- Associated Press - Saturday, April 29, 2017

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - “You look like a camo wedding is in your future.”

“You look like John Cusack pretending to be Joan Cusack.”

“You look like you have your own parking space at ‘The Maury Povich Show.’”

As the philosopher said: Oh, snap!

The above examples of humorous insult and politically incorrect character assassination were heard this week during the filming of “You Look Like,” a proposed series from Memphis producer Craig Brewer, working with enough collaborators from the area standup-comedy and filmmaking communities to populate more than a few Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

Launched by local comics Katrina Coleman and Tommy Oler in 2015 on June 6 (in this case, the “D” in D-Day may suggest Don Rickles), the “You Look Like” comedy show takes place at the P&H; Cafe at 1532 Madison on the third Saturday of every month.

The show has an ingeniously simple premise: A pair of onstage performers compete by trading comic insults, with the sound of the audience’s applause determining the winner. The jabs belong to the gleefully offensive traditions of the street game, “playing the dozens”; the televised “roasts” that continue to earn big ratings on Comedy Central; and the rap “battles” introduced to mainstream moviegoers by Eminem in “8 Mile.” Typically, the slander is inspired by an opponent’s race, sex or appearance. “You look like a wax sculpture of Katy Perry that was left in the car.” ”You look like the top of Aaron Neville’s mole.”

“This goes back to being in high school,” said Brad Sativa, 33, a husky black Nashville comic who earned a “You look like your Twitter handle is ‘Urban Seth Rogen’” jab Tuesday night. “Riding in the bus, football practice - everyone was a clown all the time,” he said.

A Memphis-based filmmaker whose feature films include the Oscar-winning “Hustle & Flow” (2005) and who lately has directed several episodes of “Empire,” Brewer, 45, said he first encountered the “You Look Like” comedy show when he attended the Memphis Comedy Festival in 2015.

“I never felt more like I was inside some new emerging scene that I didn’t know anything about,” he said.

Investigating further, he decided the comedy show would be ideal for one of the many streaming services hungry for “content” for their “digital platforms,” from Netflix and Hulu and Amazon to the many lesser-known companies also competing for audience eyes. An added attraction was that the P&H; is prominently featured in Brewer’s first feature, 2000’s “The Poor & Hungry,” so a project based at the Midtown bar would be something of a homecoming.

In 2009, Brewer wrote and directed the serialized fact-meets-fiction drama-with-music program “$5 Cover” for MTV and its website; he also was a producer on the locally made horror movie “Savage County,” originally designed as a “webisode” series for MTV by David Harris, a producer at the time with MTV New Media. Realized before smart phones and portable streaming devices were ubiquitous, those projects arguably were ahead of their time. In any case, Brewer brought the “You Look Like” idea to Harris, who now is a vice president of development for Los Angeles-based Gunpowder & Sky, a new “digital-first” production company co-founded by former MTV Networks president and Viacom executive Van Toffler, who was instrumental in creating MTV Films, the division that purchased “Hustle & Flow” with Viacom partner Paramount at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

“We’re looking for content that’s young and loud,” Harris said. As a result, Gunpowder & Sky is the financing studio for “You Look Like,” while Brewer’s BR2 Productions is the production company organizing and shooting the show, with longtime Brewer collaborators Erin Freeman and Morgan Jon Fox as producers, Edward Valibus as editor and Brewer as executive producer. The onstage “roast master” is the local comic known as Tutweezy; if you haven’t heard of him, he doesn’t mind, because other people have: He has 350,000 Instagram followers.

Shooting on “You Look Like” occurred Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at P&H;, which received a bit of an upgrade from production designer Darian Corley and the BR2 team. The old streetside sign was repainted for the first time in decades; atmospheric Christmas-type lights were strung across the low ceiling of the dark bar; and a movie fog machine pumped out a low level of mist to add photogenic texture and a cinematic “grain” to the otherwise smoke-free air, which was photographed with digital clarity by a team of four camera operators, led by director of photography Sarah Fleming.

About 20 entertainers and 16 local crew people are working on the project, which will result in ten episodes, each containing a bite-sized 10 minutes of often rapid-fire mutual skewering. “You look like The CW’s idea of a teenager.” ”You look like you’d yell at me for having too many items in the express lane.”

Slender white comic Carlie Lawrence was told: “You look like your shampoo bottle says rinse, cartwheel, repeat.” Brad Sativa heard: “You look like if the Temptations were from Orange Mound.” Bearded white dude Charley McMullen learned: “You look like Mumford and stepson.”

In the back of the bar, after each onstage battle, it was evident that the no-holds-barred disrespect was accompanied by no hard feelings, as comics who had heaped verbal abuse on each other shared beer tabs instead of scorn.

Harris, 40, said the appetite for mutually punishing invective demonstrated by the young comics contradicted “the mythology that this is a generation of snowflakes. It’s insult comedy, but everybody’s punching. There’s all the satisfaction of a roast, but it’s weirdly empowering.” Harris said Gunpowder & Sky hopes to make a distribution deal for “You Look Like” in the near future.

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com


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