Slope-side Humor

Web series co-created by Desiree Akhavan ’07 finds laughs in lesbian life

by Christina Barber-Just

As a thesis student in NYU’s graduate film program, Desiree Akhavan ’07 had an assignment last year to make a short film for a directing class: no parameters, no requirements, just make something. “I spent the entire semester talking smack with my girlfriend until suddenly I had a public screening coming up for a film I hadn’t made,” she says. “It was at this point that my girlfriend suggested we film one of our smack-talking conversations and call it a film.” The result was Episode 1 of The Slope, which has since grown into an ongoing Web series that pokes fun at lesbian life in Brooklyn.

Creators of The Slope
Ingrid Jungermann and Desiree Akhavan ’07, creators of the Web comedy series The Slope.
Akhavan and her now ex-girlfriend, Ingrid Jungermann, are The Slope’s writers, directors, actors, and editors. So far they’ve made eight episodes of the show, whose waggish sensibility has more in common with the dry, sometimes offensive humor of Curb Your Enthusiasm than the earnest, lesbian empowerment of The L Word. The episodes are short—just three or four minutes each—making it possible to watch the entire first season in about half an hour. The women have already outlined the eight episodes that will make up season two (one plot line may spoof West Side Story, with Brooklyn lesbians facing off against Manhattan lesbians), and Akhavan is currently writing a feature-film script based on The Slope. Here, the Iranian-American filmmaker riffs on funny women, the perils of mixing personal and professional, and more.
Smith and film There weren’t many film classes when I was at Smith, so I found myself taking a lot of classes at the other schools in the Five College consortium. That is how I know, for a fact, that Smithies are much cooler than the students at Mount Holyoke.
Her comedy heroes I like unapologetic women. Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph are people I never grow tired of watching. I’m also a big fan of Louis C.K., who walks the fine line between funny and tragic.
The Slope: Autobiography or fiction? Fiction. The show is inspired by our experiences, but we aren’t those characters, and none of the events or conversations are taken from life.
Working with a girlfriend-turned-ex-girlfriend I don’t recommend it.
Creative fundraising Now that the film-distribution model is changing, filmmakers are communicating more directly with their audiences. Donating money to a project you believe in is like casting a vote. We decided to fund our second season through a Website called Kickstarter. We had 45 days to raise $8,000, or the campaign would be a failure and all the pledged money would go back to the donors. We didn’t make very much progress for the first 30 days, so I decided to give it everything I had by making videos, writing updates to fans that had already donated, having a fundraising party. It all came together by the last day, and we made our goal.
The project and her parents I get a lot of love and support from my family. That said, they wish it were less gay.
Real lesbian life in Brooklyn Never in my life have I been so aware of being a cliché. And it’s not a lesbian thing, it’s living in Brooklyn as a young person in a creative field. I’ll leave the house in the morning thinking I’m unique and off to march to the beat of my own drum, and by the time I get home I’ve seen eight other Iranian-American bisexual filmmakers with the same boots on and more expensive haircuts.
Her day job Starting in January, I’ll be teaching filmmaking at Video Kid Brooklyn, an afterschool program in Park Slope. I’m also working on a young-adult novel.
What’s next We’re making a movie! Ingrid and I are writing a feature based on The Slope, which we hope to shoot this summer. It’s going to be a fun buddy movie in the vein of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.
Christina Barber-Just is a writer in western Massachusetts and is a frequent contributor to the SAQ and the AASC Website.