The Beards of Industry
by France Griggs Sloat
Mel Brooks, move over.
It’s been less than a year since Reid Faylor and Andrew Short started putting their noggins—not to mention their funny bones—together, but the two juniors already have a comedy skit in RooftopComedy’s National College Funny Film Competition. It’s among the funniest four films in the country, which are being showcased at the Aspen RooftopComedy Festival in June, and the Beards of Industry, as Short and Faylor call themselves, are boarding a plane for Denver to see how they stack up.
Since last spring, when the Xavier TV Center asked them to produce short sketchy pieces for Muskie TV, Short and Faylor have produced 16. Another five are in the works. All 16 are posted on YouTube under the Beards of Industry name, which Faylor dreamed up for a high school band competition.
The odd thing about it is that while both Short and Faylor are focused on writing and producing comedy films, both are also serious students. Faylor is a chemical science major and expects to pursue a PhD in organic chemistry. Short is an English and international studies major who plans to earn a PhD as well.
But for now, Faylor has no trouble doing both. Last summer, while working as an intern for his chemistry professor, Faylor studied hours of skit comedy on YouTube while babysitting a molecular experiment. In between sketches, he’d get up to mix a new batch.
For Short, it’s all about the writing. “As soon as I met Reid and we did a show and started writing together, things started working for me. I wanted a writing opportunity. It clicked when we met.”
Faylor and Short have played a number of the characters they invented. In one, Faylor plays a page in Renaissance clothing who appears as a daylong companion in a young man’s apartment and just won’t go away. After a day of fun stuff together, he delivers really bad news in the form of an atom bomb.
It’s called “Danny and the page.” You can watch the video on RooftopComedy.com.
One of Short’s best characters is Satan. He appears as a regular guy, though kind of a bully, except his face is painted red and his voice is distorted. In one film, he’s interviewing a young man for a job when someone starts screaming. It sounds like he’s being tortured to death. The job applicant looks frightened, and Satan, er Short, says, “Oh. Yeah. Timing, right?”
And Short’s timing is, of course, perfect. Which is why it’s funny.
But these fellows work at being funny. They shun the shallow, easy college jokes that focus on sexual or bathroom humor, and go instead for abstract humor and social commentary.
“We’re trying to convey something intentionally confusing,” Faylor says. “It’s an odd focus with the 1930s Industrial Revolution—black and white and grainy, washed-out colors. It has an outdated, old, grimy feel to it. We want to break some of the tradition in comedy today.”
“Making a joke about Paris Hilton takes no imagination at all,” adds Short. “It’s so easy to stand up and make a sex joke, but it doesn’t take any thought or engage people. We’re trying to engage people.”
Cathy Springfield, director for Xavier’s theater program, says what Short and Faylor are doing exemplifies the value of theater at Xavier. Because theater is only a minor, students from any discipline can explore their creative talents through the Xavier Players theater group and other venues such as the TV Center.
“All our students are non-theater majors,” Springfield says. “Theater and its ancillaries like video and stand-up comedy stand at a crossroads of all these disciplines—history, literature, performance. It’s a creative way to express what they’re studying. Some kids just find a niche, and they can do it all—write and direct and produce. Our core is broad, and they can get their feet wet.”
Beards of Industry’s videos are shown on Muskie TV for about two weeks, until the next one is ready for airing. That means Short and Faylor are constantly brainstorming new ideas and writing them down. They spend a lot of time perfecting their skits, then they pull together friends to act out the scenes and videographers to film them.
In March, they submitted four of their videos to the RooftopComedy college competition. All made it through the first round of voting out of more than 200 entries. Since then, two were voted among the best 24 and “Danny and the Page” survived two more rounds of cuts and is among the final four being judged by industry experts in Aspen in June.
But Short and Faylor aren’t resting on their laurels—or beards either. They’re busy filming “Dr. Incredulous,” in which Short plays a man who gains superpowers and tries to blackmail his boss into giving him a raise. Except, the sum he’s demanding is a meager $175 “every two weeks or so,” and when the boss offers a steady job at higher pay, Short yells “Silence!”
“We usually do a blown-up unexpected exaggeration of a human experience or relationship,” Short says. “If 10 people watch our sketches and two think it’s funny, that’s OK. It’s anti-comedy.”