Meet Benji Lessman. He's an agent's agent. No, he's not the toast of the percentery business. He's an agent for agents, proprietor of the Less is More Agency. And he's got his own publicist -- twin publicists, in fact.
If it all sounds absurb, well, it should, because it's the conceit of of "Layers," an inside-showbiz satire series of vid shorts set to debut Sept. 21 on Turner Broadcasting's Superdeluxe comedy broadband net. (Click here for a streaming video sneak of the debut installment.)
"Layers" is the brainchild of twin comics Jason and Randy Sklar (they guested as the battling twin assistants on a recent "Entourage" seg, and they played battling conjoined twins last year on "Grey's Anatomy") and thesp Nick Kroll (pictured above), who is soon to make his primetime series debut on ABC's "Cavemen." Superdeluxe has ordered eight five-minute segs of the trio's sendup of showbiz and its ever-growing entourages.
"I'm passionate about people who are passionate about people," Lessman explains of his vocation. To give the shorts an authentic backdrop of a Wilshire Boulevard talent agency, the shorts were shot at the Sklars' and Kroll's respective management firms, Principato-Young and Thruline Entertainment.
(The debut seg opens with a title card featuring a quote from a recent column by Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart, but to be crystal clear, Variety has no formal tie to "Layers.")
Lessman was a character that Kroll was doing in his alterna-comedy standup act for a few years. The Sklars (pictured right) met him while they were producing and hosting the ESPN Classic series "Cheap Seats," and they all vowed to work together at some point on something cool. "Layers" kinda fell together earlier this year, and after they shot the first three, Superdeluxe was quick to order five more. They'll roll out once a week on Superdeluxe on Friday nights starting next week.
"We've been living in L.A. for eight years now so we've come to understand all the layers there are to getting in in this town and how the agents work them," Randy Sklar explains. The trio figured the time was ripe for "Layers" now that "Entourage" has lifted the veil on the agency business in a way that made the quirks and idiosyncrasies of agents and assistants and mail room slaves accessible to people who've never traveled anywhere near the 310 area code.
The Sklars and Kroll have leaned on their contacts to lineup some semi-celeb appearances in upcoming, including the gang from FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia." (The Sklars have a guest shot on
"Sunny's" season finale later this year. For anyone interested in that show, click here for last week's On the Air interview with "Sunny" exec producer/co-creator Rob McElhenney.)
"Layers" also pokes fun at the rising tide of wink-wink references in movies and TV shows by building a key plot thread around the fact that Benji's publicists, Larry and Terry of a Bridge Over the River Publicity agency, have just sold Turner's Superdeluxe on a "two-episode reality series arc" about Benji and his agency. And it dives still deeper into naval-gazing when the editor on the show quits and Larry and Terry are forced to figure out how to edit the episodes on their own. Which is what happened about halfway through the "Layers" shoot.
"We went out and bought a copy of Final Cut Pro and learned how to do it ourselves," Sklar says. "It's about as meta as it gets."
There was some concern among the trio that "Layers" wouldn't play outside of L.A. and Gotham, but it was put to rest about two months ago when the Sklars demo'd the first episode during a standup show of theirs in Arlington, Va.
"It played remarkably well," Sklar says. "I think with 'Entourage' and Ari Gold, it's gotten to the point where the behind-the-scenes guys are becoming the stars."