Traverse City Record-Eagle

March 22, 2013

Nowhere but up for local comedy group

BY MARTA HEPLER DRAHOS mdrahos@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It was laugh at first sight for members of Falling Down Stairs Productions.

The friends met about 10 years ago at a Northwestern Michigan College theater class and bonded over humor, said co-founder David Graves. In 2011, after Graves returned home from a stint in the Army, they took up where they left off and formed their own comedy sketch group.

“It’s kind of weird; we can make each other laugh at any second,” said Graves, 28, a TV broadcast engineer. “We figured if we could make each other laugh, we should try making others laugh.”

Since then, the group has produced weekly comedy sketch videos for YouTube, learning the craft and building on their technical skills. A new video is uploaded every Friday.

They’ll show some of their favorites at 7 p.m. Friday, March 28, in a pre-open mic comedy show at InsideOut Gallery.

Graves said the videos have been viewed in 82 countries and have created a Falling Down Stairs following of 400 each on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

“We get notes from people: ‘Hey we saw your video. That made me laugh and I really needed it today.’ I think that’s our big motivating force,” he said. “We’ve seen how it’s impacted people. People need to laugh more. It’s important.”

He said they function as their own writers, actors, filmmakers and editors, and borrow props and settings — from apartments to coffee bars — from friends and businesses. Members work on scripts via a Facebook group, then come together from as far away as Frankfort and Marion to film up to six sketches at a time on two no-frills handycams.

The skits, with titles like “Brotats,” “Comic Sans” and “Chic Stuff,” fall in the ratings shades of grey between PG and PG-13, he said. Topics include everything from two “bros” discussing the merits male bonding to a couple at a coffee shop who break up over a font design.

“We try our best to be kind of different, to be awkwardly topical,” said Graves, one of several members of the group who have used their comedy sketch success as a springboard for performing stand-up comedy in the area. “You write what you know. In the real world, we know how our conversations would go.

“The best compliment someone gave me is that we’re kind of relatable. He said, ‘You guys could be somebody’s funny friends.’”

Ashleigh Hanchett joined the group in July, after being invited to perform in a sketch. The self-employed hairdresser is an Old Town Playhouse veteran and got her start in comedy as part of a local improv group called Disturb the Piece.

“There’s a lot of fun, a lot of good working chemistry and a lot of creativity in this group,” said Hanchett, 28, of Traverse City. “As a member of Falling Down Stairs I get to do some writing and directing that I don’t usually get to do at OTP. It’s really nice to create new comedy and to be able to bend it. It allows us to kind of push the envelope.”

The group — also including Jamie and Elizabeth Klueck, Jody and Esther Kluck, Jack Clemente, Craig Golden and Zach and Amanda Kenny — was named after a tumble one took down down some stairs. Graves said he’s already working on a similarly distracting contingency plan in case nobody laughs at next Friday’s InsideOut showing.

“I’m more than a little nervous,” he said. “This is the first time we’ll show our video skits to a roomful of people.”