Amoeba Beans are bringing the silliness.
Alysia Carreras and Tennyson Strano have started their own youtube channel in Austin, TX. It's called Amoeba Beans - a variety show where they will conduct interviews, write skits, and find the best places to roller skate in ATX. With a focus on comedy, their aim is to entertain, but they also have thoughts about #feminism and where women belong in comedy. Watch the first episode of Skateastrophy below, and then read the interview in which they discuss their creative process, what they've learned while creating the show, and the inherent challenges of being funny while being women.
Let's get the first question out of the way. What is Amoeba Beans?
Tennyson: Okay. So, basically, we wanted a name to kind of overarch the idea of who we are, and not necessarily be subject to being pigeon-holed into one thing. We were sitting down at dinner and we were talking. We were writing down different things that we like, and different things that are interesting and we find funny. And I made the comment that I just feel like an amoeba a lot of times, because you're just in the world and being tossed around, and ...
Alysia: And I said I am terrified of amoebas. That's one of my biggest fears. I'm a hiker, so I like freak out about standing water, and it was weird that she made that comment. I was like, "my biggest fear is amoebas, and you're an amoeba? Should we get into people's brains?"
Tennyson: Yeah, and you know, the brain eating amoebas that are present in Texas water ...
Alysia: We're the good kind.
Tennyson: Yeah, and so we thought amoeba was such a funny word that we were like, we need something that rolls with it. So we were writing down - we like puppies, and we like this and that, But we landed on beans.
Alysia: Tacos, that's why! Tacos in Austin.
Tennyson: Oh yeah, we were talking about food a lot while we were at dinner, obviously. And beans came out and then we just said: Amoeba Beans. And it rolled so nicely, and it made us laugh really hard. And so we were like, you know what, it's just weird enough that people are going to go like, W-T-F is an amoeba bean? And ...
Alysia: Which is the case, we've had that.
Tennyson: Yeah, pretty much everybody.
Tennyson: Yeah, and it's silly. It's just a nonsense phrase. And I think that ...
Alysia: But it describes us. Perfectly.
Tennyson: Yeah, our personalities and what we're about, it just ... Silliness, and nonsense, you know?
Alysia: Yeah. That's where Amoeba Beans came from.
So what is it in terms of the content?
Alysia: Our idea of Amoeba Beans is to focus on empowering women, as well as being silly, goofy, funny individuals that we are - But together - we're doing it together, so amoeba beans is women empowering.
Tennyson: Yeah. Women in entertainment, women in comedy. Just empowering in that way and pushing more content out that is made by women.
Alysia: There's not a lot of females in comedy. I mean there are more now, but I feel like it's still dominated by men.
Tennyson: It's a new wave. And we're riding in on it.
Alysia: We're riding on that wave.
Why do you feel like women are not in comedy? Why are they underrepresented and where do we need this empowerment?
Tennyson: I think oftentimes women are afraid to put themselves out there because they're afraid to seem unladylike. I think a big influence for me has been the TV show, "Girls." I think that shows women in a very raw and unfiltered way. And it's real life, like, women wear retainers, and they don't shave, and they ...
Alysia: They fart.
Tennyson: They fart, they do normal things that everybody does.
Alysia: But we're told to be ladylike most of the time, and so I know that me growing up, being silly, goofy, whatever you call me - I'd always been told that I was kind of unattractive in that sense, I guess. You're considered weird if you're a funny girl. So seeing these things like "Girls," or even "Broad City," you see how you can relate to them, because that's how we are, we're just like men. We act insane, we say the dumbest things, we do fart, we do burp. And why should we hide it? So, I mean, everything's going to be shown on our Amoeba Beans page.
Do you feel like comedy is a man's medium, then, in that sense?
we're told to be ladylike most of the time, and so I know that me growing up, being silly, goofy, whatever you call me - I'd always been told that I was kind of unattractive in that sense, I guess. You're considered weird if you're a funny girl.
- Amoeba Beans
Alysia: I feel like, with a lot of - I do have friends that are just as silly as I am. Like you said, you've met a lot of women that are goofy. But I think a lot of women are afraid to show that side of themselves, and - Just their persona towards a man, I guess. It's because you do hear it a lot. Like, "you're too open", or "you're too ... "
Tennyson: Too forward.
Alysia: You're too forward, yeah. You come off as unattractive, or you're not a good person. I feel like women tend to hide that side of them.
Tennyson: What is it ... T.J. Miller said that women aren't funny?** You've got one of the top male comedians and actors saying these negative things about women that ... "Women just aren't naturally funny."
Alysia: I do hear that a lot.
Tennyson: Yeah. We had an experience the other night, we were at a bar and we got approached by a man who essentially told us to prove to him that we were funny. He said,
Alysia: "Crack jokes."
Tennyson: "How will I know if you're funny, if you don't have any content out yet?"
Alysia: That was an unpleasant experience.
Tennyson: Yeah. And, you know, a man talking to another man that's in comedy ... He would never ask that question. "How am I supposed to know that you're funny?"
Alysia: Prove it. Yeah, prove it.
Tennyson: Prove you're funny. That would never happen.
Alysia: Eew. Still makes me mad. Just so mad.
In this pursuit of representing women and empowering them, what has been the challenge, either here in Austin or that you've actually experienced? Or in just doing it in your own self? What challenges have you found in doing that?
Tennyson: I find that for the most part, the way it feels for me at least, is the challenges are coming from ourselves with the pressure to represent this as accurately as we can.
Alysia: And raw.
Tennyson: This is a lot of pressure to put yourself out there and say that you stand for empowering women. That's a lot riding on you, to speak for other people.
Alysia: We encourage other women to be themselves. It's really tough to do.
Tennyson: Yeah. There hasn't been a lot of obstacles coming from other people, I would say. I think most people are very excited to see this [perspective] come out.
Alysia: I feel like everyone has been very encouraging to us, encouraging us to keep going, and that, like ... We had all our content ... They're like, well, we're excited to see it. But no, I haven't had any challenges outside. Just ourselves.
So what came first? The idea for a YouTube channel, or the idea to empower women?
Alysia: I feel like, for at least me, I've always had that in my head. I want to empower women. Because even before Amoeba Beans, I was kind of doing it daily in my life. Like, writing, and posting, and [making] videos. And then I met Tennyson, and then she had the same views on life. And then I don't know how we even got to the point, but it was almost at the same moment, where it was like a jinx moment.
Tennyson: It was very weird in that way.
Alysia: Yeah, it was weird. We were both thinking it.
Tennyson: Yeah, we like sat down for ... We had a lot of dinners together. So we sat down for dinner and we were like, "Do you want to make videos with me?"
Alysia: And we're like, "Uh, well I was thinking that!"
Tennyson: Yeah. I would say ... I don't know, I'm the young one here and I have a lot of life to live and a lot of things that I'm learning about myself as a 21 year old in the world. So I think it was probably simultaneous that, you know, I'm learning how to be a woman in this world, and the kind of woman I want to be. And obstacles I face every day, whether it's in relationships that I've had and gotten out of, and then ... Things that I'm learning from that, and how not to sacrifice who I am deep down. And then also wanting to pursue something that I'm so passionate about, just like in Entertainment and with YouTube and then meeting Ally, Alysia was just, like ... It seemed like fate.
Alysia: It was perfect.
Alysia: It was definitely perfect. Perfect match. Even though we're ten years apart, perfect match.
So what do you all have planned for it?
Tennyson: Sit-down interview, podcast style, talking with other women and their experiences in the world thus far in their lives, obstacles that they've faced, observances that we all have about things. Whether it's a man on there that we're interviewing and asking his opinion or not, or if it's a woman. Or even transgendered people, that would be amazing to have them on. Because that's a whole entire perspective that we can't even relate to, and we can learn a lot from. We want to do more silly things, we have more plans for that.
Alysia: I feel like that's a primary ...
Tennyson: Yeah, that's one of the things that we enjoy doing most, is to continue to be silly.
Alysia: It's just natural.
Tennyson: Yeah, it's natural, and it's fun. But that stuff will come after maybe we get some fundraising, and some backing and some support. Because we're going to need that to accomplish the quality of content that we want to put out. But we do have ideas for more silliness.
What have you learned in creating these things? Specifically about creating in Austin, what have y'all learned?
Alysia: There's a lot of connections in Austin.
Tennyson: Everybody is willing to help.
Alysia: Everybody. We'd get lights from my friend Brittany Ortiz, she like helps us with lighting. We've had people offer up their camera equipment to us for free. It's been awesome to just have that support and people helping. And even people sharing our posts online, people that are in the film industry.
Tennyson: It's big.
Alysia: I feel like Austin's, for me at least, it's been a great experience with the whole ... Lifting our spirits. Austin in particular. I don't know how other places are, but Austin's been great.
Tennyson: I feel that Austin ... Everybody wants to see everybody else succeed.
Alysia: Yeah. I love Austin. It's probably one of the best places to start. Well, for me, I don't know.
Alysia: For you too, right? It's technically your starting point?
Tennyson: Yes. Yeah. 100 percent.
Let's talk about the creative process. What have you learned there in trying to just create something in general?
We've got spreadsheets, we've got documents, we learned right of the bat that we needed call sheets. Communication, that's ... A big learning curve is, how do we collaborate with each other when we don't live and sleep in the same room and we're not together all the time?
Tennyson: I think the biggest - Learning this creative process - has been going about everything starting as professionally as we can start. And acting professionally. Even down to our Google Drive. We've got spreadsheets, we've got documents, we learned right of the bat that we needed call sheets. And we just need to keep track of everything and to write down every single brainstorming idea that we have. And communication, that's ... A big learning curve is, how do we collaborate with each other when we don't live and sleep in the same room and we're not together all the time? What we do apart and what we do together is crucial, and communicating together is big.
What about working with other people?
Tennyson: That's been also a learning experience. It's something you have to remember, that these people are helping you, they're taking time out of their own day. We're not able to pay them. So again, acting as professionally as possible. Little things, like making sure you're on time, or way earlier than everybody gets there. And making sure everybody's getting there okay, and making sure you have water for everybody. You know, making sure that every second is used and not wasted, because you don't want to feel like you're wasting anybody's time.
Alysia: And again, we've learned that through each filming day that we had, we didn't start off doing any of that. It was gradual and we learned, okay, we need to bring water for the people that are helping us. We need to be there like 30 minutes early. I mean, it's gradual, it's not like something you just know to do on the first day you film. So it has been a struggle, but I think we're getting to that point where we're like professional.
We've talked a little bit about how some of your ideas came about. What is the creative process there, like where do you start?
Tennyson: So I think half of it was sitting down together and working through ideas. But I think the other half, and probably the most important half, was kind of ... In your private life, when things come up, immediately writing them down and going "Ooh, that's an idea. I need to work through that with Aly and see what she thinks." I did that when I was at work, and I know Aly did that when she was doing her own thing in the day and working. We kind of were just being very conscious of our thoughts. And once you start thinking, "I need to come up with ideas for something," you realize little things throughout your day that you go, "Oh that's really interesting that people do that, that's really funny."
Alysia: Or the unique things that we have about our personality. I know not a lot of women ... Or at least, I haven't seen a lot of women play saxophone, and Tennyson makes videos of her playing saxophone, so we're like let's incorporate your sax somewhere in Amoeba Beans. And I have this weird love for dinosaurs, and I dance all the time in my videos, so we incorporate dinosaur and ... Yeah, I think the personalities ... We want people to see who we really are, not make something up, we want to be raw and authentic.
There were things that you didn't know when you first started that you've learned over creating things or whatever,
Alysia: A lot, yeah.
So for people who are trying to do stuff on no budget or like a low budget set, trying to do things on their own, what's kind of your insight there?
Alysia: I can give you the number one, first of all. The number one is, set a date for launch that gives you enough time. That was probably the biggest ... time crunch is [a] struggle, but ...
Tennyson: We were very, very ambitious. We set a date a month out, essentially, and we're like, "It's now or never, basically." That was our attitude and ... Perhaps it was too soon, but it felt right, and having that date has been a blessing in disguise because it's pushed us to see how hard we can work, and what we can accomplish in as little time as possible. And having a date solidifies this and it says like, "We're doing this and we're actually going to put stuff out there."
Alysia: Realistically, planning with a zero budget, maybe a month isn't ideal for most people, so just think about the timing.
Tennyson: And I think, be prepared to spend more than you think you will. That's been something that was a little shocking to us, for how much money we were putting down for ...
Alysia: To put out good content you kind of have to spend money on things, to get into places. So that's been tough. I would also say, learning editing and learning equipment, because Tennyson and I do everything. Like editing ... We do have people that come and help us, but we ... Originally, our first couple films we did, we filmed on our own. Luckily we knew how to use our cameras, luckily we knew we needed lights and we knew somewhat of the equipment that we needed. So we were able to go rent those, we were able to use the lights, we learned the equipment ... We've been able to edit, luckily. But I think it's crucial to learn editing programs and equipment, like learn all of that. It is kind of crucial.
Tennyson: And don't be afraid to ask for help.
Alysia: Right. Never.
Tennyson: Yeah, we've had to reach out to so many people for help. And that's what's great about Austin, is they're always willing to help.
What kind of sacrifices do you think a creative needs to make in order to make these things happen?
Tennyson: We have had no free nights, no free days.
Alysia: We've even tried to go out, and we were stressed and we went home.
Tennyson: Yeah, we will go out, and still be talking about Amoeba Beans.
Alysia: You definitely sacrifice your time. We haven't even really seen our friends, that's one thing we talked about, like we feel bad that we haven't spent any time with our other friends.
Tennyson: We forgot we had friends.
Alysia: But I'm okay with it, it's part of it.
Tennyson: I feel like it's rewarding to see things start to come together.
Alysia: I think our friends will understand. They're supportive, they understand. But it is sad that we do sacrifice a lot of time.
Tennyson: Yes. And time is money, you know?
Alysia: Time is money.
Tennyson: And then we're workin' for free.
Alysia: We're workin' for free! We're learnin' things! Meetin' people!
Tennyson: I think that's been the biggest sacrifice.
Original Interview, August 16, 2017. To listen to the full audio interview, consider becoming a patron.