The Smartlys is scheduled to hit Tubi in August and today we can share an interview with Shelley Smartly and Floyd Strayer ahead of the launch.
What an entertaining series you have. Are you excited and a little nervous to start receiving feedback?
Our mission is to spread joy throughout the world, so we’re delighted you found THE SMARTLYS comedy series entertaining!
We’ve been overjoyed by the open arms we’ve received from film fests, critics, and viewers.
In our first month, we won five international film awards, for Best Web/TV Series, Comedy, Script, and Unique Concept – plus we were the overall Winner of one fest.
I’m a 73-year-old arthritic, widowed, new actress and filmmaker. Floyd and I made Season 1 on the dregs of my Social Security check at the height of the global pandemic. Our ensemble cast from the U.S. and Canada self-filmed with iPhones and green screens.
Despite all this, our first critic review said we were “strangely charming” even funnier than The Rock in Jungle Cruise — which was a $200 million Disney production!
How and when did you decide to play an exaggerated version of yourself?
We chose a hyper-campy acting style for the series to amplify the humor in our fast-paced and colorful scenes. Also, since half our cast, including me and Eric, are amateurs, the style compensates for the shortcomings that would be revealed in more serious works.
We filled the most dramatic parts with professional actors, such as Dan McLellan. As Fetch, he morphs from a depressed alcoholic into a sober and irritatingly chirpy Rob Lowe in just one season.
Jim Winkler, as my ever-present but benign stalker, drew upon a lifetime of theater experience for show-stopping performances!
When did your journey begin on this project?
My late husband had a lung transplant in 2010 and passed away from leukemia in 2014. I craved laughter, so two weeks later, I dubbed myself a “professional audience member” and started going to stand-up comedy, nearly every night.
After I became a stand-up comedian at age 69, which was the antithesis of my serious, quiet, geeky self. Then an open mic host complained that my natural Minnesota accent was horrible and that I sounded like a “psychotic f*g robot.”
In desperation, I sought out voice and acting coach, Bettina Devin. She said my accent was fine but suggested ways to improve my stand-up. Upon viewing my next tape, she exclaimed that I was “the next Roseanne!”
That startling vote of confidence helped me discover a knack for sketch comedy. By year end, the first sizzle clip of THE SMARTLYS was done.
Would you say the script, or even the direction, was influenced by other series?
My inspiration was to bring back classic comedy duos in a sitcom, but with a smartly twist.
THE SMARTLYS has undertones of Abbott and Costello; George Burns and Gracie Allen; Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman; Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz; the Smothers Brothers; Robin Williams and Pam Dawber; Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke; Jon Lithgow and Jane Curtin; and so on.
Our duos are primarily me and Eric; Dominic and Floyd Strayer; Allison Price and Dan McLellan; Quonta Beasley and Tommy Lucero; and Jim Winkler and Melvin Powell.
Did you look at some of those similar shows before the shoot?
They were burned into my heart since childhood. I wanted to reinvigorate comedy, pulling from its roots, where writing and performance took center stage, rather than the sets, costumes, and special effects.
For months, Floyd graciously tolerated me insisting I didn’t want any backgrounds, because if our script wasn’t funny, fancy settings wouldn’t make it any funnier.
How have you coped, as an actor and filmmaker, during this pandemic?
In 2019, we filmed a Pilot with our ensemble cast in front of a live audience in a senior’s complex. We’d just started pitching it when the first Covid wave hit, so we shut down.
Was the series affected at all by it?
Incredibly, the pandemic was the ideal incubator for our series.
Out of boredom — which for me is the surest path to creativity — I began writing a few silly sketches for me and Eric. Then Floyd’s grandson Dominic came to town, so I wrote some skits for them, and before we knew it, we had ten minutes of footage.
Floyd said we could film remotely and combine actors digitally, so I began weaving our goofy skits into another Pilot. Then I closed the nonprofit agency that I’d founded several decades ago, and began writing Season 1 in earnest.
Can you tell us when and where we’ll be able to see it?
Season 1 of THE SMARTLYS comedy series will be streaming free on Tubi and Plex TV in August 2022.