A Friendship Leads To A Comedy Pilot

Originally posted on Forbes.com

As we continue to experience economic turmoil, many artists have managed to put one foot in front of the other and produce new content for all of us to enjoy. I appreciate that they dig deep, take risks, and share new ideas despite the obstacles.  In the case of comedy, they provide laughs when we need it the most.  

Great comedy can start with a conversation between two friends that transforms into a collaboration. And sometimes, this collaboration can create a creative project that can become the foundation for a bigger dream. Jonathan Kaplan and Marianne Bayard are the dynamic duo behind a web series called Mares & Kaps, and I recently talked to them about their new pilot and partnership. Their story has lessons about making partnerships work that can be applied to all business relationships.

What is the story of the pilot?

Jonathan: Mares & Kaps follows Mares, a delusional wannabe actress, and Kaps, her loyal best friend, as they leave suburbia to find fame in Glitzburgh, an alternative Hollywood in our fictional universe.  

Marianne: They’re characters we introduced in our first web series, Killing it! (Amazon Prime)

Can you bring me back to when you first had this idea and share the reality of how this idea became pilot? 

Jonathan: After Killing it!, which was a series of vignettes, we wanted to write a continuous ‘Hero’s Journey’ narrative. We wrote and rewrote for a year and a half, eventually hiring a script coach to help us sharpen our story. In 2018, we did a crowdfunding campaign and raised $5,000.  

Marianne: I’d moved to Pittsburgh and became part of the vibrant film community there. A celebrated local producer joined our project and put together our cast, crew and budget. We learned our 65-page epic would cost $150,000 to produce, so we settled on just shooting the pilot. 

Jonathan: Our final reshoot was the last weekend of February 2020, right before COVID. It’s been two years from start to finish, but we stuck together and saw it through.

How did Mares & Kaps come together?

Jonathan: Marianne and I met in the NYC comedy scene in 2010 but didn’t start working together until 2014. And almost immediately, she moved away!

Marianne: We’ve never lived in the same city – we’ve done all our writing and communication long distance. We do get together for creative retreats and shoots, but it’s a unique aspect of our partnership.

What is the best thing about your collaboration?

Jonathan: We really have fun together! She makes me laugh and is as driven and dedicated as I am. 

Marianne: Yes, to have a partner that’s as ‘ALL IN’ as you are, is crucial. He also sometimes makes me laugh.

What are the challenges? 

Jonathan: The organizational, financial, promotional and logistical challenges can be overwhelming. We disagree on plenty.

Marianne: We respect and care for one another as well as the project. So we’ll never have an out and out brawl. No argument is worth destroying what we’ve created together.

Where do the characters come from?

Marianne: Mares and Kaps are comic versions of ourselves. When we wrote Killing it!, I actually worked at a cemetery, and Jonathan worked in an office. And just like Mares, I can be bossy, selfish, and want things without putting in the work.  

Jonathan: And I can live in a fantasyland and be too afraid to take action, like Kaps. Mining our personality flaws is central to our comedy.

What is the dream for this show?

Jonathan: We want to collaborate with a partner who will help produce and distribute Mares & Kaps and get it out into the world. We have other shows, characters, and projects we want to bring to life too.  

How has COVID impacted your work?

Jonathan: We were lucky to wrap the pilot before lockdown in March. But COVID is why it took eight months to release. During quarantine, we started making shorts over Zoom. We’ve made about 15 episodes together and about 40 each independently. 

Marianne: With COVID shutting the entertainment machine down, there’s no reason not to make your work and distribute it. Today, you need to be ready to pivot, shift, or try something new. And it’s a joy and tremendous gift to have a partner.

Watch the new Mares & Kaps pilot here and think about a friend you may want to collaborate with for fun and/or profit: