OUTtv’s new comedy series “The Face of Furry Creek” (Mondays at 9pm) is closing in on its sixth and final episode, and fans of the show are wondering which lovably loathsome contestant will win the fictional competition to represent the small town of Furry Creek in the eponymous tourism campaign. Will it be the moronic Quebecois snowboarder, the bigoted Christian activist, or the manipulative alcoholic prostitute?
“Furry Creek” has so far gone under the rader, perhaps owing to its location on such a small network as OUTtv, but its gutsy satire deserves more attention. (Though one wonders if the residents of the real Furry Creek, located an hour north of Vancouver on the road to Whistler, have been apprised of the show's existence.) The series spoofs Fox News, network reality shows, and the commonplace human desperation that passes for the status quo. Though the townspeople are each uniquely deplorable, the show's real villains — and also its best characters — are Brenda and Mario, the news anchors who can’t conceal their smug disgust or conservative biases as they guide the contestants through a series of social media-related tasks, from blogging to creating PSA videos. Delusions pile on top of delusions as the dysfunctional townspeople compete fervently for the $25,000 cash prize, to the dismay of the unapologetically Waspy news anchors.
Of course, no one really cares who wins. The characters may want the sex, money, and power that they hope the prize will afford them (aspirations that are, of course, pathetically disproportionate to the little hamlet they inhabit), but for viewers the pay-off is seeing creator Mark Kenneth Woods and his comedy partner Michael Venus transform themselves so utterly from part to part: altogether, the two comedians embody nine of the show’s twelve roles.
“I think one of our strengths and something that is really fun for us is to play multiple characters,” Woods told ARTINFO Canada this week, speaking of his long history acting in sketch comedy with Venus over the last twelve years. Woods, who is most well known for his popular OUTtv sketch comedy series “The House of Venus Show,” in which he and Venus cut their teeth as fake news anchors Brenda and Mario, does more than act: he’s also the writer, director, and producer of “Furry Creek.”
The two friends also reprise their characters from “Deb and Sisi,” first a web series and then eventually a feature film (2008) by Woods in which he and Venus play two codependent female friends. “The network wanted a Deb and Sisi show, but I don’t enjoy the process of doing drag, personally,” Woods says, explaining why he diverged from that idea. “It’s really funny and rewarding to watch, but I’ve got a lot of beard to cover. It lasts for about four hours when I do cover it, and even then it’s still not pretty.”
“Michael can do really pretty drag,” he adds. “I cannot do that. More like ‘Kids in the Hall’, really homely. That show was always our big influence. The point is not to look good.”
"Furry Creek" also sets a new standard for Canadian television in terms of its online content, or what is often called the “second screen.” The "Furry Creek” website moves away from the typical extras — interviews with the actors, behind-the-scene footage — and instead presents itself as the home of CBFC Channel 12 News, the fictional network that hosts the Face of Furry Creek contest.
“OUTtv is a tiny network. They’re not Rogers or Shaw, so it’s not like I have a lot of money in production,” says Woods. Proving that necessity is the mother of invention, he turned to the Bell Fund, a program that funds digital media projects for low budget productions.
“I was looking through the stuff that they funded and personally thought it was looking pretty stale,” he says. “They liked that our site was really integrated into the show. To my knowledge in Canada this hasn’t been done before. The creativity and the ideas often come out of challenging financial conditions. I mean, if I had tons of money to do the show I would have ended it right there. With financial constraints and trying to get different funding, I think I actually came up with a better idea.”
“Furry Creek” also features Amy Goodmurphy and Ryan Steele, creators of the live comedy show “The Ryan and Amy Show,” as well as numerous online videos. On camera the four actors are as tight as any touring band with many years on the road; even if they don't acheive widespread notoriety for this show, it's clear that Woods especially deserves a bigger stage. For those who missed the first five episodes, "Furry Creek" will resume again on Mondays at 9pm after the finale on July 8. Woods is currently working on a documentary about the gentrification of the gay village in Toronto, but he hasn't quite abandoned Furry Creek's search for its next poster citizen. When asked what's next, he says, “Hopefully another season of ‘Furry Creek’. That’s my ideal plan.”