Puppets and aliens and farting, oh my!
Welcome to Free Period, the greatest part of any high school day, and Disney Channel’s newest online comedy. The sketch comedy comes from the minds of Kent Boyd and Zoe Katz, and they’re here to tell you that being weird is awesome. The show combines different visual media styles to create a bright, original, silly masterpiece.
The duo first started collaborating when they put together an unofficial behind-the-scenes video for Teen Beach Movie, in which Boyd played Rascal. From there, the pair knew what they could do, and so did Disney. According to Kent and Zoe, Disney truly let them take the reins in creating this show, and they couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out.
We got the show creators on the phone to discuss what makes their show so different and why viewers of all ages will enjoy it.
How would you each describe the show?
Zoe Katz: I would describe it as a TV playhouse, but a psychedelic version. Kent is our lead dude, and he’s probably the most insane, crazy person I’ve ever met. Like, he’ll do back-flips anywhere. (laughs). He’s just crazy and wild and so funny, and so we kind of based the show around him. We’re very, very interested in a very visual, mixed media style. We tried to do definitely something different this time, and Disney really let us have a lot of creative control, so that was pretty chill!
Kent Boyd: I think too, the style of it is very different as well, Zoe was also the editor of it. It definitely has kind of a raw feel toward it. It is an ensemble cast, and I got a couple of my friends from Teen Beach and Teen Beach 2, that was on Disney Channel, which, is how this all started and began this relationship with Disney. They came, they joined, and we had a lot of fun creating this study hall type of feel. But the color, we’re really big into colors. We love the 60s and the 70s, and it’s kind of vintage but yet it’s still bright enough to capture the Disney Channel clientele.
There is a lot of farting and there’s a puppet teacher, so if you don’t think it’s funny, there may be something wrong with you. (laughs). It’s fun! And it’s weird and it’s quirky and it’s kooky. It’s literally two 20-year-olds getting together and remembering what was so fun about school and about friends, and just kind of exploring and letting our minds do anything that we want. We both have a really specific sense of humor, and I think that it comes across really well. I hope it does!
How did the idea to do a show come about?
KB: So actually, for Teen Beach 2, we were filming in Puerto Rico. I was filming some background footage, of what was happening in the dressing rooms and all the weird..not drama, but “drama.”
ZK: Yeah, it’s not like “undercover, real” footage. Just fun on the set.
KB: Because we were both obsessed when High School Musical was on, we wanted to know what the real dynamic was. We were trying to capture that, but still script it and tailor it toward an audience. So, I got it together and I was like “Zoe, this footage is so fun, can you make something out of it?” She was like “Well let me look at it.” She edited this thing together, created some crazy stories, and we posted it. We were kind of nervous about it, because Disney doesn’t normally push for things they don’t have their hand on. But they saw it and loved it, they actually promoted it on their Twitter and a couple of other things. From that little viral video that we made, they brought us both in for a pitch meeting. We came to them with three new ideas, and one of them happened to be Free Period!
ZK: We pitched them another show called Audio Visual Getdown, which is a doll-based sketch, and a show within a show, where Kent is a human and everyone else is a barbie doll. So that was an idea that got brought into the show as well. So it’s a very very mixed style. I think they really wanted to take the risk, and I think that’s awesome.
I’ve seen that Teen Beach 2 behind-the-scenes footage and loved it.
ZK: Thank you! Yeah, so we wrote some sketches for that together, and kind of figured out we were a good team from that. We just work well together!
KB: Yeah it happens really naturally, and it was really – you know, I think when you find a good partner it just is a lot of fun. And me and Zoe, if we’re like “we’re not having fun” then we let the idea go. But we brought up everything, and we either start laughing or we don’t, and we go from there. It’s very natural, we try not to second guess ourselves. Usually. the first thought is what we go for, no matter how weird or crazy it is.
ZK: Or we make it work with editing. (laughs).
So, why a sketch comedy? What made you want to do this type of show?
ZK: I think Kent and I have both been kind of tired with some of the comedy programs there are available to, not only adults, but absolutely kids. You know, I still watch cartoons. We’re both big fans of Tim and Eric, and their production company actually produces for us. So it’s kind of that style of comedy that I think we both wanted to bring to children. I think sketch is such a great way to show so many different worlds, and kind of just be free to do anything. I think, you know, back to the days of “All That,” that was a sketch show, and there isn’t really anything out here at this time.
KB: I also think too, just with today’s generation of kids, with the technology and with everything that’s so accessible to them, I think their humor’s a bit different! I think their humor is fast-paced, and I think that they get distracted a little bit easier. I think with the high-energy…kind of dorky, crazy visuals meets with high-paced and bright colors, and the energy that can bring in. It’s very random at times but now, I think kids are a lot weirder, and that’s fun.
I think I was a weird kid, and I know Zoe is still a weird kid. (laughs). We’re just trying to celebrate that a bit more and be like, “no, no, no, that weirdness, the way you think about this or that, is exactly what we think is cool and we think is different.” We wanted to capture that, and still make it cool and hip. We’re just kind of coming into our own and letting the weird kid be popular and be cool and be accepted. We’re just a little more accepting, which I think is cool and fun.
Having more free rein and being able to run with the show, did that add any pressure to get it right?
ZK: I don’t think there was pressure! I think Disney realized that they have a lot of things that have a formula to them. They knew if we didn’t use the formula, and did what we felt….I’m not phrasing this well. (laughs).
KB: No, I think you are, I know what you mean! I think that they were looking for something different, and they were looking for something cool. I think that they saw that video and were like “Woah, these kids don’t care.” And I think what Disney does, since they create such magical moments and they create such epic moments, that you really have to care. And I’m not saying we don’t care, I’m saying that when we find the idea, we try to stay as honest and true to that original idea as possible, because when you bring in other people’s opinions and it gets larger and larger and larger, it can kind of dilute.
ZK: Yeah, we work better as a small team. And that’s why I don’t think we felt that much pressure, because we really did have a lot of control. We could convince everyone involved that, “Hey this is the right way to go” and I believe in it and I think it works.
KB: Absolutely. At the end of the day, we watched it and we were like “Do we like this show?” And we were obsessed with it, and I think that’s what we do. I mean, we love it.
You’ve got to be the ones to like it first and foremost.
KB: Yep, totally. And I think we can actually stand by this and really go every single part, we love, which is cool.
Aside from your own voices, where else did you draw inspiration for the show? I saw some Pickle and Peanut inspiration on your Pinterest board!
ZK: Oh yes, we love Pickle and Peanut, yeah.
KB: I mean, Zoe loves cute things, and I think cute things are cute and fun…it’s an energetic show.
ZK: Yeah, I love Pickle and Peanut because they kind of play with mixed media as well. And I just think it’s a funny show! I just love the way they’re animated. We have a character, Garrett Clayton, who plays this really nerdy guy Jenkins, who is a photo. So we definitely took some inspiration from other mixed projects.
Now, you mentioned Garrett Clayton, who else are we going to see or hear?
KB: Yeah you’re going to see Garrett Clayton, you’re going to also see Chrissie Fit, who was in Teen Beach and also Pitch Perfect 2. You’re going to see John DeLuca, who played Butchy. And then we have a newcomer, who plays John DeLuca’s mom.
KB: She, I’m telling you, is probably a standout for the both of us. We saw it, and we wanted to write a character, we obviously needed an older character in there, for any sketches if we needed a parent or someone older. So we were like, we want the popular, hot guy to have a mom that comes through the school every day, and they wear the same wig.
ZK: P.S. she’s not the same ethnicity as him, I’ll say.
KB: Yes, she is African-American and John DeLuca is Italian.
ZK: We love diversity (laughs). But yeah, I think we wanted to show…we always wanted an adult in the classroom because it would be visually great. There’s also a monkey in the class…big star.
This sounds like the best class.
KB: Oh yeah, it’s a class of misfits, that’s for sure.
ZK: Oh and also Mollee Gray plays an alien. She was also in Teen Beach as well.
KB: She’s great. It’s a really great, fun ensemble cast.
So we’ve got an alien, and a monkey…oh goodness.
KB: Oh yeah, you’re going to have to wait and see because it’s pretty weird. Oh! And also, we brought in a friend of mine to play the substitute teacher, who is a puppet. He was one of the original puppets on Avenue Q.
ZK: His name is Christian Anderson.
KB: He was also on America’s Got Talent.
ZK: He was an amazing puppeteer. And we had somewhat of a limited budget, and we built a classroom, and we had a really awesome set designer. He really made it feel 70s, but still modern, lots of rainbows…it’s very visual.
So you guys are in a classroom, does that mean the show’s title, Free Period, is literal?
KB: Yep! It’s literally your study hall. Both me and Zoe during school, and for most kids nowadays, it’s like what’s your favorite class? And it’s free period, or study hall, where you can kind of do whatever you want to do. You can draw, you can doodle, you can hear about the gossip at school. It’s that place where you can be creative, and you can be wild and imaginative with your 45 minutes that you have during school.
ZK: Yeah, we don’t want to learn all the time! There’s too many shows that take place at school, and I don’t want to watch kids in school or after school. I want to watch kids do something crazy at school…but safe! (laughs).
To wrap things up, what do you think kids will love most about the show?
ZK: Ugh, I hope Kent Boyd, obviously! (laughs). No, I really think Kent’s definitely a big part in it, and he plays so many different, VERY very different crazy characters. I think they’ll like the absurdness, and I think that they’ll like that it’s watchable for adults and children.
KB: Yeah for sure. When we were filming, it was a really natural process, in the sense that it just felt right. I think Zoe does a really good job too, of editing it and I think the pacing of it is really fun. I think there are some great visuals that kids will just laugh at. It’s literally so absurd in the sense where it doesn’t make sense but you let it just happen. I think that in this day and age, we try to make sense of everything. There’s still an underlying lesson of the overall thing, which we love from Reading Rainbow or things like that, where you learn an overall message. But in the meantime, it’s just to encourage kids to really say what they’re thinking, and to really express it and let it out because I think we’ll be a lot happier, individually.
ZK: Yeah, exactly! I hope they enjoy it and laugh! I hope they come back for more.
Free Period premieres online today. You can follow Kent and Zoe on social media as well.