Comedy troupe raises cash to make TV series

Comedy troupe raises cash to make TV series
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Plenty of young Brooklynites call themselves budding filmmakers, but a group of borough-based comedians are actually working to make their dreams a reality by raising more than $85,000 to cover the costs of producing their own independent television series.

Dinner for One, a sketch comedy troupe that has produced videos for the popular humor website Funny or Die, raised $85,511 this spring on Mobcaster from 157 donors to create a six-episode situation comedy series that they hope to sell to a television network or some other distributor, such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Mobcaster is a website where independent producers can utilize crowd-funding to finance and screen their own shows.

Among their backers is actor Paul Giamatti, a Brooklyn Heights resident and star of the films “Sideways” and “Cinderella Man.”

Called “Life Sucks,” the comedy series follows the lives of three 13-year-old students who must move past their social stigmas to help each other make it through the hormone-fueled chaos that is middle school. The show also hopes to address the awkward feelings many people still have about that time in their lives. The show will start filming on July 22 at MS 88 in the South Slope.

“Instead of paying for therapy we’re making a TV show out of it,” said Kyle Miller, the show’s producer, co-creator, and co-writer. “We wanted to embrace the moments that still make us cringe.”

Dinner for One was formed in Boston about five years ago by six Emerson College students: Allyson Condrath, Max Fox, Jake Mann, Ian Wexler, Alex Zagey, and Miller.

After graduating in 2011, the six together moved to the borough, settling in Bay Ridge and Prospect Leffert’s Gardens. Since then, the troupe has performed sold-out shows at the improvisational theaters Upright Citizens Brigade and Peoples Improv Theater. Two of their videos on Funny or Die have garnered thousands of views. A parody of HBO’s “Girls” called “Robots” has more than 18,000 views, and “Zach Braff is ruining Kickstarter for the rest of us” has more than 25,000.

In 2012, the troupe created a 20-minute video intended to be the pilot show for “Life Sucks.”

They entered the video into two competitions at the New York Television Festival — the Comedy Central Short Pilot Competition and the Independent Pilot Competition. After the video landed among the top 25 entries, the troupe was approached by Aubrey Levy, the co-founder of Mobcaster. Levy encouraged them to start a campaign on the website to fund a season of six episodes.

Dinner for One has also teamed up with the California-based Proximity Theatre Company, of which Wexler was one of the founding members. They plan to run a theater workshop for middle schools while the series is being filmed. The first 45 kids who sign up will be featured as extras in the series.