‘Ghost Ghirls’ Is Web Video’s New Gold Standard in Comedy
From 2008 and on, Yahoo has had a rough go of it. Since rejecting a Microsoft buyout five years ago, the tech company has had a cycling roster of CEOs and high-level executives. In 2009, Carol Bartz replaced longtime CEO Jerry Yang, which proved to be a good fit until 2011 when Bartz was removed from office by Yahoo chairman Roy Bostock. Bartz was replaced by CFO Tim Morse, who acted as an interim CEO until Scott Thompson was hired in 2012. Thompson flamed-out a few months later after a false-resume scandal that left many people scratching their heads.
All of this is to say that Yahoo has been traveling down a rocky road lately. It wasn’t until Marissa Mayer was brought on as CEO in late 2012 that the company began shifting in, what seems like, a positive direction. But that doesn’t mean Yahoo is no longer taking high-reward risks; in fact, the company recently bought micro-blogging site Tumblr for a cool billion.
Yahoo also turned Yahoo Screen from a user-generated video site into a web-series portal in 2010. It was a risky move shifting solely into original programming. However, the company’s head of programming and originals, Erin McPherson, had a plan. Speaking with the New York Times in March 2012, McPherson detailed her goal for the types of programming Yahoo Screen would host. Looking to score some comedy points, Yahoo Screen shifted its original content model to host, at first, a variety of humor-related web shows. “We wanted to put a real stake in the ground when it came to internet comedy,” McPherson explained.
When it first launched its new slate of comedy programming, Yahoo courted several veteran comedians including Seth Morris and Alison Becker. However, among its roster of established talent, Yahoo Screen also scouted for new and upcoming comedy actors, writers, and directors.
But that’s what I mean when I say Yahoo is taking “high-reward risks.”
Shifting focus from user-generated content to programming premium web shows (with a comedic slant) brought Yahoo Screen the popular, Webby-winning series “Burning Love.” The series, which was created by writer and comedian Erica Oyama, put Yahoo Screen on the board. “Burning Love” was hilarious, innovative, and placed women at the forefront of the male-driven comedy landscape.
Continuing that trend, Yahoo Screen recently released the first season of the supernatural comedy series “Ghost Ghirls.” For the record, yes, “Girls” is spelled “Ghirls” — producer Jack Black said that it just seemed funnier with the extra letter. “Ghost Ghirls” is packed with moments predicated on exactly that same ideal, this concept of “it seemed funny, so we did it.” The web series is as manic as its extra “h” promises it to be. Released “Netflix-style” with every episode made available at once, “Ghost Ghirls” follows two ghost hunters who are really terrible at their jobs. Each episode kicks with a wonderfully subversive play on the cop procedural dramas we all love-hate/hate-love. An early episode of “Ghost Ghirls” plays out like this: “Johns” start dying in a brothel via otherworldly occurrences, stumped, the police force contact the titular ghost ghirls, then things spiral out of control.
During a press conference at San Diego Comic-Con, Black explained that when showrunners Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci approached him with the idea for “Ghost Ghirls,” it was the funniest concept for a show he had heard in a long time. Black explains the genesis of the show, saying, “basically the evolution of it is Jeremy fell in love with these girls who were very creative and hilarious.They went ahead and shot the pilot episode of ‘Ghost Ghirls’ with the crew from ‘Drunk History.’” The “Jeremy” Black is referring to is Jeremy Konner, director of Funny or Die’s “Drunk History.” It’s safe to say that “Ghost Ghirls,” backed by production from Black and helmed by an all-star comedy director, could do little but succeed.
But this isn’t a Black or Konner story, “Ghost Ghirls” is every bit a product of Blasucci and Lund. Blasucci explained that she and Lund created the show because they both loved the paranormal. “We had kicked around this idea of us playing a couple of paranormal investigators,” Blasucci says. “So, when Jeremy decided that we should work together, we thought this is probably the best option because there’s so much comedy to be had with putting two fools, basically, into this world of life and death.” Referring to ghost-hunting shows on TV, Blassuci says: “It’s just part of our culture right now, so we just thought it would be really fun.”
Since its release, “Ghost Ghirls” has been hailed as a success. Among Yahoo Screen’s slate of fall comedy programming, the series seems to have received the most critical praise for both its comedic quality and star-backed production. Hearing Lund, Blasucci, and Black speak, it’s hard not to understand how this show manages to be so funny. The three creators are in harmony even while running through the gauntlet of press junkets, in which I saw journalists ask Black if he believed in ghosts no less than a million times.
But unimaginative questioning won’t keep the “Ghost Ghirls” crew down, they speak to one another in perfectly timed comedic beats. Black asks the duo if they play any music, to which, without missing a beat, Blasucci responds: “Yes, I have a MySpace page with some of my tunes and Amanda plays the clarinet. I don’t have a band. I wish I had a band.”
And what better place for a group of very talented comedy writers, actors, and directors to release their product than online? Shows like “House of Cards” and “Burning Love” have proven that web content can and should win awards. Web shows are no longer boxed into the amateur category, a place where content that isn’t good enough for television goes to die. No, this is a new wave of content that has Old Hollywood paying attention.
So what are Black, Blasucci, and Lund’s hopes for this award season? Black, when asked if he sees “Ghost Ghirls” getting Emmy-worthy critical acclaim, says, “I do envision us getting an Emmy now that you mention it. I hadn’t until you mentioned it, but right then, when you mentioned it, I started to think about what my speech would be and I realized I wouldn’t be making a speech. That would probably be the girls.” Jokingly, Lund follows up: “I am 100% positive that we will be nominated.”
Sure, it’s a joke now, but the truth is that “Ghost Ghirls” is a refreshing web series unlike anything online right now. At this point, Emmys really don’t seem that crazy.
Please join VideoInk on our latest Special Issue, this time covering comedy content on the web. Come back this week to check out profiles on some of the top online comedy networks, producers, web series, and YouTube creators. We hope you enjoy.