A week ago I reviewed a wonderful web series called Good Cop Great Cop. I was interested to see how such a great and criminally underrated (seriously, check it out) sketch show gets made, so I got in touch with Charlie Hankin, who along with Matt Porter, writes and directs the show. I started off by asking about the genesis of Good Cop Great Cop.
GN: Did you and Matt know each other for a while before Good Cop Great Cop? How did the show come about?
CH: We were randomly assigned to be roommates our freshman year at NYU. After spending the first few weeks swapping comedic influences, we soon started making videos. By the time college had ended, we had made 5 episodes of a long-form sitcom and 3 episodes of a late-night variety show set in a Brooklyn apartment.
After we graduated, we parted ways a little bit. Matt had taken a job teaching film at his old high school (which he loved) and I had started taking painting seriously. Both of these tend to eat up time and slow one’s output, so once Matt left his teaching job, the idea of putting out a video a week and building a real body of work became very appealing. We made our first Good Cop Great Cop sketch in October of 2011.
GN: You seem to have a pretty large group of regular actors on the show, which gives it a really professional feel. Are they all people you’ve worked with before, did there have to be a casting process for any of the sketches?
MP: For the most part, the actors are just friends of ours with backgrounds in acting or comedy. Many of our actors, like Joel Weidl and Eugene Oh, came through the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre here in New York; others, like Drew Lewis and Alexey Novikov are old friends of Matt’s (he grew up just outside of New York), and they in turn have brought other actors from their community into the fold.
GN: What’s a typical Good Cop Great Cop writing session like?
CH: We are roommates, and have known each other long enough at this point to feel comfortable babbling nonsense around each other. Most of our ideas come from some tiny piece of riffing Matt and I do, or a weird tangent from a conversation over breakfast, or whatever. This will provide the seed for an idea which we can hash out more completely in a writing session. We can ask ourselves, “What makes this germ of an idea funny?” and develop that into a universe, characters, and dialogue. Because we strive for fast turnaround, the second it seems like the idea is complete, Matt and I usually split off to separately tackle writing the script, figuring out logistics, and beginning the process of art direction and prop-making.
GN: Your sketches are all pretty original, but which shows would you say are your biggest influences?
MP: Thanks! When we first met, we bonded pretty quickly over Stella, a comedy trio based here in New York comprising former members of MTV’s The State. Going back even further, to middle school, we were separately influenced by Monty Python and The Kids in the Hall. Aside from sketch, we’re both pretty big standup nerds. We’re addicted to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.
GN: What sketch or sketches are you most proud of from Good Cop Great Cop?
CH: I’m proud of a lot of the decisions we’ve made that seem to be outside of the norm for comedy videos. We’ve cast our dads to play ourselves not once, but twice. We’ve cast children. We’ve built puppets. If I had to pick one sketch to represent us at our most ambitious, it would be Intro; it had a huge cast, and we got a real horse.
CH: We really do try to put a video out every week, but sometimes it’s just not feasible. This summer in particular has been tough because Matt and I went on separate vacations at different times. So the hiatus was accidental. We recently had a week or so of both being in New York, so we shot two sketches which we’ll be releasing as soon as possible.
GN: Speaking of “Roommate” – just how claustrophobic was it filming in that uncomfortably tiny room? Have there been any particularly strange or difficult shoots? Any especially fun ones?
CH: That tiny room was actually a piece of movie magic. I built and painted a foamcore “wall” in our living room. We needed a few extra pairs of hands on set to hold it up while we were acting on the other side of it. So it wasn’t as claustrophobic as you might imagine, but it was definitely weird.
I have a good time shooting basically all of these. The costumes in Storm (handmade by Tara Perry) and the wind special effect at the end made it especially fun. Occasionally some outside force will make life a little bit difficult, but it’s rare. We got turned down by a few salons while we were scouting for Science. We filmed Larry right in our neighborhood, and saw a bunch of dudes with guns walking around right as we wrapped up.
GN: And finally, why the name Good Cop Great Cop?
CH: We wanted something that was goofy enough for people to remember it, but didn’t actually mean a whole lot. A close runner-up was “Types of Candles,” which I still love. In the end, I think the body of work has been successful in evacuating the meaning of the words “Good Cop Great Cop.” Nearly sixty episodes in, we’ve only shown four law-enforcement officers, two of whom have been hand puppets.
If you still haven’t got the fact that you really need to watch this show, go and check out their YouTube channel here or their website here. If you need me I’ll be sitting at my computer waiting for those two new sketches Charlie Hankin and Matt Porter have promised.