Jack in the Box [Prologue]

When I joined Subtle Water about a month ago, it was my way of moving away from being in front of the camera, after having occupied much of UTM/TV’s visual landscape in the last two years. I looked forward to just writing again; that freedom to just sit alone and stare at a blank piece of paper or a dimly lit computer screen, away from the pressure to take that written word and have it be performed, and away from the glare of an audience (what audience?).

I’m not sure what it is about the written word versus the spoken word, that makes the former so much more personal than the latter. They’re both on display for the world, but I feel as though I’m not entitled to explain my written work. For some reason, I allow those words to remain on the page and have other people examine it without the need to justify its creation. With video, I find myself donning multiple hats (a daunting and awkward task when one wears a turban) and defending the piece. As a director, I’ll find myself speaking to a shot choice, or a particular take; and as a writer, I’m constantly trying to explain why I wrote what was said and what it means. But when it’s just written, I find myself taking a vow of silence. I don’t care what people think about the work, nor do I necessarily feel the need to point out every little detail, parallel, metaphor, pop culture reference, etc.

It’s almost as if I think you should be smart enough to read the work and make up your own mind about it, but visually, I think you’re stupid and blind, and that I need to guide you. I assure you, such is not the case. If anything, I’m stupid and blind and need help guiding myself into getting myself across to the audience. I guess that’s precisely my [convoluted] point. The answer to “what audience?” is a simple one: me. I am my biggest fan, and by extension, my largest audience. When I write, I don’t need to explain anything, because they’re my words, coming from my mind, onto my page, to and for me. When I’m in front of the camera, they’re my words, coming from my mind, but the difference lies in the method of conveying them. No longer is it a piece solely under my control. There are actors, and there is a crew, and they are just as responsible for carrying that piece forward as I am. No longer does the excuse, “I’m just a writer” hold any [subtle] water.

This brings me to this particular blog post, and the work that I’m prologue-ing. I found writing again, but I also found myself back in front of the camera, for one final curtain call. Like everything else I’ve done in the past, Jack in the Box is yet another example of examining myself on camera (there’s a joke here). What differentiates this from the previous content is that I believe it goes deeper, to a level I’ve perhaps always wanted to explore/reach, but never found the time or ability to do so. It’s the last part in a carefully unplanned trilogy—the third layer if you will—after having witnessed my observations in both a sketch comedy show (“reel” life), and a podcast (“real” life). This new show is real life (no quotation marks).

We’re no longer actors portraying parts, and we’re definitely no longer over the top versions of ourselves. You’ll wonder: well, what about those sketches in the middle? Those are pretty absurd and out there, and have no bearing on your real life whatsoever. You’d be right; they don’t, and they’re totally staged. But unlike my previous attempts at sketch comedy, these weren’t so much written as sketches, but as little vignettes to bridge the narrative together. So no, I’ve never encountered a Holocaust denier in an elevator, and Joe has never had an affair with said elevator (at least not that I know of), but I also no longer treat such occurrences as jokes, or sketches, or even comedy. It’s just life. It’s as if the “reel” and “real” life came out of the screen, Last Action Hero style, and just took a look around. It’s not whimsical, and the absurd is most definitely not amusing, but awfully awkward.

The show was always written as only a few episodes, so nothing further has been planed. My time at summer school is winding down, so I suppose Jack will no longer be in that particular “the Box” anymore. However, sketch ideas are infinite, as are the daily occurrences of my life and overall thought process. Painfully self aware at every turn, I hope you enjoy these episodes. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I mean, does anyone really want to see Jack in the workplace, or at home, further interacting with others?

I’ll leave you with a quote, that has come to define probably the last two years of my life, and will no doubt continue to haunt/humor me as I move forward:

It’s like we installed meta in our meta, and when we go deeper, there’s a Pandora’s Box of meta filled with meta. And then, we deep-fry it in an eggwash of meta, and toss it into a meta-beer batter. Placing lovingly on a bed of meta, topped with meta. —Joe Caron

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My apologies to the Subtle Water crew, that this had to be our first video.