Serious Lunch, the Greenpoint-based sketch comedy group, attracts actresses like Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Ellie Kemper (The Office) to star in their sketches, but they’re savvy enough to brush it off like it’s no big thing. “We know a lot of very talented people who we love to work with,” Anthony Miale, one of the five Serious Lunchers said. When not casting comedy darlings like Plaza and Kemper, they star in their own skits; since SL is all dudes, live performances are just the guys. They also write all of their material and work as their own crew. “Most of our stuff is done on a very little budget. We edit, animate, do graphics, etc.” Miale said.
Miale describes the group’s sense of humor as “kind of dark,” which is pretty apparent when watching sketches like “Facialique,” where a zit-faced teenager seeks the help of a Proactiv-esque acne-busting kit that includes an X-Acto knife and promises a “new” face; and “Con Artists,” a skit about a con artists support group where, go figure, the group leader himself is, in fact, a con artist. The Serious Lunch guys are big fans of shows like Tim and Eric, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 30 Rock and all things Adult Swim; they grew up watching the State, and consider comedy group Stella a big influence. While their brand of humor, like all of these shows, clearly focuses on being funny, they are not all comedy all the time. “We like to give things a cinematic feel rather than just getting a joke across,” Miale said.
These five twentysomethings (Miale, Tim Bierbaum, Billy Keenly, John Milhiser and Bob Officer) met in college at Hofstra in 2001 where they were all film majors. More specifically, they met writing for the school’s humor magazine, Nonsense, an obvious choice if you had to guess where five young comedy writers might find one another. While at school they came up with the idea to make the shortest improvised videos possible. Inspired by a They Might Be Giants series of songs called “Fingertips,” they called these short films “figers”. “They [TMBG] did it with music, and we tried to do it with film,” Miale said.
Putting figers and other comedy projects on hold for a couple of years post-graduation, the crew reunited in Brooklyn in 2006. Since then, they have taken turns living near one another and together in various combinations in one apartment that now doubles as their studio. “The five of us have revolved in and out of this apartment over the past five years. We shoot and edit so much there,” Miale said. He added, “It’s been a huge advantage, one, being friends with these guys, and two, constantly being around one another. We definitely feed off each other when collaborating.”
Once in Brooklyn, they began putting together a public access show for BCAT, but soon realized that the Internet was a more accessible platform for their work. They chose the name Serious Lunch, launched the site in 2007 and began posting videos online. Though they shoot their material all over the city, Greenpoint is, naturally, a favorite. “We love the neighborhood—there are so many great locations. Personally my favorite place is Habitat, though we haven’t shot there. I don’t know if I want to cross that border with them yet,” Miale said. They’ve shot at Newtown Creek, and Lamb and Jaffy a couple times; short skit “Girls Night Out” was filmed at Anella, Coco66 and East River Tattoo. “Greenpoint is really versatile. You can alter it to look like places in or outside of New York—spots like McGolrick Park and t.b.d.; and tree-filled streets like Guernsey or Kent look completely different than the waterfront does,” Miale said.
While the Internet is most likely their biggest avenue for exposure, they do a monthly show at the PIT (People’s Improv Theater), and also do variety shows on occasion. “We did a show called Showgasm a few months ago at Ars Nova, which was great. And then last month we did Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen at Littlefield. That was a blast,” Miale said. Perhaps the biggest project they’ve been preparing for recently has been the Brooklyn Arts Council’s “Scene: Brooklyn,” a Brooklyn festival that took place this past Tuesday. Their showcase, cleverly titled “Making Mistakes with Serious Lunch,” included a retrospective of their videos dating back to when they first met, plus new content, like animations (premiering their first combination claymation/animation), and new, live sketches, as well.
In the wake of the BAC film festival, the Serious Lunchers plan to post a multitude of new material (most of which aired at the festival) on their site. Next, they intend to do more production work, and pitch TV commercial and show ideas; but ultimately, they’d like to make a film. “We like doing live shows, but I think as a group we’re trying to work towards bigger things than sketch shows and web videos.” Still, no matter the form, the crux of what’s important to them remains the same. “The best part of all of it (to me) is being able to produce this content on our own and working with talented people while doing it,” Miale said. Catch their next live show at the PIT May 24th, and their web videos at: www.seriouslunch.com.