I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Dealership: Denny's, Mustaches, and Comedy

by Ben Gray
June 13, 2011
Roger Johnson and Todd Spence are the two creators of the internet TV show, Dealership. It's about - you guessed it - a car dealership. We got them to answer a few questions about the show and just what the deal is with car salesmen anyway.

NAmag: How did Dealership get started? How did you all come together?
RJ: It all began in my bedroom.  Literally.  At 3 o'clock in the morning, on a week night...I guess it started as a dirty joke between friends, but we tried to figure out how to make it work as a short, which has been titled as The Pilot on the main Dealership site.
TS: And then we wrote that up, the first one, in about 30 minutes I think.  Then we met up with Nick Gartner and Sean Gartner (who are also a part of what became the web series) at Denny's in St. Louis, Missouri which is where we're from originally.  We all thought it was pretty funny.  That short sat on the internet for a while, but gained a small following of people that really liked it, so we decided to expand the humor and characters into a web series.  Essentially everyone involved in the web series went to college together, Webster University in St. Louis.  About 1/3 of our group now lives in Los Angeles.

MAmag: A dirty joke? Something about mustaches, I'm guessing?
RJ: The joke was pretty much the premise of the original short. Group of bored men takes employee watching to an extreme level basically. The group being car dealers was a random decision and at one point I remember we talked about switching the locale to a traditional office setting but that was shot down.  Funny note about the mustaches, I have no idea why we decided they'd all be sporting them especially when only two of us can actually grow facial hair. I am not one of them.
TS:  I think the mustaches added a midwestern quality to the characters, which we also based their personalities off of, that laid back characteristic most midwesterners have.

NAmag: Were you guys all doing comedy together out in St. Louis?
RJ: Most of us worked on projects together through the university, and we actually spearheaded the school's enertainment segment portion (now defunct) of the awards program presentation. Basically just an excuse to make a forty-five minute comedy short that we subjected to a sizable crowd who would put up with it because they wanted their shot at winning a fake Oscar figurine or whatever. I want to say that Dealership was the first short that we all did independently as a group but I'm probably lying.
TS: I believe the first was a few 48 Hour Film Festival projects.  Not sure if you've heard of this contest, but I'm pretty sure that was the first.  Although the original Dealership was the first time we did a short without teachers or contests involved.  100% independent and for the sole purpose of making something we thought was funny for ourselves. 
NAmag: Why a car dealership? Do you have a car salesman past?
RJ:  No salesmen past, just experiences.  Car salesmen are kind of...interesting to put it lightly.  It cheats on the characters a little because going into it, you know what kind of characters you're going to get in a way.  Their weakness' as human beings are a great starting point for our type of humor.
TS:  Everyone has had an interesting run in with a car salesmen.  Danny Barton, the guy that plays Otis the mechanic in the show, had something happen to him recently actually where he was looking around for a new car and when one of the salesmen from one lot found out he went to another dealership, he actually called him on the phone and asked him about it.  And that's the type of thing the Barkley in Dealership would do.  No one in any other line of work would do such a bizarre thing like that, so I think that's why the comedy we wanted to make worked so well in a car dealership setting.  But back to Denny's for a moment, have you had their chocolate peanut butter pie?  Out of this world. 

NAmag: No but it sounds like it would be really delicious, especially at 3am while you're writing a comedy sketch. Is that part of your normal writing process or just for special occasions?
RJ:  We each consume a whole pie before sitting down to write. The thrill of barreling towards diabetes really gets the creative juices flowing slowly through our mostly clogged veins.
TS:  Unfortunately, I don't think Dennys offers this genre of pie anymore.  Maybe I can track Denny down on facebook and ask he/she why they decided to ruin all of our lives! But in all seriousness, the last two times I ate at Denny's, I threw up.  Pie withdrawals?  Pie withdrawals.  Luckily now a few years later I'm feeling great, clean and sober.

NAmag: What is the car salesman *thing* anyway? I know there is a thing, but I can't quite put my finger on it. 
RJ: There's really just a base history, almost at a genetic level, that a car salesman is going to lack moral structure. I shouldn't just put this on car salesmen in particular, I think any salesman in a high level sales environment is probably going to seep this vibe of sleaze. Anything to get that sale, man.  Anything.
TS: They tend to have this attitude like they are very important people, God bless'em.  And they are very important in that world.  Yet at the same time, they sit and wait at their desks for literally anything with legs and lungs to come walking by, and pounce like vultures, haha.  I can't blame them, that's what they gotta do to make a living.  But you also have to see the comedy in that.  But also note the vulnerablity that can make them very likeable.  

NAmag: Any tips on dealing with the ridiculous breed of human being that is car salesmen? 
RJ: Kiss them first, to break up the sexual tension.
TS: Yes.  Especially at Barkley Automotive!  That sort of insanity may get you a discount.

Ben is co-Editor of Network Awesome Magazine and a snappy dresser from Boston, MA. He has a few weekly columns in The Weekly Dig, and occasionally shows up to read his poetry at things. He loves raves, pulp literature, online dating, and looking at pictures of robots on the internet. As co-editor of NAmag, he is suddenly very very busy and he loves every minute of it.