By Matt Levy
It’s a Saturday afternoon. Not much is going on. You open a Time Out New York and you see a blurb in the comedy section about a new show called Super Crazy Funtime. You think, “That sounds…different,” call up a friend and head to Manhattan for the show. You don’t know what to expect. The ad promised a “hilariously insane show” and whatever that may mean excites you. Still, what is it? You and your friend arrive just in time, take a seat, the lights dim and then the most madcap, hysterical, bizarre show you’ve ever seen begins.
Out come the scotch swilling, rose-colored glasses wearing, unfiltered hosts of the variety game show Dino Valentino (Anthony Giordano) and Francis Merryweather (Artie Brennan) bantering about current events. Turns out you’ve entered into the world of a “Fictional TV show’s live taping” overflowing with weird characters, interactive games, mysteries, raunchy puppets, talking paintings, prizes and surprises. You have never experienced anything like it. The best way to describe it is as a gameshow/variety show cocktail mixing The Price Is Right with The Dean Martin Show topped with a sprinkle of acid.
It turns out you are no mere spectator either. The audience is a part of the show participating in live games for prizes like March Madness AKA Basketball in straitjackets and interactive video games like “DJ Khaled’s Virtual Golf” for prizes from the show’s sponsor Original Sin Cider (the grand prize is a case of the cider). There’s a Vanna White-type (Karen Summerton) guiding folks through the games as the hosts banter and grab audience members who want to be wrapped up in straitjackets. In between games, the show is peppered with lightning quick bits, special appearances from guests like Alt-Right Shark (Zach Garner) and commercial & movie trailer parodies. Superfan Dave Elmy very accurately calls the show, “A runaway train that never derails.”
You wonder, “Who are these crazy guys and how did I stumble into something so special?”
Let me tell you.
Anthony, the lanky, energetic firecracker of a host is originally from North Carolina where he grew up hyperactive and adventure seeking. These days, he is a full-on Brooklynite inspired comedically by the likes of Chris Farley, David Wain and Mr. Show. Artie, his witty, understated yet spontaneous co-host grew up in NYC idolizing comic luminaries such as Nathanial Hornblower, Dave Chappelle and Eric Idle. When not flipping from Comedy Central to the BBC, Brennan grew up jamming to hip hop, playing basketball, and watching movies. As he put it, “Basically, I wanted to be the 5’7 Shaq.” Later on, he got to work opposite O’Neal on a Good Morning America commercial and improvise with him which was a dream come true on multiple levels.
The two of them have been writing and performing together ever since they met at Paul Valenti’s Sketch Block at The Under St. Mark’s Theater in the East Village years ago when they were on different house teams. Three years ago, the friends/future hosts met up for coffee and the conversation naturally turned to their lack of auditions as is often the case for actors meeting up over a brew. This isn’t to say that these two aren’t successful thespians. In fact, quite the contrary. Both of the guys are accomplished actors in their own right and if you recognize them that might be because Artie was on House Of Cards and The Affair while Anthony appeared in Person Of Interest and The Mysteries Of Laura.
Anyway, back to the coffee shop meeting.
Rather than pitying their lack of opportunities, they wrote the short film Super Crazy Funtime that evolved into the live, multimedia, interactive, monthly variety game show you found yourself at on a Saturday evening. That day, the two made a pact. “The show needed to make us laugh no matter how crazy it was,” Artie said. That was over three years ago and since then they have met that standard time and again running their interactive, high wire, always evolving performance piece at the People’s Improv Theatre along with stints at The Improv Asylum and The Brooklyn Comedy Collective. They also vowed, “The audience can’t have fun unless we’re having fun.”
While the show is their brainchild, they also work with a range of talented comedic writers and actors like Josh Sankey, Zach Garner, Gary DeNoia, Daniel Florio, Chris Sciacco, Katie Hutch, Paul Cohen, and Karen Summerton. Some are in the cast and others are frequent collaborators on their filmed projects.
To make sure the show is up to snuff, the two meet once a week for around four to five hours to go over how the last show went. Artie elaborated saying, “We want to talk about what worked, what didn’t, what surprised us.” Then, they pitch topical ideas that might work or potential new segments for the next installment. Once, that’s figured out, they write, re-write and pitch over text throughout the week.
While texting may be fun, there is a goal in mind. Brennan elaborated, “Basically, when the other person laughs hard is usually when we say OK, that one’s definitely in.” Once the script for the show is finalized, they shoot heavily storyboarded videos/commercials but then they improvise the dialogue along with what they wrote because many times the “in the moment” lines are better than the scripted ones. Finally, the props are made for the live games while the pre-tapes and virtual games are edited. Since there are so many moving pieces, it usually takes all the way up to an hour before the show goes live to have everything complete. Here you were thinking you were enjoying a totally unique show on a random Saturday. Nope. Countless hours of preparation and passion went into it.
Anthony added, “We think Super Crazy Funtime is a lot like Mr Show, Tim and Eric, & Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” Artie countered, “We are friends and fans of NYC contemporaries Dinner For One and Sure Thing Chief/Unisex. Their work live and online is great.”
Still, they’re in a category all their own. The most common thing they hear after shows is “I’ve never seen anything like that.” Artie said, “It’s really true. We are not technically a sketch show and not a play. We’re Super Crazy Funtime.” This is recognized by young and old alike. Their rabid fanbase stretches for generations ranging from Adult Swim obsessives to those that crave the nostalgia of 60s variety shows. Most of these fans come to every show and Artie put it simply, “We love our fans.”
In the past three years, the show’s success has led to bucket list level career highlights as well for the hosts. Anthony says his proudest achievement was getting his and Artie’s writer’s packet seen at SNL. For Artie, it was winning the Audience Choice Award at The Hip Hop Film Festival for his short Snuffalafaghost: Hip Hop’s First Stylist. In addition to this short, many of the produced video pieces for the show are released online and subsequently sent to festivals. In fact, the two hosts have won several awards from these commercials as well.
Still, the show has reached higher, wilder heights than festival trophies. Their fake commercials regularly land on the front page of Funny or Die but even that isn’t where they received their most notoriety. The most notable and funniest thing that’s happened for Super Crazy Funtime was when their commercial parody for Proper 12 (Conor McGregor’s whiskey) was shared by McGregor on Twitter. In the commercial Artie (playing McGregor) smashes a bottle of Proper 12 over the spokesperson’s (Anthony) head. I can vouch for it; it’s short, punchy and the McGregor impression is spot-on. What makes this doubly fascinating is a popular Indian MMA blog wrote a story about the fake ad, believing it was a real commercial for the product. As silly as the parody was, that’s how believable their acting is. Don’t believe everything you read, folks.
In addition to the show, Anthony and Artie make shorts on the side showing off their writing, acting and directing talents. Their most recent film is a delightful five-minute spiritual sequel to The Goonies cleverly titled The Grownies where the original “Never Say Die” Gen X’ers find themselves living in Astoria, Queens and after getting evicted they have to go on one more adventure. They perfectly nail the original’s acting style and with spot on music cues, it ratchets up the nostalgia in a way that is respectful to the original and funny in its own right.
“Wow, that was a lot,” you think.
Well, there’s a bit more.
Later this year, the twosome are planning on filming a pilot. They’re also 85% done with a feature-length mockumentary they suspended production on due to COVID-19. In five years, the guys see Super Crazy Funtime on TV or whatever it is people are streaming their content from in five years.
So, give your brain a break, hop aboard the crazy train, and get lit with Dino, Francis, Leafy, Scotchy, and friends. It will be the best decision you ever made.
Congrats you made it to the end. Since you got this far, Artie wanted to ask you, the reader, the all-important question, “Why does Ellio’s Frozen Pizza tell us that it’s nine slices when we all know it’s three?”