The success of Consent got them an airtime on Radio 1 and now Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs take on live comedy with a string of shows that included dates at Reading and Leeds Festival. TenEighty caught up with the boys to talk about their friendship, their videos and their future.
“It was a dream I didn’t know I had until I found out we were doing it,” says Dean Dobbs about their booking at Reading and Leeds Festival.
Having first considered live shows during YouTube’s Next Up competition in 2010 (“which we didn’t win,” points out Dean) the duo have done bits at events such as Summer in the City and Playlist Live. But this show is different.
“We’ve spent time on this one,” says Jack Howard. “We also have a director who’s helped us write and shape it. He’s directed Edinburgh shows and a few bits for television before.”
“He takes our sense of humour and shows us how it can translate to stage,” adds Dean.
Jack & Dean & Friends Live had a string of dates at The Soho Theatre in London, before being taken to Summer in the City and then their first festival appearance last weekend. Along with the live show they’ve also been doing a few stints on XFM Radio. Both opportunities were set up through their agent, who also manages Ricky Gervais.
“When I was making Project: Library with Tim [Hautekiet] I wanted Ricky Gervais to make a cameo,” Jack says. He tweeted the famous comedian, to which Ricky replied telling him who to contact.
“I emailed his agent saying ‘I’d like Ricky to be in this thing we’re making.’ And he of course, very politely, said ‘no way,’” remembers Jack. “I said ‘I completely understand that, he’s a very busy person, however I’m looking for an agent, could we have a meeting?’”
Jack isn’t afraid of making bold moves and this one gained them an agent. “I’ve never been shy about saying hello,” he reflects. “I’m just in that world now but I try not to think about it too much.”
“I still haven’t seen The Office,” says Dean. “If we do ever get to meet Ricky I hope that’s still the case. I’ll be like ‘let me watch it with you, have you got it?’”
The boys have a special kind of chemistry with each other that only comes through years of friendship. They first met when they were both 15 at secondary school. Jack says the first time Dean spoke to him was in reaction to a Green Day sticker on his school planner.
“Dean saw it and said ‘They’re shit,’” laughs Jack.
“I never used to speak to people like that,” says Dean. “But my brother was learning guitar at the time and y’know how everyone learning guitar plays Smoke on the Water? Well the entire American Idiot album was his that. I just had had enough.”
Following this Dean recommended Panic! at the Disco to Jack and their friendship began to flourish. “I started getting into filmmaking, editing clips together,” says Jack before being cut off.
“No, don’t brush over it, what were you editing?” teases Dean.
“Fan trailers for Spider-Man,” reveals Jack. “They were pretty good, especially for a 15 year old on Windows Movie Maker. One of them has got 4 million views now. It’s the most viral thing I’ve ever made.”
It was when Dean begun a web series on Google Video that their creative relationship truly began. When Jack found out Dean planned to turn his series into a short film he offered up his editing skills and the duo went about writing it together.
Inevitably, the film never made it online. “There’s a whole 20 – 40 minute short film sitting on a hard drive somewhere,” says Dean. “It was bonkers!”
From this they decided to carry on making films together, but this time shorter and on YouTube. This led to videos such as Bad Snow, Dean Gets a Makeover and Blurred Out Face Man which are still live on their channel today.
“I like the fact you can go back and see how far we’ve come,” says Jack.
“I know big YouTubers seem to delete their old videos, but I don’t understand why they pretend they were instantly good at what they do,” says Dean. “Our first video – it’s a Christmas one – is so bad. But it’s worth watching because – not to blow our own horn – you’d have never thought we’d get to where we are now.”
Their rise to fame was quite gradual which they believe is the reason it never got the best of them. “It never immediately became a thing,” says Jack. “It’s never been like ‘oh, there’s your moment’ and then we’re gone.”
This steady growth has allowed them to develop creatively, perfecting different skills along the way such as scriptwriting, directing and videography. Jack admits they have influences but for him it’s about what you can take from them, not imitating them.
“And that’s what I like about us,” he says. “Our videos feel like Jack and Dean, they don’t feel like ‘Jack and Dean doing this or doing that.’”
“You can’t be really good at something by trying to be like someone else,” adds Dean.
Their comedy is far more informed by their own relationship. More often than not we see Jack playing the straight man, confused or annoyed, while Dean acts out or does something obscure. “I think it’s our own personalities exaggerated,” says Jack, “because even when Dean is playing the straighter character he’s still taking the piss.”
Jack doesn’t believe he gets as annoyed with Dean in real life as he does on screen. “I guess it’s my real angst for him coming out through scripted comedy,” he jokes.
“I am pretty good at winding him up these days though, which is fun,” interjects Dean. “Jack’s not usually an easy person to lead on, but I figured out it’s more about repeating things. We were on the tube the other day and for some reason I just kept trying to grab his knee. His repeated jerk reactions were really satisfying.”
Unfortunately for their fans the duo have had trouble making time to make videos recently. This has seen the regularity of their uploads slow down over the years – last year they only uploaded three videos. “Last year we barely saw each other,” admits Jack. “There isn’t much of an excuse for that. I’d finished University, just moved to London and I was trying to keep my head above water.”
“I think that’s a fair excuse,” says Dean. “As far as excuses come.”
“This year we’ve been together most the time,” adds Jack. “But we’re doing so much other stuff – outside of YouTube that no one gets to see yet – that we just don’t have the time.”
Slowing down the frequency of their output even more, the boys say that the creative process takes a lot longer these days. Concepts such as Consent took almost six months to develop because they wanted to get it right. The recent abuse scandals almost stopped Consent coming to fruition.
“We had conversations about whether or not we should still do it,” admits Jack.
“We thought ‘damn, we’re gonna look like such little self-righteous assholes,’” Dean adds.
“In the end we thought ‘fuck it,’” says Jack. “It’s still an important thing to talk about and if people draw comparisons to what’s happened with certain YouTubers then by all means let them, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.“
By the time Consent was uploaded many YouTubers had discussed the issues at length in a very serious manner. Yet somehow Jack and Dean challenged it in a light-hearted way, without belittling or trivialising the subject.
“The song isn’t like the funniest thing on the planet, but it’s the tone and the energy that makes it,” says Dean. “We were aware of things that were going on, so we tried to make sure we didn’t say things that sounded like it could be about someone.”
“I think the most risky thing is when Dean says ‘she’s a fine young thing’,” says Jack. “We thought people would call us out for objectifying women for using the word ‘thing’. But no one said anything about it.”
The duo are always very considerate to what criticisms they may receive, meaning they often think through the reasoning behind certain jokes. Likewise, when it comes to scenes that may have homoerotic undertones, Jack and Dean believe they’re aware of what is and isn’t appropriate.
“We made an entire video where I was naked and there wasn’t a single gay joke,” says Jack. “And it wasn’t like we agreed ‘okay, no gay jokes’. I mean, I’m a bit annoyed that he’s not going away as soon as he walks in the room, but I’m not cowering and trying to hide my body either. And that sort of tension is what makes it funny.”
“I didn’t even really think about that until now,” ponders Dean.
This leads us on neatly to the process of scriptwriting, which they say is very rarely ever the same. Often their concepts are born out of notes they’d taken down from conversations and times they’d made each other laugh. “We’ve tried sitting down at a computer together to write something funny,” says Jack. “It does work, but we’d rather come with all the different bits and piece it together. It’s feels more natural.
“The reason it works for us is that our scripts are often based in our own relationship, so that back and forth is essential,” he continues. “When we wrote Naked I had most of it written and when I sent it to Dean he came up with the whole thing about having faces on his knees.”
However it isn’t always Dean who comes up with the surreal moments. “The ending to Balloons was mine,” says Jack. “The initial idea of everyone turning into balloons was Dean’s. But I came up with me impregnating a balloon, it giving birth and then me killing the baby balloon.
“It all came to me at once in a dream,” remembers Jack. “ It was so strange having all that hit me.”
“The reaction was so fucking funny,” adds Dean. “‘He just killed a baby,’ no he didn’t, it was a balloon.”
Reflecting on all of their content Dean reveals Stairs as one of his favourites. “We spent so long writing it because it was such a tough concept for us,” he says. “We wanted to make crossing the stairs as funny as it could be. Then we made the rule that we weren’t going to leave the stairs. Even though that made it harder at least we knew what the rules were. I feel like it was the first time we wrote something quite clever.”
“It’s probably the first proper Jack and Dean sketch,” comments Jack. “Where it’s stupid and silly, but also clever and weird.”
When asked which videos he’s most proud of, Jack says Consent. “I’m still very proud of it and for things we wouldn’t normally get to talk about,” he says. “I’m proud of the way it’s shot and the day of shooting. I’m glad that Dean and Daniel took the lead on the songwriting.
“And directing it was easy. Having Tim there too as my assistant director to keep me going. Everything about the process was as smooth as butter.”
Whatever the future has in store for the boys they won’t stop creating, even if the wait between each video takes longer. “A lot of people stick to schedules, but they just keep creating the same sort of stuff. Whereas we take more time,” says Jack.
“If I don’t make things, I get a weird feeling in my stomach. I guess I feel unsatisfied,” he continues. “I’d like to think if anything I made went huge, then I couldn’t reach that again, I don’t think I’d mind.”
With the Jack and Dean brand ever expanding, getting huge is a distinct possibility for them. We asked if they’d ever consider doing Saturday morning children’s television, like Ant and Dec. “I’d probably hang myself from the light rack if we did,” spurts Dean.
“And I would help,” jokes Jack.
Photos by Rebecca Need-Menear.
Looking for more on Jack and Dean? Check out our review of Jack and Dean Live at the Soho Theatre or our recap of the main stage at Summer in the City 2014 on Sunday which featured the duo headlining.
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- Jack and Dean TenEighty 2014 cover shoot Set 01
- Jack and Dean TenEighty 2014 cover shoot Set 02
- Jack and Dean live at Summer in the City 2014
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