You know how it is when you spend long periods of time with one person. Maybe you work in the same cubicle. Or maybe you get stuck in a mineshaft together for a week. Or maybe you’re like, ya know, married. After enough one-on-one time, you’ll either never want to see each other again or will develop a bond so deep that eventually you’re speaking your own language.
For LA-based boyfriend-and-girlfriend duo Will Watkins and Ryan Templeton (Ryan’s the “girlfriend” of this equation), it was a road trip for a week in a minivan that spawned such a bond, and a creative partnership. Shortly after realizing that their artistic aesthetics and goals were in alignment, Watkins and Templeton created Dank and Nank, a daily, under-a-minute-long, short-form series on YouTube.
It’s about an out-of-work waitress, Dank (Templeton) and an aspiring writer and director, Nank (actor Scott Nankivel who also writes the show), living together as roommates and sometimes friends. They have the familiarity of any two people who spend excessive amounts of time together, supporting, belittling, annoying and embarrassing each other.
On one hand, the series follows the conventional formula of more traditional shows that feature young, funny singles struggling to get along (think Friends, Unhitched). On the other, the format and style make it unique.
###Episodes are short and sweet, with barely enough story to convey, but just enough to get viewers hooked. It’s a quick joke. A comic strip. And easy to consume with an average episode running for about 40 seconds, both when they’re good (often), and when they’re not-so-good (sometimes).
The topics cover normal roommate stuff. One episode features Nank asking Dank if she uses eye cream and then suggesting that she might want to consider it when she says no. Another is twenty seconds of Nank flipping out over a pain in his liver, only to discover that the liver exists on the other side of his torso. In a four-part continuing storyline called Nank Sells His Virginity, Nank puts himself for sale on Craig’s List (even though he’s not really a virgin) and finds a taker – a pretty Asian woman on whom Dank suspiciously finds an Adam’s apple. (A more traditional plot than some of the others with less of a satisfying payoff, but still, for a total of two-and-a-half minutes of storytelling and investment, it’s pretty OK.)
In one of my faves, actor Anson Mount directs the duo in a series of parkour videos – a spoof on the French l’art du déplacement. Of course, Dank and Nank’s version of parkour isn’t quite as graceful as someone who makes a regular practice of it. Not at all.
In order to create a daily dose of short-form comedy, the Dank and Nank team shoots their show in “rounds.” For each round, the gang writes as many stories as possible and shoots them over the course of three days, usually producing 30 little episodes for their series at a time. To keep things simple, the filming of Dank and Nank’s dysfunctional relationship typically happens against the backdrop of three different sets, all of which are at Templeton and Watkin’s actual apartment.
In spite of the existence of other web TV that looks and feels more like traditional media in its structure and production value, Templeton and Watkins enjoy the cheapness of their show.
“The Web is a really fun playground,” Watkins told me. “It’s like a training ground, and I find if what you’ve created is too polished, it plays against the web community.” Thus, Dank and Nank fits in beautifully with the overabundance of other amateurish videos on YouTube. But unlike so many crude uploads, this is a scripted series with yuks and heart.
Watkins and Templeton, who live like true bohemians just a stone’s throw from Dodgers Stadium, have yet to figure out how to turn their show into a money-making enterprise. “Last week,” Templeton said, “we dressed as clowns and did a kid’s party…we also built some shelves for a friend.”
“We just gig it,” Watkins chimed in. “I recently got paid to teach someone how to juggle.”
And yet their lack of resources hardly keeps them from creating cool content. In fact, they have five separate shows launching this summer, to upload on their soon-to-be-designed site crazydanks.com. The details are sketchy, but I can tell you that one is billed as a “sex-fueled cooking show.” Site unseen, it’s awesome.