I thought Portlandia hosted the weirdest comedic chemistry around, until I watched Paula Pell and James Anderson’s new web series Hudson Valley Ballers.
The six-webisode series is presented by Above Average Productions on Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels’ YouTube channel. Pell and Anderson play hyperbolic versions of themselves: “friends for 30 years, we’ve been writing comedy, now we run a bed & brunch in the Hudson Valley.” That’s right, they run a bed & brunch—because they wake up late. The comedy team also play various characters such as creative weirdoes, feminists and old, bitter Broadway performers.
Twitter introduced me to comedy writer Paula Pell, but she’s been making audiences laugh as a writer for NBC’s SNL since 1995. Perhaps, though, you recognize her as Ron Swanson’s mother in NBC’s Parks and Recreation — or, more recently, in the motion picture film Bridesmaids, starring fellow SNL alum Kristen Wiig. However you know her, Pell certainly has proven her writing talent for years alongside her best friend since college, SNL writer James Anderson. The pair is credited for writing several funny, gay-themed sketches.
The short web series is smart and quick — actually, a little too quick. The episodes rarely exceed five minutes. I found myself wanting more of specific sketches because of the hysterical and absurd banter that can only be expressed between two best friends who clearly are always on the same page. Pell and Anderson definitely have an odd yet compelling friendship that deserves further exploration in (I hope) additional episodes.
In my favorite sketch in Episode 3: “Truth Basset,” the pair take turns holding the “truth basset,” also known as Pell’s beagle-basset dog, William, to express their deepest and most honest opinions.
“Okay, James. So you have to be 100 percent honest when you’re holding the beagle- basset,” Paula says to James.
“Paula, I’m just going to say this because I’m holding the basset. Your bottom teeth are like two shades darker than your top teeth,” says James.
“If you use any more botox, you’re going to look like a CPR dummy,” she truthfully retorts.
Actor Paul Rudd and SNL regular Kate McKinnon guest star in Episode 1: Best Friends, and more notably in Episode 6: Lovers. McKinnon plays the girl with whom Paula shares expenses and cats — “she’s just Jamie”—while Rudd plays James’ winter lover, Tampa St. Penis, from the “manhandle.”
“Well, I’m a muralist for Olive Garden and I also do voice-over for porn,” Tampa explains to Paula when prompted about his trade.
You can really tell that the longtime comedy friends are having fun with the project and enjoy exaggerating their own personalities and quirky, dependent friendship. They gossip worse than a sewing circle and have the least impressive dance moves—but isn’t that what best friends do anyway?
It’s clear that Pell and Anderson are on to something really special, but some of the situations in which the comedy duo find themselves don’t always shine. The six-webisode series is hit-or-miss, but has potential to be a smart and funny web series worth watching.
Episode 3: “Truth Basset”
Episode 6: “Lovers”
Episode 4: “Gossip”