Must Flee TV?

With his new ‘reality sitcom,’ the artist formerly known as Robbie Roadsteamer tries to stop the Allston hipster brain drain
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  March 10, 2010

Quiet Desperation, episode eighteen

If Jersey Shore and Last Comic Standing had a threesome with Curb Your Enthusiasm in the men’s room of Great Scott, the bastard issue might look a little something like Quiet Desperation. While the Allston-based “reality sitcom” doesn’t have a celebrity misanthrope like Larry David, it does boast its frustrated savant-eccentric writer-star-creator Rob Potylo (formerly Robbie Roadsteamer), at least one trashy whore, a mock Irish punk song called “You’ll Remember the Union Label When I Stamp It on Your Face,” and cameos from more than 150 of Boston’s freshest comics, writers, actors, and musicians.

In a typical installment — a new Webisode debuts on every three weeks — protagonist Potylo might munch psilocybin on a pilgrimage to Santa’s Village, or write songs about genitals to the tune of “Do You Believe in Magic.” No matter what happens, though, two things are certain: he will be stoned, and he will be accompanied by a small parade of whack jobs.

I already hung with the Quiet D entourage when I appeared on their 16th Webisode to interview Potylo. But for a further glimpse into the hyperbolic matrix that he and director-producer Joe Madaus have created in their first 18 Net shorts, I’m at a Cambridge American Legion post drinking canned beer on a Sunday afternoon. Today’s plot has the gang rolling to a shady baseball-card convention, and the location fits the bill.

The idea is to let personalities rip naturally. Without snapping a clapper or even yelling “action,” Madaus hits RECORD on his video camera and eases into a scene featuring old-school comic and Ding Ho alum Chance Langton, who is playing an expired head-hunting Red Sox reliever named Steve “The Sniper” Foley. Here Langton’s character flirts with Boston cabaret singer and resident Quiet D hanger-on Niki Luparelli, who is flashing cleavage and trying to get beaned by the old goon.

Potylo, who writes the plots, and the technically gifted Madaus, who “conveys Rob’s vision through [his] own eyes,” aren’t merely striving for YouTube acclaim. Rather, with their bizarro-reality project, they hope to establish an institution that can showcase and ultimately help retain talent in the Hub. For too long they have seen Boston’s brightest performers — like two-time Letterman guest Joe Wong and rising funnyman Chris Fleming, both of whom recently announced impending moves to Los Angeles — flee to other cities. Their dream is that such charismatic dynamos can feasibly maintain prosperous careers in Boston.

“It’s called Quiet Desperation for a reason,” says Potylo, who daylights as an office temp. “I don’t want to leave — and I don’t want to work at fucking Staples. We’re all so cynical and hipster that we’re ashamed to admit that we want to do something we actually like for a living, but not one of us is telling ourselves that we just want to do shows at Great Scott for 10 years and then settle down in midlife crisis-land with the wood-panel Caravan.”

Getting unstuck
Though just 33, Potylo is a veteran in Greater Boston comedy and music circles. In 1999, while still in college at Westfield State, he started Can of Worms, a campus-television sketch show featuring such highlights as him “wearing a Hawaiian shirt and making fun of Revere Beach.” After Worms got banned from campus airwaves, the renaissance humorist spent 2000 to 2004 bringing his shock to public-access networks in 28 markets, including Boston, New York, and his hometown of Danvers.

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