Hello Interwebs! Been a while since I’ve done one of these, huh? How Hamlet Should Have Ended and Texan Attornies at Law are the last couple classic TPM videos I haven’t analyzed. So let’s do that today…
HOW HAMLET SHOULD HAVE ENDED BEHIND-THE-SCENES STORIES
*Spoiler warning for the 1996 Hamlet adaptation*
NOTE: This video was edited in the winter of 2015.
I recently asked Justin to share with me his thought process behind How Hamlet Should Have Ended. The video’s name had barely left my lips when he broke eye contact, grimaced, and mumbled, “Oh Lord…” And that was his only comment on the matter.
OK, I lied. Justin revealed that he brainstormed TPM’s strangest video in Grade 12 English class, while he watched Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet film. Its 4 hour run-time and long scenes of dialogue inspired Justin to edit his own version of the film– a more concise one.
‘Twas sometime during the film’s final act when he turned to our mutual friend, Jessica Yeoman, and declared that Star Wars music would make this Hamlet film more exciting! So he created How Hamlet Should Have Ended to prove his point. I, for one, believe he proved that successfully.
But he didn’t stop at the music. Justin’s amusement with Rufus Sewell’s “priceless” reaction (after the big non-battle) led to that King of the Hill sound-bite near the video’s end. Justin read Fortinbras’ subtext as “what in the hell?!” and went from there. This was HIS cut of the film, so why not add more humor to the mix?
Justin further felt that an Easy Button reference would be an “obvious” choice. ‘Cause Fortinbras raised armies to invade the palace, only to find his foes already vanquished. But Justin couldn’t find a usable clip of the Easy Button sound, so he recorded his own take on it: “Somebody hand me an easy button, ’cause that was easy!”
He enjoyed his edit’s “entertainingly long” run-time, as it effectively demonstrated how drawn-out Shakespeare wrote that scene– even with a fast-forward through the duller parts. Justin especially loved Kenneth Branagh’s extensive death-monologue at 15x speed! And he may have set the pace faster, but it would have gone too fast to hear the squeaky audio (which he preferred to keep).
HOW HAMLET SHOULD HAVE ENDED ANALYSIS
How Hamlet Should Have Ended might be read as a commentary on how modern audiences absorb their fiction. Many have not the attention span for methodically-paced, dialogue-heavy, and action-light art. So this is Hamlet for the Gen Z crowd– made the only way a lot of them would watch it: nary a couple minutes long, straight to the best parts (action mostly), with nostalgia-bait (Star Wars music) and original comic edits (King of the Hill, Easy Button) to entice them more than Shakespeare or Branagh’s original works might.
TEXAN ATTORNIES AT LAW BEHIND-THE-SCENES STORIES
NOTE: This video was filmed Apr 5, 2017
First off, I want to acknowledge what you’re probably thinking: that Texan Attornies at Law! is mis-spelt. That’s, of course, ’cause Billy and Willy Will’ams weren’t bright enough to double check! And you might even believe that answer to be true if I left it at that, but there’s more to the story…
Justin and I planned to spell “Attorneys” properly, but an oversight led to the improper version being used in both the thumbnail, video, and video title. We decided to embrace our failure and keep the name as it was. ‘Cause Billy and Willy would believably make the same error.
Texan Attornies began as an offshoot of shenanigans from our first film day for PoB 5. Some context: Justin and I bought our cowboy hats specifically for said film day. My character (Agent Gorn) didn’t even need the hat for his costume in that particular scene, but I wore it en route to our set ’cause it looked cool with my suit. And Mahlon (a friend and occasional collaborator– including on PoB 5) noted that my attire resembled a southern businessman’s, short of a Bolo tie.
That idea– southern businessmen– stuck with Justin and I. So we workshopped it over the following days ’til we settled on the vague idea for Texan Attornies: a sketch about two Texan brothers filming an ad for their law firm.
We stole the character’s names from that sketch we produced with Steven Ecclestone (“Current Event News”– which he sadly unlisted from YouTube). Justin’s character in that sketch was a southerner named Billy Will’ams, and I was an overbearing activist named William Williams. Justin essentially played a less antagonistic version of Billy for Texan Attornies. And I played someone entirely different to Mr. Williams.
Justin and I shot Texan Attornies the day I moved out of our university residence (READ THIS ARTICLE FOR OTHER FUN STORIES WE HAD THAT YEAR). We knew not what our near future would bring, nor when we’d next be able to shoot; and we would never again get to film in that room which back-dropped so many of our favourite videos. ‘Twas a time of uncertainty. So Texan Attornies was meant to close out this era of our careers (and the school year) strong!
But we never bothered to write a script, or pre-production notes. Our dialogue was all rehearsed improv, which we’d roughly discussed right before we rolled. Justin and I literally made it up as we went along. This inadvertently made our interactions stilted and awkward, but SO stilted and awkward that it was funny. So we doubled down on that vibe.
My favourite joke was when Justin and I struggled to use “Texas” in the firm’s phone number, forced it to fit, then turned our debacle into a gag within the sketch. Another accidental gag: I kept shouting “Texan Attornies at Law” whenever we hit a lull in our improv, and Justin enthusiastically responded “Yeah!” each time. You can tell Justin and I are about to bust out laughing right after those. We had to cut after every instance of the joke (which only made it funnier).
Texan Attornies was intended to be an experiment on Instagram shorts (which was new at the time). But the video ended up a tad longer than IG’s then minute-long cap, so we were forced to release it on YouTube instead.
Texan Attornies at Law remains in my upper echelon of favourite sketches I’ve made. I can still quote it line for line. And it’s never not funny to me. Texan Attornies marked a great last day of our memorable year at York U, and concluded Thought Plane Media’s “peak period” on a high note.
But its story didn’t end there. ‘Cause a Texam Attornies re-edit was my first upload to the Thought Plane Media TikTok. And this version received more views there in a day than in the past 5 years on YouTube. I was offered both hope for using the TikTok platform, and fury when I realized I’d regularly have to use the TikTok platform…
TEXAN ATTORNIES AT LAW ANALYSIS
Texan Attornies at Law is about the the long-standing American tradition of “fake it till ya make it”– or acting superior to your lot in life. Justin recently referred to said phenomenon as a “Texan version of The Great White North”. The Will’ams brothers are (shockingly) frauds! But they’re well-meaning frauds who just wanna be lawyers. And they genuinely believe that if they play the part they will find success. Well that, and they probably never heard of the Bar…
The Will’ams brothers believe their ever-so-brief foray into law (through a year of university and high school) qualifies as good enough to start a law firm. But even they realize they’ll need more than that for success. So they market themselves as “good ol’ Texan boys” in a bid of appeal to the “real” America: a land founded on apple pie, bald eagles, and lawyers.
But Billy and Willy realize on some level that their scheme won’t work. And they’re too honest to keep up their charade as Texan Attorneys. So they come clean to their audience: they aren’t lawyers, they aren’t Texan, and they can’t afford nice suits. Yet they still humbly offer their services.
The Will’ams admissions still may not to endear them to America, so they offer a lengthy disclaimer to consumers which describes how helping the Will’ams will help them: hiring Billy and Willy means an automatic donation to charity (“Help the Will’ams Brothers Become Rich Foundation”), they help with moral support, and they can be lawyers OR doctors if required.
Justin and I kept the film-making intentionally simple this time. We use one set-up, framed as a medium shot. And The Will’ams brothers appear on a static backdrop.
This is, realistically, the highest level of production value Billy and Willy would likely achieve on their own. So it only made sense to keep the shoot bare-bones. The low-budget, low-effort look of Texan Attornies is part of its charm.
What sorts of videos would you like to see more of from TPM going forward (parodies, sketches, music)? And which of these videos do you like best? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,