Interview with the Creators of the Webseries “Straight Marriage”

A comedy about two self-obsessed gay actors who make a dramatic series about a straight couple.

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I was delighted to have a chance to speak with comedians Chris Burns and Kelley Quinn about their hilarious webseries “Straight Marriage.” Check out the trailer here. The series is a comedy about two self-obsessed gay actors who make a dramatic series about a straight couple.

Chris is a writer/comedian/actor living in Brooklyn. He’s been in lots of dumb videos online, including the role of “chubby gay teen, Bryce” in Hulu’s Difficult People. In addition to “Straight Marriage” you can catch him monthly in Lake Homo High at the Annoyance, or online at @fatcarriebradshaw on Instagram and @fatcarriebshaw on Twitter.

Kelley is a writer, performer, and Missy Elliott superfan in New York. Her work has been featured on Reductress, FastCompany, Bustle, Mashable, and elsewhere. You can find her on Twitter and Venmo at @heykq. It’s also her Instagram handle, but that account remains private in order to safeguard her many nudes.

Tell us a bit about your backgrounds in comedy. Was this your first webseries?

Chris: I started comedy a month after I graduated with a bachelor’s degree I’ve never used. I took a week long improv class and quit my job and moved in with my uncle. Kelley and I actually met doing an improv show in the back room of a tile shop. She told me her first impression of me was that she’d never see me again. My first webseries was Sitters; it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. I’ve made several one-off videos, including a couple of character reels of me in wigs.

Kelley: I did sketch comedy in college and moved to DC after graduating, which is where I started doing improv. I came to New York in 2012 and I just realized while typing that this fall marked my 10-year comedy anniversary! A few years ago, my first beloved improv group The Punctual Drunks, most of whom are also DC-to-NY transplants, filmed a web series with puppets provided by a friend. It was called Puppet Soap Opera, which is exactly what it sounds like. It was great and campy and fun.

How did the idea for “Straight Marriage” come about?

Chris: Kelley was dog sitting at a rich married couple’s amazing apartment. The dog’s name was Blake so I kept referring to him as our son. While Kelley was pulling laundry out of the IN-UNIT washer/dryer (can you imagine!?), we started fake-arguing as our idea of a straight married couple. It literally went on until we parted ways while getting on the subway.

Kelley: Yeah, the entire series started as a bit where we were shitty to each other in the way that straight sitcom spouses act, always annoyed about something trivial and assuming the worst about the other’s intentions. Chris kept making me laugh so hard. I’d accuse him of being an absentee parent and he’d say something insane about how he had to “golf with the boys.” Somewhere along the way it occurred to us that the bad caricature-y way we were playing straight people was actually the way queer people have been written in TV for most of our lives. So that was the origin of the meta-layer of the web series, where we play these self-righteous and well-meaning gay people who decide it’s their duty to tell a “straight story.” (Editor’s note: check out the “Date Night” episode of the series here for an example)

What was the writing process to create the episodes like?

Chris: My favorite kind of writing is writing separate things then sharing/combining. I think we have a good process where we both write when we have the inspiration/time and then text our ideas to each other, then we get together before we shoot a bunch of episodes and decides which ones we want to film and the rest we put back in the bank for later. (Here’s the “Keys” episode)

What was the production schedule like?

Kelley: We shoot in borrowed apartments (the first ~13 episodes were all in my high school friend’s beautiful West Village apartment, and going forward, we’re in my college friend Josh’s place on the Upper West Side), so our schedule is determined purely by when we have access to the space. We bounce around ideas leading up to those dates and then find crew. Most episodes are just Chris and me, so the coordination of schedules is minimal, but we’d like to feature more guest actors and that adds a layer of complication. (Here’s the “Book Club” episode, featuring several guest actors)

Who edited the series, and what was the post-production work like?

Chris: All episodes currently out were edited by our former director Hayley Kosan, who is great. The next batch of episodes were shot and edited by Derek Sexton Horani, who is also great. Kelley sat with both of them so we’d all stay in the process together. Kelley is better at editing than me. I couldn’t edit an iPhone video (I’ve tried.)

Kelley: I am not an expert and can’t do any of the fancy stuff that really makes a series look and sound good (color correction, etc.), but I do like to sit and help with edits when I can, just for the timing of certain moments or finding the best takes. We’ve done ADR for a few episodes, but there’s not too much work on the back end once it’s shot because the episodes are so short. (Here’s an amazing shorter episode: “Weekend Away”)

How did you go about promoting the series?

Chris: We promoted it primarily on Facebook/twitter and got a couple of write-ups. Lots of people shared on Facebook, including comedians we both really love and respect, so that’s always nice. (Ed note: This episode killed me: “Dishwater”)

Kelley: We did the grassroots things of just sharing episodes and hoping people liked them. We are very lucky to have supportive friends! We still have not been written up by any of the mainstream comedy blogs (cough *Splitsider*) and we choose to believe it’s because every single one of them is homophobic. But we’ve gotten some really nice write-ups in Bustle and Stareable and some other blogs.

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What are your plans for the series in the future?

Chris: If HBO is reading then they’re the only way for us!! Just kidding, we’re VERY negotiable. VERY. Until then we’re just gonna keep making episodes because they’re fun and we like making them. It’s fun to pretend to be straight, now I know why so many people go their whole lives doing it. (JK, JK)

Kelley: We got nominated for a couple awards at a recent webfest in NYC and might continue submitting to festivals. Otherwise, the plan is to keep making episodes, and then to write a half-hour version that we could pitch to people if we ever got interest. (Check out the “Funny Business” episode)

Any advice for actors/writers/editors looking to get started making a webseries?

Chris: My advice would be just to do it! We’re always broke and we’re always anxious but when we see the episodes all done I always feel happy. I think even if you’re just shooting and editing on your iPhone you should just do it!

Kelley: My advice is way less positive than Chris’s, which I think is fair to say about our overall dynamic (he is fun and I am the pragmatist). I think — yes, do it, but like, have an idea of what you want to say before you start filming. I can’t watch another web series about depressed creatives trying to date and/or make it in New York City. I just can’t! So I guess my advice would be for people to think about things or places or people they love and find an original take on one of those.

I also think it’s important to have a good, fun crew, and to pay them what you can afford to, even as a gesture. We really try to make it a fun experience for people, and we get them food and transport even if we can’t afford to pay them the day rate they might typically charge a client.

Thank you, Kelley and Christopher! Once again, check out the webseries “Straight Marriage” and like it on YouTube. The power of comedy compels you!

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Written by

Satirist and pizza scientist. Co-founder of The Belladonna + Satire and Humor Festival. Buy my book “New Erotica for Feminists” here! https://amzn.to/2HnQf8m

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