No matter how legendary or obscure they are, every band and singer who’s ever found success in the music industry can tell you that they all had to start somewhere. In all likelihood, their first “concerts” probably took place in places ranging from smoky, intimately lit nightclubs to packed restaurants filled with customers who either didn’t care one way or the other about the music they played, or just hated it outright.
With its first episode having premiered on Saturday, February 13th via its official web site and Youtube page (see links below), the new comedy series DK the gig follows the ups and downs of an arrogant, belligerent, and aging singer/songwriter named DK, better known to everyone as ‘D’, (played by Darren Keith, who also created, wrote, co-edited, executive produced and composed all of the series’ original music.)
Because of his heavily abrasive personality, DK now finds himself playing the only regular gig that anyone will give him – a weekly spot in front of a group of small, disinterested patrons at a high end restaurant named Marjoram, owned by his longtime friend and former musician Benny (John Comegno). No matter how often DK screws up, Benny consistently gives him the benefit of the doubt, much to the annoyance of his wife, restaurant manager April (Jensen Nicole Bücher).
With his career not having progressed as well as he’d hoped, DK soldiers on with the other members of his band: drummer Micky (played by veteran rock drummer Fred Berman) and bass player Chaz (played by longtime bassist Pete Donnelly, himself having played with numerous artists including Shelby Lynne, NRBQ and The Figgs, among others). However, their performances are constantly sabotaged by their inept, heavily stoned sound engineer Marc (Lance Channing).
Himself a talented freelance session drummer and singer/songwriter, Keith developed the concept for DK the gig based on many of the often humorous moments he would dream up while spending his time pursuing his own musical career.
While Keith’s talents in music were formidable, he also possessed a strong ability to make people laugh; one that, for over 25 years, he always felt he should have made a living at.
“I’ve been a professional musician since the age of 15 for the most part, but throughout almost my entire adult life I had this very persistent thought that I had most likely chosen the wrong path and should have been doing something with my sense of humor and writing ability instead of playing music,” says Keith. “And even though I have done some great things musically, and things I am really proud of, I felt that I had this real gift that I had never gotten to truly explore and share, and that had haunted me for over 25 years.”
With that regret weighing heavily on his mind, Keith knew he had to take action. “I was always able to make people really laugh, but it was usually just people close to me or whoever happened to be around me at any given time, but nothing serious or professionally, even though I constantly thought about it. A few years ago, I decided that I couldn’t live with that hanging over me anymore and the way it was going, I was going to take it to the grave with me.”
Thus were planted the seeds for what would eventually become DK the gig, a project that would take on significant meaning for the longtime musician turned actor/filmmaker. “I either had to do something about it or stop thinking about it altogether, so I decided to finally do something about it, and this show was the first thing that came to my mind, since I had thought of those funny scenarios for so long,” adds Keith. “So, even though this is a comedy, this is a very personal and profound thing to me.”
Comedic depictions of both real and fictional singers and bands have always been popular with audiences. Yet, while DK the gig shares some of the same characteristics with movies and TV shows like FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS, THIS IS SPINAL TAP, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT and others, Keith says that his series stands apart because of its honest, realistic portrayal of what struggling musicians (like his character) face constantly. That approach is reflected in both the situations portrayed in the series, and in the performances of Keith’s ensemble cast.
“Unlike most comedies about musicians, from FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS and (the HBO series) TENACIOUS D to THIS IS SPINAL TAP, all of which I love, I did not want this to be caricaturish, or too blown out of proportion,” explains Keith. “It was extremely important to me that the show have a high degree of realism and authenticity in its tone and be conversational in the acting, so that even with some of the insane things that happen, it is still all within the realm of plausibility.”
Juggling multiple tasks while on the set of a web series is a challenge for anyone who’s ever attempted to star in and create one.
Given that DK the gig was Keith’s first major filmmaking endeavor, he would quickly learn just how steep the learning curve was as he started to work on pre-production for the musical comedy.
“When I decided to go through with this a few years ago, I knew absolutely nothing,” recalls Keith. “I didn’t know how to format a script, what Celtx (a popular screenwriting software) was, what the difference between a D.P. (director of photography) and cinematographer was, that a director usually does not shoot the show/film themselves, what a producer does, what an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is, how and where do you find a director, producer, and cast, or what pre-production and post-production are, etc. etc. etc.”
True, Keith had a lot to learn about what it takes to create a web series. Thankfully, though, he had the vast resources of the web to help him out. “After I took that first step, I had to learn every single thing along the way,” he adds. “Lots of Googling, YouTubing, asking questions, etc. It was such a crazy rollercoaster ride.”
The pilot episode, filmed in January of 2015, is also significant in that it marks Keith’s acting debut. As he explains, it was not just his first on-camera acting role. It was his first acting role, anywhere. “I had never acted before! So when you’re seeing me in the pilot episode, you are literally seeing me act for the first time,” Keith says. “And I mean, ever – no acting lessons or classes, no experience, no nothing.”
As it turned out, Keith’s first entree into acting for the camera was an incredible accomplishment; one that, looking back, even he can’t believe he’s achieved.
“It (acting) was just something that I knew I could do,” he says. “That part of it is hard to describe, but it’s crazy because after all the time (years) and money that I invested in this, it was all riding on my performance on that day we shot it, and I had never acted before. Thinking about it now, I’m out of my mind!”
As any filmmaker can attest, not everything always goes according to plan on the set, and Keith’s filming of DK the gig’s premiere episode was no exception. Although his on-screen performance was a success, there were some technical mishaps that affected both the filming and post-production processes for the series’ pilot. It was at this point where Keith would learn first hand about another crucial element of filmmaking – the art of the edit.
“I did not know how to edit, at all, but I needed a trailer for the show, so I taught myself how to edit in Final Cut Pro and made a trailer,” Keith says. “And then, I still wasn’t happy with the version of the pilot that I was left with, even after 2 editors worked on it, mainly due to technical issues from the shoot and the edits.”
From there, Keith would add yet another title to his increasingly growing list of jobs on DK the gig. “So, since I had done the trailer, I figured why not give the pilot a shot, and get rid of as many things as possible that are still not sitting right with me,” remembers Keith. “So, I did a very extensive edit myself and edited the pilot down to 9 minutes from 15 minutes. And that’s the version of the pilot that you see now. But never in a million years would I have thought I would be editing anything.”
With hilarious, and often awkward moments that any musician or concert-goer can relate to, DK the gig is sure to win over fans of both great comedy and great music alike – even if they don’t play an instrument.
“I think this show will appeal to anyone with a windpipe,” says Keith. “I don’t know what to compare this to. I would say it may have elements that you could compare to other shows, but I guess that is in the eye of the beholder. I think that all creative works are Rorschach tests.”
While DK the gig has already gained an audience just by its first episode, Keith hopes to continue the musical misadventures of his title character for many seasons to come. “I have many episodes written, easily more than a season,” explains Keith. “The plan right now is to do an IndieGoGo campaign sometime in March/April, and then film a shorter season of shorter episodes as soon as possible, to put a body of content out and build the audience that I think is out there for this show.”
Thanks to what he hopes will be a steady stream of episodes (pending the success of his IndieGoGo campaign), Keith also hopes that DK the gig will play to an even bigger viewership. “The goal is to get DK the gig in front of as many people as possible that would like this type of show, continue to grow and build its audience, and for it to be able to sustain itself,” he says. “Ultimately, I would like to find it a great home on either a network or digital platform that supports this type of original content.”
No matter what kind of music or comedy you prefer, DK the gig proves that while music soothes the savage beast, it can also tickle the funny bone, as evidenced through the wacky life of a musician who’s determined to make a name for himself – no matter how long the odds. “My primary motive with this show is, above all else, to make people laugh,” says Keith. “That is what inspired me to do this.”
NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of DK the gig, Keith says: “Presently, it is not. It would great if it is at some point in the future, but I could not say for certain at this point in time.”
ON THE WEB: www.dkthegig.com