This year’s installment of The Bachelor features a self-described “born-again virgin” named Sean Lowe. One woman showed up in a wedding dress on the first night. Another woman was required to eat bugs on a date. Earlier, an entire group of women was forced to milk a goat. You might think such a spectacle defies parody, but after you watch a single episode of Burning Love–the Bachelor/Bachelorette send-up that began as a Yahoo! web series and is now running on E!—you realize there is a great deal more humor to be mined from the premise of a lunkhead attempting to find love in a televised cage match.
Ken Marino and Erica Oyama, the husband and wife team behind Burning Love, were big fans of earlier seasons of the Bachelor and Bachelorette, and Oyama was inspired to write a one-off piece about them. Marino, whose comedy career started in the early ’90s when he was a member of the comedy troupe The State, and who has been writing, directing, and starring in some major comedy hits of the past two decades, thought the one-off piece was funny enough to spin out into an entire series.
Two seasons–the first premiered on Yahoo! TV and the second started airing on E! last month–and several celebrity cameos later (Jennifer Aniston, Malin Akerman, and Adam Scott among them), Burning Love provides deep belly laughs beyond the superficial giggles you might get from hate-watching the real Bachelor. Oyama is still writing the series, and Marino has directed every episode.
Marino also starred in the first season as a highly moronic fireman named Mark Orlando, and he spoke to Co.Create about the challenge of parodying something that borders on parody in the first place, what it’s like to direct himself, how much he loves working with his wife, and the difference between creating television for the Internet and creating television for a network.
I think that they take themselves pretty seriously on The Bachelor, and sometimes they have a sense of humor, so my approach is you don’t have to amp it up too much. My mantra was always to goose it about 10 percent. Make it 10 percent more ridiculous than it is because it is always pretty ridiculous. Not go over the top, but play up the dramatic moments of it in a real way. Try not to wink too much.
[Mark Orlando] is a straight man but, he’s absolutely ridiculous in his stupidity. It’s fun to play; I like to play things kind of deadpan or straight, that’s always fun for me, saying absurd things with a concerned or serious look happening. Mark Orlando might be my favorite character I’ve gotten to play, because I enjoy his stupidity and his confidence.
I directed every episode and every part of Burning Love. When Erica wrote the original one-off, we shot that as our pilot, and I directed that, and we asked a bunch of really funny women to be involved in that, and we used it as our calling card, and Yahoo! bought it. I enjoy [both acting and directing] and it’s fun doing both, and in a way it’s easier for me to direct myself, because I don’t have to walk up to actor Ken Marino, and say, “Hey, try it this way!” I just do it the different way, and it cuts out a lot of wasted time.
Working with Erica for me, is, for lack of a less saccharine word, a dream. I love working with her. I think she’s insanely funny. I love being around her. I love collaborating with her. It’s really just a gift and something I value and recognize how special that is. You never know when you’re going to get that opportunity again.
Creatively, I always feel like the less money there is, the more creative freedom you have. The more money you have, the less creative freedom you have, because there are more people involved. It makes sense, more people’s jobs are on the line, and more people have strong opinions they want heard. It was a big difference [making Burning Love for the Internet] because we did this on a shoestring; we shot a lot of material in a very short amount of time. It was really hard, and it was hard to do physically. But it was 10 times more rewarding because we really got to have a singular voice and the show is really mine and Erica’s point of view.
Erica and I have come up with ideas to pitch to networks, and we’re going to go out this season and get those out there. I like the different venues. The idea of doing an Internet show, one of the big pluses of that, is a lot of creative freedom, and it’s a great thing, because you live and die–you feel better about living or dying by the final product. At the end of the day, you can’t point fingers, somebody else succeeded because of this–it’s yours. I did what I wanted to do. If I struck out, at least—to quote old blue eyes–at least I did it my way.