Getting anything rolling that requires more than just yourself is difficult, especially when putting things on film. From the start it’s a laborious endeavor requiring cameras, lights, sound equipment, editing software, and a script, if you’re doing it right. Then, after all that, you still need to find someone to hold the camera (and can hopefully keep it in focus), then someone to hold the microphone, as well as people to actually act in the thing. Just finding people who are qualified, available, and willing to help bring your short films from the page to YouTube seems like an impossible task—especially if it’s comedians you’re trying to wrangle.
Now, two childhood friends are looking to change that. Robert Pooley and Luke Jarvis, the guys behind Tres Gatos TV, are assembling some of Boston’s most talented comedians to make comedy web videos on a full-time, weekly basis.
Rob and Luke started out like family sitcom characters, coming of age together on the same street in the small suburban neighborhood of Bedford, Mass. The duo eventually bonded over a shared love of movies, The Simpsons, and comedy; while other kids around them played video games or little league, they created comically amateur videos that are now lost deep inside the void of prehistoric servers.
Looking to their futures in the business, Jarvis moved to Manhattan to attend film school at NYU, then later worked in video production at a digital agency with clients like Facebook and Google. Pooley stuck around Boston, this legendary comic breeding ground, to learn the craft of stand-up. By night he told jokes; by day, he worked on local political campaigns, which proved useful in his recent run for Boston City Council.
The more time Pooley spent immersed in Boston comedy, as both a showrunner and comic, the more impressed he became with the level of local talent.
“A lot of people seem to have this idea that Los Angeles and New York City are the only constellations in the comedy universe, and that really bothers me—it’s 100 percent not true,” Pooley says about his fellow funny people. As such, he wanted to find ways to showcase the scene on a wider scale. It was a challenging feat, yet he managed to convince his old pal Jarvis to come back home for a weekend shoot. The result was their first clip, Scalpers, which cast comedians hustling tickets around Fenway. The video quickly amassed tens of thousands of views, and the quick success motivated the duo to continue—not just with characters from Scalpers, but with additional ventures like Zach & Terence Travel Show and a hilarious short on the life of basketball legend Bill Russell.
In need of the time that it takes to produce these pieces, Pooley recently quit his job to work on videos full time. He’s no stranger to working on a tight budget from his time in politics and has embraced the struggle. “Right now,” says Pooley, “our special effects budget is what Steven Spielberg was working with when he was 12 years old, but that’s OK as long as we get to make our own Hook someday.”
While some YouTubers rely solely on slick camera shots and outrageous pranks to boost view counts, Tres Gatos TV takes more of a humble, homegrown approach. They film a lot of gags on iPhones, and use friends and family members on Facebook to both spread the word about videos and to crowdsource necessities.
“We’ve used Facebook to find various free locations, a speedboat we could film on, obtain a live pig, cast a French-accented narrator, locate an original Walkman,” Pooley says. And there have been some setbacks; the pig, for one, had a total freak out upon its arrival on the set and wouldn’t go into the room where they were filming. “Many of my neighbors’ nightmares are probably still haunted by blood-curdling pig whinnies,” Pooley recalls.
Speaking of performers who have helped the Tres Gatos TV crew rack up more than 200,000 views to date—the likes of Terence Pennington, Alan Richardson, Zachary Brazao, Jiayong Li, Xazmin Garza, Bill McMorrow, Casey Crawford, and Justin Hoff—Pooley continues: “All our actors add their own development and riffs to their characters. Their contributions are what makes each video really come alive.”
Pooley, Jarvis, and the rest of the Tres Gatos gang release an original video every week at fb.com/tresgatostv. Or ask Pooley to show you their latest in person at one of his weekly shows at Bill’s Bar near Fenway or twice a month at Joe’s Fish in North Andover.