Comedy and friendship combine in new local web film series ‘Buy the Boards’
There was this incident that happened when Luke Lawrence was working as an assistant in a board shop that he describes as one of the most awkward moments of his life.
A customer, holding a piece of clothing, asked Luke for help finding the price. When Luke bent down to check the sleeve for a price tag, the customer unexpectedly shifted — leaving Luke to accidentally grab him in the crotch.
“When it happened, I laughed immediately and it didn’t make anything better at all,” Luke said. “It was like, I have to tell this story because it’s ridiculous and I can’t believe I got away with it and I’m fine.”
Luke and Matt Wright, both St. John’s-based standup comedians, are used to taking their own life experiences and turning them into comedic material. In Luke’s case, he had a goldmine of hilarious stories to tell, but didn’t feel the standup comedy forum would do them justice, given there were often other people involved.
Luke’s mom, Ruth Lawrence, had been watching from the sidelines as Luke and Matt’s friendship developed, and noted how they were basically a comedic match made in heaven. Luke is a natural storyteller while Matt is more of a jokester, and together, she said, they had great energy.
“I started thinking about odd couples and buddies and sometimes how opposite people come together,” said Ruth, a filmmaker, playwright and actress. Armed with a plethora of funny anecdotes she’d heard from Luke’s time working in retail, she had the idea to create a series of short skits for the web.
Set in a skateboard/snowboard shop, the “Buy the Boards” series was written by Ruth, Luke and Matt together, as a comedy about two oddball guys who must find a way to work together and be friends.
Directed by Ruth, it features Luke as shop assistant Tyrone and Matt as newly hired manager Blair, clueless about anything to do with boarding.
Matt admits he didn’t have far to stretch to play the role.
“I can’t stand on a skateboard or snowboard, any of it. I stood on a snowboard once when I was in Grade 9 and I got a concussion and cracked my tailbone,” he said. “There were definitely times when I’d try to write a line for Luke’s character … and I’d just have to put in ‘snowboard jargon’ and let someone else fill it in.”
With guest stars that include Kate Corbett, Joel Thomas Hynes, Jonathan Monro and Krystin Pellerin of “Republic of Doyle,” the series consists of four episodes, filmed at St. John’s board shop State of Mind last January, during the bad weather, power outages and rolling blackouts. One particular scene in Episode 2 was shot without electricity, apart from LED lights used by the Heavyweather crew for filming.
Each episode is short, with the entire series lasting just under 15 minutes. Short film is a format with which Ruth is comfortable, and she was looking for a quick-hit comedy approach for the web.
The storylines are all drawn from Luke’s experiences to some degree, though the trio have embellished some of them.
There’s a bit where a beautiful young mother leaves her son behind in the store and Blair and Tyrone compete to save the day and win her number; in another, the shop falls victim to a sneaker thief.
Writing the skits was particularly rewarding for Ruth: although she has often included Luke as an actor in her projects, this marked the first time they worked together as equal members of a writing team, and she saw a side of him she said she’s quite proud of.
“Luke had some learning disability issues through school, which he talks about in his comedy, so it’s not a secret, and for me, it was rewarding when he would say, ‘I’m just going to stay home and write this today.’ That was not something I ever heard when he was in school, and I thought that’s an interesting place that he’s gone to. Seeing that change was huge for me. I gained a lot of respect for Luke during this process, I have to say.
“I think we got along OK, I didn’t win every creative decision; I won some and he won some. I feel like it was a pretty smooth and fast way to work. I don’t think I could have worked with anyone other than these guys because as soon as we had everything written, we knew what we wanted it to look like.”
Ruth, Luke and Matt released “Buy the Boards” one episode at a time over the past five weeks on their website, and they’ve been seeing lots of hits with social media as their only publicity.
They’re hoping to get enough viewers to warrant some national funding for a second season, and if they get it, they plan to include more guest stars and at least one guest writer.
God knows they have no shortage of material from which to draw.
“There are definitely more stories that have happened to me that I want to use,” Luke said. “My goal for the series is bigger outreach. I’d love to see it going to television.”