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May 3, 2024 42 mins

Gare talks with comedian Ella Yurman and filmmaker Vera Drew about the politics of late night comedy and the process of creating alternative queer media.

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Cool media.

Speaker 2 (00:08):
This is it could happen here. I'm Garrison Davis, and
once again it does continue to be happening here as
a massive wave of police repression is levied against students
protesting the ongoing Palestinian genocide. Since it's been so busy
and hectic, I thought to end this week on a
bit of a lighter note. Last week I did an
episode on a new movie titled The People's Joker, an

unauthorized Batman parody through the lens of a surprisingly genuine
queer coming of age story by transgender filmmaker Vera Drew.
If you want to hear me geek out about that
movie and gay Batman stuff, you can listen to that
episode from last week. But this episode is going to
delve more into the diy nature of this movie, some
behind the scenes, and how you go from an idea

to a piece of wacky queer art playing in a
movie theater or a TV show on your local cable
access TV station. So I talked to two trans women
who are currently making independent queer media. The aforementioned Vera Drew,
as well as Ella Yeerman, host of the late night
comedy show Late Stage Live. Transgender and a comedian, the

two most persecuted classes. So I've been keeping up with
Ella's indie transgender gen Z comedy project since it first
got announced earlier this year. I have kind of a
love hate relationship with the late night comedy news format,
and I myself have thrown around the idea of playing
with that format. So when I first heard about Ella's

new show, Late Stage Live, my first thought was, damn it.
That's such a good title for a show, and now
I can't use it. Just this immense sense of jealousy
washed over me, and I've had to watch everything She's
put out since then.

Speaker 1 (01:55):

Speaker 3 (01:56):
I'm Ella Yeerman. My pronouns are she Her. I am
a comedian, journalist, writer living in Brooklyn. I host Late
Stage Live, which is a queer gen Z public access
late night show on Brooklyn Public Access and YouTube. And
I also host T for T Comedy, which is Brooklyn's
premiere all trans stand.

Speaker 4 (02:17):
Up comedy show. We film in a Brooklyn.

Speaker 3 (02:19):
Public Access studio called brick Bric in front of a
live studio audience, and the vaguest pitch I give to
people who have no idea what the show is is
that it's what if the Daily Show was hosted by
a transgender woman, and we draw a lot of comparisons
to The Daily Show by virtue of sort of similar formats.
But myself and my writers are really interested in sort of,

for lack of a better term, queering the late night
format and sort of exploring what late night can do
for a younger, more radical political audience. The Daily Show
was like a really big radicalizing force, I think for
a certain generation of people. Really, John Stewart took that
show and turned it into a really powerful tool for

getting people engaged and aware of things that they might
not have otherwise been aware of. But the culture has
really shifted in terms of politics, in terms of media
consumption since John started The Daily Show in the nineties.
We have shows like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
We have shows like My Coworkers and Bosses at some

More News and when we have like all of the
alternative media sphere ranging from like Tucker Carlson and Alex
Jones to the Young Turks to everybody and their mom
on YouTube.

Speaker 2 (03:34):
Now, kids these days don't really watch the news. I
don't know anyone my age who's tuning into MSNBC A
twenty twenty two statistica survey of gen Z reported sixty
percent of respondents never go to local or national papers
for news, and only a respect of five percent checked

their local or national papers for news daily, weekly, or
once a month, but fifty percent of gen Z check
social media daily for news, with seventy five percent reporting
they check at least once a week. TikTok reigns supreme
for information dissemination. Over one third of adults under the
age of thirty regularly scroll the app for news, often

treating it like a search engine, with the rest of
the youths and young adults going to YouTube as well
as other social media apps to fill in the information gaps,
as well as podcasts such as this.

Speaker 3 (04:30):
My writers and I especially read Pope. My headwriter and
I talk a lot about just like where our generation
is getting its information from and where it's consuming media,
and how ideas and political ideas are being disseminated, especially
in the age of short form content. With TikTok and
the democratization of information. We did a whole episode about

sort of misinformation and the democratization of information a few
months ago, where there's like, obviously all of these benefits
to the lack of centralization of media consumption. We're seeing
a lot of that with the Palasine stuff right now.
People don't have to rely on the New York Times,
people don't have to rely on these big media institutions
with their obvious biases to get information. But it also

sort of engenders this, I think, this very specific attitude
towards intellectually engaging with information. The platforms and the systems
that we use really encourage very quick opinions and fast
reactions and picking up your phone and talking immediately about
something as quickly as possible hot take political environments, and

we were really interested in looking at a format that
has historically been more about a team of people with
multiple perspectives coming together to create one piece of analysis
and taking longer to look at those pieces of analysis
and being able to really dig into data. And then
what putting that into a late night format means. We

have a live audience, which a lot of like stuff
on YouTube doesn't have, and we have a lot of
the trappings of like og late night. We have like sketches,
and we have correspondents, and we have a theme song,
and a lot of that has sort of gone away
as we've moved more into like a YouTube media sphere,
so it's been exciting to both bring that back for
like esthetic and nostalgia's sake, and then also to sort

of see what and I think the shows in early stages.
So I am excited to keep playing with this but
finding out like what exactly the package does for the content.
We talk a lot about like form follows function and
vice versa, but I think there's like intentionality behind presenting
it as a late night show. It's not just like
for aesthetic value.

Speaker 2 (06:41):
Speaking of late night televised comedy, The People's Joker follows
an aspiring comedian who goes by Joker the Harlequin as
she attempts to host a Lauren Michael's TV show legally
distinct from snl Oh, and on her way, she transits
her gender and fights Batman. The project started a few
years ago because a friend of filmmaker Vera Drew jokingly

commissioned her for twelve dollars to make a re edit
of Todd Phillips's Joker movie. Phillips had been in the
news cycle complaining that quote unquote, woke culture was making
it too hard to make comedy, which is interesting coming
from a guy who's continually made some of the most
successful comedies in the past twenty years. But I digress.

Here's Vera Drew talking about how The People's Joker ballooned
from an ironic re edit of the in Cell Joker
movie into a whole new piece of queer cinema.

Speaker 5 (07:34):
Yeah. I started doing it, like in earnest. I started
like actually re editing the movie. And I had worked
at Absolutely Productions for years as an editor and had
kind of come up as an alternative comedy editor, So
you know, at that point it was probably just going
to be like a lot of bart sound effects and

woosh noises and slips and slide whistles. But as I
was working on it and kind of just making this
like big piece of like bound footage video art, like
a narrative kind of just like fell into place, and
I it kind of just came in an instant and
I was just like, oh, okay, I think I actually

want to make like a coming of age film, but
I want to make like a parody of The Joker,
like in that process and kind of just like tell
like a really earnest and super personal autobiographical story about
my life and growing up in the Midwest and coming
out as trans and comedy and you know, my relationship

with my mom and toxic relationship I was in and stuff,
but kind of process and mythologize all of that through
Batman characters. So that's kind of the origin of the movie.
I guess I had also kind of been kicking around
an idea for like a body horror, like a transpot

horror movie before that that was basically like about a
drag queen who was physically addicted to irony and like
couldn't like survive without it, but it was also like
destroying her from the inside out, and the two ideas
kind of like merged together into this sort of I guess,

like ver Drew, I watched a lot of Batman growing up,
but from a weirdly young age, I was also always
weirdly fascinated by late night TV. My parents never watched
the news, but they watched late night. They got their
news from Stephen Colbert, they got their news from, at
least at a certain point, Jimmy Fallon, although that fell
off quite quickly. But I've just always been incredibly fascinated

by the whole late night format as a cultural source
for news. At a certain point around twenty seventeen, YouTube
started pushing late night clips into everyone's feeds, and everyone
just got so inundated with this style of political comedy.

Speaker 3 (09:59):
I also grew up on The Daily Show and Colbert.
My parents are both journalists, so I probably am a
little biased towards being someone who did read the paper
growing up, who did like watch CNN growing up. But
I recognized there's this huge chunk of America who gets
their news from yeah, Colbert's monologue, from Letterman's monologue, from

the Colbert Report, which is such a.

Speaker 4 (10:22):
Crazy, very very scary.

Speaker 2 (10:25):
I had so many like conservative family members who did
not realize the Colbert Rapport was satire, took it as
a legitimate news source.

Speaker 4 (10:35):

Speaker 3 (10:35):
I mean when Trevor Noah took over The Daily Show,
they tried to do like their version of the Colbert
Rapport with Jordan Klepper's The Opposition, And I think there
are a number of reasons that didn't work out, but
one of them being that the like the Colbert Rapport
was parodying the other Fox News guy. Yeah, I was
pairting that whole realm of people and the Opposition was

partying info wars, which is almost an unparitable thing. So
like the like the right wing media ecosystem has shifted
so far that that you can't really get a Colbert
Report now, it just doesn't work. But yeah, like there's
so many people who get their information directly from that.
And I think a lot about like the creator responsibility,
like which is a word that gets start or a

lot around in social media spaces. But it's interesting to
think that Colbert now and Stuart and even like Seth
Meyers have this responsibility as like informants to their audience
in some sorts of the sole source of news for
those people. When we were writing our misinformation piece, we
did talk about how in twenty fifteen, there was a
poll that came out that said that like the majority

of liberals, like the highest percentage of rules got their
news from The.

Speaker 4 (11:39):
Daily Show with John Stewart.

Speaker 3 (11:41):
And I think a lot about the excuse John used
to give to conservatives at the time who would criticize
him for not doing his due diligence on any given subject.

Speaker 4 (11:50):
He would often say, well, we're a comedy show.

Speaker 3 (11:52):
The show that comes on after us is Pupp's making
prank phone calls, and he would sort of like deflect
that responsibility by saying, I'm an entertainer first. And I
think that one of the big things that has changed
in the last twenty years or however long, is that
the line between entertainer and journalist has totally blurred. With
like the rise of like video essays on YouTube, and

just like again like the democratization of information and content creation,
everyone is sort of an entertainer, everyone is sort of
a journalist. There is like a responsibility that comes with
having a platform, and so obviously, like our show takes
a great deal of care to make sure that the
information we're presenting is is accurate and correct, and that
the analysis we're doing is as empathetic and thoughtful as

we can.

Speaker 2 (12:39):
I do think there is real value in going after
late night as a specific culturally impactful mode that isn't
just comedy, isn'to just to the news, and in its
quest to be a little bit of both, it becomes
its own thing. I've always been interested to see what
a late night show with my politics would look like,
and I think to some degree, you can look at

John Stewart in the twoth and I've been watching Stuart's
new stuff on the Daily Show every Monday, mostly just
to see how he's going to handle this landscape, which
is very different from when he left in twenty fifteen. Nowadays,
I think you can look to John Oliver as being
probably slightly more radical, but even still there's a decent gap.
Certainly some YouTube shows try to fill in that gap,

but I've really enjoyed watching the Late Stage team apply
classic late night stylings to a more radical queer form
of politics, including like Ella mentioned, correspondence segments as well
as actual reporting. Late Stage Live did a recent piece
on the effects of Libs of TikTok. It was a
really good look at something that I oddly hadn't seen

anyone else really interrogate before, actually looking at the people
that Libs of TikTok has targeted and how that has
literally affected their lives.

Speaker 3 (13:53):
Obviously, we are still like growing and trying new things.
I was really proud of the Libs of TikTok piece.
It was the first time we'd done like firsthand recording
on the show, and it's like something I want to
keep exploring. One of my favorite parts of the Daily
Show is the more serious like field pieces they end
up doing that obviously also have comedic games applied to.

Speaker 4 (14:11):
Them, but also are like real journalism that.

Speaker 3 (14:14):
Maybe mainstream news institutions don't cover, and that's really exciting
and obviously coming from like a specifically queer perspective. There's
not a ton of specifically queer news. There's a few magazines,
but there's nothing huge.

Speaker 2 (14:28):
It could happen here, will return after these messages we
now returned to. It could happen here. Something I noticed
about both Late Stage Lives and The People's Joker is
that they're not just made by queer people, but the

work itself feels queer. I think part of the reason
why is that both carry this spirit of patchwork and
collect aberration, proudly featuring a sense of punkish outside noess
that's uninterested in being tamed for a sis straight audience.
The end result is one holy reflective of the community

that has fostered the arts creation. To extrapolate on this,
let's return to my interview with Vera Drew. I know
for a while you were getting people to send in
to like send in stuff to get put in the film.
There was kind of it was like a very collaborative
start to this project, and I am I am interested
in that aspect of like how this is like both

like a collage multimedia piece, but also it's not like
the work of like one singular artist. It's like a
very like queer community made thing. And it definitely feels
that way, especially with all of like all like the sets,
all of like the art. It's so many different styles
mashed together into like this beautiful mosaic. And I'm interested
in like your decision to have it be that collaborative

thing and how that kind of came together.

Speaker 5 (15:55):
Thank you for asking, because yeah, I don't really get
to talk about that that much. And it's it's definitely
like a part of this that really, I think is
why the movie just feels inherently queer. You know, we
had just this incredible team of people working on it
because you know, like I said, like I did cash
in like every favor I had, you know, to cash in.

But you know, the movie started as this like video
remix thing, and then I think as we were writing
the script and it became more narrative driven. It was
just like we were always writing this script that was
very impossible to film. Uh, you know, just a very
like there's Batmobile and like, yeah, you know, fuck are
you gonna do that? But we weren't really thinking about

that as much. We were just like, let's just write
this movie, and let's just write it as like a
comic book movie, like let's have the tropes of a
comic book movie and a queer coming of age film
and and just fully execute those. And you know, I
think the idea of it becoming sort of this mixed
media piece was was very gradual. I think like it
was one of the many things about this This movie

was very intuitively like I never had a budget. Really,
I would never make a movie like this again. It
was it was very like kind of figuring it out
as you go in a lot of ways, especially just
on the like business side of things.

Speaker 2 (17:13):
Yeah, it has that kind of Inland Empire uncanniness a
little bit totally.

Speaker 5 (17:18):
There's definitely that. It's definitely I'm working backwards this, this
is my Inland Empire and you know, like twenty years
I'll have my eraser head finally. Yes, yes, But it
really just kind of followed that like sort of intuitive path.
And I kind of announced what I was doing and
I said, you know, my friend and I are making

this queer joker parody and anybody who wants to help us,
like you know right here, and I kind of at
that point it still was in this kind of like
loose space of what is this really? But just so
many artists came forward, and most of them artists who
had never worked on film or TV. So it was

a lot of just like fine artists and painters and
illustrators and visual artists. And then like a lot of
people too, just that I had seen for years on
trans Twitter or like like featured in like very like
fringe like zines and shit like that. So it's just like,
holy shit, like we could really make this movie that
looks like nothing you've ever seen before, and and we

can do it too in a way that like we're
creating original art, you know, like all the art in
it is original. I mean, like we recreate a lot
of sets and stuff from famous comic book movies, but
like it was painstakingly created, and every character had its
own character design, you know, original character design. Like we

couldn't just take mister mix auplick and put them in
the movie, Like we had to go, okay, like how
can we clear mister mix alepla like, Okay, we'll make
a mix mixy and they'll be like a weird like
floating like Hanna Barbera cartoon type, but it's kind of
more hr puff and stuff. Was the vibe we went
for there, very sit in marty Croft, even with a

community of queer artists. How does one go from the
idea stage of say, hey, let's make a more queer
and radically oriented late night comedy show to having it
actually be filmed and then broadcast. So I asked Ella
what allowed her to get this project off the ground
and what her process was like going from an idea
to something that's now on air.

Speaker 3 (19:28):
So, like I said, I've been writing for Some More
News for three years and I love that job and
I love my coworkers there, but they are doing one thing,
and I, over the last year or so, sort of
started to realize that I also wanted to be doing
this other thing. I wanted the live studio audience. I
wanted a very queer focused show. I wanted an in
person writer's room ultimately, or like a local writer's room.
Because everyone else had Some More News is La based

as far as I'm aware, and I'm the only East
Coaster out here, and I just wanted the whole bunch
of things that Somewhere News wasn't doing. So I was like, Okay,
I guess I have to do that myself because there's
no one else doing it that hire me. But I
grateful that I had my experience with Somewhere News and
continue to have my experience with them, because I structured
our writer's room very similarly to them, and I took
a lot of inspiration from their early stages in terms

of like the creative side of things and then in
terms of like finding people and making it happen. Something
I've learned my whole life as a creative is that
you just sort of have to fucking do it. I've
been like self producing work since I was eighteen. When
I was eighteen, my community theater in my hometown had
a big all hands meeting where they were like, hey,

we're out of money.

Speaker 4 (20:33):
What do we do?

Speaker 3 (20:34):
And I said, you should do a Shakespeare play because
you don't have to pay for the royalties for that,
and they were like, well, we don't have anyone who
wants to direct a Shakespeare play. And I said, okay,
then I'll do it, and they were like, okay, then
you do it, and I sort of had to just
do it. And I did it, and it was messy
and pretty amateurish, and then I did it again the
next year, and I got better, and I did it
again the next year. It got better after that, and
then after I graduated college, I started doing stand up again.

I just stand up a little bit pre transition, and
it was terrible, and so I started to become a
girl and I started doing stand up again, and I
realized there wasn't a ton of spaces in the stand
up scene for trans people, and I.

Speaker 4 (21:07):
Said, okay, so let's host a trans show.

Speaker 3 (21:10):
And I found a bar and I got in touch
with the bar, and then I just started dming comics
and I said, hey, I don't really know any of
you because I'm not really integrated into this comedy scene,
but please, and the show solely grew and I started
to meet more people, and then by the time I
had the idea to do late stage, I had been
doing my show for about a year and a half
and I was pretty integrated into the comedy scene, so

I was never worried about finding writers in terms of quantity.
I reached out to my headwriter Read Pope last April
after seeing a similarly live show by my friend Kay
Loggins called Knight Live that she does every so often,
and I helped her with the production day on that
It was a thirteen hour production day, and I just
remember having so much fun realizing that you could find

people in the artistic community like enough people who were
willing to do it. So yeah, I reached out to
Read in April and I said, Hey, I have this idea,
and they said, cool, here's a list of people I
think would be fun to work with. And we reached
out to a small handful of writers and some of
them got back to us and some of them didn't,
and we slowly found our team of people who were
able to commit to a first monthly and now weekly

writers meeting.

Speaker 2 (22:18):
After the writing team was assembled, they still needed to
find a place to record the show. The director and
executive producer Octavia helped find the public access station in
Brooklyn that Late Stage now shoots at, which is open
to the public.

Speaker 3 (22:31):
Do you have to take a five week course there
where you get certified in all of the equipment and
then you just get to sort of reserve their space
and do whatever you want there, and over the course
of those five weeks, Read, Octavia and I would take
this like bi weekly class and afterwards we'd go and
get food and we would just talk about what the
show needed and where it was. Every time a roll
popped up in discussion that we didn't have yet, Octavia

or Read or I would say, oh, I know someone,
and we'd pick up the phone and call them immediately.
And so it was a very organic growth in terms
of production team at first, and that just comes from
like working within your own community and like finding an
artistic community. I don't think I could be doing this
two years ago, Like I'm really grateful for having hosted
a stand up show for many years first to integrate
myself into that community and knowing a lot of like hardworking,

multifaceted artists.

Speaker 2 (23:17):
Once again, the ability to make friends both in your
local community and even online remains one of the best
ways to get shit done. The collaborative multi media collage
aspect not only in views a project with a sense
of DIY queerness, it also makes tackling a project as
gargantuan as The People's Joker a bit more feasible.

Speaker 5 (23:38):
We'd have these like artists with like you know, like
Matty Forrest makes beautiful puppets and just beautiful arts. So
it's like, okay, like obviously we're an ad. Maddie asked
Maddie to make the mixele Plick puppet and like it'll
be like a Sid Mardi Kroft puppet. And like one
of the other artists that came through was Salem Hughes,
who makes these like three D like Low Holly three

D models, And at that point it was like, okay,
well that obviously has to be like our bat cave,
Like we'll make it look like a like a Doom
like N sixty four video game or something, and the
batmobile too. So it's just kind of like figuring, like
breaking up everybody's role into these individual pieces and like
kind of going by like both physical locations, like reserving

one artist for each physical location that we'd see pop
up in things. You know, like Paul McBride did all
of the Joker Apartment shots and we recreated Woking Phoenix's
Joker apartment, but you know, change the color and the
wallpaper and blah blah blah, and Paul again like another
person who just like Paul, just makes three D models
just to like relax. I guess, like he just makes

these beautiful interiors, and it was like, okay, cool, we'll
make like a beautiful, like hyper realistic interior. I never
really forced my aesthetic on anybody. I really just allowed
people to just kind of like lean into they're aesthetic
and just do what they wanted and kind of like
just run wild and be like, okay, so you make

low polyart, like we'll do just do that in this case,
and our amusement park set was made by this artist
at GRAT and he just makes beautiful DMT like psychedelic imagery.
So it was like we got this you know, hyper
crazy like weird perspective amusement park from him, and we
turned that into a three D model, you know, rather

than going like.

Speaker 4 (25:29):
How are we going to make this work?

Speaker 5 (25:30):
You know, like this is a this is a flat painting,
you know, like it's a location we keep seeing in
the movie, like how are we going to make it work?
But it was just like just kind of saying yes
and to everything and really allowing everybody to just play
to their best strengths. And I knew that like my
voice and my vision were always going to be there,
like my face was going to be on screen for

most of the movie, and like it's my story. Like
I was never really worried about losing myself or disappearing
in the art at all, and instinctually, I just kind
of knew it would make the movie feel very clear,
and that's really just what it was.

Speaker 3 (26:07):

Speaker 5 (26:07):
It was really just this big kind of DIY community
art project, and it was a big task for me
to kind of like find the unified aesthetic. But thankfully,
you know, like I've done VFX, I had a lot
of other VFX artists helping me work on the film,
and we were able to kind of find a through
line in the way like all filmmakers have to. You know,

you just stick to a color scheme, you stick to
a very certain type of pacing, and you know, and
musically too, like I think we really like were able
to like bridge a lot of the things together just
by like having constant music playing. And you know, I
think I was really influenced by Natural Born Killers and
Pink Floyd's The Wall and also Headwig in The Angry Inch.

I think we're like kind of the Big Three, and
also returned to Oz. Those are the Big four and
just to round it out to five then Batman forever,
of course. But I think like a movie's never really
been made. I think plenty of movies are made like
this all the time, like where these like little communities
of people get together, but like this was like an
intercontinental kind of community project and it was beautiful, Like

I'm so glad we did it, and it was it
was an opportunity to really hopefully like get a lot
of artists visibility in spaces that they normally wouldn't be visible,
and an opportunity to to like work with a lot
of really talented people and allow them and make them
feel valued.

Speaker 2 (27:30):
You know.

Speaker 5 (27:30):
I just worked on so many things where it's like
you get art back from somebody and then you're like
we got to send this back or you're fired or
you know whatever, And this is like I never wanted
to be that. It was very much like this is
kind of all of our movie in a way. And
now that the movie's out there too, I really think
of it. It's like it's just it's got its own life,
like it's kind of no longer mine, and it kind

of never really was. It was always like ours. It
was always mine and my friends and you know, all
the people that worked on it with me, And I
think that is just really cool, And thanks for giving
me the opportunity to talk about it, because I think
it's one of the things that kind of gets lost
about this project a lot, just because of how personal
it is and because of our legal stuff. But like

I would have never been able to make this if
it wasn't for the team we will return to.

Speaker 2 (28:15):
It could happen here after these messages we now return to.
It could happen here. What I find most inspiring about
projects like The People's Joker and some of the other

indie no budget transfilms by filmmakers like Alice Mayo, Mackay
and Mia Moore, as well as projects like Late Stage Live,
is that they demonstrate that we don't need to rely
on big studios or big production companies to green light
things in order to make our own stuff.

Speaker 4 (28:53):
You can just make it.

Speaker 2 (28:55):
Which is not to say that it's easy, but the
biggest drive to getting something done is literally just getting
it done. Is just doing it. And if people see
you doing a cool thing, oddly enough, some of them
will want to help you, which is kind of a
bizarre notion, but it does end up being true.

Speaker 3 (29:11):
The core thing I've learned about producing work over the
last many years is people are willing to do stuff
if you do it first. If you prove to them
that you're committed to something and have a cool idea,
people will jump on board. Yeah, And I think that's
been proven by how excited our audience has been for
the show, how willing people have been to jump on

and our entire crew and writing stuff is volunteer. Right now,
We're making a little bit of money on Patreon, but
certainly not enough to pay the twenty plus person team
that ends up working with us every month, although that
is the goal down the line. But yeah, people are
willing to do a cool thing and volunteer their time.
Artists want to be making stuff, and so it's just
about doing it and then just doing it again. When

I first started hosting my State up show, we did
it the first time, and I spent months like came
about it, and after the first month, I was like,
oh my god, that was so hard. How am I
going to find enough transcomics to you at a second time?
How am I going to have the energy to do
a second time? And my boyfriend at the time said,
if you want it to be a monthly show, you
just have to do it every month for a while,
even if it sucks, and then eventually it will suck less.

And he's right. He's still right, and I'm still doing
that show two years later. And we did late Stage
the first time, and it was several months push to
get the first script out, and we got the first
episode out and we were like, oh my god, Okay,
let's do this again in one month.

Speaker 4 (30:30):
Can we do it?

Speaker 3 (30:31):
And we did it a second time and it was
also fun and good, and then you just like figure
out how to make it easier each time. And I
will not deny that it is hard work. We are
all slowly killing ourselves to make this show. I work
a forty hour food service day job that I came
directly from to do this interview. Everyone else on my

show is either working full time on top of the show,
or unemployed and slowly losing money. At various stage people
would like to fire queer people. So every few weeks
someone comes into a writer's meeting is.

Speaker 4 (31:04):
Like, guys, I lost my job. Hah. So I will
not deny that it's hard, and I don't want to.

Speaker 3 (31:10):
I don't ever want someone to think of me saying
just do it is like it's easy because it's a
lot of work, and all of my team is like
incredibly talented and has years of experience doing things. Everyone
in the comedy scene in Brooklyn talks about like wanting
to get staffed on a late night show, which is awesome,
and I would love to get staffed on a late edge,
Like though, that's the coveted job at the end of

the line for the stand up community, but like, you
don't have to wait for that. You can just make
the work you're doing. And I've had conversations with my
writers where they've all been like, this has been a
really cool opportunity because at the very least I've sort
of found out if I would actually want to write
on a late night show. We talk about that as
a coveted job, but maybe I don't want to do that.
It's a very different skill than stand up and that's
been a fun learning curve as well as hiring a

bunch of stand ups. To write long form political analysis,
you sort of have to herd cats to some degree.

Speaker 2 (31:58):
Even with a supportive community, so work can be really grueling,
and the road from a finished movie to being on
the big screen can be a monumental challenge. The People's
Joker is slightly unique in this way because of its
peculiar copyright status of being a fair use superhero parody
using some of our culture's most recognizable iconography to tell

a very personal story. Right before the movie was set
to premiere at TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival back
in twenty twenty two, Warner Brothers sent a vaguely worded
but threatening letter which resulted in the People's Joker of
being pulled from the festival save for one late night screening.
Yet throughout the legal chaos, Vera dru remained to steadfast

to ensure the movie would be released the right way,
on the big screen where it belongs. This film has had,
like a I guess, a troubled history, some might say,
and how are you able to stick with this project
after encountering like hurdles and problems, like because a certain
point it's like, is this like a some cost fallacy
or something like how did you decide to like actually

stick with this and like really fight for this as
a as a piece of like expressive art.

Speaker 5 (33:06):
Gosh, you know, I mean I think I feel like
I just didn't have like a choice really, Like I
think when with the movie done and with how well
just our first screening at Tiff went, like it was
just like I was kind of at a point where
I could shelve it, like cause that was really the

other option, you know, put it just away for a
few years and come back and maybe like you know,
and public domain is a little bit more, you know,
it's it falls under public domain because it will and
like I mean, at least uh Joker and Batman will
be in public domain in ten or fifteen years. So

like that was like an idea. I guess that was
floated to me a few times. Whro It's just like
I don't I didn't want to wait that long, and
I just I really put all I had into this movie,
you know, like I can in every favor I had
ever accumulated in Hollywood financially, Like I took out a
huge loan to finish it, and it was just this big,

deeply personal thing that I had made that originally really
was just for me and my friends. Like it was
just kind of a thing that I had just made,
you know, maybe I would have shown it to like
my Patreon or something. But like after a certain point,
like it, you know, once we had that like premiere,
it was just like like I can't just post this
to YouTube. I can't like just dump it somewhere or

like shelve it all my agents and stuff. I have
way too many agents now, and they all were like
telling me to that basically like it's it's it's okay
that it's not coming out. We can basically just use
this to get the next project going. But I mean
I quickly realized in that process, like this movie is
like a fucking like you don't show this movie to

a studio executive and then they immediately are like, yeah,
let's let's hire this person. They just want to like
have lunch with this crazy bitch who made the Joker movie,
you know. Like so it was like it just quickly
became clear, like where like kind of just the people
around me who had the best interest of the movie
at heart, and also like just what felt bad and

what felt right and what felt right really was like
taking the movie out just to festivals and kind of
doing like a secret screening tour, which is what we did,
and that was really exciting and kind of like a
jokerfied way of sort of getting this movie out there.
And that was really just on an emotional and like
personal level, really what carried me through.

Speaker 2 (35:39):
I was lucky enough to be in attendance at one
of the Secret Festival screenings a few years back, and
I was delighted to hear that nearly two years after
it initially premiered at Tiff, the People's Joker was able
to secure a distribution partner to put the movie in
theaters nationwide. So once again I was fortunate enough to
rewatch a piece of queer Batman art that otherwise would

never been made under Warner Brothers Thumb and I think
this is also the case with Late Stage Live and
many of these new independent queer projects. They most likely
would not be produced by one of the massive media
conglomerates that controls almost everything. You see. The small, independent
nature of these productions actually gives them an opportunity to
be much more queer and politically radical than what would

be allowed under Disney, Universal, Sony, Paramount, Warner Media Incorporated.

Speaker 3 (36:27):
We're like, obviously far more radical politically than any other
late night show on the air right now. And it's
something we've been thinking about as we attempt to scale
and try to find people who are going to fund us,
is that there are certainly people who could give us
a lot of money who would also then really want
to like limit the kind of speech we can make
and the kind of opinions we can have, And so
there's obviously a balance as we look for funding and

growth opportunities. But Brick the Public Access Network is their
whole thing is free speech, and so part of working
with them is their commit to free speech and radical programming.

Speaker 2 (37:03):
I'm really interested in the choice to have it also
be on cable access. I find that to be oddly
compelling in an interesting way, and I wonder, like what
led you to that decision.

Speaker 3 (37:16):
So part of that is like rules and regulations at
Brick the Studio. So you take one hundred dollars five
week class with them to learn how to use their stuff,
and they offer a lot of other classes too. You
can take a podcasting class to use their podcasting studio,
or a field class to be able to rent out
equipment and go do stuff in the field. A lot
of people make documentaries with their equipment. It's a very
cool team if you're in Brooklyn, you should go work
with Brick.

Speaker 4 (37:36):
They're awesome.

Speaker 3 (37:37):
But on one of the contingencies of working in their
space is that when you film something with them, you
do eventually owe them a product that they air on
their network, and that for us is the show. We're
not doing a ton of other stuff right now, although
you know, with infinite money and time, we would love
to be doing many other things. But Brick is awesome
and really values like free speech and creator freedom, and

so even though we owe them a product, we get
retain full ownership of our stuff. And so the way
it is in this zany Internet landscape is that YouTube
is the place to.

Speaker 4 (38:09):
Get eyes on a project.

Speaker 3 (38:10):
Like if I thought that public access TV was going
to be the place to to like blow up, I
maybe would be like focusing much harder on promoting that
end of distribution. But I think for what we're making
and what we're doing, YouTube and the Internet is like
how to build an audience. But it's it does lend

it like an interesting credibility to be on public access
and esthetically we really like leaning into sort of like
the nineties public access vibes. Part of that is the
equipment we're using. Our cameras are not the most modern,
so you get a slightly grainy vibe. You get. The
backdrop is like string and papers sprung together. We're filming
in four to three, which is a really strong decision. Well,

actually we film in sixty nine, we export in four three, whatever,
but it gives us a very distinct visual look.

Speaker 2 (38:57):
I think next episode we'll talk more about how so
much queer video art feels like it's forced to be
on YouTube and attempts to break out of that bubble.
When The People's Joker was stuck in legal limbo, there
was a lot of pressure just to put the film
up online for free, and as much as Patients is painful,
resisting that urge and waiting for the right distribution partner

to come along really paid off in the long run.

Speaker 5 (39:20):
I was just surrounded by other filmmakers in the genre community,
and you know who would see the movie at this
festival and be like, you need to just wait, like
the person who's going to help you is gonna come,
and if that doesn't happen, like you can self distribute,
which I did not want to do. Like at a
certain point, it was just like I had spent so
much money finishing it. I just I would have ruined

my life. I think if I self distributed it, like
I just couldn't. I didn't have the bandwidth. And I
want to make films. I don't want to distribute them
at this point, like maybe someday, but like right now,
I just like want to tell as many stories as
I can. I had a lot of support around me,
and there was just so much enthusiasm from you know,
people like you who saw it at festivals last year,

who like we're basically like holy shit, and just all
the kind of responses we're seeing now to it.

Speaker 4 (40:10):
Like it was.

Speaker 5 (40:10):
I got little like micronoses of that last year, which
literally was I mean, I it's probably fucking tacky to say,
but it was just the darkest year of my life.
I was really just an anxious mess the entire time.
But I really did make this movie to like not
only understand myself and sort of mythologize my life and

my friends' lives and stuff like that, but like I
made it to like get better, Like I made it
to kind of heal not only my relationship with like
my gender, but my family and my art and like
how I want to make stuff, and I think, what's
really beautiful what happened in that like dark period and
up up until now and even right now, this movie

does really require me to take care of myself emotionally
and mentally in ways that are or what I've always needed.
So it's been it's been a cool kind of just
like really expensive therapy. Ultimately, even though a lot of
it's been really grueling.

Speaker 2 (41:11):
That does it for this week at It Could Happen Here.
In the next episode after the weekend, I'll conclude my
conversation with Vera Drew and Ella Yerman talking about the
pitfalls of representation, moving beyond the YouTube bubble, and the
future of queer filmmaking. You can go to the Peoplesjoker
dot com for information on tickets and showtimes, and you
can find Late Stage Live by that name on all platforms,

and to support the show, you can get behind the
scenes content on Patreon at Late Stage Live. Solidarity to
everyone out there this week, see you on the other side.

Speaker 1 (41:47):
It Could Happen Here as a production of Cool Zone Media.
For more podcasts from Cool Zone Media, visit our website
Coolzonemedia dot com or check us out on the iHeartRadio, app,
Apple podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts, you can
find sources for It could happen here, Updated monthly at
coolzonemedia dot com, slash sources. Thanks for listening.

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