The Downsides to Working With Sponsors
I got a strange email the other day from a man named Tye Sprice who claimed to be a representative of Dove (the soap company). He said he really enjoyed Cracked, he loved our series Agents of Cracked and he wanted Dove to be involved financially in whatever our next project was going to be. My grasp on economics is tenuous at best, but I knew enough to know that having a show with a budget is a slight improvement over our current model ("not having one"). I agreed to take a meeting with Tye. As a result of a total misunderstanding between me and some smug last summer, the United States now records all of my phone conversations, so it was easy for me to get my hands on a transcript of our call. Tye: Dan-O! Danny Boy! Ole' Daniel Bastard. DOB: Yeah. Tye: DOB. Definition Of Booyah! Dating Our Bitches! Dead Or Balive. DOB: Hello? Is this Tye, or some… bizarre phone error? Tye: It's Tye, my brother, how are you? DOB: Uh, fine. Pretty curious about your email, it seemed kind of vague. Tye: Well then I'll simplify it. We love DOB. We want to be in the DOB Business. He's violent, he's edgy, he doesn't give a shit. DOB: Sure, it's a fun character to work in and the readers seem to really respond. Tye: Daring, Ornery, Badass! DOB: Are we still doing those? Really thought "Balive" would have killed your confidence. Tye: I went to sleep in Australia and woke up on fire, Daniel, nothing kills my confidence. But the bottom line is this: Dove loves DOB. Dove loved Agents of Cracked, and Dove wants to sponsor your next video project, completely fund it, whatever it is. DOB is a hit, and Dove wants in. *** Tye's over-enthusiasm to one side, I think any company that wants to give me money to do things is a company with its priorities in order. I did let him know that creative control was very important to me and that, even though Dove would be funding the project, I still needed to handle the bulk of the creative decisions. Tye said it was "Phat nasty," which I took as a vote of confidence. So I sent him a few pitches. A show about two wacky roommates who also work at the same soap factory, a cooking show, a reality show where I pit a monkey against a fourth grader and see who can disarm a bomb faster, and one… other show. A sitcom I've been kicking around for awhile. Here's the pitch document: I throw that idea around whenever anyone asks for pitches. It's moreso included to soften the blow of my other pitches; nothing will look too raunchy when compared to Time-Traveling Sex Offenders, I just like to stack the deck a little bit. (Also I think it's hilarious.) I never really expect anyone to approve it or even read the entire document. Frankly, I'm not even sure if I'm morally OK with it, but I'll keep pitching it until someone fires me or puts me away. I assumed Dove was going to pick up the show about soap, so you can imagine my surprise when Tye called back the next day. Tye: DOB- That Time Perverts thing? We love it. DOB: Bullshit. Tye: Swear to God. We love it. Dove loves it. We're ready to move forward on it. DOB: Dove loves it. Dove the soap company. You're positive you read the whole treatment? They're... you know that they're pedophiles right? I make that clear? Tye: Crystal, and we love it. DOB: Huh. I guess I really underestimated how open-minded Dove can be. Tye: I know what you're thinking, Dan. It's a soap company, yeah? A soap company with no real hand in the world of Internet comedy, so you're nervous. But just because their product is clean, doesn't mean they are, you know what I mean? Dove is run by regular guys like you. Normal people with senses of humor. They just want to be part of something funny and edgy, and I really think Time Traveling Sex Offenders is the way to go. Trust me. DOB: As long as you are absolutely positive that Dove is cool with this, frankly, appalling idea, I'll start working on the pilot, and some concept art. Tye: Crystal, sure. DOB: Alright. I'll go ahead and pretend that's a thing and get started. Tye: Oh, and I'm just throwing this out there, but maybe one of the characters has some kind of catchphrase? Like, once or twice every episode, you find a way for him to say, "Now that's why I call a rodeo!" Or something like that. DOB: Huh... No. Tye: Yeah yeah yeah, sure, I get it, you're the writer, I'm the PR guy, got it! You bring the funny, we'll bring the money, right? So I started working. The idea had been bubbling in the back of my head for a few years now (because I'm the world's worst human being) so it didn't take long to have a pilot and some preliminary artwork done. I sent off the script and waited to hear back from Tye, who responded almost immediately. Tye: DOB! The Big B! The Beaver! Leave it to Dee Oh Beaver! Aha. DOB: Are you alright? Tye: I'm better than alright. I read your script, and it's the best fucking thing I've ever seen. But we've got some notes. DOB: Well, OK, I guess I can hear a few… Tye: Don't get me wrong, I love it, Dove loves it, it's just… it's a little racy don't you think? There is just a whole lot of references to having sex with children in here, you know? Really, direct references. We're still on board, but in its current form, it's a little too racy right now. Know what I mean? Tye: There was a lot of pedophilia in that script. DOB: Well, you greenlit a series about pedophiles… but sure, I see what you're saying. And to be honest, you know, I can just cut the whole pedophile aspect- Tye: No no! No no no no no, no way, my man, we love the pedophile aspect. Just tone it down. The next day, I sent him a new version and, almost immediately thereafter, my phone rang. Tye: Love it. DOB: Yeah? Tye: Love it, it's perfect. DOB:Oh, good. Tye: A few notes. DOB: Ah. Tye: Still a little racy. DOB: I removed all the times where they explicitly mention wanting to have sex with kids. Tye: You did, and it's great, but they're still pedophiles. DOB: I really think you should re-read the proposal you accepted. Tye: I read it every night and every morning, brother, I can't get an erection without your words. It's just kind of vulgar right now. Can it be toned down a little more? DOB: OK, I just need to make this clear. We'll never show them having sex with a kid. And I've taken out all instances where one character directly says "I am going to have sex with a child" or "I want to have sex with a child," and I've removed all euphemisms that express the same sentiment. Also, the point of the entire series is that they never actually get to have sex with kids, the whole "pedophile" thing is theoretical at best. So I can clean up the language and remove suggestive visuals, but I want you to be aware of one thing: No matter how I dress this up, the audience will know that these guys want to have sex with children, and all of their actions are guided by this principle. Every single person watching will know exactly what these guys want. If they don't… well I don't even know what's funny about the show. Because then you've just got three weird dudes who time travel and learn important lessons about history and… I'm not totally interested in that show. Tye: Yeah, I was fine with pedophiles, but I just got off the phone with some of the big guys, and it looks like the sex pervert angle won't really work after all, for some reason. But I think the heart of the show is still intact, they still love the idea, just without the pedophilia angle. DOB: Uh, OK… What if they're just three guys who time travel to have sex with older, totally legal historical figures? They're just sex addicts. Tye: Love it! *** That actually worked for me. With that show, the humor comes from what a grave misuse of time-traveling this is. These guys have a time machine, they can go anywhere and do anything. They can become billionaires or kings or whatever, but they just decide to go around and hit on hot historical figures and ask them for sex. They're not even that good at hitting on chicks. And they're not using their ability to predict the future to impress chicks. They're using the same tired pick up lines that fail in the present, except they're using them on Joan of Arc and whatnot. I'd watch that show. I wrote up a revised script and sent some materials over to Tye. Tye: Love it, it's perfect. DOB: Again? Tye: I wanna put holes in it. DOB: You already sort of have… Tye: Different holes. Holes I can fuck. That's how much I love it. D'Rock: Brant had some notes. DOB: Who the Christ is Brant? Wait, who just said that? Tye: That's D'Rock. D'Rock's my boss, he's helping us out. Best PR guy I've ever met. DOB: And Brant? Tye: He's Dove's PR guy. DOB: I thought you were the PR guys. D'Rock: Whoa! Cowboy, no way, we represent a Public Relations liaison. I'm part of a satellite branch of a PR firm that is actually based in England, it's a larger independent company. We're contractors. We work with Cracked and other brands as go-betweens for larger corporations, like Dove. DOB: Well, this all sounds very qualified for working in comedy. Tye: Extreme qualifications. D'Rock: But anyway, we're focused on your image, and a little bit of our image. But Brant focuses on Dove's PR and their image. And he just has a few notes. Tye: Small ones. D'Rock: Teensy ones. Tye: Yeah, don't try to have sex with these notes. Know why? They're just minors. DOB: Ugh. D'Rock: Just minor notes. Brant: First off, Dan, I want you to forget everything you think you know about Dove. DOB: You… don't sell soap? Brant: Oh, was that all you knew about Dove? Oh, well then, no, keep remembering that. What you need to do is forget about Dove as an edgy, PG-13 company. Whoever told you Dove would be OK with a show just about time traveler sex lied. DOB: We could have saved so much time. Brant: There just needs to be a few rewrites. Dove still loves the show, and I think the original pitch can stay. DOB: How? Brant: Dove is a soap company. Clean. Sex isn't really clean, is it? DOB: Not if you're doing it right. Brant: So just lose the sex. DOB: And then… well what's this show about, then? Brant: Tye said you were batting around an idea about "three weird dudes who time travel and learn lessons about history." DOB: Actually I specifically said I wouldn't be intere- Brant: Dove loves it. Tye: Back to work, DOBasaurus! They hung up before they could hear me puking, unfortunately. I decided to write up this new show, despite my better judgment. At the end of the day, they were paying me. I could sit around like a stubborn asshole, or try to come up with something mutually beneficial. I bet I could find something redeemable about this new show. Maybe. Tye: Dan! It's D'Rock, probably. DOB: OK… Did you get the latest version? Tye: Let me put it this way, it's in a sex coma on my mother's bed. DOB: Why would you have sex with anything there? Tye: Couldn't help myself. I loved it. DOB: And Brant? Brant: Loved it. I rolled it up and beat my kids with it, so they could learn what pride feels like. DOB: Oh my God. Brant: So both PR teams are on board. Tye: Just one other person you need to talk to. DOB: Wait, no- Travis: Dan this is Travis Torp, I represent Dove's legal department. DOB: Oh, I don't… give a shit? Travis: I had some notes. Nothing can really carry the Dove name without going through legal, if that's alright. DOB: It's not… completely, I was never really told that you'd be- Travis: You have to cut absolutely all foul language, words like "hell," "damn," "bitch," "bicycle," "shit," "rocks," "time." Basically any words that might offend people. DOB: It finally happened. The line between offensive and inoffensive has completely imploded for me. Travis: Also, you have one scene where you cut to a shot of the moon. You know better than that, cut the moon. DOB: What? Why? Travis: The imagery. Reminds people too much of breasts. *** I made the changes. Cut out every curse word. Completely. Removed things that looked like boobs and other things that might look like boobs if you were born in a cave and started sniffing glue almost immediately. I sent over what I was pretty sure was draft 17 of a script that no longer resembled the show I pitched. I think the pilot was about three roommates taking a road trip across country on a quest to eat the world's best burger, and it also happens to be set in the 1700s. I sent it off somewhere and got a call from someone. Someone: DOB! What's happ-nasty? Someone Else: How's it going? DOB: I've actually… completely lost track of which one of you is which. Tye: I'm- Brant and D'Rock: I'm Brant. Tye: …Brant. Travis: I think we landed on something we can work with, we're ready to move forward. DOB: Really? The legal team's OK? Travis: Dove legal is on board. Aaron: I did have one quick thought, though, take it or leave it. We wanted to add some talent to the project. DOB: Right, no, I wrote a part for Soren. Aaron: No, but, like, a star, you know? A recognizable TV personality. DOB: Uh… Aaron: We were thinking Snookie from The Jersey Shore. DOB: You were thinking bullshit from go fuck yourself, that's not happening. Tye: She has some notes too, but they're just small ones. D'Rock: Teensy. Aaron: Her people have some, too. Managers, Agents, her PR folks. DOB: Doesn't matter, I forbid this from happening. Martin: She's already signed on, we're filming the pilot right now. DOB: Already- I haven't even written a part for her yet, how are you film- Who's even talking, currently? Martin: I think Martin said that. Travis: We really can't keep this call going, we all have to be on set. Dan, you should stop by if you're free. DOB: Aren't I in it? Tye: Mm... Not in the latest version of the script. Is he, D'Rock? DOB: Is D'Rock the writer now? D'Rock: Nope, not in here. He could be an extra in the dance sequence. Travis: We really do have to jet, guys. Before I forget though, do we have anyone in mind for the voice of the sassy, cartoon cat? That can be Dan, right? *** And that's how I ended up co-writing a webseries with Snookie, D'Rock, Tye, The Dove Company's PR department, the Dove Company's legal department, Masters and Masters Public Relations Liaison Firm.