Philly’s Retro Peel Productionsare on a roll. Their Philly based web series My Ruined Life has recently returned for a second season of ennui/character-based laughs that builds on the momentum of the first.
Writer/director/producer Lee Porter was recently kind enough to take time from his increasingly busy schedule to speak about My Ruined Life, how the series really comes into its own in this new season, and getting mentioned on Twitter by Questlove of The Roots.
How do you feel about the reception that My Ruined Life has received so far?
The reception to MRL has been really great. In just our first season, we were named “Best Web Series Shot in Philly” and “Audience Favorite (Web Series)” by FirstGlance Film Festival. It’s always nice to hear that your friends and family like your work. But getting recognition from an unbiased national film festival, based out of Hollywood? That really made us feel legit, assuring us that we’re onto something here.
All the Philly sites, including Geekadelphia, were really awesome about getting the word out last year. That meant a lot, too, as we were the new kid on the block. So the immediate love was greatly appreciated and heart warming.
Did you approach the second season any differently from the first? Where would you like to go with these characters from here?
The second season definitely has a lot more substance to it than the first. First of all, we added a new character Kristen (played by local actress Kristen Egermeier) into the mix. We learn more about Nate (played by local actor/comedian and Web series host Nathan Holt), his job and his relationship with The Man in Tuxedo with Beard (played by local comedian Greg Bailey). Brian (played by local actor Brian Cowden) continues to steer this comedy ship, so to speak, while getting much more animated by all of the wackiness around him. We have multiple cameos of recognizable Philly faces, too. So there’s a lot more going on this season than just two guys on a bench, waxing poetic about baby wipes.
What we’re doing with this series, at this point, is a challenging tiptoe, comedy dance along a balance beam. On the one hand, our loyal audience understandably wants to learn more about these characters and be invested in some sort of journey. On the other hand, we’re still growing our audience base, so we need to make our episodes, even in this second season, accessible to brand new viewers. Combine all of that with the short attention span of Internet viewers, and it’s definitely a balancing act. I’m confident that our second season offers much more depth than our first season, while, at the same time remains easily accessible to brand new viewers.
Someday, hopefully, given the resources and a larger audience, we can expand on the depth and plot. At the same time, they’re two-minute comedy bits. So we simply want viewers to recognize and feel connected to us, and we want to make people laugh.
How would you describe the series to someone who has never seen it before?
The premise of the My Ruined Life series is simple: two friends meeting up on a different Philly bench each episode, discussing (or often complaining) about their “ruined” lives, be that their jobs, their interactions with women or some wacky neurotic quirks of theirs. Now in Season 2, we see them interacting with others, some real and some imaginary characters.
We film all over Philadelphia. So we always shoot on different benches in different neighborhoods throughout this gorgeous city of ours. While our show purposefully avoids the standard Philly references and jokes (no cheesesteak jokes ever), we love our connection to Philly. Our local audience gets a kick out of seeing which neighborhood each episode is filmed at and what benches we’re on. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “My apartment was in the background of your show.” So we get a kick out of being Philly-centric and identifiable to Philadelphians, while being accessible to someone who’s never stepped foot in this city before.
It’s short comedy bits, ranging from 40 seconds to four minutes, usually about two minutes each. And it need not matter if you’ve been watching since the beginning or are just jumping in now. The show started as a way for me to showcase some of my favorite jokes, which are bits from various screenplays of mine. It’s taken off to be much more than that now though.
In this day and age, in this economy, I think it’s important to take a step back and laugh at life. Our lives may not be perfect, but hopefully we can ease people’s moods, make them laugh and forget their complaints for a couple minutes and maybe even reflect that, no matter what, life is good.
Recently, Questlove tweeted about the show. How did you find out about this, and what was your response?
Man, was I pumped about that. We all were. The second he tweeted about our show, my cellphone blew up. A bunch of friends had seen it right away. So I got a kick out of that and fell asleep counting imaginary Questlove drumbeats instead of sheep that night.
Questlove is an absolute hero to me. I hate to date myself to you youngins’ out there, but I’ve been listening to The Roots since 1995. I saw them open for the Beastie Boys and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at the now-demolished Civic Center in May of 1995, I believe, on the Ill Communication tour. I mean, can you imagine The Roots opening for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion now?
So without spoiling the joke, there is a reason that Questlove likes this season’s second episode “Quest.” That two-minute episode is actually based on a full screenplay of mine. The premise is two Philly guys desperately trying to get in touch with Questlove for two distinctly different reasons. So the screenplay is filled with scenes featuring Quest, Black Thought, Jimmy Fallon, the entire Roots gang, including former bassist Leonard Hubbard. Hopefully, Quest, The Roots and Fallon team keep watching our show. And who knows, maybe one of them will want to read the full script. Man, that would be “The Ultimate” … I mean, sick.
Will there be a third season?
Absolutely! Is Geekadelphia ready to pay for it? Haha. In all seriousness, it costs a lot of dinero to fund this project. For Season 2, we received tremendous support from friends, family and fans, backing our Kickstarter campaign. Ideally, I’d like to get a corporate sponsor or an executive producer on board for Season 3. I know most of our cast and crew are one hundred percent committed to this. My cast and crew are always family to me, and this gang is extra special and such a joy to work with. More than anything, if Questlove is digging it, heck, there’s no reason not to keep going, right?
What, if any, other projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m busy wearing my producer hat – marketing MRL – while also wearing my writer’s hat. Winter time is my favorite time to write. I’ve been working on a play that I’ve promised myself I’m going to finish. I’m working on my third novel. Both of those involve the modern food world. I’ve got a TV pilot I’m working on that I’m hoping to finish this winter. And I’m always working on new bits for the MRL gang. So yeah, I’ve got my hands full. And when I’m not busy writing and producing, I can always sit on a bench and complain about my “ruined” life, right?