Thug Notes is an all original series on Youtube that stars Sparky Sweets (Comedian Greg Edwards), a well read “thug” who spouts off summaries and literary analysis of classic literature using slang that is making its way into popular culture (let’s be honest, it’s all ready there). Think “Cliff Notes” meets “School of Rock” with an Urban Dictionary twist. It’s not clean and Goody Two-Shoes, but what some parents might consider colorful vocabulary, many tweens and teens don’t even bat an eye at as they hear it while walking down their school halls. The slang puts classic literature in a relatable context for today’s youth, and the literature puts slang in a relatable context for old people. Greg was nice enough to grant an interview about how the show came about, and how he landed the roll of Sparky.
“I started standup in 2002,” Greg said. “I did open mics about once or twice a month until 2003 or 2004 when I really started taking it seriously. I lived in the East Bay, and I had to drive into the city (San Francisco) and get a bunch of parking tickets to hit the mics hard. I finally moved into an apartment with two other comedians. It was cheaper than paying all those parking tickets.”
Greg moved to Los Angeles in August of 2010. The first year was a struggle, because, “you get shows by being good in SF, but LA is cutthroat,’ and thanks to hard work and Thug Notes, “Things are going good.”
The show was the idea of Jared Bauer and Jacob Salamon. “They have this production company called “Napkin Notes.” Greg went on to reveal that they did the pilot episode for Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell. While there, they asked around about who would make a good Sparky Sweets for this show they were making called Thug Notes. “They asked Kevin Avery (a writer on Totally Biased, and another SF comedian) who would be good for the part, and he mentioned my name. That’s how I got to audition.”
The shooting schedule is four episodes a day. Each script runs about four, to six pages long and, “we shoot starting at 9am and finish around four. That’s with an hour lunch break too. Mostly I just show up and do my thing, but every now and then I’ll chime in on the script, or what slang to use, you know.” They shoot at someone’s home, or at the producer’s office, always on location.
Greg sometimes gets the script to add in the slang, “but we change it on set a lot too.” Jared handles most of the script writing for the show. “The dud that reads all the books for summary and analysis is this guy in Boston names Joseph Salvaggio. He’s super smart. He’s a PHD.” So Joe sends his notes and breakdowns to Jared, Jared puts it on the page, and Greg adds some of that Sparky flare. After shooting, Jacob does the animations to cut in between the summaries and analysis.
The show didn’t take off right away, though it did come quickly into its own. While it hasn’t blown Greg’s career wide open, it certainly hasn’t hurt it either. “The marketing can be tricky because I swear, so even though it’s educational, it’s not something we can sell to schools. On the other side, we put it in this show called ‘The Web Show Show,’ and there were three judges from cracked-dot-com. The two men judges said it was ‘too educational,’ but the lady judge liked it. The series really started to take off once the ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ episode hit Reddit. They’ve been a super supportive community for it.’
“As for my career, it has helped me out. People like it. It hasn’t helped financially, but people see it, and it might get me a set. It’s great. Every Tuesday I get up to go to work, and see the new episode is up, and I feel good.”
Be sure to check out Thug Notes. It might help, or at least offer relief from that book report. Heck, kids and adults alike might learn some new words too. I’ll leave the final ones with Greg, who wanted to give a “shout-out to all my San Francisco homies, and to Sylvan Productions.”