Nick Boshier knows quite a bit about crafting comedy for the millennial generation, cutting his comedic teeth in the flourishing days of YouTube with the viral surprise Trent from Punchy.
The mock-reality satire which hit YouTube in 2008 has since clocked 8.6 million views. Boshier and his co-conspirator on Trent, Anthony MacFarlane, then partnered with Jarod Green to create animated phenomenon Beached Az via their production entity The Handsomity Institute.
That was ten years ago and the crudely drawn, philosophical, Kiwi-accented whale and his seagull friend have since been reanimated to take on ocean health and sustainability in a new ten-part series, Beached Aziversary, for YouTube.
“Ten years is a unique denomination; it’s an anchor of some description and it holds significance. But when we first discussed the ten year Aziversary thing internally we questioned, why the dickens are we doing it?,” Boshier tells IF.
When the team devised that the new hook would be to frame the series around sustainability, they found the purpose to its resurrection. “We chose that, not because we wanted to be virtuous or zeitgeisty but because it fit and felt right. When we found that perspective and view for doing it for sustainability and the environment, it spawned the development of the new show.”
The ABC, who championed the rise of the original launch of Beached Az and helped pioneer the idea of short-form for broadcast television, could not commit as backers for the anniversary re-boot given the team planned partnership deals. “We owe so much to the ABC in terms of what they did for that series and our careers as we were interested in working with them again. But we were also interested in branded opportunities around the new series that the ABC could not be commercially tethered to.”
Screen Australia provided funding for The Robot Army-produced series. As part of the re-boot, the team will be launching a beer range, Beached AZ Brew in partnership with Sydney based brewery Modus Operandi. A significant percentage of profits being devoted to environmental clean-up charities. A mobile game ‘Bleached Az’ has also been developed in partnership with Chaos Theory Games and will launch in conjunction with the series. The free mobile game available on iPhone and Android will devote 20 per cent of ad revenue to planting trees with Carbon Neutral.
A 12-part documentary series, Teached Az, directed by Green, has also been launched. Hosted by a climate-change-denying Seagull (MacFarlane), the series features interviews with leading marine experts and conservation organisations, including Greenpeace, WWF Australia, Sea Shepherd, Taronga Zoological Society, The Wilderness Society, the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Take 3 for the Sea, University of NSW, Macquarie University and The University of Sydney.
The success of the original series was amplified by the premise that it was a cartoon that held appeal across most demographics. “We didn’t think of intentional demographics this time around; we wanted to make something that we liked that would resonate. It’s not that we set out to be naughty and provocative, but we certainly are in this series, so it’s more built for adults as it stands, but kids seem to be digging it.”
Boshier says there was no secret hack to the original success of the show.
“If something has gone well, like Beached Az or the Bondi Hipsters or Trent from Punchy or Soul Mates, it has all been pretty accidental. I remember at the time thinking that I couldn’t reverse engineer this success, it’s just that we got super lucky.”
Boshier attributes the longevity of Beached Az characters to the natural chemistry of the characters and his collaborators. “It’s true for the Hipsters as well. Christiaan [Van Vuuren] and I are close friends. We actually like each other and we sit in a room trying to make each other chuckle and that’s when it sings. I think that is what helps the communication of the characters. It’s the people I work with and because I work with people I like.”
As much of Boshier’s work in character-driven and intuitively timely, he suspects that he will always defer to online as a creative platform. “If I want to keep creating, the format that will always be available to me will be online. It just means that I can continue to be prolific and not necessarily have to wait for anybody. I don’t defer to it strategically, it’s just that I’m an artist and I need to make stuff and the internet is always available. I have always found that if I make it and I release it online more opportunities come from that.”
Boshier is also behind Nice Shorts, an online project created with former Tonightly writer Jazz Twemlow. The like-minded duo built the short-form skits based on the premise of what Twemlow was trying to achieve on the ABC’s Tonightly show, but have tried to make it more universal. “We both love Australian television but we wanted to make something that felt international, from Australia.”
“I am not mad famous and it’s not like networks are saying ‘Here Bosh, take some cash and go do you.’ I’m not there yet. But with online and the screen bodies, they recognise what we wanted to do and took a mitigated risk. Then we had the permission to do something different that might be too challenging to go on television.”
The 16 x 3-10min series is produced by Bunya Entertainment for weekly release via social platforms. The experimental format was funded by Screen Australia and Screen Queensland and also features an ensemble cast of Nazeem Hussain (Legally Brown), Greta Lee Jackson (Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am), Penny Greenhalgh (The Lost Tapes) and Bjorn Stewart (Get Krackin’, Black Comedy).
Boshier also recently completed work on series two of Rostered On. Created and directed by Ryan Chamley, the comedy set amongst the travails of retail workers, started life as a YouTube viral hit and series one was picked up by Netflix. Series two was commissioned by the Seven Network and screened on 7mate in June. The series produced by Chamley’s Robot Army and Ruby Entertainment was the first narrative comedy commissioned for the network. Discussions are underway with several international platforms for series two global release.
Boshier said he devoted some training to taking on the role of Dan in Rostered On, as it was the first straight character role he had played.
“My inclination is to go gigantic, but to play a relatively straight role was a huge journey. But in the process a learnt a tonne. Whether it’s a comedy or drama if you are authentic and playing to the strength of the text you can oscillate between the two, not easily but you can see the line.”
The experience has piqued his interest into pursuing fully-fledged dramatic roles, and he has approached by several entities in the last six months who would be interested in working with him on such. “I have the interest and I feel like I have the capacity and in short, it is something that I would love to do.”
“Ten years ago I would have never been able to consider myself as an actor. I think it took me five years to actually admit it. Back then I was too apologetic or meek to embrace that moniker and to think that that I would be doing drama ten years ago would be a massive stretch. But now I feel like I can call myself an actor a little bit more; I still feel like an imposter but less so. I feel like I am just at the beginning and listening a bit better now to directors and other writers.”
He is currently working with a group of writers on two shows in the UK and is development on a series for the US market. There is also more work ahead with Van Vuuren and development work on the much anticipated Soul Mates spin-off Kiwi Assassins.
What would the Nick Boshier of today would tell himself when he was creating Beached Az?
“There would be a few kind words of reassurance. I’d tell him its okay to start performing and calling yourself an artist, don’t shy away from that and it’s okay to identify in that manner. Try not to worry so much and maybe don’t try and impress everyone so much. And maybe just do the work.”