Two creative, gentrification-weary New Yorkers decided to remedy the deficit of entertainment devoted to the reality of NYC as they know it: An endless erosion of people and things they love, replaced by things they hate.
The grimly acerbic comedy they created may just prove to be their ticket into the life of affluence they ridicule.
Comedian-bartender Dan Menke, 41, who lives in Williamsburg, and filmmaker-actor Stephen Girasuolo, 46, who was evicted from his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and now lives in Greenpoint, brainstormed the web series, “The Holdouts” about a tour guide who refuses to leave his Hell’s Kitchen apartment even when he’s offered a $400,000 buyout.
The character Kevin Shanahan (played by Kevin Corrigan) watches as his favorite hangouts have shuttered and his friends flee for more affordable pastures.
“[It’s] a subject that really resonates. Just in the last five days Tek Serve is down, the Waldorf Astoria announced they’re converting to luxury condominiums and Mimi’s Pizza on the Upper East Side closed,” Girasuolo said last week.
The duo posted a trailer on Kickstarter June 1 to raise money for the series and met their goal of $35,000 within 27 days, garnering press attention from around the world and offers of help from people they never imagined.
Seeing donors flock to support their project “felt amazing. I felt so vindicated: We picked a subject that mattered,” which, while comedically rendered, “is more than just a comedy,” Menke said.
The plan now? To produce three to five short episodes that they will eventually post on YouTube.
“We’re modeling this after a series, ‘High Maintenance,’ that was acquired by HBO, explained Girasuolo. “The goal is to get the conversation to resonate,” and attract at least one million viewers, so that a streaming service such as Amazon, Hulu or Netflix, or a network such as HBO, will take notice and bankroll a full-length series.
Menke, who hosted a live show called “The Arty Need Show” in The Slipper Room and bartends at Barcade, writes about the plights of long time New Yorkers from experience: In 1997, when his rent was $700 to $800 a month, he got tipped about a dollar a drink. “Now it’s still a dollar a drink, but the rent is $3,000 or $4,000.”
The spiraling cost of living in NYC has put its creative class under collective siege, but conscripting the internet to find viewers and support is a good way to support art made from the heart, observed Menke, noting “We didn’t have to pay for p.r. people!”
Menke is brainstorming plot points right now, in his hybrid studio where he lives with his partner and two-year-old daughter: “It drives me insane” to see how NYC living conditions are idealized in media, he explained. “I want to see people in apartments so small their refrigerators can barely open – not like when you watch ‘Friends.’”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified Dan Menke as David Menke.