Besties, Girls, and their Comedic Web Series - Girls Week

By Gabriela Kalter

Chloe Searcy and Zoe Worth of the web series Chloe and Zoe.

After seeing the teaser for Girls on HBO for the first time, I remember feeling overcome with a sense of refreshing excitement. Finally, the often-brash realties of navigating modern life as a young twenty-something female were taking shape in the awkwardly relatable escapades of Hannah Horvath.

Hannah Horvath, played by writer and director Lena Dunham immediately struck a chord with me, evoking an inner sympathy and understanding for her uncomfortable struggles of a shrinking bank account and a fat pinching non-boyfriend. She’s a quirky, plump, Jewish girl who likes to write, dances around in her room listening to Robyn, and stands in front of the refrigerator mindlessly inhaling leftovers.

Dunham’s characters are all notably unique from one another — Marnie is the tight ass to Hannah’s general unkempt self, while Shoshana’s anxiety is countered by Jessa’s free spirit — but, they all speak to personalities that lie within each of us and that’s why viewers feel this broad recognition of themselves in the show.

Lena Dunham’s artistic voice has charmed fans through two seasons of the award-winning series Girls, and while we anxiously await the premiere of season three, there’s a growing hunger for modern compelling characters, relatable dialogue, and authentic storylines. Luckily, the Internet is blossoming with clever projects that satisfy this very hunger. The web-series medium has become a goldmine of female comedy, providing an alternative outlet through which the voices of this generation can relay their tales of growing up.

LA-based web series, Chloe and Zoe, just entered its second season, which premiered on Tuesday, May 7th. The episodes follow the day-to-day tomfoolery and banter of best friends, Chloe and Zoe, as they maneuver the unexpected hurtles of living the post-collegiate, seemingly directionless independent life. Despite many attempts and subsequent failures, the charming nature of their close bond is what keeps these friends on track.

BTR spoke to the creators and stars of the series, Chloe Searcy and Zoe Worth, about the voice of their show and the process of developing such an artistic vision.

“When Zoe and I discuss the show together,” says Chloe, “I would say some of our formative influences are things like Daria, and Ghost World, and buddy movies, or outsider buddy comedies. We even talk about things like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf on the most extreme level of characters who create a world for themselves and make their own rules.”

Both 23-years-old, Chloe and Zoe both moved back to LA after college and connected through a theater company called The Collectin. Zoe and a friend started The Collectin in New York City while attending NYU Tisch for acting. After graduating, they moved the group to LA where Chloe joined them. Having majored in English at Yale, Chloe had been doing a lot of writing. Once back in LA, she went to one of the group’s meetings with a short film she’d been working on, and it generated enough enthusiasm that they began rehearsing and eventually toyed with the idea of turning it into a web series.

It was around January of 2012 that, Chloe tells BTR, “I’d written it in the last few weeks and we started rehearsing it, and [current Chloe and Zoe producer] Charlie said we should make it a web series, which sounded fun, even though I didn’t know anything about that. And so we sort of flew blind the whole first season, not really knowing what a web series was or how to make one.”

Considering the major treading they had to do in the unknown waters of the web series world, it’s more than impressive that the girls are off to a strong second season, one that is proving to be more technically ambitious than the first.

“There’s a little bit fancier camera work,” Chloe says, “more ambitious location work, etc.”

“Meaning there’s camera work at all, or locations at all,” adds Zoe with a laugh.

The creative chemistry between the two is delightfully evident even over the phone, where they complete each other’s thoughts and seamlessly tie their sentences together in a way that only best friends can. There’s something so joyous and indulgent about watching best friends interact in their own particular fashion; a kind of voyeuristic feeling like you’re in on the jokes and included in the close bond of their friendship.

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City.

The same amusing affection exists between best friends Abbi and Ilana on the acclaimed web series, Broad City. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer star in the series about living in the crazy world of New York City and surviving the unavoidable shenanigans that come along the way. Both girls are comedians and alums of the Upright Citizens Brigade, gaining the necessary foundation of connections and comedic chops that have led their show on the path to success.

Having premiered in February of 2010, Abbi and Ilana have been at it for a few years already and are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Broad City was picked up by Comedy Central and is scheduled to premiere as a weekly half-hour show in 2014. Comedy queen and UCB founding member, Amy Poehler, is producing the show and spreading this brand of youthful snarky girl power to the audiences who will undoubtedly eat it up.

Chloe and Zoe are big fans of Abbi and Ilana’s work: “Broad City is something we love. I guess that would be the closest thing to a model we have on the web. We think they’re smart and funny and their show is surrounded on their characters and their comedy and not about getting a bazillion hits.”

The fact is that these artistic endeavors, no matter how innovative or potentially popular, always start out as a major labor of love. Communicating your comedic voice in your own specific style and having fun while doing it has to be the main goal of such projects, because the fun amidst the  production is what needs to come off effectively to the viewers. The ability for that fun to translate is what will keep a person wanting to watch, that’s what will determine the possibility for future success.

“Our following is more of a cult following than a viral hit,” Chloe says. “We’re not really expecting to make any money on the Internet.”

“We’ve already taken a few interesting and exciting meetings about either creating an indie film or making a half hour Chloe and Zoe which is much closer to my goal,” Zoe continues. “We consider ourselves writers and actors and not YouTube personalities. Our hope is to make the jump to a bigger screen and put these characters in a bigger landscape because I think it would be great and hilarious.”

As for the frustrating and unfortunately prevalent statement of comedy being a man’s game, Chloe and Zoe aren’t allowing that kind of garbage interfere with their headspace.

“I’m a little bored with that statement,” says Chloe. “It’s not so biting anymore because it doesn’t really feel true. There is so much female comedy going on, I think the thing that is still difficult is it’s all billed as female comedy and it’s all grouped together.”

“There’s a big difference to me in commerce being a man’s game versus comedy being a man’s game,” adds Zoe. “If you look at Hollywood or filmmaking or television as a business, then there’s an inherent sexism in everything. It’s not really specific to comedy. I agree with Chloe that female comedy doesn’t feel as badass or as big of a triumph.”

Chloe goes on, “It feels limiting to say that female comedy is a success in and of itself. There are already a lot of female comedians and a lot of female comedies that have been successful in being marketed and produced. The challenge and the right way of looking at it- the forward and feminist way of thinking about it is that you just have to be making good comedy.”

“Sort of like being a good doctor or a good teacher,” Zoe concludes.

These two creative forces certainly seem to have a bright and exciting future ahead of them. They know what they’re about and they continue to stay true to that artistic vision. Perhaps comparable to Dunham’s Girls in the cultural lens through which they approach certain situations, Chloe and Zoe is most definitely a modern depiction of how two young twenty-something besties take on the world. What sets them apart from the HBO hit is their deep friendship, which gives them that rapport that is so compelling to watch.

In response to the frequent comparison to Girls, Chloe says: “I mean, I think we both like the show to some degree. And we’ve been compared to it a lot, but we started making our show before Girls premiered, so mostly we try no to think about it when we’re making creative decisions. But, it certainly comes into play in terms of how we market ourselves and how people see us and so we have to acknowledge the comparison. But, I think that we’re kind of a different genre.”

“I feel like Girls is not a thoroughbred comedy and I’d say that “Chloe and Zoe” is certainly a thoroughbred comedy,” says Zoe. “In real life, but also on the show, we’re real friends. My biggest criticism of Girls is that it doesn’t seem like these girls really love each other, and even though Chloe and Zoe are psychotic and have bad qualities hopefully that’s the one thing that kind of penetrates through all that.”

“That’s why something like Ghost World or Daria is something much more in our code than a contemporary comedy like New Girl or Girls– like it’s very much a relationship based project between the two of us and the world we create together,” adds Chloe. “All I really hope is that people can like these characters even though they’re pretty rotten and lazy.”

“And that we can connect to our audience on sort of the darker, bitchier sides of ourselves,” Zoe includes.

“And that they laugh,” Chloe states.

The awkward struggles of navigating your twenties is a time when so much is changing, so much is defining you. You leave the safety of school and adolescence only to enter into the scary life stage of figuring out what it means to be independent. The complications of finding jobs, looking for apartments, and figuring out love are frustrating and frequent.

Maybe the portrayal of this generation’s struggle through different mediums of entertainment is so appealing because there aren’t necessarily any right answers to find or correct paths to take. The modernism of our parents’ childhood is long gone, as are the set of general expectations for the post-collegiate path, so it’s perhaps comforting to watch our contemporaries get lost in the same abyss we are exploring. Watching them figure it out is helpful in believing that we too will figure it all out.

No matter life’s uncertainties, we can be comforted by the fact that there is humor, joy, and awkwardness crawling in every corner of our lives. The ability to channel that perspective, hopefully with a few like-minded buddies, is what will ultimately get us through this period of wander.