Michael Paul Smith and Gillian Pensavalle, creators of The Residuals, a comedy web series showcasing the weirdness of casting and auditioning for commercials, discuss their passion for true crime, reminisce on favorite TV shows, and we go behind the scenes to learn about the show’s process. We get a little too deep, as usual. Two seasons of The Residuals are available online at http://theresiduals.tv.
Gillian: I did listen to every single solitary second of Serial.
Gillian: I do Google Adnan to see what’s going on with his case, but I also Google Robert Durst.
Gillian: My favorite movie of all time is Zodiac.
Michael: She wants me to make her an aquavelva while we’re having this interview in fact.
Gillian: We’re going to admit to the world that we’ve never seen Community.
Max: All that does is make you like 99.9% of the rest of the world.
Michael: There are so many serial killer books on the shelf next to me that my wife has devoured. It would be pretty off putting, I think, if you didn’t know us.
Gillian: Our friend Damien Echols was released from death row after 18 years today. He was part of what is known as the West Memphis Three, so we are very interested in true crime and in his case, and through “magic” we became very good friends, and today marks the fourth anniversary of those men walking free.
Max: Was that from new DNA evidence?
Michael: Yeah, they had to raise the money themselves, and people like Peter Jackson and Eddie Vedder, and Johnny Depp, and Henry Rollins came forward and paid for that DNA testing because of a few documentaries that came out on HBO in the 90s, the Paradise Lost trilogy.
Max: It is amazing the network that some of these guys have out of jail.
Gillian: Peter Jackson, Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson, and his wife Fran Walsh, just emailed her one day.
Max: I half think this should be a plot line in season 3 of Bojack Horseman.
Max: It’s so tough when it’s a constant hustle to put your best work forward… sometimes you don’t got time to take in all the amazing stuff out there.
Michael: Max, everything you say sounds so epic.
Max: I definitely have to keep on type with it. Sometimes you just get down and want to have a Marc Maron day: “This guy was an asshole to me at the store today and I wanted to strangle him to death.”
Michael: I have not heard a podcast, and I’ve heard many, that have covered such a broad spectrum of topics as Comcastro and the fact that you are able to converse intelligently with so many people… in the neighborhood of an hour at a time, I think is just out of control… and it is above and beyond.
Max: Out of control definitely definitely describes a lot of this show.
Max: Ultimately, everyone is really excited and wants to describe that, and also kinda fuckin hates life, so just navigating that entire mechanism of personality to get to that core moment where they finally say -sigh- someone understands me, let me tell you why everything is bullshit.
Max: Whenever I introduce myself as Maximus, people start reciting Russell Crowe lines to me and I’m like FUCKIN YES, and then it slowly gets more and more Australian.
Michael: It’s like watching Dominic West go on a rant in The Wire. You hear the British come out.
Gillian: “The chain of command.”
Max: Or hearing Charlie Hunan say anything like a guy from California.
Michael: Every episode of Sons of Anarchy has a moment where Charlie Hunan says, “I’m trying to protect my family.”
Max: I loved the honest trailer for Pacific Rim where he says, “As our actors struggle to maintain their American accents.”
Michael: My character goes in for this fictional PSA as if it was financed by the American Actors Union about British actors coming in and playing Americans.
Michael: It’s not only that British actors come over and play Americans; they play founding fathers and American heroes.
Max: You can totally play that up like extreme right wing labor class, invasion from the border.
Michael: THEY TOOK OUR JOBS!
Gillian: My favorite thing from that was the text, “Must have passport, films in Canada.”
Michael: I try and embrace the spontaneity of it. I’m such a jazz nerd. If I’m writing or acting I try and embrace the impulse, if I can, and that tends to be chaotic.
Gillian: I don’t know why, the stars have been aligned, but for the last several weeks, these audition experiences have been insane, and I’m texting Mike that after leaving the audition, we have a 22 minute episode now. It doesn’t make any sense when you’re living it.
Max: So you’re still hustling constantly for each new gig just to watch new disasters play out so you can dramatize them for your own profit.
Michael: Yes, exactly. Even if nothing comes of the audition at least we have that silver lining.
Gillian: I don’t want to say I’m a hero…
Max: I don’t think Marc Maron was intending to profit on being a complete emotional train wreck but it’s really done well for him.
Gillian: Tell me how you really feel about Marc Maron.
Max: I think he’s amazing. The man made a show out of a serialized autobiography of coming to grips with your own sense of self.
Gillian: And we recently watched it.
Michael: Watched the whole thing in about 2 days.
Michael: My favorite episode is where Maron has to go into the crawl space, and he goes on this rant about, “Nobody ever told me how to do this shit. I’m not handy,” cause that’s exactly my life.
Gillian: My favorite scene, because I feel this is something I live often, is when he’s in the coffee shop… and these douchey guys say, “Hey man,” and he looks up and goes, “WHAT?!” That is my life!
Max: Because everyone doing anything and enjoying their own time is clearly a personal insult to the fact that you’re not being social… everyone else’s happiness is judgment implicitly on your life.
Gillian: I have to rewind things a lot of times.
Max: You’re just like my dad with instant replay in the NFL.
Michael: If someone falls well on television, Gillian has to rewind it.
Max: My favorite Maron episode was, in season 2 with an old friend, he says, “Fine. I’ll finally throw him a bone,” and then he dies.
Max: Even if comedy helps you to sort out your issues, it is inviting you into a world of greater despair, at least in stand up.
Max: All the comics who are good, if you ask them why they’re good, they say, “Well I stopped trying to be good. I just shared what I knew.”
Max: The other half of turning it off is learning how to forgive yourself when you are an asshole.
Michael: It’s true of auditions, like you said, if you can let go of trying so hard, you’re gonna do some real things. Generally, my best auditions are when I don’t really want the gig.
Gillian: Everyone I’ve spoken to who watches the show loves Lance.
Michael: A lot of women want to take Lance home and just take care of him.
Michael: We naturally enjoy it, but you build up this stamina where it almost feels weird when you’re not doing something to make your show better.
Gillian: We can’t not create and do this… we can’t really do anything else cause nothing else really makes a lot of sense to us at this point.
Michael: When we were doing our Kickstarter, which in of itself is a full time job, everyone we know on Facebook was having kids, so we took a photo of Gillian cradling her laptop and looking sickly, saying, “This is our baby.”
Max: If I was still “on” for the duration of this show, you’d just be hearing epic voice guy the whole way through.
Gillian: I worked at a karaoke bar for quite some time… It became me and Mike’s second home. We had our first date there, we had our wedding after party there, and all the stand up comedy scenes and my character’s date in season 2 is filmed there. It’s called Planet Rose, 219 Avenue A in Manhattan. Go. It’s the best place in the world.
Max: I’ve grown such an incredible distaste for “fun radio guy.”
Max: The persona is a shield, because you’re protecting yourself from having to be honest to people, because you’re afraid of doing it, and the moment you take the shield away, the shield reforms into a sword, and it becomes a weapon you can apply at any moment you choose, and also return back from behind the veil to the creature you honestly and purely are.
Michael: It’s keeping people engaged and directly asking people which just makes the little voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough do cartwheels.
Michael: This little voice in your head that says, “You’re such a loser. You’re asking people for money.”
Max: “And all your friends are going to stop liking you because you asked them for help.”
Gillian: Yeah, the little voice goes to 11 in that sense.
Michael: (With crowdfunding) I had some people that work in the industry tell me, “Listen, this is where it’s going, this is how it’s working, people are pitching investors saying, ‘We’ve already raised this amount,’ as a barometer for how much interest they have in their project. So it’s here to stay, and we had to make our peace with it as best we could.
Gillian: Our friend Lorri Davis, she had this beautiful way of looking at it, which was, “Back in the olden days, this is how artists got shit done… so why would you feel bad about it?”
Michael: (Crowdfunding) Is a procrastinator’s nightmare.
Gillian: Everyone thinks that the longer you have the better it is. No.
Michael: We thought the whole thing was going to crash and burn for two solid weeks of panic, it was brutal.
Gillian: There were a couple friends of ours saying, “This countdown is killing me.” IS IT? Is it killing YOU? REALLY?
Max: Everyone hates the start of a karaoke show. No one came for the start of a karaoke show. They all were having dinner and then this happened and we’re like, “Excuse me? This is happening now?”
Max: If I was ever in a really good mood, I would sing Feeling Good by Nina Simone.
Michael: The first song I ever sang on our my date with Gillian, at Planet Rose, was Feeling Good, the Michael Buble version.
Gillian: It’s all a full time job. All of it. The Kickstarter, the show, the social media, it’s constant, all the time.
Michael: There were two actors that dropped out the day of their shoots for season 2 because of various emergencies.
Gillian: Minutes. Like less than an hour before to be there.
Max: Ebola patients were flown into the US. We had to react immediately.
Michael: Yes. We had to make it work. Things like that just happen. So I tried to justify it by saying, “What would Charlie Parker do?”
Gillian: In season 2 episode 2, the amazing Michael Torpey was playing a Humphrey Bogart version of himself, and Mike sees him but nobody else does. For whatever reason Mike Torpey told Mike to just keep flapping, and the trench coat was so loud, and I couldn’t see Torpey, and asked, “Maybe a little less flapping.”
Mike: First of all I’m not big time enough to freak out on set, and second, even if I was, you can’t make a comedy with everyone feeling tense.
Max: Unless that’s the joke.
Gillian: The one time we kinda threw that, “Let’s really not break,” out the window was when Horatio was on set.
Michael: The Torpey episode is probably my favorite episode if I had to pick. It’s a parody of Play It Again Sam, the Woody Allen Movie.
Max: I remember studying a little bit of film, and then everything I ever saw in the Simpsons suddenly made twice as much sense.
Gillian: It’s the most fun in the world, when Mike yells action.
Mike: Horatio didn’t exactly know his lines per se, but he had a character voice. You gotta let him go, let him do his thing.
Gillian: Horatio did an interview recently where he says, “I just wanted to do something with this character where he was up for anything sexually, not sexually, I mean absolutely anything.”
Mike: Our $25 reward for the Kickstarter was that we read very old jokes from a very old joke book that we found in an antique store that was edited by Eddie Cantor.
Gillian: Some of them are incredibly, incredibly racist.
Michael: Looking to your left or your right can be deadly, especially as an actor or person in a crowded marketplace. You just gotta focus on you.
Gillian: That’s another Horatio quote, “A winner never looks at the other horses in the race.”
Max: The fear is good. So long as you stay honest to who you are, then it’s really just you preparing yourself to be great.
Max: Failure proves that you’re worth something, as opposed to being a hater on the sidelines.
Michael: People thought we were crazy for having a $20,000 Kickstarter goal. We wanted to pay everyone a decent amount, we don’t want to have to skimp, and this is what we need.
Gillian: Our cast, not only are they so ridiculously funny, and insanely attractive I must say, they are just cool, fun people. Emily Tarver… she said, “Can we just hang?” and wanted to stay for the rest of the day.
Gillian: Not only did we end early every day, which is unheard of, but everyone really had fun and we didn’t feel rushed and people just really did want to hang out.
Max: I’d love to start a church of Comcastro, but at this point it’d feel like being a poser.
Gillian: Yeah, cause now you’re following Jon Oliver, but it’s frighteningly easy.
Michael: You could be the Martin Luther of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.
Max: Oh my goodness! I could go down to his studio and nail my demands to his door.
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