Sunday 28th May 2017,
Televisual

Web Series Spotlight: Dark, Absurdist ‘Two Jasperjohns’ Spoofs Bears, Both Gay and Animal

Web Series Spotlight” showcases an indie web series I feel is culturally relevant, artistically notable or simply interesting.

Officially, I have no preferences for web shows. Unofficially, of course I do! And one thing I’ve been longing for is an LGBT series with the kind of wild abandon and ambition of TV’s wackier fare, such as Louie or Wilfred.

My prayers were answered with Two Jasperjohns. The brainchild of Vinny Lopez, a producer at VH1, Two Jasperjohns is a dark comedy about the brothers Jasperjohns. There are nine Jasperjohns and so far we’ve met two of them, Jude (Jim Noonan) and Joseph (Lopez). Another may be coming soon, via a guest role for Jack in a Box‘s Michael Cyril Creighton. Jasperjohns also features white pants, bears, betrayals and lots of sparkling banter.

Jasperjohns might seem silly and short at first, but Lopez thought hard about the show’s tone and look, especially because of its web distribution: “I knew I wanted it to have an absurdist but dark tone, and have a sort of tanned look, like an old paperback. I think the web is still really stuck in a few specific visual styles right now, given that we’re all basically using the same cameras (5D, 7D), so I knew I wanted to give 2J a stylization that had been done a lot in films, but not as much on the web.”

More episodes of Two Jasperjohns are in the pipeline, after the show’s screening at the New York Television Festival next month. In the meantime, Lopez seems to enjoy being a showrunner. “I just wanted to make a show filled with all of the things I wish I could see on TV,” he said.

Below, I talk to the very funny Lopez about white pants, publishing on YouTube, bear culture and the upcoming plans for his show. For more episodes, see the Two Jasperjohns website.

Where did you get the idea for this series? What were your inspirations (art, TV, film, life, what have you)?

It all came out of my friendship with Michael Cyril Creighton (who does the web series Jack in a Box) – it was an ongoing joke that we looked more like siblings than me and my real-life brother. And over the months I just started imagining what that world would look like with both of us crazies living together in it as brothers. And that’s how Jasperjohns starting coming together. It’s how I’ve written everything my entire life. I just daydream away valuable working hours on all these scattered jokes and moments until it all starts to come together into one solid idea. Then I procrastinate for two months and keep staring at a blank computer screen and then time runs out and I force myself to write it and hate it and then it actually turns out okay after I worry it’s awful for two weeks and then it’s done. Fun!!!

From the start, I knew I wanted it to have an absurdist but dark tone, and have a sort of tanned look, like an old paperback. I think the web is still really stuck in a few specific visual styles right now, given that we’re all basically using the same cameras (5D, 7D), so I knew I wanted to give 2J a stylization that had been done a lot in films, but not as much on the web. When you’re not spending your money on dollies and steadicams and… every other single thing that goes into professional productions, I just wanted to make sure that at the very least, the production design, costuming, and palette stood out as much as possible. I wanted people watching to feel like they were getting their (zero) money’s worth.

Why white pants?

I think that joke actually came out of those real white pants. I bought them and then they kept skulking around my closet like a ghost because I was too terrified to actually wear them anywhere. I kept worrying I’d spill a glass of wine on them or balsamic vinegar ten minutes into a night, because all sauces end up on my shirts and pants pretty much 100% of the time. I was living in fear of them. And it was all so stupid I just starting thinking about someone actually meeting their dream-man but not dating him because his dirt-bike riding and love of hot fudge sundaes wouldn’t match with this person’s ridiculous fear and obsession with wearing white denim.

Or maybe I should have just said “why NOT white pants?”

What does your show have to say about gay culture and media? It seems you’re trying to do something vastly different from what we normally see. Is your show a critique?

A critique only in that I’m being selfish. I just wanted to make a show filled with all of the things I wish I could see on TV. So I didn’t set out necessarily  thinking “man, I really want to make a new kind of gay show”… I guess it’s more that I’m gay and wanted to make a show about all the things I’m obsessed with, and so the queer content is a big part of it. But not any more than my being a redhead. Or wishing there was a business that sold slices of ice cream cake. I should say MOST importantly about a business that sells slices of ice cream cake. And Swervedriver. Who are the best.

I know your co-star is doing a gay bear series, Bulk. What are your thoughts on bears, and/or bears in New York? I love that TJ includes an actual (?) bear.

I tell people I’m bear by nationality but not by religion. But telling people you aren’t a bear but just look like one is like telling someone you aren’t a hipster, you just live in Williamsburg and happen to ride that fixie with the custom leather bike-pouch that holds your mustache wax. So while I wasn’t that interested in making a direct comment on bear culture or anything, I was sort of lifting the conversations I’ve had with my real-life, straight brother, who tells me that every guy I date looks identical. And that they are ALL bears. So since I was playing Joseph, I was going to be the bear-loving brother. And you’ll see as the series progresses that the character I play is the only brother who’s into bears (which in our world are actual bears). Wait, did I answer your question? I love that bears are discussed in it in a way that’s beyond the point-and-gawk fascination you see when it’s brought up on TV. I wanted it to be just another part of the brothers’ universe. A given. And I thought that making the bear an actual bear would make that sort of nonchalance about it even funnier.

How did you choose how/where to distribute your show (Tumblr, YouTube, Vimeo). I particularly like this humorous exchange on your site.

Initially I wanted it on Vimeo. It’s just a streamlined interface with great customization options. So the first two appeared primarily on there… but like a friend said, you may want to play at the Mercury Lounge or the The Troubadour, but if you’re trying to sell some records, you’re going to have to put yourself in the Nokia Theater at some point, too. So I started promoting it primarily on YouTube after that. And so far 2J is small enough that we’ve avoided the slime-creatures that comment-vomit all over YouTube, so it hasn’t been bad. But still, man, that site is ugly. Like, real ugly. Super ugly. Ugly. Also, not pretty.

What are your plans for the upcoming episodes?

We’re starting to shoot the next season in September. It’ll introduce a third brother (Joel), a dog, two lecherous girls, a fist fight, and vomiting. So basically the same old thing. It’s called “It,” and I really hope it comes out in mid to late October, fingers crossed. Also, depending on when we can squeeze it in, I might do a one-off featuring another brother, Geoffrey. It will probably be called, wait for it, “Geoffrey.” With, wait for it again, sorry about all this waiting, Michael Cyril Creighton.

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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