The Future Looks Viral: 'A Couple of Astronauts' web series gives a hilarious, out-of-this world view of married life
"The Future Looks Viral" is a weekly series where we profile the people behind an innovative, new online project, be it a parody Twitter account, web series or artsy Instagram profile. They all have one thing in common: the potential to go viral.
Marriage isn't easy. Sure, there's love between you two, but you also have to learn to deal with all of the idiosyncrasies of another person while living under one roof, such as differing sleeping habits, hobbies and responsibilities.
Now imagine having to do scientific research and live with the threat of alien attacks every day on top of all of that. That's exactly what the husband-and-wife team of Suzy and Dale encounter on a daily basis as two astronauts living and working in space in the animated web series A Couple of Astronauts.
"I think the fun of the series is to put a very familiar domestic situation in a totally weird landscape where anything could happen, the series' co-creator Seth Lind told T-Lounge. "In an episode, we could have whatever, like a comet flying toward them, but they're arguing about chores or whatever. I think the thing that attracted us to it was that you could have it be accessible for what's happening between them in a relationship but also have insane, crazy, batshit things happening around them."
A Couple of Astronauts was created by Lind and Shaina Feinberg, both performers and comedy writers who met through working on projects for This American Life. Lind is the public radio show's director of operations, and Feinberg has previously created content for it.
The two reconnected recently and decided to collaborate once again. Feinberg wanted to do something on a married couple in space, inspired by her real-life marriage to comedic writer and performer Chris Manley.
"I was thinking about how funny it would be to be a couple in space because my husband and I both work from home, so sometimes it feels like we're in a shuttle or something. It feels like we're the only people on Earth," said Feinberg during a phone interview. "I can't even imagine what it's like to be in space with your significant other."
She initially envisioned this as a live-action project, but Lind suggested turning it into an animated series, one because he always wanted to try animation, and two because it would give them more freedom to create whatever in this world, or whatever outside of this world, they wanted.
After the pair improvised on tape to create married astronauts Dale and Suzy (pronounced "Suzzy," because Feinberg wanted a name that looked like it had a normal spelling but was pronounced differently), they created the first episode and uploaded it to YouTube in April of this year. In it, Dale thinks he has learned how to speak Martian, which turns out to have disastrous consequences for the couple.
Lind and Feinberg usually write the scripts on their own and then come together to finalize them. Then, they record Suzy and Dale's voices together before Lind goes off to do the animation. Lind taught himself how to use the animation software Toon Boom by watching YouTube tutorials. It takes him dozens of hours to create one of these shorts. The second episode, which clocks in at two minutes and 22 seconds, took him about 100 hours of labor.
The second episode, which is the most recent one released on Sept. 16, 2014, shows that Suzy and Dale may not be as alone in outer space as we originally thought. They still have to report to their higher-ups while doing whatever research they're doing in space. Their superiors also happen to be a couple, who are funnily enough voiced by Feinberg's husband Manley, and Lind's fiancée Gabrielle Steinhardt.
"I told her, I was like, 'So pretend you're really mad at me. What do you sound like when you're mad at me? So I think that was the take I used," said Lind about directing Steinhardt.
Lind and Feinberg hope to churn out more A Couple of Astronauts episodes in the future, whether that means continuing to post the shorts by themselves on YouTube, getting some funding from an online comedy channel or maybe even getting picked up as a series.
"So far the industry is mute about their interest in A Couple of Astronauts, so we'll just keep chugging along making them until, you know, they show up with the limousine," Lind joked.
For now, when they're not busy with their day jobs, Lind and Feinberg are imagining new plotlines and visuals that they can incorporate into future A Couple of Astronauts episodes, which may involve recycling in space or Suzy trying on different outfits in front of Dale that he'll probably fail to notice. It's comforting to know that even in space, some things never change.