“Squeegees” comes from the brilliant minds of the comedy team Handsome Donkey, dubbed “Online Auteurs” by the NY Times. “Squeegees” is a character-driven ensemble comedy about entrepreneurial slackers and their fledging window washing business. New “Squeegees” episodes will debut every Monday and Friday on both sites. “Squeegees” was created, executive produced and stars Handsome Donkey principals Adam Countee, Brendan Countee, Marc Gilbar and Aaron Greenberg.
“Working with Stage 9 on ‘Squeegees’ was an awesome experience,” said Handsome Donkey. “They gave us creative control, abundant resources and a lovely gift basket filled with exotic jams and biscuits.”
We had the honor of sitting down with the guys to talk about their series, and here’s what they had to say:
Can you guys tell me a little bit about the show and the characters that you play?
Marc: Sure. What you probably don’t know is that we’re old friends, so a lot of where the show comes from is our interactions with one another. We spend a lot of time together; we have this company called Handsome Donkey. We essentially run this company which is making silly Internet videos together and in the Squeegees world we transplanted our dynamic into the wonderful world of high-rise window washing. Our characters are much more animated, fun, better looking versions of ourselves [laughs]. Adam and Brendan are brothers and they play Adam and BC in the show. Aaron who has earned the nickname Ronny many moons ago, plays the character Ronny. And I believe the name Ronny came from him correcting people about the pronunciation of his first name, he didn’t like Erin, he wanted it to be AaRON. That became Ronny.
Aaron: These guys are from New Jersey, so with their accents they were always calling me Erin.
Marc: My last name is Gilbar, and I became Gil. But the show is about four college buddies who start a high-rise window washing company and immediately drive it into the ground. So it shows the trials and tribulations of trying to run a business when you don’t know what you’re doing. More or less [laughs].
How did you guys get involved in this project?
Aaron: We’ve been involved since the start of conception in our living room.
Marc: We got involved with Stage 9 a little over a year ago. We’d been making short films on our own for fun, and we were lucky enough to be included in a New York Times article in 2006. Stage 9 was just getting off the ground, and they brought us in for a meeting. We really hit it off, and we came back in and pitched a number of ideas. One of those was Squeegees, and that’s the one they responded to the most. It was more ambitious production-wise than some of the other stuff. We thought it would be a funny idea, but had no idea of how we could get up on a high-rise building and shoot it. Stage 9 gave us a little bit of financing that allowed us to build the sets and have fun with the world of being 60 stories above the ground.
Do you guys do all the writing on the show?
Aaron: Yeah, we wrote the show together, directed the show together, and we steal the show together.
Marc: With the idea itself, all four us sat around in the very same place we’re sitting now which is in our living room in front of our white board. The question was what was funny about high-rise window washing. We immediately throughout scenarios: the danger, dropping things, romance, being able to look inside the buildings and see what’s going on. So once we have a list of all those things, we write the scripts together on our laptop and projector. We switch off the responsibility of typing, because we’re very democratic. We just throughout ideas and try to make each other laugh. It’s a pretty great way to spend your day actually.
What was the shooting schedule like? I know with a lot of internet series they shoot all the episodes together very quickly.
Aaron: Because we were hanging these guys outside of windows, we had shot all 10 episodes as if we were shooting a movie. We shot everything with the guys hanging outside the building first, so we shot 17 or 18 days, the first 7 of which were on the window wall. Then we built sets that would go on the other side of those windows so we could shoot us looking into the offices or from the offices looking out.
Marc: It was a pretty hectic schedule as in we didn’t have much time or much money. We tried to keep to a reasonable day. We didn’t want to go much more than 10 hours a day. But the first week as Aaron said, Brendan and Adam were hanging from these harnesses 9 out of the 10 hours of the day. They would come down and barely walk. After that when we were shooting inside the building and at the base of the building, they got to do more of the directing then when they’re backsides were starting to heal.
Adam: I think we took more time doing it than your average web series. You have to be aware of the safety though when you have people hanging off the ground. So we had to take our time and be careful.
Do you guys enjoy doing an ongoing story as compared to the single videos? I know you all have several single sketches that I’ve seen on YouTube awhile back.
Marc: Yeah, it was more challenging. That’s what Stage 9 was interested in. The one-off sketches are a lot of fun, but when you’re forced to develop characters and stuff over the course of a series, it’s much more challenging from a writing and acting standpoint. I think that that part of it, doing something different and developing storylines over the course of a series is one of the things that attracted us to this opportunity. It takes a couple episodes to establish the characters and the world. Once you get a sense of what the show is about, you can really have some fun in the later episodes. Only the first 5 have debuted thus far, so we really have some fun the future episodes. Our favorites come as the series comes on. More and more people are starting to get on board I think.
Brendan: Yeah, I definitely agree with Marc. We find our leg as the series progress, not only in terms of acting but also in the sense of writing. We’re also able to develop the world from a directing standpoint. I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse than the one-offs, it’s just totally different. With the short episodes and such short time periods, it definitely proved to be a challenge. But we pulled it off.
What comes after these 10 episodes? Will there be a second season? Or do you know yet?
Marc: We’re developing a different series to follow this one with Stage 9. We had a blast doing Squeegees, but we’re not sure when more would come. We have a lot of great ideas for where to take a second season, so hopefully down the road we get to revitalize the characters and have some more fun with it.
Why the window washing? Where did the inspiration for that come from?
Marc: A bunch of us had worked in offices before, and anyone who has worked in a building of any height has been working and heard the sound of the squeegee behind them. You share this awkward moment with them where you can’t really say hi or anything, but you’re looking at the person… It just always seemed like a very comical situation. In this particular series, the setting seemed fun and it provided an interesting narrative opportunity to be able to look in on the stories taking place as well as look out on the stories taking place. The way we structure the series, is sometimes we like to open the series on a clichÃ©… whether it’s like a soap opera or a gangster drug deal… we like to open on these fun little clichÃ© stories and then just peer out at where the guys are and see them witnessing what’s happening.
Do you guys have any funny stories from set?
Marc: Well Brendan became quite the stuntman over the course of the series. We were lucky enough to be working with a friend who did us a big favor. He was a stuntman in feature films and his name Webster Whinery and his son Webster Whinery Jr. Brendan can tell you…
Brendan: I’m trying to think of some funny stories that we’re allowed to sort of leak.
Marc: There’s one scene in there where Brendan is completely naked and has to drop like a full story which is like 16 or 17 feet. The drop alone jerks you to a halt, so you can imagine if you’re not wearing any clothes, it can be exacerbated in certain ways.
Brendan: I was wearing a dance belt. Not sure if you know what that is.
No. What is it?
Adam: It’s a flesh colored man-thong.
Brendan: [laughs] I had do away with the man-thong.
Aaron: There was a certain shot where it just wouldn’t work and Brendan had to really go for it. As an attempt at modesty, he covered himself from the rest of the crew with a shammy that he rubber banded in place. We did several takes and it was going okay but it still wasn’t right. And Brendan got pulled up to the rafters where the drop started from, and we just heard, “I’m feeling lucky this time boys!” We couldn’t see him, but we saw the shammy drop. They yelled action and he dropped. That was the one we actually ended up using.
If you were trying to convince someone to watch the series, what would you say?
Aaron: We’d say it’s funny.
Marc: It’s a fun world, especially in the medium, on the computer. You don’t have to have time to watch an hour long drama or a 30 minute sitcom. These are just fun little vignettes in a world that hasn’t really been explored. It’s a bizarre niche, people who wash these skyscrapers. So you can sit down at your computer and watch 1 or 2 of them or 6 of them and still be on your lunch break. It’s not that much of a commitment, so it’s worth a shot.
Now the whole internet television trend is still developing really. Where do you guys see that going? Do you see it taking off and becoming a much huger industry?
Marc: It’s hard to say. If the technology changes and people are watching both (internet based shows and television based shows), which it looks like it isâ€¦ it will just be about the differences in production value and the differences in length. It opens the gate to a lot of people to take a shot at making things which we think is really cool because that’s how we got started. In college we made videos together and showed them in a room to our friends. Not until after we graduated did YouTube come around where you could send it to your friends and family all over the country. To have anything that’s on television is kind of a pie-in-the-sky… pipe dream for us. Just being able to make something and make our friends laugh is why we do this.
What can we look forward to seeing in future episodes?
Brendan: There’s this one episode where it’s a rainy day, so the guys can’t be on the building. So Gil gets them a job cleaning the inside of tanks in an aquarium.
Marc: That’s a funny one.
Brendan: It’s a really funny one. BC falls in love with a dolphin and tries to rescue her.
Marc: There’s another where this love story that’s just begun to sort of spout between Adam and the maid who cleans the offices inside the building continues to grow and there is a misunderstanding of sorts. There’s a pretty elaborate fight sequence that takes place 60 feet above the ground, and that one is one of our favorites.
Are you guys going to end with a cliffhanger? Or is it all going to wrap itself up?
Aaron: It sort of wraps itself up nicely, but we’d really love to do another season of it. So it wraps itself up with some of the small stories we’re telling… with the relationships and with some of the antagonists. But the doors are definitely still open for more. We’re always throwing around fun places to do it… New York or Las Vegas… I’m still trying to talk these guys in to Brazil.
Are you guys still doing the solo videos that you have on YouTube?
Brendan: We just did a PSA for a nonprofit political group, sounds exciting I know. We’re trying to continue to do short videos that make us laugh and make our friends laugh.
Marc: The one-off’s are always fun so we try to do them as much as possible. The last few weeks have been spent writing and developing this new series we’re going to be doing with Stage 9. Our favorite thing though is just to get the camera out and make something. We’re hoping we’ll always have time to do that sort of thing.
How did you guys initially get started in comedy? Was it just with the videos that you all did back in college?
Marc: We’re not serious guys. We just make fun of each other and laugh. That’s really always been our interest. As consumers of entertainment, we love watching comedies and watching comedians. In school, 3 of us went to Georgetown, Brendan, Adam, and me. Aaron went to Berkley. All four of us were making short films on our own, and they were comedies as well. So that was really always are interest, it was what we liked to watch and what we liked to make. We all found ourselves back in LA again, and the reason for picking up a camera again, we wanted to lampoon some classic music video clichÃ©s and so we started putting stuff together to mock these videos. We did one which was a comedy called Le-Montage which was making fun of movie montages. I can’t even possibly image what a drama from Handsome Donkey would look like, but maybe that would be the funniest thing we ever did. Who knows?
Interview By: Emma Loggins