Who else in Atlanta can claim they made Bill O’Reilly crack up on national television? We’re betting no one other than Bland Hack, Atlanta’s own e-famous comedians. Since meeting at Georgia State University, Julian Modugno and Jamie Hawkins-Gaar have been pestering the funny bone of those around them with witty parodies and wildly imaginative mockumentaries. Their collective, Bland Hack, has become notorious with videos going viral in England, Poland, and other exotic locales. Now they’re turning their sights back home, priming Atlanta for their next project, a showcase of local beatboxing talents. Bland Hack will be debuting their latest short film at MINT Gallery on April 23, 2011, from 8-11PM. Come early to partake in the Amateur Beatboxing Battle Royale, groove to DJ Bamboozle, and nosh on offerings from the Good Food Truck. We sat down with the motley pair for a download on the evolution of Bland Hack.
Julian Modugno: Hey everybody, it’s me Julian.
BURNAWAY: What else is there to say?
JM: What else IS there to say? Interview over.
BA: So, how did you guys meet?
JM: Well, we were college roommates freshman year, but we met at this scholarship selection [for Georgia State]. [To Jamie:] You met your wife there, too. It was like, the most important day of our lives.
Jamie Hawkins-Gaar: Who is the next important person that we met that day?
JM: I think all those other people have yet to accomplish anything ….
BA: Did you get a scholarship?
JHG: I did. But they still made us roommates, so it all turned out well.
BA: You still look bitter.
JM: I am bitter. He got four years of free housing. Show off. Especially that final year when you got stuck with those roommates.
JHG: Yeah, I got it in the end. He was living it up in East Atlanta and I was stuck in the dorms with this kid from Nowhere, Georgia, and this Italian guy who loved Friends.
BA: So how did you start working together?
JM: Well, the first thing we did was the Paris Hilton sex tape. When it dropped, we sped it up and added a Benny Hill theme to it. It was then that we realized we have the exact same sense of humor. From there we made this movie for Campus Movie Fest together, Carboy, which did really well in the competition. Afterwards, we thought maybe we should do this again, and have been working together ever since.
BA: Can you talk about Carboy a little bit?
JM: Carboy is a film about a young boy who’s also a car.
JHG: A group of us were all sitting in a circle and pairing words together. Someone said “carboy.” We ran with it and made him into the lovable little scamp he is.
JM: It’s a short mockumentary. You meet his girlfriend and his parents, and he ends up going to Iraq in the end.
BA: A love story.
JM: We always wanted to do a sequel where he came back with PTSD and he would honk for no reason.
BA: Where is your name from?
JHG: We were originally called Black Hand Productions, but after some Googling, we found out that there were a ton of those. At the time I was really into these things called spoonerisms where you take two words and swap the first syllable of each word. So, Black Hand became Bland Hack.
JM: Pretty self-deprecating.
JHG: I like to think I’m Bland and you’re Hack.
BA: Tell us about what you’re working on now.
JHG: We’re working on a new skit. We’ve been doing online sketch comedy for about a year now. This new one is another sketch we came up with on a cabin trip. It’s 1893 at the World’s Fair Columbian Exposition. All these guys you forget about in history are there troubleshooting ideas. They accidentally invent beatboxing and fall in love with it.
I’ve been obsessed with beatboxing. It’s very universal. Amateur beatboxing is loved around the world. So, I thought it would be cool to host an amateur beatboxing event here in Atlanta. We knew the people at MINT Gallery and thought it would be the perfect place to do it.
JM: We’ll screen the short there. Hopefully people will like it, and will continue to talk about it after they leave.
JHG: We’ve been wanting to do an event, and luckily, this opportunity presented itself. Everything we do is online, so people in Atlanta don’t know who we are. They just know we’re dudes who put videos on the internet. This is a way to show people who we are.
JM: We were in a theater company for two years, Twinhead Theatre, where we met people and found out who our friends were, but we’ve moved on at this point. We want to be part of the film community in Atlanta. We want to participate in this community while pushing ourselves to do more.
BA: Where is the majority of your fan base? Or is it everywhere?
JHG: The first video we posted, I call it Bland Hack 2.0, got really big. It was a parody of British texting while driving PSA. Most of the people were from the UK, but I wouldn’t call them our fans.
JM: We got a lot of hate mail: “You can’t make fun of people dying!”
JHG: Our fans online are still growing. That’s why we’re doing an event like this. We want to build a fanbase in Atlanta first.
JM: The weird thing about YouTube is that you can check your demographics out. We’re doing really well with 39-to-52-year-old women. I don’t get what it is.
BA: Can you talk about the revitalization with Bland Hack?
JHG: Basically, we did that first Campus Movie Fest and then another, and then after we graduated we did a lot of videos with the theater group.
JM: We fell in because we wanted to do feature lengths.
JHG: We wanted to break out and do our own thing while improving the quality of our work. We wanted to get bigger and better each time in order to exceed the last video that we did.
JM: We’re kind of going back. The Other Brontë Sister was a milestone for us. The next is a big cast with ridiculous language. We do different things each time, but this is our first attempt with music.
JHG: If this had been 15 years ago we would have been getting a bunch of credit cards and maxing them out to make a short before sending it to a festival in hopes that maybe it would be shown. That’s not how it works anymore. The floodgates are open, so anyone with a dollar to get a DSLR can be a filmmaker and post it. There’s a film festival every day on the internet. Everyone can see great original content, and they don’t have to go to a festival to do it. It’s the ideal outlet. It’s democratic.
JM: We’ll always be competing with Rebecca Black, though.
BA: I’m interested in how you conceptualize what you do.
JM: It’s a crapshoot.
JHG: Mostly our ideas come from conversations.
JM: They explode.
JHG: We took a sabbatical to the mountains and were sitting around enjoying some fondue, joking around, when beatboxing came up. You can sit down and actively think, but the best just comes out of conversations.
JM: We aren’t good at brainstorming. [Bland Hack's Black Swan was based on a Facebook status update: “That was the scariest two hours of Natalie Portman backing up into stuff I’ve ever seen.”
BA: What about the recognition you have received?
JM: We’ve won some awards, but the most exciting thing that happened was when we posted Texting While Walking. It was on the O’Reilly Factor. We scoped it out, and it’s a segment called Dumbest Thing of the Week. Apparently, this woman picked our video. O’Reilly seemed to think it was funny. He may have just had a great deal of disdain for the woman. I’ll say it: Bill O’Reilly hates women …. Maybe.
BA: Have you ever done any drama with your shorts?
JHG: I did stuff in college that was dramatic, but it’s evident that I was just OK at directing; I was the shittiest writer on the planet. I found this one script the other day, and I cringed. This is why we got together: Julian’s the best writer I know, and I’ve always had a knack for filmmaking.
JM: We have a similar sense of humor, which is so important for comedy. We have a weird sense of humor, which is why we can’t do drama. We make fun of everything. We’re still children.
BA: What’s the big picture?
JHG: We want to have a professional career in filmmaking. I’d like to build our fan base online, and to move on to bigger things like a feature film. There’s no excuse anymore. Everything is dirt-cheap. We should be participating in the festival circuit and building up our reputation in a variety of ways. I want to use our online profile to take off, and use it as clout to pursue professional things.
JM: I just want a mantel full of Oscars and a bed full of cash.
BA: Spirit animals.
JHG: I’m really a bear. I can’t lie. Bear and squirrel. [Natasha and Boris voice.]
Atlanta Art Crush is an interview series brought to you by Susannah Darrow, Laura Hennighausen, and photographer Sandy Hooper. Look for profiles of our latest heartthrobs on the last Friday of each month.