Have you ever made decisions that seemed like good ideas at the time, but ended up making things worse? Specifically, have you ever tried looking for love, only to find that the one you hope to spend the rest of your life with turns out to be your worst nightmare? In the comedy web series AVERAGE JOE, one ordinary, yet seemingly lovestruck man finds out in comical fashion that when it comes to romance, not every girl is a catch and not every decision is a good one. Along with the show’s first season of 6 episodes which debuted in November 2012 on Funny or Die and Youtube, all episodes of AVERAGE JOE’s 13 episode second season debuted this past February. Both seasons can be viewed on its official Youtube page, and the series has already achieved over 2 million views online.

Created, produced, directed by and starring Joe Flanders, AVERAGE JOE stars Flanders as (who else) Joe, a hard luck bachelor who, try as he might, always seems to strike out in the romance department through his own (unintentional) bad decisions. Throughout the show’s first season and into the second, Joe experiences the consequences of those bad decisions, and discovers more about himself as a person along the way. As Flanders describes his character: “I’d like to think that all of us internally have bad ideas that pop into our head, and then we instantly decide, ‘that’s a terrible idea! I shouldn’t do that!’ He (Joe) does those. It’s not that he’s actively trying to make bad decisions; he just makes bad decisions. He says the wrong thing, he gets with the wrong person. His whole life is a series of wrong choices.”

Making his life both more complicated and just as interesting: his sex-obsessed best friends Graham (Graham Bowlin), and Lee (Lee Page), who rather than trying to help Joe make sense of things, try to get some good action however and wherever they can. When they do try to give Joe some much needed good advice, though, it always turns out to be anything but. There’s also Joe’s rocker cousin and personal idol Andy (played by real life rock singer Andy Biersack of the glam rock group Black Veil Brides), whose advice is just as terrible – but it’s guidance Joe puts his trust in. Joe’s main squeeze is Kim (Nikiva Dionne). From being mere neighbors, to becoming close friends, to ending up in a full fledged romantic relationship, Kim and Joe have become even closer to each other.

Other recurring characters make each episode of AVERAGE JOE just as hilarious: Clarence (played by Biersack’s Black Veil Brides bandmate Christian Coma), Joe’s overly opinionated, controlling and highly obnoxious cousin, plus the passionate, yet stuck in the ‘80s spoken word poet Abraham Nunez (David Haverty), for whom Joe is not only trying to design his own web site, but also has to deal with his fears of a mysterious pants-less priest who wants to kill him.

Another offbeat character is Danny (played by Danny Worsnop, lead singer of the heavy metal band Asking Alexandria), who for some reason refers to Joe as “Jason”, and loves to talk about rain, street cleaning and the popular ‘90s sitcom BOY MEETS WORLD. Making Joe’s romantic life just as interesting is Beth (Maude Bonanni), a young mother to her annoying teenage son Danny (Matt Rife). Beth has a brief fling with Joe before they both realize just how far they have to go in order to find and maintain a steady relationship.

Formerly a writers’ assistant on the popular HBO comedy EASTBOUND AND DOWN, Flanders was inspired by the work of the show’s creators Ben Best and Jody Hill (most notably their previous work, the 2006 low budget kung fu spoof THE FOOT FIST WAY with Danny McBride, star of EASTBOUND AND DOWN). To that end, Flanders was driven to create AVERAGE JOE primarily out of his strong desire to develop and produce his own material, and also by some of his own personal awkward experiences on the social scene.

“I had been in L.A. for a year, and I just had to create something. So, I thought about weird experiences I had in my life, whether it’s with women or just conversations in general. My friends have always said that I seem to get myself in these ridiculous scenarios, not as ridiculous as the show but it offered a good starting ground. So, I cobbled together a storyline of somebody that was trying to get a rebound, which I was at one point,” he says.

While the 6 episode first season of AVERAGE JOE was more of a loose string of short, unconnected stories in each episode, season 2 proved to be not only longer (13 episodes running anywhere from 8-12 minutes, totaling over 2 hours), but also more structured in its storytelling. Nonetheless, the process of getting the show’s first season to the screen was both a long haul and a learning experience for its star/creator.

“It still took us a year to make it, with just calling in favors. As a writer and performer, I didn’t really know what it was. I was trying to be Louis C.K. at times, tonally, because I respect him a lot. I think just watching season 1 and figuring out where I wanted to go with it, I think season 2 is much more cohesive, much more of a story with setups and callbacks in every episode, (plus) characters recurring and everything else,” Flanders recalls.

As the show’s storytelling style evolved and changed over the past two seasons, so too did its production techniques and visual look primarily thanks to its successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $10,000 for season 2. Along with improved filming equipment came the chance to expand the show’s location shooting, as well as add much needed extra assistance on the show’s audio crew (mainly a boom, or overhead microphone, operator).

Flanders not only moved the setting primarily from indoor apartments (where it had been for season 1), but also took advantage of the vastness of Los Angeles itself when it came to filming exterior scenes. The end result was a production where its success lay in Flanders’ collaboration and camaraderie with his cast and crew.

“The equipment was different, and I think I was also more guarded as far as other people’s ideas and things. It was more like, ‘this is my thing’. I’ve always been a collaborative person, and I was working with people I knew, so that there was still a level of collaboration, but I think this season it’s just like we all speak the same language. I’d say 80% of what’s in the episodes is all script, but the other 20% is best ideas that we came up with that really made everything so much better,” Flanders adds.

The second season would not have been possible if it weren’t for the hard work and dedication of Flanders’ cohorts Lee Page (season 2 producer and director of 4 episodes)  and Patrick Fogarty (who directed an additional 4 episodes this season). “After doing much of the work myself on the first season, my collaborators (Page and Fogarty) brought so much to the table both with the visual upgrade of the show, along with the writing, performances and every other aspect. I was really lucky to find two guys that believed in the project and were willing to work for no pay.”

Along with the show’s core ensemble, the second season of AVERAGE JOE features a wacky assortment of recurring characters who serve to make Joe’s life interesting while always getting on his nerves. As Flanders explains, the task of finding the right actors to play those offbeat roles was one of the main goals he and his production team hoped to achieve for season 2; a goal accomplished thanks to an extensive casting search throughout L.A.’s acting community.

“The whole casting thing for the season was like, ‘what’s the most interesting people that we can surround Joe with?’ We’ve got a spoken word poet (played by Haverty), we’ve got a 70 year old man that he meets in an STD clinic. He sort of makes a point of saying, ‘if I play my cards right, I might end up like him!’ It’s just a hodgepodge of interesting and strange people that Joe interacts with.”

Besides its production quality, the show’s approach to its humor and storytelling is one of the biggest things that sets AVERAGE JOE apart from many other web series comedies. “It’s just a generalization, but I feel like a lot of web based comedy is very loud, obnoxious, short, to the point, and there’s nothing wrong with that but for me it all sort of blurs together as just noise. I think the show takes its time without dragging. The best comments I get are from kids on Twitter saying, like, ‘this show should be on TV’. I think that this season, We wanted it to feel like a legitimate show, so I was a little less afraid. It’s okay if there’s a scene or two that isn’t hilarious, because it’s telling a story. It’s based in some form of reality. It all comes from a real place,” adds Flanders.

Perhaps the biggest reason for AVERAGE JOE’s appeal among viewers is that Joe is, in a way, just like all of us who’ve made bad decisions at one time or another – especially when it comes to falling in love. ”I like to think that why the show’s caught on in a way is that whether they want to admit it or not, people can see a lot of themselves in this guy, and not the things they would do but we’ve all struggled with choices, and this guy just makes the wrong ones,” Flanders says.

AVERAGE JOE is a comedy that’s for anyone who’s ever tried to find that special someone, only for that person to be less than what they expected – and sometimes, worse. “The first season was pretty much about a guy who gets dumped in the pilot, and takes the advice of his friends and tries to get over it, and that proves to be more difficult than anticipated. In season 2, he’s trying to up the game and he wants a relationship, and he realizes that if you really, really want one, you can find one, but that it’s probably not going to be with the right person because it’s forced, or whatever. So that finds him dating people he’s definitely not right for.”

Yet, as Flanders says, AVERAGE JOE is also about learning from our mistakes, and most importantly, about ourselves. It’s a journey that the show’s titular character embarks on in every hilarious episode. “He’s dating a crazy drug head, a mom who has a kid in high school, all in the name of love and finding a relationship but it’s all forced so it sort of follows him as he figures out about himself, about what he wants in a relationship and what he brings to the table in a relationship. In the end, he realizes that maybe the right person was under his nose all along.”

(Note: The series is not currently closed-captioned.)

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