Thursday, 14 July 2011

The story of Jethro and Jeffrey, chatroulette and the forrest of pink bananas

Hello friends,

It has been bought to my attention that the story of Jethro and Jeffrey remains untold outside of the youtube videos. If you have no idea who Jethro and Jeffrey are, then you are in the majority with almost the whole rest of the world, and this blog will not only introduce you to them, but hopefully will show you how lovely they really are. So without further ado, let me introduce to you Jethro and Jeffrey.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Jeffrey the lanky monkey and Jethro the fat monkey.
Jeffrey (Chris Mace) and Jethro (Andy Jackson)
So here they are, the two monkey puppets that spawned a whole years worth of crazy youtube videos, and even almost got me banned from youtube twice! They are offensive and cheeky, but very loveable with it, truly they are :)

In the beginning, there was chatroulette. I was doing lots of improv comedy training at the time under the  guidance of the amazing Maydays (check them out, they are a Brighton based improv comedy troop, very, very funny). I wanted to take these improv skills to the internet in some way, it seemed like the logical use of a webcam, to make up silly shit in front of other random people. It was South Park that first introduced me to chatroulette, if you haven't seen it, there is a very funny episode of South Park in which everyone becomes addicted to facebook. In a bid to make more friends in the episode, Kyle lets Cartman introduce him to chatroulette, a website that links random webcams together from across the world. In the episode, the gag is that chatroulette is just full of blokes showing their penises. I can vouch personally that this is not far from the truth.

Collecting together all the stuffed toys I had around (which was an alarming amount for a late 20's man, but most of them were monkeys that had been bought for me because I called my podcast 'Products of Monkey Love') I sat on the sofa with a friend and started playing about, singing dubstep at random people. From that first toy session was born the Dubstep Sheep and the Dubstep Badger (both very silly, and if you click them you can watch them). These characters would not stand up to more then one video though, they grew tiresome to watch before the video was over. Something less music based was required if it was to have any steam.

Jethro and Jeffrey (behind the puppets)
So, a few days later, while my good friend Macey was round, we tried our hand at it again. Firstly I tried using the Jeffrey puppet (not named yet, obviously) and tried to talk to people. I couldn't get the hang of it, the character wasn't working for me, the monkey was too lanky and I couldn't get the right voice for it. I gave up after ten minutes, threw the monkey down and stood up in a huff. Macey asked if he could try, so he took my place on the sofa and picked up Jeffrey. The recording was running, all the fun was being captured as Macey said hello to random willies and a few real people (who probably had willies, but they were not displaying them). I sat to the side and watched as Macey gracefully mastered the lanky monkey puppet. After clicking 'next' to generate the next random webcam, there is a brief moments pause while the connection is made. Every time someone came up, they may only be there for a few seconds, and in these crucial seconds a monkey puppet can get in a little jibe. People appeared, Macey said 'Hello!' and then they disappeared. Until, after the moments 'next' pause, a party appeared. People were having a party! "Oh look, a party, can I join your party?" Macey asked through his monkey puppet. "I'm having a party too, here, a monkey party" he proclaimed. Sat on the sofa next to him, I frantically scrambled around to find a monkey puppet to make up this little party. I picked up Jethro and thrust him into shot (although initially I think he might have been a girl!) and the monkey party began. We danced and started talking to each other. Jeffrey already had his posh voice, and Jethro's came out initially like a very drunk version of the Queen, and as the party continued, the names were invented. I turned to lanky monkey puppet and named him Kenneth, and he turned back and named me Jethro. We had the dubzone podcast playing away in the background, so we had music to wiggle our monkeys to. The party died out and the 'next' button was pressed.  The two monkeys sparked off each other well, with Kenneth being quickly forgotten and Jeffrey talking the names place. After 15 minutes of recording we stopped for a breather. We looked back at the footage and were pleased, something had been born.

Jethro and Jeffrey episode 1: Monkeychat
Series 1 playlist link
For the next few weeks we filmed many hours of us talking rubbish on chatroulette to random people all over the world. A story started to build, Jethro and Jeffrey were in search of bananas (obviously) and friends, and they would do what ever it took to get them.

56 episodes were made in total for series 1. Each episode is between 6 to 10 minutes long (mainly 9 or 10 mins) and each contains lots of crazy weirdness. Not many individuals have sat through all 56 episodes, only the die hard J and J fans. Some of the highlights of the journey include 'The Nazi' kids from episode 2, The stoner Belgiums from episode 18, 'Peru' from eps 21 and 22, Dr Banana from ep 44, Celebs in ep 51 and the Blocking finale ep 56. The overarching storyline (for anyone interested but not bothered to watch all the maguffin) involves Jethro and Jeffrey sourcing finest quality bananas from around the world, once they have a supplier (Peru from eps 21 and 22) they set up a banana company and sort out distributers. This is only a loose storyline, and there are several other on going gags throughout. Jethro is writing an album called 'Jethro sings the Blues' which is all over dub music, and any opportunity to improvise a song on the spot, the dub gets turned up and the singing begins. The two monkeys fight about their different shapes often, and they are not afraid to comment on what they see.

The other long running gag that would follow through to subsequent J and J efforts was the curse of the Pink Bananas. Every time a willy appeared, Jethro and Jeffrey would comment on it, usually say how small and insignificant it was. They didn't call them willies though, they called them Pink Bananas. It is customary for gags to be recurring in improv comedy, but we took it to a new level with referencing back so far sometimes that even we didn't know what we were trying to say.

J and J had some success (sort of) with a loyal following of children developing over the release of the first forty videos. This was stopped in it's tracks by the gods of youtube, something to do with episode 30 : Holy Shit! Fancy Scat! being far too graphic in the content and not offering any educational value (whatever that means!). While we had been filming, a very lovely German fella had decided to stream us some very disturbing videos of people doing poops. They were long videos as well, and after about seven minutes of showing us these and laughing his head off, he showed himself and we finished the episode up by talking to the provider of the scat videos. When the weirdness started, Macey had wanted to skip on and not watch all the horrible poo porn...but I stayed strong (!!) and said we should push on. Jethro and Jeffrey loved the poo porn, because they love throwing poo, because they are monkeys. So we treated the experience like one long pooing contest. Youtube didn't like that, the video was removed and I got my youtube account suspended for two weeks, in which time all the momentum fell out of Jethro and Jeffrey and people stopped watching :(

Jethro and Jeffrey episode 201 - Death of the Dub
Series 2, no more dub, but there is a dancing banana!
Series 2 playlist link
After a break of a few weeks, we decided to try a different approach. We had been using the dubzone podcast as our soundbed, but we were informed not to do this anymore by Mr king dubzone podcast man. We needed a new soundbed, one we could rely on. But dub had been a staple gag of the first series.

The dub was dead. We started to use the instrumental music we had compiled from the Products of Monkey Love podcast instead, which meant the improv songs we did would be longer and more structured. So hit it up we did, for a further 29 episodes and a second series of wibble.

Series 2 was more punchy, shorter episodes, a lot more of the fat cut out of them. The highlights include episode 4 'Gimp Ninja' (a personal fave of mine), episode 9 'Beautiful Student', episode 11 'Man/Dog Love' and episode 27 'Banana-nana-nana-nana' (which featured the banana character!). The ongoing thread of series 2 focused around the culling of the pink bananas and the hardworking ladies of chatroulette (Hard working Bella's). Almost every episode had a song in it, all made up on the spot.

Our love affair with chatroulette ended there. The website had changed too much and was not very user friendly anymore. We had several botched attempts to record on it but had to give up. We needed to find an alternative if Jethro and Jeffrey were to remain alive.

Look at my SHINEY eyes!
Jethro and Jeffrey on Wocchat
We decided we would attempt a third series somewhere different from chatroulette. We found Wocchat and started recording there. We tried our hand at some chatroom stuff there too, but the quality of the video and sound was not up to scratch, so none of it was put out. There would have been a series 3 done on Wocchat, but other life issues got in the way, and time pressures meant that the majority of that material for series 3 remains unedited and unseen.

So Jethro and Jeffrey had to move to something different if they were to remain around in any sense. So The J Collective was formed.

The J Collective
The J Collective playlist link
What would become Jethro and Jeffreys swan song (unless there is some miraculous return for them) started out as a review show idea. J and J commented on whatever they saw, often very literally, so it seemed logical that they would be good at reviewing films, music, culture etc. Since youtube had been their home it was a good starting point. The idea was that Jethro and Jeffrey wanted to get all of the best 'J' named people (like themselves) together to take over the world.

I found it rather hard to do, mainly because it meant listening to music by such commercial plops as Justin Beiber, the Jonus Brothers and Jessie J! My god, what has happened to music? Did someone take it out the back and tar bath it in caramel? It is so sugar and gloopy I half expected my teeth to rot out of my face just from listening to it. I couldn't take much of, I was leaving very soon for the Netherlands...

Macey, Jeffrey, Andy and Jethro
Jethro's gone - a short film

We made a short film to say goodbye, and leave it open for possible continuation...

Jethro and Jeffrey had a lot of crazy times sat on the sofa looking at pink bananas, and then later looking at people who acted like pink bananas. For a silly little improv skit on chatroulette to be dragged on for a year is pretty impressive, even by my 'drag jokes until they have scrapped completely away' standards. Macey and I had a lot of fun doing it, and hopefully people enjoyed it. I still get comments every now and then asking when Jethro and Jeffrey are going to be on chatroulette...even though they haven't been on it for over 9 months.

Now, where is that banana?

Peace and infinite love


1 comment:

  1. .... They might be coming back soon...
    We do have an idea for a little revival