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The Shallow End Turns Hookup Horror Stories Into Comedy Gold

'The Shallow End' Turns Hookup Horror Stories Into Comedy Gold

'The Shallow End' Turns Hookup Horror Stories Into Comedy Gold

The creators of the new web series talked to PRIDE about using real-life dating mishaps as inspiration for hilarious and relatable content.

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Anyone who's had a Grindr date go horribly wrong—meaning anyone who regularly uses Grindr—will find plenty to laugh/cringe at in The Shallow End, a new web series from comedians Jason Michael Snow, Lucas Hazlett, and Mathew Francis. 

Framed as Drunk History-style re-enactments of dating disasters shared between friends at a casual pool party, the episodes are based on true stories of hookups "that sometimes end up more Mel Brooks than Sean Cody."

"We were sitting around talking about misadventures in gay sex and cracking each other up, and thought, 'Let's just film this!'" Jason told PRIDE.

Details have been changed "to protect the not-so-innocent," Mathew added.

Each hookup horror story features a guest star who will be very familiar to people following the gay comedy scene, including Caleb Gallo's Brian Jordan Alvarez, Bright Colors and Bold Patterns' Drew Droege and Survivor's Zeke Smith.

"Through all three of us having worked in the comedy world and the theater scene back in New York, and then all being here in LA now, we all had pools of friends to draw from," Jason said. "We've all been kind of coming up together. Lucas and I have done an improv show with Brian Jordan Alvarez, and I was on an improv team with Zeke Smith back in New York."

"Between the three of us, we have Broadway, CBS Diversity Showcase, Groundlings and UCB," Lucas said. "So you have all of these networks of performance that all of these people kind of Venn-diagrammed through."

From there, it was a matter of convincing their friends to film sex scenes that sounded embarrassing at best, and enough to get them banned from YouTube at worst—at least at first glance.

"It was very comfortable for the three of us. 'You know what, let's just do it!'" Mathew said. "But to ask certain people to do certain things was a little...not tricky, but we were like, 'Trust us, this is not to be crude, this is to be funny and silly and cartoonish.' So that eased a lot of people's minds. Having said that, we definitely got a few no's."

"Just reading on the script, 'And then he does a wheelbarrow naked across the screen and then shits on the bed,' it's like, wow, that’s a lot," Jason said. "And we're like, no no no, don’t worry, it’s going to be all camera angles and it's going to feel like Austin Powers, where they’re coyly avoiding the camera from showing anything explicit. But it's hard to pitch that to people who didn't have something in front of them. We got so lucky with just a ton of trusting friends, who we hope still trust us after days like today!"

Lucas added, "That’s actually part of the fun of the filmmaking process, of actually hiding everything, and finding ways to put, like, a plant in front of the camera, or using backlighting. There was never a moment on camera where anything sexual was actually happening."

It helped that each of them had already experienced the most mortifying parts of their episodes in real life, which took the pressure off their scene partners.

"Back when I was 20, 21, I didn’t know not to have a heavy Mexican meal before I had sex with my boyfriend," Jason said. "And those are life lessons you don't want to tell at a dinner table. 'Oh, you'll never guess what happened to me! Hey Uncle Rick, pass the salt; by the way, when I was getting butt-fucked…'"

Does this mean the series could serve as a useful list of do's and don'ts for inexperienced gay men?

"Anything we can do to help!" Mathew laughed. "If we can be the Aesop's Fables of gay sex, we're in."

"A-Tops Fables," Lucas chimed in. "A-Tops Foibles!"

Shooting those scenes occasionally put them in an awkward position (figuratively speaking), like the episode featuring Zeke Smith that was filmed in the home of one of Jason's friends while he was on vacation. "His neighbors called and said, 'Hey, that guy that's house-sitting, I think they’re making a porn in your house.'"

They had better luck with Celebration Theatre in West Hollywood, famous for showcasing LGBTQ creators, who pulled out all the stops for the season finale.

"They let us shoot first in their theater for the comic book episode," Jason said. "And then we came back to them and said, 'We have this weird idea for a Rob Marshall musical sequence, can we use you guys again?' And they were like, 'Yeah, do you want tech? We'll have a lighting guy show up.'"

The Shallow End's first season will continue on YouTube through the end of the summer, but they already have plans for future seasons and a potential pitch for TV, with a lengthy Google Doc of mortifying sex stories to choose from.

"I've already been asked by two separate people, 'Uh oh, am I going to be on Season 2 if I go on a date with you?'" Mathew said. "And my response is usually, 'Hopefully not! Hopefully everything will go just right!'"

As awkward as those scenarios can get, however, they say the show is not about sex-shaming anyone.

"What we're trying to do is that it's sex positive," Jason said. "We all have messy adventures and misadventures in the bedroom. And it's something that I think we could actually close the gap of propriety and we could talk about it."

"Because we all do it, so let’s talk about it," Mathew said. "We have an upcoming episode about water sports, and it's not, 'Ew, he wanted me to pee on him!' It's, 'Yeah, I was okay with peeing on him, but this weird situation happened.' So we try to be very positive about it."

Lucas added, "I think that when a group of friends talks about their lives openly, you begin to realize, 'Oh, the things that I've been bottling up thinking I'm a freak or a weirdo or a loser,' it’s like, 'No, we're all freaks, we're all weirdos, we're all losers.' We've all had great sexual experiences and we've all had ridiculous sexual experiences. So the more that we actually talk about it amongst friends, you begin to realize that there's nothing weird or wrong about you. Ya livin' life, boo."

For more episodes and updates on The Shallow End, make sure to subscribe to the official YouTube channel! And follow Jason, Lucas, and Mathew on Instagram! 

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Christine Linnell