Kate VanDevender and Laura Murphy jokingly refer to themselves as the Amy Poehler and Tina Fey of the internet. But the comparison isn't far off.
Yes, one half of the duo is blonde and the other brunette, but they are also multi-hyphenates who write, produce and direct — and they embrace their nerdy sides ("In my spare time I love to code," VanDevender says). And they often write comedy aimed at demographics outside their own.
VanDevender and Murphy are the showrunner and director, respectively, of Part Timers, an original scripted series from YouTube and digital content producer Defy Media.
The workplace comedy, which premiered in January, is set at Pork E. Pine's, a takeoff of Chuck E. Cheese's. It stars Smosh, another a internet duo — this one made up of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, whose 2 YouTube sketch-comedy channel boasts more than 20 million subscribers 2 and more than 5 billion views.
That the key demo for Part Timers is 14-year-old boys doesn't faze VanDevender or Murphy. "A good writer can write to the audience," Murphy explains. "Just because I'm female, it doesn't mean I can't write something that males would find funny."
With its set tucked away in a strip mall north of Los Angeles, Part Timers employs a cast and crew evenly comprised of men and women, including a split writers' room.
"There have always been funny women," Murphy continues. "It's just that now it's becoming cool. Which is great, because it's been cool to be a white dude for like, hundreds and hundreds of years. So I'm excited that we're on trend right now."
Also on trend are high-quality streaming shows that appeal not only to the people who watch them, but also those who make them. "I really enjoy the freedom of digital space," VanDevender says. "This is an opportunity to create a system where the executive side and the creative side can work together for a common vision."
Even hearing a no from the executive side is more welcome, because, according to Murphy, "It's a logistical no, not a creative no. That's what's fun about the digital world, the willingness to take risks."
"I think that's where television is going," VanDevender states. "We're kind of watching the fall of the network empire. This is the new frontier."
"Except for the show Empire, which is not falling," Murphy quips. "Empire on network TV is doing fine, but the network empire is struggling."
Whom do they admire professionally? They name Poehler and Fey, as well as director Gail Mancuso, a two-time Emmy winner for Modern Family.
Mancuso recently visited the set with Part Timers' coexecutive producer Susan Nessanbaum-Goldberg, who, like her colleagues, places entertainment value above age and gender concerns. "It's not hard to work outside of the demographic when you know that Smosh is popular," she says. "People want to see what they're going to do next."
And speaking of Smosh, she adds: "The boys are collaborative and sharp. They want to serve their demo, but they also want to grow it."
Identifying how that growth can happen, Murphy explains, "There are nuances within comedy that each gender can identify with, but funny is funny — it's gender neutral."
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