By Megan Tcheng
If you are a fan of offbeat humor, sharp-wit and pure creative genius, “Something Gross,” a collaborative web series created by the Grinnell-based Wake Me Up When I Care Productions team, should immediately make its way to the top of your watch list. Conceptualized by Nora Coghlan, Melissa Fandos, Teresa Fleming and Halley Freger (all ’17), the absurdist comedy series chronicles a pair of college students as they navigate the twists and turns of their ever-so-slightly above-average lives.
With three currently-released episodes and additional segments already in production, “Something Gross” possesses all the trademarks of a viral video series. Quick cuts, attention-grabbing visuals and a steady stream of witty quips set the refreshing and dynamic pace of the series. Likewise, the unabashedly authentic portrayal of show’s two protagonists, played by Coghlan and Freger, will leave you desperately in search of the replay button.
Each episode in the series focuses on an isolated portrait of the characters’ lives. As a viewer, one has the perspective of a spectator and can laugh alongside the all-too-familiar chaos of their college experiences. With plotlines that range from YouTube marathons and McDonald’s drive-thru lines to awkward house parties and small-town encounters, “Something Gross” intentionally draws connections to the shared experiences of their audience.
“A lot of our comedy plays off of the humor in everyday interactions and everyday problems … I think that’s what we excel at — finding things that interest us — whether it’s social norms or romance or everyday tropes, and then pushing them to an extreme where they become gross and funny,” Freger said.
Throughout their creative process, Coghlan, Fandos, Fleming and Freger have made it a priority to test the limits of comedic expression. Within their videos, they hope to offset the traditional balance between comedy and everyday life in order to make a web series that draws directly from their personal perspectives and realities.
For this reason, the “Something Gross” series possesses an undeniable air of vitality, confidence and ease. The show’s characters and their interactions are raw and surprisingly approachable — not only because they are well-acted and cleverly constructed, but also because they directly speak to the lived experiences of the creators.
“Part of the reason why we’re all so connected to the show is because we start by talking about our own experiences. … [“Something Gross”] is really our lives, just a little bit more dramatic or a little bit funnier or a little bit weirder,” Coghlan said.
“We’re doing comedy for ourselves and I think the idea of that is really cool, that you can create the things that you want to consume,” Fleming added.
Coghlan, Fandos, Fleming and Freger developed the idea for their web series this past winter break, when they traveled to Los Angeles as part of the Entertainment Industry Trek offered through Grinnell’s Center for Careers, Life and Service (CLS). During their week-long tour, the four students received the opportunity to interact directly with members of Los Angeles’s film and television community. Over the course of their visit, however, the creators were all struck by a glaring gap in the entertainment industry and its approach towards comedy. In order to respond to this identified need, they took on the challenge of creating their own web series.
“We had so many conversations on the trip about how many cis, white men are successful in comedy and how they honestly aren’t that good. We went to a comedy show and all the funniest people were queer women. … Then we spent a lot of time analyzing how and why our jokes work,” Coghlan explained.
Throughout every step of their creative process, Coghlan, Fandos, Fleming and Freger work collaboratively. During brainstorming sessions, they riff off each other and bring their unique senses of humor to the table. Likewise, throughout the filming, editing and production process, they provide each other with continual feedback and support. Ultimately, all four members of the production team attribute their ability to work effectively and collaboratively to the success of the “Something Gross” series.
“Before we started working on the show and throughout, we’ve all really respected each other creatively and intellectually. These are the funniest, most creative, genius people I know, and I think we all feel that way,” Fandos said.
As current fourth years, Coghlan, Fandos, Fleming and Freger are all gearing up for their fast-approaching college graduation. While the creative minds behind the “Something Gross” series have plans to release one to two more videos before the end of the year, the future of their joint project is still up for debate. No matter where their time outside of Grinnell will take them, however, all four students are quick to point out the important role “Something Gross” has played in their personal lives.
“It’s nice to have a community of people who are equally interested and invested in film and comedy. … I’ve seen how good it can be when you’re working with a really collaborative, amazing team. I want to do that for the rest of my life,” Fandos said.
Check out “Something Gross” online and anxiously await new episodes at: https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCY6SZ7zMBbKaRLzrRzLAAEg