With the Emmys fast approaching, there's one comedy duo you need to keep your eye on: Paulilu. Made up of Upright Citizen's Brigade alums Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs, Paulilu is responsible for producing some of the funniest pre-Emmy digital shorts from last year, including the laugh-out-loud "Emmy Training Day" video starring Melissa McCarthy and Joel McHale.
But when they're not working with A-list talent, they're working on their own web series, Paulilu Mixtape, a hodge podge of hilarious skits parodying everything from monster trucks to The Dark Knight, which you can stream on their website or watch on YouTube.
Complex got on the phone with Paulilu to talk about how they came to be a team, the inspiration behind some of their funniest videos, and how they got Jessica Alba to co-sign one of their sketches.
Interview by Alexa Futterweit
How did Paulilu all start?
Lucia Aniello: First of all, we met in a level one UCB [Upright Citizen's Brigade] class, so that’s how it started. Truth be told, I had just graduated from college and I knew I wanted to do comedy, and the more I googled Amy Poehler’s name, the more UCB kept popping up. And I was already in New York, so I started to enrolled myself in the class and that was basically it.
Paul W. Downs: I had actually done sketches and improv in college and knew I kind of wanted to do that. And so when I moved to New York, UCB was kind of the place to be if you wanted to do grad school in comedy. I talked to so many people and the people I admire in comedy had come from there, so it seemed like the natural next step for me.
In college, did both of you know you wanted to have a career in comedy?
Downs: Yeah. I knew I wanted to do comedy in college. Its not like they have a major for it, you know? But I was in a sketch group. I was in an improv group. So I knew that it was something that I wanted to do. It was only after college, though, that I seriously wanted to do it.
Aniello: I came from more of a film background. I knew I wanted to be directing and I just felt like the best way to get a hold on comedy was to learn about comedy. So, I figured I’d immerse myself in it and see if I came out alive.
You two are known for your “Diary of Zac Efron” and “The Real Housewives of South Boston” digital shorts. How did you come up with the idea for “Diary of Zac Efron”?
Downs: I had been doing an impression of Zac Efron at UCB and our friend Elaine Carroll had this web-series called “Very Mary Kate”—you should definitely check it out—where she does an impression of Mary-Kate Olsen. One day, she wanted me to do my Zac Efron impression on her web-series, so I went on and I did. The next day, the short had a million hits. So she told me I should get a Twitter and do my Zac Efron impression, so I did and I had like sixteen thousand followers.
Aniello: And Zac is usually talking about things that are “awesome, man.” From there, we created this diary entry form, which we like because it's different from a parody of a character.
Downs: It’s more of like a satire of a character.
Where did the idea of doing “The Real Housewives of South Boston” come from?
Aniello: That one we created with our friend Jess Eason, but basically all the women that are in the digital shorts are actually from Boston, except for me. I’m from Massachusetts but not the Boston area. It’s a parody of “The Real Housewives” franchise. It’s definitely done well.
Downs: I think it’s the Boston people that have such Boston pride. Not to toot our own horns, but it was on the local Boston news every night. The Boston Herald and The Boston Globe wrote about it.
Aniello: Either people love, love, love it or they hate it. I think that’s maybe a theme we have going and we’re okay with.
Downs: We’re a big sport when it comes to that.
You recently started a new digital short series and have already aired a few. Tell me about “Big Trucks."
Downs: It was so crazy because we just decided to go to the Monster Jam finals because we thought it’d be a good place to do a character. As you’ve probably seen, most of our shorts are character based. So, we went to the finals [a couple weeks ago]. The people there are so fun and so amped up and crazy and drunk. It’s all about destruction and screaming and I think we had a great time doing it. I don’t know if people knew I was a fake person or what they thought, but people were really into being involved. They were really enthusiastic. I don’t know if you saw the part that I had the audience chant “Trucks!” and I had them going for like three minutes straight. People there are just so into it.
Aniello: It was definitely the most positive environment we’ve ever been in. Everyone was just so happy and amped and psyched. And there were lot of explosions and fireworks. It was cool.
The costumes for the second digital short for the series, “Dark Knight & 60s Robin," were spot on. How did you manage to pull that off?
Aniello: We asked fans for them actually.
Downs: And collectors are so kind and so enthusiastic that they’re like, “Of course! Use my costume.” I honestly think they were excited to see them on screen and that’s what helped a lot.
Do you have a favorite superhero?
Downs: Mine is definitely Batman. Seriously, I have not seen Spider-man. I haven’t seen The Avengers. I haven’t seen Iron Man. For some reason, I’m just not into them, but I’ve always connected to Batman. I guess it's because I always read the comics when I was a kid.
Aniello: Yeah, I’m not really a [superhero fan]. Lies! My favorite superhero is Hilary Clinton.
Downs: She flies around the world and fights evil.
Aniello: Exactly. [Laughs.] One handshake at a time.
So far, which has been your favorite digital short to film?
Aniello: I’m impartial to “Dildo Sport.”
Downs: And I had a lot of fun doing “Dark Knight & 60s Robin." It was really fun to dress-up, especially before the movie came out.
Aniello: And I think we’re really proud of that one.
As a team ,you’ve been able to work with some pretty amazing people like Melissa McCarthy and Joel McHale. What has that been like?
Downs: We’ve been really lucky. [Lucia and I] instantly knew we wanted to work together because we made each other laugh, and we feel like we've done our best when we make others laugh.
And we’ve been lucky that some people we've worked with are famous. Like Jessica Alba. We had this music video we did with this Turkish pop star, which Lucia directed to make it look like it was an actual European music video because MTV Europe is the funniest thing. It’s insane, the insane haircuts and too much jewelry.
From that we got a chance to do a sketch with Jessica Alba, and I think because of that, it started to open up opportunities for us to work with other people. We did sketches for the Emmys last year and that was really cool because we got to work with Emmy winners and nominees, like Melissa McCarthy. Its kind of been insane for us because we’ve gotten to work with such great people that we admire so much and that obviously makes the work better.
Aniello: They’re famous because they’re really, really good. That’s something that I really did learn.
Speaking of the Emmys, do you have anything planned for this year?
Aniello: We do! We have some aces in the hole.
Downs: I don’t know if we can tell the premise of them, but we are doing a couple sketches, a couple digital shorts. Stuff will be online pre-broadcast.
Who are some people you hope to work with in the future?
Aniello: Hilary Clinton.
Downs: For some reason, we actually think she is very funny.
Aniello: And I don’t know who else.
Downs: I happen to think Mila Kunis.
Aniello: Maybe Meryl Streep. You know, the regulars.
Interview by Alexa Futterweit