Average Joe is a hit web series that is two seasons in and becoming increasingly popular. While its eagerly awaited third season doesn’t begin until next summer, you can currently see new misadventures of the main character, Joe, played by the clever Joe Flanders, in short sketches released every Wednesday. Both seasons and all weekly sketches are available on YouTube.
The series is self-described on the channel as “a show about a dude trying to find his way in the dating world,” and is created by Joe Flanders, Lee Page, Patrick Fogarty and Darryl Delaney. Like many fans of the series, I’m excited to see how the story unfolds for Joe, the hapless yet likeable hero of the story, and I chatted with him recently about the show and the upcoming season.
Aleera: This is Aleera Evans for Pop Mythology here today with the hilarious Joe Flanders. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us!
Joe: Yeah, of course!
Aleera: For newcomers to Average Joe, how would you describe the series as it enters its third season?
Joe: Ah, well, actually we are releasing Season 3 in June. What we’re releasing now are stand-alone “shorts.” Basically Average Joe sketches.
Aleera: Oh, gotcha. That’s actually pretty interesting!
Joe: Yeah, we’re releasing a new short once a week, every Wednesday, every month. I guess the best way that I can equate it, I don’t know if you remember but it seemed like in the late 80s and 90s, every movie that came out ended up getting an animated series spin off? That’s kind of how I’m looking at these shorts. It’s kind of like, anything goes… wherever my brain takes me. I’m really excited about them. We’ve released three so far and fans seem to be enjoying them.
We just shot with Dia Frampton, who was the runner up on Season 1 of The Voice, and she was hilarious, really funny. So yeah, all of these are crazy. We’ve got one, for example, called “Date Flake”: It’s about Joe getting stood up on a date and a beautiful woman comes, sits down and explains that she works for an app called “date flake” where they can pull up my record and see how many times I’ve been blown off in the last month. So, for a small fee, she’ll have a meal with me so that I don’t feel like a loser. It’s like that at first, then I’m giving her money and things start happening and chaos ensues. So, yeah, they’re basically just sketches. We released the first one on Halloween weekend and won’t be stopping any time soon.
Aleera: So these weekly sketches are separate from the main storyline in Average Joe. Is it still with the same character, Joe?
Joe: Yeah, I’m still the same bumbling idiot, still the same putz. But it’s totally separate and we make a point in a comedically funny way, we make that very clear in the first short that what’s happening is in a parallel world and has nothing to do with the storyline from Season 2.
So if anyone’s been wondering what happened at the end of Season 2 with the cliffhanger that we had, they are going to have to wait longer to find out. Honestly, I haven’t figured it all out yet myself.
Aleera: I stumbled across your series a few months back and binge watched the entire series so far in a single afternoon. I think there were 13 episodes the last season. Have you already outlined Season 3 enough to know how many episodes fans can expect from it?
Joe: At least 13, maybe 14. Still kind of figuring that out but I would say at least 13. And yeah, I’m really excited about the new season. The whole thing about the seasons, they sort of represent what was going on in my life the previous year, so, when I wrote Season 2, I was reflecting on what I’d been through, and a lot of that was wanting a relationship and realizing that if you really want one, you can find one, but if you jump into it without knowing the other person, you probably won’t like what you find. So Season 3 is really going to be about Joe figuring out who he is and what he wants and not necessarily investing all of his happiness in a girl or relationship.
The reason we hadn’t released anything since February is that I had been gone, I drove around the country for five months. Honestly I went through my first real heartbreak and was super burnt out after Season 2 and you know, I just needed to get out of L.A.. What started as a two week trip to Austin and New Orleans for Mardi Gras turned into five months traveling all over. I visited friends in New York, family in Ohio and landed in Charlotte, North Carolina where I lived with my grandmother for three months. I worked as an uber driver during that time and had a blast talking with everyday people. Four years in Los Angeles gives you an appreciation for that. I didn’t do any writing or shooting and instead focused on reading books, going on dates and reconnecting with friends and family. It was amazing.
Aleera: So you got to just be human for a bit.
Joe: Yeah! It was great, it was really fun and so important for me. Thanks to those experiences, Season 3 is going to be more of Joe finding himself. I had plenty of those clichéd “coming of age” moments on my trip where I began to feel like I had things figured out. When I returned to the real world that bubble popped [laughs], but the whole trip was incredibly therapeutic. So many of those moments will be referenced in the new season.
The challenge of course, is translating many of those somber moments into comedy, which is the great joy of doing the show. There will be an episode where Joe tries out different religions and jobs. At some point he’ll probably go back to Ohio, which is actually where I am from, and deal with some uncomfortable family dynamics. Essentially, what I’m saying is that the new season will be less about Joe’s awkward sex life and more about this fool figuring out who he is and what he wants. Otherwise, I think I would begin to feel like I’m writing the same shtick over and over again.
Aleera: Season 2 ended in a cliffhanger. Will Season 3 pick up where 2 left off, and will new fans have to watch the previous seasons to understand what’s going on?
Joe: It would be helpful for people to have watched Season 2. I mean, we’ll probably do a “previously on…” so they know what’s going on. At this point, I’m going to play it close to the chest because, honestly, I don’t know. I do know I want the first episode of Season 3 to resemble the third act of Castaway [laughs]. So, it’s going to be pretty funny. It’s going to feel like a reset episode where Joe finds out that the lives of everyone he knows have changed and he has to change as well. So, yeah, Season 3 will take place a period of time after Season 2.
Aleera: I read that Season 2 took a year to write, film, and edit. How long do you think it will take to write and film this season?
Joe: Right now, a lot of my time is going into the shorts we’re releasing. I’m writing along with my partner, Lee Page, who I went to high school with and who is on the show. So that’s taking up a lot of time. As far as Season 3 goes, it’s funny, I was just thinking yesterday, actually, to start writing it. As of right now it’s more in my head but here [holds up notebook page with a list on it]. This is pretty much what I have right now. Basically, a beat sheet of every episode with a lot of question marks asking, “Is that gonna happen?” but I still haven’t figured all of that out yet. I’ll have it done by the new year. We are currently trying to figure out where the funding is going to come from. So that’s kind of our big thing right now.
Aleera: You had a really successful Kickstarter campaign for Season 2 with a great response from loyal fans.
Joe: Oh, yeah, that was pretty overwhelming. At that point we had only released Season 1 and some shorts, probably 12 videos at that point, so to get that kind of response was really humbling. Now we are exploring different options. Things are moving along in the right direction so, hopefully, we can get it all sorted out sooner than later. The reason it took so long to film Season 2 is we had to work around the crew’s actual jobs, so the goal is that we can shoot 80% of Season 3 in a two week period of time and pay everyone every day so that they don’t have to go to their day jobs. The other 20% would be scenes we film with the cameos and guest stars we plan on bringing on. Working around their schedules is always a challenging task.
Aleera: Do you ever have to censor yourself? Have you ever just written something for an episode and then decided it was just going too far?
Joe: I think we walk the line really well now on the show. But it’s funny because I was just talking to a friend about this the other day. In Season 1 there is this long, awkward sex scene where I’m performing on a lady and then she’s performing on me and, uh, it was long and awkward and painful for me to watch. It’s funny but I have no interest in watching myself have awkward sex, and I can’t imagine an audience wants to see much of that either. So for Season 2, there was a lot less. It was more what happened before or after sex. I think that’s the sweet spot we try to find for the most part. I don’t really worry about censoring myself because we’re never trying to do anything offensive. It’s not in the nature of the show. The absurd ideas I have are things like ripping off The Godfather III by putting a fat man in a dress and having him murdered. I don’t think anyone is going to be offended by that. [laughing]
Aleera: You have a really great cast. How did you find your actors, or are they all your friends and you just happened to luck out that they’re all funny?
It’s a mixture. We held several auditions for Season 2 and sometimes it’s people that I’ve met online through social media or who follow me on Twitter. It’s a lot of fun and it’s great working with them.
As to your question about whether some of them are my friends or not, some of them are people I’ve known. The longer I know somebody, the easier I can write the worst version of themselves. Not everyone is as easy to do, but it can be fun. That was my experience writing for Andy Biersack, my cousin. I’ve known him since birth and in reality he’s in no way, shape or form like the “Andy” he plays, but it’s really fun to write for that character.
Aleera: With over 70,000 subscribers and over 4 million views, YouTube seems to be a successful platform for you. Why do you think you have done so well and stood out so much from all the other web series out there?
Joe: You know, that’s a good question and honestly, we were able to find an audience early on because we had a rock star on the show. I’m not blind or ignorant to the fact that even with a funny product, no one knew who I was. But with Andy [Andy Biersack, lead singer of the Black Veil Brides], right off the bat we were off to a good start. But, beyond that, honestly I believe we are just making stuff that isn’t readily seen on YouTube.
I think a lot of YouTubers are sort of pandering to the younger audience and by that I mean, they are usually doing things like vlogs and it tends to be louder and obnoxious, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The successful ones are certainly making more money that we are. I just feel like a lot of people are seeing what others have done already and then copying, recreating and doing the same thing. But for me, I’m not here to tell everyone my every thought, and I’m not looking for the usual YouTube laugh. I’m looking for a more unique laugh and I think that people can relate to that.
I know many of our audience members are in their teens, but it’s never stopped me from doing references to older films like Apocalypse Now or The Godfather, or throwing in nods to 90s sitcoms for which some of our viewers may not have even been alive. From comments and interactions I’ve had with fans, I think they appreciate the fact we don’t pander to them with current references. Thankfully, the audience we have cultivated seems to enjoy whatever absurdity we come up with.
Aleera: How has creating and doing this series affected your life?
Joe: It’s actually kind of become my life in a lot of ways and it’s a good thing. I had been in L.A. for several years after graduating from the North Carolina School of the Arts. During that time I sort of bounced around. I did some production work for movies and then writing for some shows and that ended very abruptly and I thought, “I have got to start shooting. I have to start making my own stuff.” That’s what I’ve been doing my entire life. I was 14 with my friend’s video camera filming all sorts of crazy things. So, the show came together out of a necessity to create something. Anything.
I’ve met and gotten the opportunity to work with so many people, and it’s really fun and rewarding interacting with fans. We’re still in the early stages of it all. The goal is to get it on TV one day. I think that’s why this is all really important to me. We’re trying to show the powers that be that we know how to do this. You know, give us a budget and it’ll be the best version of the show. So ultimately, it’s changed my life in all great ways. It’s opened a lot of doors. And it’s given me purpose in L.A. Lot of people are out here and they are kind of wandering around, not really sure what to do. They show up saying, “Okay, I’m here, when’s it going to happen?” and no one cares. In this business you have to give people a reason to care and slowly but surly, that’s what we’re doing.
Aleera: You have quite the fan following. On Twitter alone, you have over 22.6 thousand followers. Do you interact with your fans regularly or are you more of a private guy? Do you get recognized when you are out and about?
Joe: Oh, yeah. I’m just now trying to respond more often on social media. I’m realizing just how important it is because the fans, they’re everything. I wouldn’t be talking with you now if not for the fans. We are indebted to them. I love talking to them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any of the social media, really. We are at a great place now in that people enjoy us, but we’re not big enough where people feel the need to be negative towards us so there’s no reason not to interact with them. Someday, we may get to where we’re big enough that people feel the need to insult us, but right now it’s nothing but supportive comments and interactions, which I don’t take for granted. We’re not making much money right now so when people tweet and say how an episode cheered them up on a bad day, that’s the closest thing to currency we have. And we’ll take it.
And that’s really the interesting thing about YouTube. Just last week I met a 12-year-old girl at a bowling alley who recognized who I was. You know, I’m just there in my element, doing my own thing and she walks up and is just very kind of shy and nice and excited, and I was just happy to talk to her. The week before that, I’m in a subway at like 2 a.m., and a drunk college student comes over and is like,“Hey, man, I like your show, I’m kinda into it but not a lot, but I like it,” and I’m just sitting there like, “Oh, awesome! I’m glad you like it!” [laughs]
So it’s really fun. I love talking to people and meeting new people who enjoy the show and taking pictures when they want them. I always feel bad, though, when people ask me to sign something. I’ve had fans want me to sign their iPhone case and I always think, “This thing is, like, worthless now! You paid $15 for this and I just scribbled on it, why did you have me sign this?” [laughs] but I love it. The fans are everything. Especially when they are excited, it makes me really thrilled about it too.
Aleera: What’s it like knowing that because of what you do thousands of people are regularly entertained and made to laugh?
Joe: It’s really, really rewarding. It puts a smile on my face when people of all ages say they watch the stuff throughout the day. I have had a fair share of medical issues, mostly when I was much younger so I think I’ve always taken comedy really seriously because, movies like Ace Ventura, The Jerk, Dumb and Dumber, The Mask, Blazing Saddles, pretty much all of Mel Brooks’ movies, they got me through a lot of pain and setbacks. It’s made me take the value of comedy very seriously. It’s really nice to know we are making people’s days a little better. It’s something that makes me happy and I love doing it.
Aleera: What are you most proud of with the series?
Joe: I’m proud of the fact that we’re basically just a four person group and we’ve created a whole show. Myself, Lee Page, Patrick Fogarty and Darryl DeLaney, along with a handful of other people whom I am indebted too. I’m also proud of the fact that when he’s in town, my cousin and I get to collaborate. We used to put on little plays for our family so it’s funny to be doing the same thing but on a much bigger scale. The fact that we have really stuck together even with no money. I know that the new episodes we’re releasing now are ten times better than what we did in years past and it’s exciting. I think there’s always room for improving and striving for better and we all give it that effort every time. But I’m proud of where we are and how far we’ve come together.
Aleera: Any parting words or anything you’d like to plug?
I would ask anyone who enjoys our show to check out our Patreon page where they can become a monthly subscriber. By donating as little as four bucks a month, or a dollar a sketch, they are helping us continue to produce fresh, original comedy that as far as I know, they can’t find anywhere else. The address is http://www.patreon.com/thejoeflanders.
Also, thank you, Aleera Evans and Pop Mythology. And a huge thanks to all our awesome fans!