Video-blogging sisters make midlife reality into comedy
Sisters Kelly and Sally Jackson have built an online universe around their uniquely Texan personae.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Most humor Web sites stay firmly rooted in the virtual world. You click. You laugh. You move on to another site.
The Midlife Gals, on the other hand, are taking their Texas-sized personae into the real world. Sisters Kelly and Sally Jackson, who have been blogging and shooting videos for their Web site since August, are already adapting their site (midlifegals.blogspot.com) into a book and a self-financed sitcom pilot.
On a recent weekday, they were dolled up in loud Western wear (the hats, the belt buckles, the costume earrings!) for a film shoot at the Mansion at Judges' Hill. The two were ready to crash the fictional "Cowpoke's Ball," a charity auction to benefit "The Maimed and Mutilated Rodeo Clown Foundation."
The sisters, who write humorously about baby-boomer life and shoot humorous movie reviews of films they rent from Netflix.com, call themselves "Lucy and Ethel" after getting rid of Fred and Ricky. "Or the 'Absolutely Fabulous' of Texas," adds Sally.
The rapidly expanding online universe includes an abused Easter Bunny and "The Ancient One," their 85-year-old mother. The sisters have parlayed the laughs into several paying gigs. They have begun producing videos for the HealthCentral Network, a set of wellness sites that includes MySkinCareConnection.com and OurAlzheimers.com.
The Midlife Gals' efforts have also earned them some critical acclaim. They were finalists for Web entertainment portal On Networks' Project Greenlight Awards in March and were featured on the KLRU TV show "Docubloggers."
We spoke to the Midlife Gals ("KK" and "SalGal," as Kelly and Sally refer to themselves on the Web site) about their self-made fame:
Austin American-Statesman: How has your blog evolved from writing to videos to shooting a sitcom pilot?
KK: First we researched what a blog was because we were curious back in July 2007. Then after we started our blog, we discovered a camera on my MacBook that I didn't know was even there. We had some kind of fun with that, let me tell you, and well, SalGal being a movie person (check out her resumé on IMDB), she just naturally gravitated toward storytelling and off we went!
SalGal: One day we were wondering what a blog was and a few months later I found myself directing and acting in our pilot, standing in front of the door at the Mansion at Judges' Hill wearing a red-and-black square-dancing dress and holding a cake in the shape of a cow patty. All I can tell you is that KK and I are doers, and our ideas take shape in the third dimension regularly and with lightning speed.
Is it easier to be funnier online where you can create personae and expand on them than in real life?
KK: When I was 6 years old, The Ancient One used to wake me up very late at night and demand that I come out to do my impersonation of our Uncle Claude for her cocktail party guests. They were all liquored up by that time of night, so the crowd went wild. I learned early on that I liked the way people looked when I made them laugh. I wish I could say that I'm more exaggerated with my personas online, but those who know me would tell you that it's six of me in real life and half-a-dozen of me online.
SalGal: Long before there was ever a computer, Kelly was making people laugh. At 5 years old, she was funnier than Phyllis Diller and cuter than the Beav. I like to be funny in real life. I studied comedy improv at the Groundlings in Los Angeles and did stand-up at the Comedy Store, the Improv on Melrose and the Ice House in Pasadena. I did it for a while at the Velveeta Room here in Austin when I got here from Hollywood. I like to hear the laughter.
When people think of video on the Web, they usually think of YouTube: young people mixing Mentos and Coke or singing about Barack Obama. Is there a big audience for 'midlife' entertainment on the Web geared toward a more mature viewership?
KK: Remembering that the boomer generation numbers around 78 million, and it was our generation who started computers to begin with, damn skippy we'd be involved and carve out a "midlife" niche on the Web. If you simply type in "midlife," "middle-age" or "boomer" into your search engine, you'd be gobsmacked to discover how many "onliners" are our age or older.
SalGal: Oh, I know you, you think most baby boomers don't have computers, don't know what "Google" means and can't tell a URL from a DVR. You would be surprised at how many of us have our own sites, buy our anti-aging products online and saw Pamela Anderson's sex tape on YouTube.
What was the biggest challenge in learning to build a Web site?
KK: Per your previous question about our age group being online: Checking e-mail is one thing, but building a Web site is quite another, and as you can tell from our site, the bells, whistles, colors, ads and font styles are simple at best. I figured out a long time ago that if I can just stay on the feeder road to the information superhighway, I'm a-doin' just fine. Building our blog was not the most organized or positive experience I've ever had.
SalGal: If it had been up to me, we never would have had a blog. KK was on a mission and all I had to do was make sure her cussing at the computer screen didn't wake up The Ancient One or scare the cats.
Do you look to other humor Web sites or film critics online for inspiration for your writing and videos?
KK: I wish I could answer yes to this question to show that inquiring minds want to know, but I'd be lying. I find that ignorance and naiveté breed creativity beyond the simple information that knowledge would bring. It just serves me better. We love to discover other midlife bloggers and highlight them on our blog, however, as it behooves us all to stick together in cyberspace.
SalGal: I gave up on looking at other people's sites the day I hit on some young guy crying about how everybody needed to forgive and leave Britney Spears alone. He was openly weeping and his eyeliner was smearing down his cheeks and he had gotten like a million hits on his patheticness.
What do you envision as the future of the Midlife Gals?
KK: I won't be truly satisfied until I see Midlife Gals bobble-belly dolls on the shelves at Target, frankly. We want our own sitcom on HBO, lending lunacy and acceptable insanity to the boomer audience.
SalGal: We want to make the world laugh, especially sad people. It's our gift. Unfortunately, we are going to have to get famous in order to pull that off. Or maybe it's not unfortunate, because it seems to be happening already in spite of us.
Masters of Their Domains spotlights Austin-area Web sites and their creators. If you have a unique Web site you'd like to share, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.