Payman Benz parodies Bruno Mars' 'Grenade.' - Interview

If you own a radio, you’ve probably heard “Grenade” by Bruno Mars. If you own a computer, you should immediately listen to Payman Benz’s parody of it. Not only is Benz’s song hilarious, but his sketches and short videos are quickly gaining him fans and making internet users everyone laugh their butts off. Zoiks! Online recently chatted with Payman about his start in comedy, how he came to record his version of “Grenade” and what he has planned next.

Q. How did you get your start in writing and directing?

A. I've always loved comedy ever since I was a kid. I was obsessed with comedy. I tried stand-up for a while about 10 years ago and it wasn't for me, but I knew I still wanted to work in comedy. A friend showed me 'The Big Lebowski' and I knew right then and there that I wanted to write & direct.

Q. You recently wrote and directed a musical parody video of Bruno Mars’s “Grenade” (titled “The Wingman’s Anthem”). Tell us how you came up with the idea for the parody and what it was like to shoot the video.

A. I first heard the song when Bruno Mars sang it on SNL. It was really catchy and his performance was incredible, as usual. As soon as I heard the chorus, I knew someone would make a parody using the Jersey Shore definition of 'grenade', since that term had gotten really popular from the show. I told a few friends about, including Adam Shapiro, who stars in the video, and he encouraged me to go write it. I rushed off to a coffee shop and wrote it in about 30 minutes.

Getting the music made and figuring out scheduling took a few months, but after raising over $2,000 on Kickstarter to help us produce the video, we were finally able to do it. The shoot was made up of my friends, colleagues and even some strangers from Craigslist. Everyone worked for free, and the only thing we paid for was the location, food and some equipment. It was the most fun I've ever had on a shoot. Everyone was excited about the idea and everyone did a fantastic job. We laughed for about 14 hours and had a music video to show for it. I have awesome friends.

Q. Your YouTube video, “50 Perfect Impressions” has nearly 2 million hits. How did you decide who to impersonate? Who are your favorite people to do impressions of?

A. That video was a very random and rushed idea. I was talking to a friend on video chat one night and I did a bad Bill Cosby on purpose, and it made him laugh. Then I thought it would be really fun to make a video of me doing terrible impressions but still being really confident about it. The next day, we decided to shoot it. As my cinematographer Chris Darnell was setting up lighting, him, my buddy Sean Becker and I came up with a list of 50 celebrities. It was really random, and we were basically just trying to come up with any 50. I don't know if I can do any more because towards the end of the video, I was just making strange noises and not sounding like a human being. My favorites were the Olsen twins, Jerry Seinfeld/Bob Dylan hybrid and Kathy Griffin, mainly because none of them sound like my terrible impression.

Q. What role does YouTube (and other similar sites) play in helping comedians promote their careers? How has it helped you bring your work to more people?

A. YouTube and FunnyOrDie have been incredible for me, personally. When they feature my videos, it's a calling card for me professionally. "Oh, you were featured on FunnyOrDie? Coooooool!" Though it's harder than ever to be discovered on YouTube if you're new at it, there's always a chance. With Awkward Pictures, the comedy production company I run with Sean Becker, we had a great following on YouTube for a couple years and winning the 2007 YouTube Sketchies Contests helped put a spotlight on our work and ourselves. Our work then got featured more often, thus getting us more viewers. Right now, the key is being able to make great videos and spread the word using Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr and getting blogs to feature you. You can make a great video, but your work has only begun if you want to get a lot of views. You have to be a hustler.

Q. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about the entertainment industry, and who gave it to you?

A. Just keep creating things and don't worry about what anyone else is doing. If you start thinking about your competition, you'll lose your mind. Keep creating stuff, knowing you're going to get better. I use every project to get better for the next project, so while I'm pleased with my work, I'm never satisfied. That's the key to getting better, in my eyes. That advice is a hybrid of things people have told me over the years, and also stuff I just made up right now.

Q. What’s next for you? What can fans expect from you in the future?

A. I'm constantly putting sketches and comedy shorts out, that will probably never stop. There are a few things I'm developing right now but it's a little too early to talk about, but lots of stuff is coming soon! I finally started my own website a couple weeks ago where all of my work lives, since it was spread all over the web before. That's the best place to see my latest and newest work. What's the address, you ask? Oh, it's http://paymanbenz.com/.

Watch “Grenade” here: http://vimeo.com/21097396.


BYLINE:

Kate Brindle is a stand-up comedian from Ann Arbor, MI. For more information and for tour dates, visit her at http://www.katebrindle.com/ Email Kate at hottiepants@zoiksonline.com.

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