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Gentlemen: “Everyone Wants to Laugh, but Most Comedy Isn’t Funny”



LBB speaks to Ruckus’ visionary directing duo Brett Snider & Billy Federighi to find out why, when it comes to comedy, good Gentlemen aren’t so hard to find…

Gentlemen: “Everyone Wants to Laugh, but Most Comedy Isn’t Funny”

Any creative worth their salt needs a good origin story to tell. Most, however, probably don’t start in the wrestling ring. But Brett Snider, after having endured ‘a few concussions’, eventually swapped scissor kicks for camera tricks by taking up a directing career as one half of Gentlemen, along with Billy Federighi. 

Ever since, the duo have been championing their brand of understated, ‘big-gag’ comedy for brands as varied as Coke, Mercedes, and Bank of America. Having recently signed with Ruckus Films, the prolific pair are showing no signs of slowing down. 

To chew through their comedic work so far, as well as cast an eye forward to the future, LBB sat down for a chat with Gentlemen… 

LBB> Your ‘bio’ film is gold! What gave you the inspiration to create that? 

Billy> We’ve always hated reading bios, not least because it’s pretty clear the person you’re reading about invariably wrote the thing themselves! The whole thing always seemed dumb - but they serve do some purpose and utility sometimes. So we thought if we have to write one, let’s at least make it funny. And if we can make it funny and informative then all the better. 

Brett> Right - we wrote it a long time ago, and because it was so long it seemed like no one would take the time to actually read through it. A video seemed like a stretch at first, but once we started collecting some photos we realised maybe we could actually make it work. From there it was just a fun editing collaboration with our buddy Craig. 

Above: Gentlemen’s bio film showcases the duo’s comedy chops, whilst poking fun at ‘director bio’ cliches

LBB> I see you guys have mentioned your ‘midwestern upbringing’ a few times. For an ignorant Brit - what does that kind of upbringing entail, and how does it colour your approach to your work?

Billy> In reality, it means that you’ve been raised in an environment where nobody talks about emotions. But for our purposes it’s just kind of a dumb thing to say. 

Brett> It has a sort of ‘salt of the earth connotation’, as well - one that probably has at least a little bit of truth to it. 

LBB> And I have to ask, what’s in a name? What makes you guys ‘Gentlemen’? 

Billy> We went back and forth for a long time on what we would call ourselves. We signed with our first company when we were pretty young (around 25), so that was our best idea at the time! We thought it had a nice ring to it, and some staying power. 

Brett> We were really into wearing suits, and we always loved pictures of old movie sets where people dressed up to go to work. Perhaps partly as a result of that, we thought our approach seemed gentlemanly.

LBB> What kind of projects are you excited about working on in the near future at Ruckus?

Brett> We're open-minded - it’s always good to switch things up. Ruckus has an awesome energy and buzz, and great reps. JJ [Adler, director, and co-founder of Ruckus] is killing it, so it’s nice to be associated with her in the comedy space.

In terms of specifics, we’re always looking for what’s bigger and better. We’re aiming to do more work that marries practical and digital effects seamlessly. We love solving those types of puzzles in-camera. But we’re excited to start flexing some digital fx muscle, too. 

Also, we plan to dive into some longer format stuff. Billy directed a really cool feature called, “Adventures in the Sin Bin” a few years ago with a great cast (Bo Burnham, Jeff Garlin) and lately we’ve been itching to team up on something longer than 30 seconds. 

LBB> Looking through your reel, you’ve made some fantastic stuff. I particularly enjoyed the Mercedes North Pole film. It’s a very humanising, down-to-earth style - do you think brands value the way you guys can humanize them? 

Billy> I hope so. I’d say that our tonal sweet spot is big gags with understated reactions. We don’t like cartoonish performances, so maybe humanity comes out when we just do what we do. 

Above: One of Gentlemen’s hallmarks is an understated approach to comedy which brings out the humanity in characters on-screen. 

LBB> We spoke recently with Sara Shelton, who told us that one reason comedy is so well-received right now is that we’re all so (justifiably) downbeat about the state of the world. Do you think there’s truth in that? 

Billy> People always want to laugh and most comedy isn’t funny so it’s something that many of us are constantly actively searching for. As for whether that search has been heightened by the pandemic, I’m not so sure. I think it’s generally true regardless of the state of the world. 

LBB> Brett, I can’t quite tell (or believe) if the video of you wrestling on your website is actually you or not… You’re very talented, if so! Would you ever consider a return to the ring?!

Brett> Ha, that’s all me - the 19 year-old me. Right before we got signed to our first company, I started training again to be a part of a wrestling show on MTV. The show only lasted a few episodes, I continued to accumulate concussions and we got signed - so I decided to give it a rest for my future brain health. 

A few years later I got the itch again to do an epic return/retirement match, but I got shingles and said ‘fuck it’. I don’t think a return to the ring is meant to be.

Above: Before embarking on a career in film, Brett had a promising future as a wrestling star… 

LBB> And Billy, I understand you run a highly-rated Pizza restaurant (the aptly named Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream) on the side. So - what’s the secret ingredient for the perfect pizza (don’t say pineapple)?

Billy> Yeah, it’s a hard “NO” on the pineapple, on principle alone. The real secret ingredient to perfect pizza is my good ol’ Italian-American blood, sweat, and tears - literally. It’s in the dough!

LBB> Have you guys seen anything lately that you really loved, or wish you directed?

Brett> There’s some great TV right now. Pen15 was amazing, Search Party was sufficiently weird and awesome. The new season of I Think You Should Leave is insane, but really layered. 

We also talk about Dave and Barry a lot because they have everything we like; really funny, they look great, they have a ton of heart and they can also turn really dark on a dime. Aside from that, we're also huge fans of Bill Hader, Donald Glover, Phoebe Waller Bridge, Rory Scovel, Tim Robinson and Nate Bergatze.

LBB> Finally, it’s been a tough year. Outside of comedy, what’s been helping you guys to stay creatively motivated and inspired? 

Brett> For me, it’s been renovating my house. 

Billy> And for me, it’s the pizza business. It started out kind of as a goof on Instagram, but has now turned into a full-fledged brick and mortar shop. Check us out if you’re in Chicago!

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Ruckus Films, Wed, 11 Aug 2021 09:46:13 GMT