Longtime A.V. Club readers may remember Joel and Stephen Levinson as two of the masterminds behind 2776: A Musical Journey Through America’s Past, Present, And Future, a 2013 musical comedy album that saw, among other delightfully absurd tracks, Neko Case singing about Star Wars and Aimee Mann serenading David Wain about the common cold. After that album’s release, as Boy Band co-director Joel Levinson tells The A.V. Club, he made a highly unorthodox decision: He moved from L.A. back to his hometown in Ohio to break into the movie business.
“Instead of going the traditional route and having to get [producers] to sign off on our weird jokes, we figured we just have to make it and prove that it’s funny,” Joel says, adding that Ohio actually had some advantages for a low-budget production. (It’s cheaper, first of all, and has less competition for equipment and locations.) He and Stephen invited their friends from their New York and L.A. days to come to Ohio for a couple of weeks to shoot their passion project, about “a wildly successful ‘90s boy band who got old and fat and haven’t realized it yet” that decides to record one perfect song to save the planet after aliens wipe out 25 percent of the world’s population.
As you may have deduced from the description above, Joel describes his and his brother’s comedy style as, more than anything, “weird,” comparing its joke-driven approach to the Zucker Brothers, Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and David Wain. “Though there is an emotional core of this movie that is deeply sincere, there may be 80 percent of the people who see it who will...not think that,” he says. “What’s fun for us to write, and why we end up writing weird stuff, is a story where everything can be sacrificed for the joke.”
The fictional band—which found its inspiration in the ‘90s sweet spot between New Kids On The Block and N’Sync—is composed of Tonight Show regular Seth Herzog, New Girl and You’re The Worst’s Steve Agee, The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore’s Jordan Carlos, and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’s Dave Hill, all of whom are also working stand-up comedians. (“When we asked ourselves, ‘who do we think would make a hilarious fortysomething boy band?,’ these were the guys,” Joel says.)
And although the film ended up being relatively tightly scripted, Joel says, each member of the core cast—which also includes Julie Goldman, Esther Ku, and Dave Gruber Allen—added jokes and helped shape their characters, both essential to an independent film. “Everyone who’s ever been in a band, even if they weren’t successful, knows how much conflict there can be in just four people hanging out together trying to make something,” Levinson says.
Boy Band premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival last month, and is currently searching for distribution.