by Cara Winter
(*Yes, that is his real name. No, it’s not a euphemism.)
We decided to hatch a plan to cast the thing, rehearse a bit too long, hold a few public readings, and then produce the series ourselves for the web (along with a third producer, the effervescent Eddie Follis).
With the pilot episode ‘in the can’ and almost ready to go live online, I sat down with Jason to pick his brain about his brain, his brainchild, and his brainchild’s brainchildren. The following is our interview.
C: Hi, Jason.
J: Oh, hello. I didn’t hear you come in.
C: How are you?
J: I’m doing well. Just enjoying my Meerschaum pipe in front of my fireplace. How are you?
C: Okay. First off, what is “Somebody Cards” and how did it come to be?
J: Somebody Cards is a sitcom about a family-owned baseball card shop in Wrigleyville and the very absurd things that happen in and around the shop. It started out simply as kind of “Cheers” in a card shop, but I really wanted to explore more absurd story ideas, so I started thinking about crazier cartoon universe ideas happening in a real world setting.
I knew it had to start with the family itself, so I came up with “Gramps” the 45 year-old grandfather to 29 year-old twins “Charlie” (girl) and “Ryan” (boy). Then I added the always magical “Crayon” who works for the shop and often sets the shenanigans in motion.
On “how it came to be” I’d have to say I learned a big lesson from a bigger, as in epic, project I was fumbling around with. It was a large scale series of biopics of baseball players from history. After a number of false starts at producing this, I asked Tim Kazurynski, who graciously acted in an episode about Mark “the Bird” Fidrych, for some advice.
He nudged me toward a class at Improv Olympic where I met with my teacher Michael McCarthy. Michael got me to pare down my scope and think more in a non-traditional sitcom vein. And then I decided to absurd the shit out of it.
C: So, what do you love more, comedy, or baseball?
J: Comedies about baseball. But seriously, probably comedy by an eyelash. We always need laughter. When baseball season is over I can cheer myself up with “Bottle Rocket” or “Dr. Strangelove”.
C: So, if you were on a deserted island, and you were only allowed either comedy, or baseball, you’d pick….?
J: Deserted island would definitely be comedy. If the Cubs lost while I was on a deserted island I would be inconsolable. Digging deeper to answer a question you didn’t ask, if I had to choose six comedies to watch on repeat, they’d probably be “Bottle Rocket”, “Dr. Strangelove”, “Safe Men”, “Being There”, “Life of Brian” and “Spinal Tap”.
C: What chance do you think the Cubs have this year, anyhow?
J: I think they got really hot at the best possible time. I wanted them to beat the Cardinals in the NLDS, so I’m very happy. I say I won’t be disappointed if they don’t go any farther, but we’ll see if I’m lying or not in a few days. That sounds like I know they’re going to lose. Maybe I’m from the future. More on that later.
C: To what extent did Cara Winter**, influence your decision to go ahead and produce your own sitcom for the interwebs?
J: I’m sorry, who?
**Full disclosure, I’m speaking of myself, Cara Winter, a producer on the show, and yes, I’m speaking of myself in the Third Person. Cara plays a vital role in the success of the show, and the other producers couldn’t do without her. Really. She also ‘tweets’ as Buckets the Dog (@SomebodyBuckets), a very important character on the show, without whom the entire first episode would just completely fall apart.
C: Tell me about the evolution of the characters. For example, wasn’t “Charlie” a male character, at some point? When did you realize that you’d written a complete Sausage Fest, and throw the ladies a bone?
J: Crayon came first, and he was part of my other baseball project. He was a worker in a cardshop and would occasionally say funny stuff. I took that character and shop and plugged them into this idea, added Gramps and his close-to-his-age grandkids, and made it all kookie. Crayon then became an amalgam of Christopher Lloyd and Andy Kaufman characters with a hint of unicorn to him.
And, yes, in the first outline of the pilot Charlie was a guy, and Howard Johnson, the Monty Python biographer, gave me the genius advice to introduce a female character. So Charlie became Charlotte, who can’t stand her given name, and is now subsequently Charlie.
When I started writing Ryan I was thinking of him as a Frasier or Alex P. Keaton type, an uptight business minded character, but he completely evolved purely through (actor) Jake Szczepaniak’s portrayal into a totally different type (who’s actually in the process of figuring out who he is).
And Gramps, the glue of the family, has always been Sam Malone meets Hawkeye Pierce meets Alex Reiger. But he also has a lot of potential for nonsense.
I’d also like to point out that “throw the ladies a bone” would be a “that’s what she said,” moment if I were prone to saying that.
C: Tell me about the setting — why Wrigleyville? Why a baseball card shop? Why present-day?
J: Wrigleyville is a place I know very well. Baseball card shops are pretty boring unless you’re into baseball card shopping. And present-day is really easy to pull off for costuming and setting. But if you combine the three elements and add janky time machines, occasional zombie attacks, a cranberry mafia, the IRA, and Tony Clifton conventions… things get a little crazier.
C: In the first episode, there’s a little …shall we say, “science fiction” involved. Do you have any major science fiction influences?
J: I grew up on “Star Wars”, “Planet of the Apes”, “The Black Hole”, “Back to the Future(s)” and others, so yeah, there is a definite sci-fi influence in my world.
C: Tell me about casting — why use human beings, as opposed to cyborgs?
J: I know a lot of humans which gave me a casting pool to work with. But don’t think for a minute that we won’t be including a cyborg down the line.
C: If you could have any actor, living or dead, in your next episode, who would it be?
J: Peter Sellers would be Aubrey Thatchell, a character that you will meet soon enough.
C: If you could have any Cubby, living or dead, in your next episode, who would it be?
J: I guess that would be Jake “The Terminator” Arrieta. He would play his own cyborg-self.
C: If you could have any Somebody Cards Producer, living or dead, in your next episode, who would it be?
J: I hear this Cara Winter character is supposed to be hot shit.
C: Do you think you’ll ever let any of your Producers also write, on the show?
J: Producers write…? Hahahahaha. Those are words that are funny together. Sure, why not? Actually, I encourage everyone to bring ideas to the writing table. I love getting ideas from my cast and crew. We’ve done some work based on everyone writing a line to light some story fires.
C: How many more episodes are we to expect? Can you tell us a little about some of them?
J: Hopefully hundreds. But the first season is shaping up to be about 10-12 episodes, and yes I’d be happy to tell you a little bit about them. Lets see, I teased zombies, time machines, the cranberry thing, IRA and Tony Clifton, so…in as fragmented a manner as possible: Macbeth and the Wrigleyville Trixie Witches, Jenny Finch’s sushi restaurant, the Titanic (sorta), Maleficent (sorta), an NSFW Dr Seuss, Footloose (sorta), the dreams of Buckets the Dog, and whatever else the trained monkeys I call producers churn out.
C: In conclusion, how do you think this interview went? On a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 being the best interview ever…
J: I loved this interview. I’ve been following TVWriter.com since the 70’s. I’m very excited for the paper edition to come out.
C: Thanks, Jason! This was fun!
J: Thank you, Cara. I enjoy fun.
For updates including SCREENINGS, online LAUNCH date & URL, behind the scenes photos (especially of Buckets the Dog), and other goodies, follow Somebody Cards HERE on Facebook.
Cara Winter is a Contributing Editor to TVWriter™. You can learn more about her HERE.