is literally the most pathetic situation he has ever had to deal with. So what keeps the stakes is the fact Superman CARES about something. In this case, his new movie. We know what it’s like to want our friends to like our things. It’s a human trait that everyone can empathise with. So the stakes come from who he is, rather than what’s going on.
Parody also has to come from a place of love. We think people confuse parody with satire in some instances – like in the Scary Movie spinoffs. These movies make no attempts to hide their contempt for the genre. So you’re not invested other than to see gags. This style is more effectively used in satire to take politicians, companies or Justin Bieber down a peg. Whereas if you look at good parody – particularly Mel Brooks or Edgar Wright – it’s clear that they love the source material they’re choosing to parody. They’re not out to destroy the genre, but to show what happens if you actually took the cliches in those genres seriously. Sure, you’re making fun of the material – but you’re doing so in the same way that you would an old friend or family member. It comes from a real place of affection. We love superhero stories and films – and whilst it was funny for the series that ‘Man of Steel’ turned out awful…We were every bit as heartbroken as Superman was! Plus we had to rewrite the last episode.
V: What did you guys work on before The Justice Lease?
P/J: We’ve worked together for 10 years in theatre and film – most notably on the quintessential Australian space dramedy of 2012: “In The Air Tonight”, the story of two astronauts braving a 18-year trip to Pluto in 1989 with only 15 Phil Collins songs to keep them company (on repeat). We’re hoping to develop that into a series in the near future. Outside of that, we’re creating several pitches for TV and movies at present.
V: So, we’re preeetty eager for a tad of season two tease. Any spoilers?
P/J: So many. We can give you some spoilers, but bear in mind that we will have to limit what we actually produce, so some might not make it. We’re excited to announce new characters – particularly Lois Lane’s grand-daughter and racist Captain America. In terms of existing characters: Aquaman is going to be pitching his retro “Batman and Aquaman” series to TV producers with the help of female Robin #4. The Hulk battling his un-hulked self in a Fight Club-esque scenario. Batman is under pressure from Male Robin to “take a little cash on the side” from every person he saves. The crux of the series of course being the upcoming ‘Batman v Superman” movie, aka Batman’s hijacking of Superman’s reboot. Needless to say, the two aren’t exactly on speaking terms.
V: What’s next (besides The Justice Lease)? Also, how irresponsibly are you guys going about managing the cash prize from VOFF?
P/J: Pretty irresponsibly. This diamond keyboard keeps cutting my fingers. The majority is going towards season 2 of “The Justice Lease”. The rest is going to whichever of our other projects gains the most traction. Our favourite one is “Good Cop / Time Cop”, which we’re in the middle of pitching and developing right now.
V: All right, thanks for taking the time out. Any shameless plugging or shoutouts?
P/J: Vote for us on Melbourne Webfest: https://www.facebook.com/Melbournewebfest?id=487445371302337&sk=app_741344469220106.
Battle of Who Cares Less on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02DdDi64O9k.
Paul Michael Ayre stars in the new series BedHead which will be on ABC iView (and YouTube after June 22nd): http://www.abc.net.au/tv/freshblood/meetthe25/bedhead.htm.