Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Dodgers pair parodies 'Between Two Ferns'
By Patrick Dorsey
Many comedy fans are familiar with "Between Two Ferns," the mock interview series starring Zach Galifianakis and an array of faux-angry (and sometimes not so faux-angry) celebrities.
A.J. Ellis, the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting catcher, is one of those fans. So, when persuaded to ask "what's-your-favorite?"-type questions on camera to teammate and reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Ellis had an idea:
"Why don't I just do a mock interview?" Ellis told Playbook. "I love the 'Between Two Ferns' and what that's all about -- that's the kind of humor and comedy I really enjoy. So I just decided to go in and ambush Clayton and see how it [went]."
It went well. Well enough to spawn the Dodgers' own mini-Web series, "Between Two Palm Trees," of which there are five original episodes online -- plus an All-Star follow-up commissioned by Major League Baseball because the first few were such a hit.
The first episode, seen above, shows the beginning of the ambush. Later editions, released semi-regularly on the Dodgers' official site in recent months, feature some stock questions -- "but most of it was me just trying to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible," Ellis said, "and little did I know that it's really hard to make Clayton feel uncomfortable. He has got an awesome sense of comedic timing."
Such as here, in this Justin Bieber-themed episode:
Or here, when Ellis and Kershaw play a word game:
This meant the biggest challenge for Ellis was not to get Kershaw to play along, but to keep a straight face when the lefty deadpanned a funny answer.
"The stuff he says back to me is hilarious almost all the time," Ellis said. "So it [was] really hard for me to keep that straight face. He got me a couple of times.
"I have so much respect for what those guys do on those sketch comedy shows, when they're in character and they don't crack up. ... We tried really hard to stay in character, and I sort of tried to play a very, very, very poor man's version of Zach Galifianakis in there."
Ellis acquitted himself well for a man who, despite being a big comedy fan, had no performing experience before sitting between the trees.
Much if it likely came down to the duo's friendship. After spending time together in the minors, the two "just kind of hit it off" when Ellis got his callup in 2008. And although the 31-year-old catcher bounced between the minors and majors before securing the starting job this year, he's remained close to one of MLB's best pitchers.
"I'm [seven] years older than him," Ellis said, "but I think he's way older than his age is, and I'm probably way younger than my age. So we kind of meet in the middle there.
"He's a great friend, and we've got a lot of the same passions and pursuits. ... It's a friendship that goes beyond being a teammate."
Case in point: The duo will get back together for another edition of "Between Two Palm Trees," which debuts this week to promote Thursday's barbecue to support the pitcher's charity, Kershaw's Challenge.
Beyond that? Could be more. It has been a hit, after all ...
"People [have] loved it," Ellis said. "I hear about it everywhere I go now. Even on the road: 'We love "Between Two Palm Trees." Do more, do more.'"