The fake perils of Pop Rocks in Web series 'Never Do This'
Like the producers of Comedy Central's Reno 911!, Scott Rice – a local filmmaker and creator of the popular Web series Script Cops – understands one of the cardinal rules of comedy: Don't try to compete with the hilarity of real life. His latest Web series, Never Do This, follows suit as it offers a safe alternative to the usually dangerous, sometimes hilarious phenomenon of viral videos. Each 30-second-long short, shot to feel like the caught-on-tape mishaps that fill our e-mail boxes on Monday morning and bring ill-advised fame to YouTube stars worldwide, offers a cautionary tale about some to-be-avoided behavior. They include all the legendary mistakes – mixing Pop Rocks and soda, lighting flatulence on fire, talking on cell phones while at the gas pump – as well as some new frightful hazards, such as carelessly partaking in archery lessons at camp. MTV Networks commissioned the new series after the success of Script Cops proved once and for all that America loves a Tasing – fake or real. And while the shorts will air intermittently on MTV's sister station, Comedy Central, they are set to premiere first on the media conglomerate's website, Atom.com. This makes the films the latest additions to that body of work busily blurring the lines between traditional entrainment mediums.
Rice filmed the pieces for Never Do This here in Austin back in June of this year. But he's been actively toying with the idea of a collection of shorts that captures the more morbid side of comedy since about 2000. Like most of us, he admits harboring a small soft spot for the cartoonish violence so at home in Web-based comedy. "My favorite movie is E.T. So I'm not really a big fan of violence and gore. But a side of my sense of humor does have a violent quality. Like, when I was a kid, I always made action-comedies. They always had a kind of very violent, slapstick humor, with very bad things happening to the main character – like my brother getting run over by a snowmobile or his body getting thrown off a barn or whatever – just getting smashed up, kind of Looney Tunes-style." Rice finds this style of comedy well-suited for the Internet, where short, punchy pieces seem to capture audiences best.
In Never Do This, Rice uses slapstick techniques similar to those found in his juvenilia as a means to negotiate the violence found in genuine, heavily viewed (but ethically sketchy) caught-on-tapes. By shooting his shorts in the same grainy style as the Internet's purposed real-life versions, he provides viewers a less guilty alternative to the Web's volumes of toddlers attacked by cats, babies who verse cobras, and bicyclists and gymnasts who ever more ingeniously injure their groins. That's not to say, however, that the film crew and actors escaped this project entirely unscathed. Preproduction, the star of the episode about the dangers of Q-tip use fell – in the process jamming a Q-tip deep into his ear canal and rupturing his eardrum. "I'm used to it," says Rice, who's frequently worked with kids on commercials. "Not fun when they get hurt – their parents never seem to mind, though. They're like: 'Whatever. Happens all the time.'"
Never Do This premieres later this month at www.atom.com.