Have you ever spent an afternoon debating the metaphysics of diarrhea (is it the poop or the act?) or how many “God bless yous” to say to a sneezer?
Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but if you’re intrigued, duder might be the web series you’ve been looking for. The indie web series, created by Matthew Kirsch, is a New York-based sitcom that explores the post-collegiate life of a group of friends, focusing on Glen (Kirsch), who’s gay, and his straight buddy Ricky (Alden Ford). duder revels in the mundane, the awkward situation, the highs and lows of living in New York City (Woody Allen and foreign films sell out!). The series’ third season premiered last month (episode above), but it started in 2006 with the second season published about two years later.
duder is a rarity among web series. It manages to avoid the conventions of plot and the convenience of the easy joke, yet it remains charming and engaging. Kirsch says he was inspired by Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the British Office and Woody Allen.
“It’s about young people who are recently out of college who desperately don’t want to think about the future and so spend their time over-analyzing the mundane,” Kirsch says.
duder is an innovative series for a number of reasons, not the least of which is it’s a show essentially without a pitch: “no message” was the original idea. “duder is the anti-pitch,” he said.
But duder also gives audiences a new kind of gay character. Glen might be the first gay Woody Allen/Larry David doppelganger: a bit skeptical, a bit neurotic, hapless but charming. “It’s not a caricature,” says Kirsch, who says he likes “gay characters who are charismatic or cool and just happened to be gay.”
Its interesting take on gay characters and the sitcom has won it a small cult following, both among gays — see Queerty, AfterElton and the New Gay — and web aficionados — see NewTeeVee and Tubefilter.
When I first saw duder I immediately thought of Louie on FX, whose show duder in many ways presaged. duder isn’t afraid to head into awkward, twisted or emotionally ambiguous territory.
Take this scene: Ricky and his love interest Judy Cakes are talking and walking in Brooklyn. Out of nowhere Ricky’s stalker-y ex-girlfriend interrupts them and warns Judy that Ricky “has no emotions.” Judy, furious, is freaking out. Ricky is trying to control the situation. Everything is falling apart! But after a few minutes of arguing and a random text from Glen announcing the loss of his virginity, the three end up sharing frozen yogurt and talking about Robert Frost.
The show, says Kirsch, “borders on comedy” but at times “dips into ‘not really funny’ and ‘difficult to watch.'” The third season premiere, which ends embarrassingly for Glen, proves the point.
It certainly has traditional sitcom-type situations. But it’s not what you’re used to seeing on TV. “I’d love this type of comedy to be easier to sell,” says Kirsch. “I think it’s still a challenge of the web. The web is becoming more and more commercialized, more and more like TV.”
Kirsch started duder in 2006 when web series were still rather rare and the media was more in love in viral videos and web stunts à la lonelygirl15. An understated comedy was not necessarily an obvious choice.
After graduating from Yale, where he’d first started writing plays, Kirsch found himself penning shorter scripts. They weren’t necessarily short films and were too brief to work as plays. A web series seemed to be the answer.
Since then, duder has been distributed on KoldCast and uploaded to YouTube, blip, Vimeo and iTunes, even earning some recognition from the Webbys.
Though duder hasn’t gone viral — and that was never the goal — Kirsch still believes in the web sitcom. He keeps costs low, banking on the enthusiasm of his crew and cast, which includes actor Satya Bhabha (Scott Pilgrim, Midnight’s Children), a friend from Yale who filmed the third season opener in New York before jetting off to India for the Rushdie film adaptation.
Hoping to maybe one day write for television, for now Kirsch is satisfied with the show he has.
“I see it as a playground, just a place to have complete creative control,” said Kirsch, “and the chance that people will actually see it.”