Joining me today is Erika Cervantes, CEO and Founder of the YouTube channel, Comediva.
Welcome, Erika! For starters, please tell us a bit about you, your videos, and where people can find you on the internet.
So how does something like this get started? A bunch of friends brainstorming around the Catan table or a more professional decision to fill a particular void?
A little bit of both, actually 🙂 I had this vision of creating a place for funnygirls with Comediva.com, but early meetings were about having my funnygirl friends over and seeing what they thought about evil plan for comedic world domination. Two of those friends were Emily McGregor and Linda Yvette Chavez, who have been there since day 1, and are still by my side today.
Is the same creative team behind all your videos?
For the most part, yes. Most of our videos are written by the Comediva family (Em, Lin, me, BAMF Girls Club creator Vickie Toro, our manslave/my hubby Luis Navarro). Em has done an amazing job directing almost every single one of our hundreds of videos (except for Lesbros, which I directed). And then Lin and I have produced/exec produced all of our videos. Suzy Pasqualetto also now produces all our videos since we’ve gotten busier, and she’s doing an amazing job.
There are some exceptions — Em and America Young created Geek Therapy together, and Eric Collin Campbell wrote most of the eps. And Ari and Emma is a sketch show we picked up from the girls (they’re in NY, we’re in LA), because we just love them and wanted them to be a part of our channel.
But there’s a cohesiveness in the Comediva voice because we’re all guiding it in this smart, unique, hilarious, empowering direction, no matter what.
Your videos are a far cry from the sort of thing most people make in the backyard with the family camera. How did you start gathering the kind of talent necessary to produce such high quality videos?
Aww, thanks, we try. We’re all filmmakers, and want to keep growing as filmmakers, so production value is important to us. There can sometimes be this attitude out there of “hey, it doesn’t matter, it’s the internet,” but to us, everything we put out there represents us as filmmakers, and we really don’t want it to suck.
How long does it take for you to produce a typical episode from script to screen?
It depends a lot on the show… BAMF Girls Club is a lot more work to develop because it has so many characters, and people love those characters, so we want to do them justice. Some of our simpler shows like Lesbros or #NakedProblems can go from script to screen in 2-3 weeks. We used to be a lot crazier — there were times we’d have a sketch idea on a Monday and shoot it by Friday, release it the following Monday. But working like that was really hard for us, because we do really care about production value, and we wore ourselves thin with our perfectionism. Now, we tend to try to work smarter, shoot a lot of eps at once, and then slowly release them.
You manage to both gently mock and deeply respect many geeky things. Your Geek Therapy is probably the best example since you’re addressing many of the “darker” aspects of the lifestyle. How do you go about finding that balance?
“Gently mock and deeply respect” — I like that! I think that’s exactly what we try to do. With Geek Therapy, from the beginning, America was really determined to make sure we were not gonna offend the geek community, but rather embrace the things about being a geek that are just really funny and weird. The first few eps are really aspirational — her clients are people that WISH they could be geeks, but don’t have the chops. I think when you watch that show, you can tell that a non-geek couldn’t possibly have written it. Our shows are done with so much love and detail that you can tell we’re part of the community, not outside of it.
And we never create something that we don’t understand. If an idea comes up, it’s like, “who’s most passionate about this? Who can do it justice?” Like with BAMF Girls Club — Luis and I are the big Walking Dead fans — we’ve read all the graphic novels and watched the show, so everyone comes to us with Michonne questions. Lin’s a giant Doctor Who fan, which is why our Doctor Who ep of BAMF was so jampacked with references and quirks. Vickie is one of the biggest Potterheads you’ll ever meet, hence Hermione’s prominence in the show. So ultimately, our goal is always to pack in references and character moments that’ll get die-hard fans excited, but make sure we’re always telling a good story that will be accessible to anyone.
It comes down to the fact that all of us love and want to protect these characters, since we know fans have such strong attachments to them, but at the same time, the BAMF world is evolving in its own way, and it needs to. Our Lisbeth has less and less to do with the original character, but she’s absolutely hilarious. Bella opens jars now. Big things are happening, people!
There’re also whole other storylines evolving in the comic on the site, which we write and Maja Sukeile draws.
When you set out to actually embody iconic characters in shows like the BAMF Girls Club, how much of the portrayal comes from the director and writers, and how much comes from the actors?
It’s hard to dissect, because it’s really a team effort. We each take episodes and write them, then we do a readthrough with all the writers, and everyone punches them up together. Then Em does a rehearsal with the actors, and at that point, they bring up new ideas or any questions about the portrayal of their characters. We go back and integrate any last changes into the scripts, and then on set, we have to shoot pretty fast, but there are always little improv moments that come up, too. Amanda Troop, who plays Hermione, is especially notorious for doing one of her confessional lines, and then she’ll just keep going and going and cracking us up, and sometimes it’s hard to choose where to cut in the episode.
We’re all just so passionate about this show, so we really want each episode to be incredibly funny and satisfying.
Throughout your shows, there’s a real love of what are commonly known as a “strong female characters.” Does this simply come from a love of those types of characters or from a desire to add your voice to the current conversations?
Our mission from the beginning has been to produce great comedy for women, but also to increase the presence of women in comedy. Part of that means strong female creators behind the scenes, and strong female characters onscreen. We love to see a woman kick ass, and we love to see a woman get to be hilarious. We also love to empower female voices. I think it also comes down to wanting to create characters that girls can look up to. The words we keep coming back to are smart, unique, hilarious, and empowered. We want all of our characters and shows to have those qualities.
You’re basically producing quality mini movies and posting them up for free. Is there a way for people to pitch in and help support you all either through donations or publicity?
Thanks for asking! Honestly, the best thing anyone can do is just share our stuff. Share it with someone that you know will love it and become a Comediva for life. More than anything, we want more people to see it! We crowdfunded a little bit for BAMF Girls Club, and our fans were majorly supportive, but we aren’t planning any major fundraising campaigns right now. We may in the future for the right projects, but in the meantime, if someone wanted to pick up a BAMF shirt or something, we wouldn’t be madatcha 😉
What can we expect to be seeing from Comediva in the next few months?
Ooh, so much exciting stuff in the works! We have a few more episodes of Ari and Emma, so get ‘em while they’re hot.
We just launched our new show, #NakedProblems, with Michelle Glavan and Sujata Day.
New BAMF Girls Club episodes monthly.
And something I’m really excited about is that we have a couple sketches and parodies releasing over the next couple months that I think people will love. Stay tuned for those!
Plus, we have a few bigger projects that will be releasing on other platforms that we’ll be announcing in a few months. Such an exciting time!
And my standard random question: what color lightsaber would you have?
Comediva purple, of course 😉 Mace Windu would be so proud.