Desperate Houseboys is a new live show by the American comedy duo Jeffrey Self and Cole Escola – best known for their viral videos as the VGL (Very Good Looking) Gay Boys. Created specifically for the 2014 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, it imagines the hilarious antics of the pair after they accidentally end up in Australia. Self spoke to The BRAG about TV, live shows, YouTube and how eagerly he’s anticipating his first visit to Australia (“making out with really attractive Australian boys would be my number one goal in my trip”, he quips).
“The show is about the two of us waking up from a crazy night, not knowing where we are and retracing our steps to figure out that we’re in Sydney, Australia, and deciding to try and stay so that we can pull a reverse Cate Blanchett and become famous in Australia for our exotic American sensibility”, explains Self. “The show is very much the same aesthetic as the YouTube videos – it’s just an hour long live show”.
VGL Gay Boys arose after Self and Escola met through mutual friends, though these videos were a spontaneous offshoot of their original work together. “One day we sat down to try and write a play or something, and we tried to write this terrible, terrible script about Britney Spears – we were really obsessed with her public meltdown”, Self revealed. “We started making YouTube videos while we were doing that and it took on its own little life. The reason we started doing that was to amuse ourselves, to distract ourselves from getting anything else done, and they had a little following and we went with it…It happened randomly and organically, we didn’t try to do a viral video – it was before viral was such a common thing – people were making YouTube videos, for sure, but there wasn’t anything to go and copy”. The VGL Gay Boys caught the attention of the cable Logo, who aired their sketch comedy series Jeffrey & Cole Casserole from 2009 to 2010.
So, what inspires the duo? “I love when our sketches are based on something that’s actually happening and we take it beyond the reality of what it actually is”, says Self. “We both grew up loving the character actresses of the ’80s and ’90s, like Lily Tomlin, Bette Midler, Shelley Long and Shelley Duvall, and so even if it’s just from a fan boy point of view, we really try to bring the zing of ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s comedy to what we do. In our minds we’re always in Outrageous Fortunes, withBette Midler and Shelley Long.” He also singles out the filmmaker John Waters as a strong influence. “What’s great about the John Waters movies is he’s sort of like ‘here’s the reality, enjoy!’ – he gets to make the rules. I think that’s what we strive to do in what we make – to create a little world which is Jeffrey and Cole’s version of the world – and by Jeffrey and Cole I mean the versions of ourselves we play, and not being weird and talking about ourselves in the third person.”
Desperate Houseboys follows a run of live shows in New York and Los Angeles, where Self and Escola reunited after several years working on their own acting and writing projects. Self advises that the Sydney audience can “expect a really bizarre, funny, moderately sexy good time. Our shows, we always describe them as like a sitcom, like 1960s, ‘70s buddy sitcoms, like Laverne and Shirley on acid – it’s a really insane view of the world in a pretty traditional format of a sitcom.”