There’s something to be said about finding the humour in everyday situations. And comedians Dan Perlman and Kevin Iso have brought it down to a science with their half-hour comedy series, ‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’.
Having met in the comedy circuit as stand-up comedians, Perlman and Iso immediately hit it off. In 2014, they started posting a series of sketches called ‘Moderately Funny’ on YouTube, before going on to create three episodes of the web series ‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’. The series garnered some praise and awards at film festivals, which in turn caught the attention of Showtime, turning the web series into a full-fledged series, now streaming on StarzPlay in the UAE.
In ‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’, Perlman and Iso play characters struggling to thrive in their new surroundings in the brash environment of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Bold, smart and grounded in authenticity, the show explores two longtime friends seeking to climb out of their heads and connect with others.
In a chat over Zoom, Gulf News caught up with Perlman to discuss the duo’s journey and some of the inspiration behind their comedy.
How did the idea of ‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’ come about?
My friend Kevin and I co-created the show. We were making comedy sketches together originally. You know, just like short videos, we were about starting out and stand up. And we met doing open mics in New York, as you know, just both starting out in comedy, and we wanted to make some videos. So we just made some short sketches. But then we found ourselves returning to the same kinds of characters, themes and we were working with the same comedians over and over again. So we eventually just wanted to make something a little more narrative, and wanted to make something independently, that we could shoot ourselves. We just wanted it to feel raw and natural and real and just a little more authentic. So that so it wouldn’t feel like joke, joke, joke, joke [and] joke. So that’s how we made the web series initially.
How would you describe the show to someone who’s never heard about it yet?
I guess it’s a tricky show to describe, but we like to think of it as more real or natural than just a sitcom. So it’s a very grounded comedy that hopefully reminds you of people that you’ve met. And it’s a comedy about a neighbourhood and a group of people who all coexist while doing their own thing. They all have their own wants and needs, and they’re all stepping on each other and bumping into each other. And it’s maybe a very honest or natural depiction of New York in a very organically diverse way that you don’t ordinarily see. And there’s good jokes!
So Flatbush is a neighbourhood in New York. Can you tell us a little bit about it for our readers back here in Dubai, So we have some cultural context about the place?
It’s a very historic neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and one that has not been really represented much in TV or film. Like now, it’s a very Caribbean community. Before that, it was a largely Jewish community. The Brooklyn Dodgers played there before they move to Los Angeles. It was a farming community before that. So it’s a neighbourhood that is very rich in its history. And its architecture: there are a lot of T-shaped streets where — so, the very cool thing about Flatbush is you can be on one street and all the houses and blocks are one way.
And then you walk two blocks, and it feels like you’re in a totally different neighbourhood and you walk two blocks another way, and you’re on a street with a lot of dollar stores and shops and stuff. And it’s all very bustling and energised. Another street, it’s way more residential and quiet. And it’s all in this very small radius. So it sort of lends itself to storytelling that has like a richness in character. And it’s very different than the New York that you see in a lot of other shows, which often show way more whitewashed depictions of New York.
We shot it all during COVID. When we started filming, people weren’t even vaccinated yet. So, you know, we were tested three times a week and you kind of get used to the routine of it. And then you just adjust around it.
You and Kevin worked on the show together. What can you tell us about your work dynamic?
When you work with someone for a long time, you kind of you get a sense of how they each work. And the reason we started working together is because we are complimentary in terms of our energies. We’re both probably a little more subtle in our energies and performances and stuff. So I think our energies vibe in that way. But then also, we’re not the same. So, I think, the push and pull of our different instincts has always brought the show to a cool and creative place.
How did you and Kevin originally meet?
Doing open mics in New York City. So when you start out, doing stand up, you go and sign up and do two or three minutes for other new and uninterested comedians who just stare blankly at you. And so, Kevin and I met at one of those and started talking. And there’s a lot of people, you talk to them and they’re like, ‘Oh, we should do something, we should film something, we should make something,’ but then they’re maybe not as driven to actually do it. But Kevin was the first person I met who shared that same drive to just make stuff even if we don’t quite know what we’re doing yet.
Where there any other shows that inspired you in terms of content and theme?
Kevin and I both have talked about this. There was an old Nickelodeon cartoon when we were kids called ‘Hey Arnold’. It’s obviously super different from the show, but there’s an interesting kind of parallel, you know, a neighbourhood, a community of people. One thing we tried to do is, every time you see a character, you might learn something new about them. ‘Hey Arnold’ did that very well, especially for a kid’s cartoon. And there was kind of an interestingly melancholic feel and pace to the cartoon that was a little different from the rapid fire nature that a lot of sitcoms have. And it felt very lived in. And so that was the one we talked about a lot.
Was the show fully shot in New York? And did COVID impact the show at?
Yeah, totally shot in New York. And, I mean, it definitely impacted the show. We shot it all during COVID. When we started filming, people weren’t even vaccinated yet. So, you know, we were tested three times a week and you kind of get used to the routine of it. And then you just adjust around it. So if we’re writing a big protest scene, we’re like, ‘Okay, well, I guess it’s a small protest now,’ because there’s just only a certain amount of people you can sort of have. It’s like, alright, well, how do we still tell the story we’re trying to tell?
Does COVID ever get mentioned in the show itself?
No, no, it’s not part of the show. I guess we talked about it, initially. But two things [stopped us]. One, it’s incredibly sad. And I definitely don’t want to watch people in masks. We’ve lived it for too long. It was so all encompassing, and it took over our lives that there was not really a way to sort of deal with it without it becoming everything. You know what I mean? Like, how do you incorporate it without it becoming fully all consumed?
What were your biggest learnings from creating ‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’?
The coolest thing for me was just how addictive and funny every other department is and how collaborative it is to create a show like this. When you hear award speeches and they’re mentioning all these names, and you’re like they’re going on a while, but you really do want to mention like everybody’s name, who sort of created the show. Our whole production design team was just so amazing. And so funny, and, and the costume department and the props department, you know, like, on and on. You learn how you can find jokes in the specificity of every different department and how people were not just great at their jobs, but also funny in those positions. It makes you better as a writer because then you go into the writing of the next stuff with more of that in your mind and of ways to sort of, find these jokes and all these different specific things. That was just a really cool experience.
Don’t miss it!
‘Flatbush Misdemeanors’ is now streaming on StarzPlay.