If one of those cockamamie “doomsday” prophecies ever came to realization, what would the end of mankind look like? Would it be enveloped in darkness and chilling cold, or would it be as hot as a furnace in hell? Would there even be anything safe to eat or drink? Would there be any room for humanity in a world where all humanity has disappeared? Would you be able to get even a decent drop of H2O? On those last 2 questions, the new post-apocalyptic “survival comedy” MUTT AND CHOPPS attempts to provide some hilarious clarity.

Co-starring Hans van Harken and Carlos Alfredo, Jr. as the aforementioned pair of scheming stragglers – Mutt and Chopps, respectively – the series traces their mission to survive the heat and desolation of a place known as Apocalyptia. As Mutt and Chopps slog through their desperate quest for water, the laid-back yet sagely dude who can guide them to that oasis is Dew (Joshua Tomar). Whether the hard-nosed Mutt can survive Chopps’ frequent sabotaging of their search for H2O, though, is the funny part of the story.

Created by van Harken and directed by Chase Langley through Skel Studios, MUTT AND CHOPPS’ web channel and YouTube site (see additional links below) gives viewers a comfortable front row seat to the perilous seven episode journey of the series’ eponymous travelers. Viewers can also contribute to Skel’s ongoing funding for MUTT AND CHOPPS on its Patreon site.

L-R: Hans van Harken and Carlos Alfredo, Jr. co-star as MUTT AND CHOPPS.

L-R: Hans van Harken and Carlos Alfredo, Jr. co-star as MUTT AND CHOPPS.

While MUTT AND CHOPPS is but the latest comedic take on post-apocalyptic fiction, the idea for the show came during an all-too-real crisis that remains ongoing in 2018 America.

“After working with my roommate Carlos on our first film as a director, we were trying to find what to do next,” van Harken remembers. “The cultural climate at the time felt very political, dour, and heady. We didn’t want to get sidetracked by all that misery and squander the dreams we’ve been working toward our whole life for causes that I felt unqualified to properly fight for.“

As our anxieties grow with the unpredictability of life in this world, offsetting those anxieties with humor can make a tremendous difference. That fact defined Alfredo and van Harken’s mission in making MUTT AND CHOPPS. “When Carlos suggested we set our next project in the apocalypse, I thought, what a perfect setting to bring some light into a worst case scenario,” Alfredo explains. “I suppose MUTT AND CHOPPS is subtly optimistic. I mean, if these two dummies can survive Apocalyptia, maybe the end of the world isn’t ‘the end of the world’.”

The beginning of the “world” created by Alfredo and van Harken took place as both actors extensively developed their comedic personas. “After hours of brainstorming, he (van Harken) suggested that we play characters who are sort of exaggerated versions of ourselves and that of duo and then I added the idea of it being set in a post-apocalyptic environment,” remembers Alfredo. “Then, Hans being the mad man that he is, walked up to our white board and began to draw what was the very first rendition of our characters ‘Mutt and Chopps’, and the rest is history.”

Comedy doesn’t just use great jokes to draw guffaws from the audience. It also uses human physicality and visible gags to give viewers a huge laugh. In producing and co-starring in MUTT AND CHOPPS, Alfredo and van Harken used all of comedy’s trademark elements to make a series done in the spirit of cinema’s infancy.

“Vaudeville was definitely something we kept going back to,” van Harken says. “I feel like this project was a ‘back to the basics’ exercise for us, creatively. It’s funny. We set out to make something simple. My thought was, ‘let’s just do what the old timers did when it was just three guys and a camera’. In doing so, we inadvertently discovered this untapped well. There isn’t much goofy, slapstick, plain-and-simple cinema these days. So we got the chance to put our own apocalyptic spin on it!”

Mutt, played by Hans van Harken (who also produced MUTT AND CHOPPS).

Mutt, played by Hans van Harken (who also created MUTT AND CHOPPS).

The performances of Hollywood’s great comic pioneers influenced Alfredo and van Harken’s work, too. “One thing Hans suggested early on in the development of our characters was to take inspiration from the classic vaudevillian actors (Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chaplin, The Marx Brothers, etc.).,” remembers Alfredo.

“For me as an actor, this was incredible research since my character (Chopps) depends solely on communicating through pantomime and body language,” he adds. “My inspirations (for) who became the ingredients for Chopps were Harpo Marx, Cantinflas, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Putting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances is the storyteller’s most important goal. When it comes to comedy, though, storytellers in all mediums take average moments and heighten them to hysterical proportions. In preparing to play the visually expressive role of Chopps in MUTT AND CHOPPS, Alfredo studied how legendary comedians from the Golden Age of Hollywood effortlessly turned average scenarios into wacky dilemmas.

“What I came to realize from watching hours of Laurel and Hardy or Charlie Chaplin was that they got a laugh out of a very simple situation,” the actor says. “For example, in a Chaplin sketch, Chaplin is having lunch next to a criminal who, (as) we see, hides all his cocaine in a salt shaker from the authorities. Next thing we know, Chaplin picks up the salt shaker and sprinkles it on his food and it becomes a very funny, unpredictable situation. These are the kind of moments that we draw inspiration from for MUTT AND CHOPPS.”

MUTT AND CHOPPS’ episodes play out in that simple yet hilarious fashion. “A lot of comedies are very ‘slice of life’. I do believe MUTT AND CHOPPS is also very ‘slice of life’ but the world it takes place in sets it apart from the rest,” comments van Harken. “In modern comedies, the motivations of the characters could be ‘getting a job’ or ‘gaining higher status’. In MUTT AND CHOPPS, the motivations are more primal, like obtaining food, water, and shelter. I think that’s what naturally takes it into the slapstick realm.”

Thanks to how MUTT AND CHOPPS balances slapstick with subtlety, every episode is worth watching again and again. “What I am most proud of with MUTT AND CHOPPS is that it defies the conventions of modern live-action comedy,” Langley adds. “It walks the line of nuance that lets you notice new things with repeat viewings! More than anything, I would say the simplicity of MUTT AND CHOPPS is where its brilliance in comedy shines. It never tries to be too much, while attempting to tackle its simplicity with expertise and care.”

Carlos Alfredo, Jr. co-stars as Chopps in the post-apocalyptic comedy MUTT AND CHOPPS.

Carlos Alfredo, Jr. co-stars as Chopps in the post-apocalyptic comedy MUTT AND CHOPPS.

van Harken’s comedic inspirations are represented in both his performance as Mutt, and in the ruffled outfits that he and Alfredo don in MUTT AND CHOPPS. “I’m not much of an ‘easter egg’ or ‘homage’ kind of guy, but I can definitely see my influences seep in,” van Harken says.

“For example, in making the costumes, I can’t deny some of those Terry Gilliam vagabond vibes spilled into them, and as an actor, I definitely hear a little bit of Chris Farley in Mutt’s painful screams,” notes Van Harken. “Besides stuff like that, the most exciting part of MUTT AND CHOPPS for me was that we’re really creating something truly original that we can call our own.”

While van Harken and Langley examined the production aesthetics of films like CONAN THE BARBARIAN, DEATH BECOMES HER and MODERN TIMES, both filmmakers chose to develop a uniformly unique visual approach for MUTT AND CHOPPS.

“We didn’t set out to make anything feel or play as a homage, per se. I did take special care to create a palpable visual language that is prevalent throughout,” says Langley. “From the grading to the composition, we wanted MUTT AND CHOPPS to have a look and feel that we were instantly recognizable. We even gave our color treatment its own name, the ‘Toxic Wash’.”

In casting MUTT AND CHOPPS, Alfredo, van Harken and Langley considered the personal authenticity of their actors to be as significant of a factor as their comedic abilities would be on-camera. “So far, we’ve cast people we know based on their personalities,” responds Alfredo. “In our show we truly want to create characters that embrace a person’s essence and showcase what makes them interesting and unique.”

As Dew, Tomar clearly met those requirements. “Carlos is my roommate, and (Joshua) Tomar is a longtime friend,” says van Harken. “He’s a voice actor and computer wiz. He plays a lot of big strong characters in his voice acting roles, but from day to day, he’s a wonderfully chill guy and I wanted to bring that part of him out in his character Dew. I’m glad the world can now see that side of him personified in that kooky wandering mystic.”

mutt_origGetting MUTT AND CHOPPS cast was simple. Making the series in weather that could turn a hard-boiled egg to road kill was the tough part.

“Often times it was Mutt and Chopps out in the sun, and me under a towel with a camera,” remembers Langley, who worked on shooting the series in isolated California desert areas like Randsburg and Death Valley. “We found ourselves dealing with issues from setting suns, blistering heat, and low water supply. Production, however, was handled with precision – showing up prepared to capture the footage we needed!”

Despite those adverse conditions, van Harken, Alfredo, Tomar and Langley were consistently on point in their work on MUTT AND CHOPPS. “There definitely was lots of driving and hiking and sweating, but working with Chase and Hans just made the process very rewarding,” adds Alfredo. “Personally, I didn’t mind the heat so much. As a matter of fact, the heat and overall desert environment really did make us feel like we were wanderers in this dystopian world. With that being said there was plenty of breaks, water, sun screen, etc.”

Filming MUTT AND CHOPPS was also rewarding for Langley, who did almost everything behind-the-camera. “Everyone on our cast were real troopers! I found myself at times humorously envious when one of the guys weren’t in a shot and could rest in the shade. As a one-man production crew, every shot required my attention – it was such a challenging and rewarding experience! We had the help of a very capable and giving location manager, Brooke Greenberg. She was pivotal in finding all of the wonderful locations you can see in our penultimate episode, ‘Land of Water’!”

Preparing to film in harsh California heat, MUTT AND CHOPPS’ team exquisitely planned each episode’s production down to the last shot. “We used Carlos’ truck to transport the props we made to the locations,” says van Harken. “I would have binders prepared for each shoot day, complete with storyboards made by Chase and I. This was a very board driven show. The angle was ‘a comic strip come to life’. If you compare the boards to the final videos, you’d find that they are pretty damn close.”

chopps_origIf slapstick appeals to you as much as character-driven humor does, MUTT AND CHOPPS is the perfect amalgamation of both. If you’re a parent who’s searching for an online comedy series that will be just as funny to your children as it is to grown-ups, then MUTT AND CHOPPS may be your oasis in an otherwise raunchy humor desert.

“From the get-go we knew we were setting out to defy expectation. As a frame of reference we set out to make a live-action cartoon – with characters and a world that live up to that premise,” Langley explains. “MUTT AND CHOPPS has the ability to appeal to all ages. When we premiered the series, it was a thrill to see how older audience members felt they had something fresh that appealed to a universal humor, while children in the audience (some too young to speak) were captivated by the boisterous performances and eye-catching imagery!”

“I believe our show has a little bit of everything for everyone,” replies Alfredo. “We recently had our premiere for ‘Land of Water’ in front of 200+ people of all ages. It was incredible to see kids and adults laughing at the very same things, and that’s when we all knew we had hit a sweet spot. Honestly, I feel our show is completely unique and I don’t think there is anything out there like it.”

While van Harken, Alfredo and Langley hope that Mutt and Chopps will find more deserts to wander through in search of water, van Harken is thrilled by the output that came from those hot days of shooting the series in California’s deserts. “I am very proud of what we three were able to accomplish together in 6 months,” he says.

Though MUTT AND CHOPPS was produced on a small budget, the series looks impressively like one made for millions of dollars. However, van Harken stresses that it’s easy for would-be auteurs to recreate that style with resources they already have on hand. “The level of polish shouldn’t be intimidating to up-and-coming filmmakers, though. Everything we did can be done in your computer and ‘back yard’. It requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and cleverness, but if (you’ve) got what it takes, it can be done! I hope that’s what up-and-coming creative people take out of this.”

28378625_1630425260379155_4443884316051854542_nMUTT AND CHOPPS means a lot more to van Harken, Alfredo and Langley than just a way to entertain people in dark times. For van Harken, his biggest mission as an actor and filmmaker goes way beyond using his talents for amusement.

“At the end of the day, as fruitful as popularity or financial success can be, my main motivator is to inspire. Because if we don’t inspire, this whole moviemaking tradition will die forever. That is my apocalypse.”

While uncertainty and fear are natural emotions we’ve all dealt with these days, comedies like MUTT AND CHOPPS show us that laughter is a feeling that should never be in short supply. “What I hope people take away from watching MUTT AND CHOPPS is, to put (it) simply, a sense of humor,” adds Langley. “In a world where it feels like the world is ending, it’s refreshing to watch a couple of morons surviving the actual end of the world.”

(NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning of MUTT AND CHOPPS, the series’ producers say: “Closed-captioning is something that we are looking into, as well as having the series translated into other languages.”)

To help fund more episodes of MUTT AND CHOPPS, visit the series’ Patreon page:

Skel Studios’ web site: https://www.skelstudio.com/mutt-and-chopps

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5nQrhysF3mHNHg9bCLvDMg

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/muttandchopps

TWITTER: https://www.twitter.com/muttandchopps

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/muttandchopps/