Rich Keeble Vanity Project is an online web series that follows the adventures of an under-achieving actor and his interactions with his less than competent manager. Whilst filmed on a budget, the show is full of unique ideas and funny moments, with some particularly good laugh-out-loud offerings coming in the form of improvised scenes involving the public. Viewers should be warned though that the show does also feature some dignity-crushing nudity that, once seen, cannot be un-seen.
Hi Rich. Your face seems very familiar...
Rich: Funny you should say that. You may have seen me in a high profile advert for Topcashback, which actually gets mentioned a lot in the series, now I think of it...
Sam: Or that they sat outside your house for weeks trying to get this interview.
Er, no comment! Anyway, hello too Sam and Edd. How do you all know each other?
Sam: Well, let me tell you a story. About 18 years ago we met through a mutual friend and we all got a bit drunk. I woke up the next morning next to Rich, a banana, a half empty Ski yoghurt and a hat full of loose change. We promised each other we would never repeat what happened that night - and I never have.
Edd: I watched in the corner and masturbated. And in this series I do the same but I've got a camera in my hand.
So this web series... for the uninitiated, what is it about?
Rich: It's about the character Rich Keeble played by the actor Rich Keeble. Well, that's it really.
Sam: Well the thing is, Rich is a struggling actor, and so is Rich, and this is almost a word-for-word re-creation of what Rich has been going through since his pivotal Topcashback advert. And please, let's not forget, his 7 day stint as the face of McDonalds. That week, he literally was lovin' it.
Rich: Ah yes, I was in the first of a series of weekly McDonalds ads a couple of years ago where they had a different new burger every week that someone had designed for a competition. I went in and asked for the particular burger I was advertising that week, suggesting that I should probably get it for free, but incredibly I was refused. The girl serving me claimed to have not even seen the advert.
Sam: That is a true story, he even tried to re-create the advert in the McDonalds 'restaurant' but to no avail. They literally had no idea who he was. That's when I sensed a pattern forming...
Series 2 seems to be a step up, in terms of production values?
Rich: Yes, we decided to make an effort this time and bother doing it properly.
Edd: We had zero budget. I managed to blag a 5d [camera] from a mate and I bought some mics. It was definitely bargain basement filmmaking but I think it looks half decent! We always cross-shot two cameras because, believe it or not, the whole series is entirely improvised. Of course we'd always begin with a rough plan but predominantly it's the guys chucking stuff out and seeing what sticks. Often the funniest stuff was what they came up with on the day.
Sam: Well the thing is, as an actual Producer, production values may look higher, but in actual fact they were about the same - in that they were nothing.
Rich: Whereas Series 1 was made to deliberately look shit, if any of Series 2 looks shit, it's not deliberate.
Sam: The first series was supposed to have that 'shit' aesthetic - that was part of its charm. It was meant to be weird and stupid. The second series we wanted to get a different tone, and remember it's about getting a second series - so we really wanted it to have that mockumentary feel. That's why it feels a bit more audience friendly. Also we turned up to the first series with a bunch of notes, which to be fair was more than we had for the second series. Generally, for this series we just had a vague idea of what was happening in each episode.
Rich: I think we're possibly the first ever show to use the mockumentary format. It really is ahead of its time.
Sam: I also would like to point out, that in the world of Rich Keeble, the third series, will be, to Rich Keeble anyway, the second series. So if that's not a philosophy conundrum to please the intelligentsia - I don't know what is. When you think Rich Keeble - I want you to think intelligentsia. Because no-one else will.
Some of the best scenes are where Rich appears to be interacting with real members of the public. Just to check, are they actually actors?
Rich: No they were all unsuspecting members of the public who by some freak chance didn't actually recognise me. Can you believe it?
Edd: He's not being sarcastic he genuinely is that deluded.
Sam: Well, he's Rich Keeble.
Rich: I guess the person I feel sorry for the most is the girl in the travel agent (in the Breaking America episode) who was actually trying to be helpful, but probably thought I was either genuinely incredibly arrogant or just mentally ill.
Rich, you get yourself into some truly embarrassing looking situations in Series 2... we get to see quite a lot of your flesh! Those scenes must have been awkward to film?
Sam: Well we've seen it all before.
Rich: Certainly not for me. Maybe for everyone else.
Edd: It's true. I'm the one who has to watch through the camera. It's revolting and I vomited on several occasions that day. Why he selected those boxers for the shoot day is still a mystery.
Sam: His body is intimidating. It makes me feel awkward when I come back home to my wife and she's not Rich Keeble.
Rich: I imagine most people would be extremely jealous of the wonderful EJ Martin in the Audition episode. What could be more attractive than a naked, slightly overweight, ginger, bald man in his late 30s, crawling around on all fours?
The character of Sam says some fairly hurtful things to Rich... are you able to separate out the characters from yourselves, or is it all a bit awkward post-scene?
Rich: Our friendship was remarkably intact after the filming. I wish the same could be said for our friendship after we'd finished the edit.
Sam: In all honesty, it's not that hard to separate the characters because some of the time, we didn't even realise we were being filmed. People may ask, are you guys like that all the time? The answer is yes, in fact we had to cut out some of the really hurtful things that were said - just to maintain some dignity for Rich.
Rich: There's a lot of footage of me crying which will hopefully re-appear on the outtakes. And self-harming. Hunched in the foetal position in the corner.
Sam: My favourite position.
Do you have any particular favourite scenes?
Rich: The ones with me in.
Sam: I would say the ones with him out. Though, when I look back on the shoot, my favourite was when he comes back in to tell 'Cheryl Cole' he might have to have a shit. I couldn't stop laughing offscreen.
Edd: Speaking objectively and also editorially it's always a tricky balancing act. It's what I call 'Battle of the Egos'. Essentially it's about Rich and Sam competing for screen time. They're both intimidatingly talented but any cutting of their lines in the edit is a huge diplomatic task. My favourite moment was shooting Rich in bed at the end of a long shooting day. We were all tired and delirious. Rich gave us 1:47 of sleep acting claiming he was "getting into it". It was very over indulgent.
Rich: Look, it may appear like I just turn up and 'do some faces' but there's a lot more to it than that I can tell you. I was in Birds Of A Feather you know.
So, looking at Episode 6 which has just gone online, it seems you're setting things up nicely for a third series. What can we expect?
Sam: There will definitely be a third series - we're just hoping that some bright young spark at a network or channel will give us some more money. Because we like money. Essentially the third series would be the second series in the world of Rich Keeble. It could be that he manages to bag his own sitcom. Then we do a mash up of the 'behind-the-scenes' and the actual sitcom. But who knows? No-one. Not even us.
Edd: Funding would be amazing. We were lacking equipment and man power and it would be nice to not have to rely on favours. We actually forked out for some "unnecessary costs" as Rich put it. We left my housemate's bike in the road and it got nicked. Then the hard drive containing all the footage crashed so we had to send it to a data recovery company. Not cheap! Rich you haven't paid me for that yet.
Rich: Correct. Yes, maybe the third series could be set thirty years in the future where Rich and Sam are actually a couple now, living together in LA. We can call it The Odder Couple.
Sam: Where our third roommate is actually Bill Oddie and we call it The Odder Couple with Bill Oddie.
Rich: And there's no narratives, it's just graphic sex scenes. That feels like a natural progression from where we left Series 2.
Series 2 of Rich Keeble Vanity Project is available in full now on YouTube
To find out more about the show visit richkeeble.com