All Joking Aside! Women Are Funny Too.
2 Years ago I shared an article on this blog to support the crowdfunding campaign for Animal Mother Films production All Joking Aside. Directed by Shannon Kohli and Produced by Jon Ornoy the film has since gone into production with it’s 50/50 gender split crew and come out the other side ready for screening.
From November 13th you can catch All Joking Aside on streaming services like Amazon and iTunes but this week there is a special fundraising pre-release event taking place online; Sit Back, Relax, and Stand Up! for Girls. StandUp!Girls is a small non-profit organisation that teaches stand-up after-school programs to teenage girls in underserved communities in New York. Between October 25th and 29th people will be able to rent and watch All Joking Aside at their own convenience for $5 with 100% of proceeds going directly to the organisation. Then on the 29th at 7:30pm EST, viewers will be able to tune in to an exclusive live Zoom Q&A with members of our cast and crew, a female comedian, and some of the girls who have gone through the program, and it will all be moderated by comedian Judy Gold. Get Tickets HERE.
All Joking Aside tells the story of Charlene a millennial struggling in New York who wants nothing more than to become a stand-up comedian. When she is heckled off stage on her first open mic she soon discovers the heckler was none other than Bob Carpenter a retired big name on the comedy circuit. She turns to him for mentorship and over time the two find something in each other that has been missing in their own lives.
The strength of this film lies in the two lead characters; Charlene (Raylene Harewood) and Bob (Brian Markinson). Their chemistry on camera is unfaultable and what could be considered a strange relationship between the two at first glance actually becomes very natural. I spoke to Director Shannon Kohli about working with Raylene and Brian and the casting process that brought these two amazing actors together on screen. “I was directing an episode of The Magicians and we cast Raylene Harewood in a guest part. She was so talented and great to work with that she immediately came to mind when casting Charlene.” Shannon said, “Brian Markinson was playing a recurring character on The Magicians and I met him while I was directing another episode. He is such a generous actor who completely commits and embodies a character. We asked him if he would be interested in reading the script. We expected he would say he was too busy and say no, but he read it, loved it and came onboard to play Bob. We set up a chemistry read between Raylene and Brian and they were great together.”
Their likeable performances are definitely backed up by James Pickering’s funny screenplay but what is different about this comedy film is that is does not reach for laughs. The flow of the dialogue is likened to real world conversation, like a chat you might be having with a friend rather than obviously written lines looking for a punchline. The actual stand-up sets within the film that Charlene does are also really funny, which I think could’ve been a risk when doing a film about stand-up.
I asked Shannon if she had had much experience with comedy before coming on board to head this project? “I enjoyed watching stand up but didn’t have much experience in that world.” she said, “Richard Lett, who played Dennis has been a professional stand up comic for twenty years. He was extremely helpful in helping us navigate the stand up world. Writing comedy is difficult as it is, but writing stand up for someone else is nearly impossible. We were so fortunate that the cast were willing and able to make it their own but making suggestions on the script. Raylene Harewood who played Charlene secretly did a stand-up routine at an open mic night at Yuk Yuks in Vancouver to experience what it was like being on stage. I have so much admiration for her bravery.”
And of course I can’t talk about this film without mentioning how expertly it tackles the issue of gender inequality in stand-up. Whilst there may be tropes of the mentor story present in the script the freshness of seeing it in the world of stand up comedy featuring a young black woman as the lead is what makes it its own unique story. The film never tries to shove a feministic message down your throat either. Typical to the feel of the entire film the issues of sexism in comedy is dealt with naturally with even a bit of a comic flare. All Joking Aside even takes this stance behind the camera as half the crew was female on production. “When producer, Jon Ornoy, brought me onto the project, he said it was really important to him that we have equal gender representation on the crew.” Shannon explained, “That was the first time I’d heard a producer say that. We set that as our goal and we were so happy to see that it was accomplished.”
Coming out of the crowdfunding stage I asked Shannon what production on the film was like? “Pre-production and production were challenging but went really well. This was an indie feature so we didn’t have a studio backing us. It was also a really small budget so we couldn’t afford to throw money at problems.” she explained, “We had to find creative solutions which didn’t cost anything. Our producer, Jon Ornoy, especially did whatever it took so we could continue filming. All of the crew were volunteering their time. It was the busiest time on record in Vancouver and people were choosing to come work for free on our production because they believed in the project. It was really humbling seeing so many people come together to make this film.”
A naturally funny, charming and feminist story that is not only an absolute joy to watch but important for todays society; All Joking Aside is one you’re gonna want to see. So luckily you can! Between October 25th and 29th rent and watch All Joking Aside at your own convenience for $5 with 100% of proceeds going directly to the non-profit organisation StandUpGirls! Then tune in on the 29th at 7:30pm EST, to an exclusive live Zoom Q&A with members of our cast and crew, a female comedian, and some of the girls who have gone through the program, moderated by comedian Judy Gold.