In Conversation With VODville's Maddy Butler
16th July 2017
Words by Laura La Rosa
Cover by Julien Chichignoud
VODville’s Maddy Butler is a great mind and a real hoot. She directs, writes, and often stars in an ongoing series of sketches that detail the frustrations and warped angles of her irked – and frankly brilliant – brain. After a brief pause to gather themselves and curate some bold new content, VODville are back with fresh pieces and we couldn’t be more excited.
VODville is a collaborative effort, one that sees Maddy, her partner Julien Chichignoud, and their growing team of contributors unleash and dismantle some of the online and real world’s most absurd idiosyncrasies. With a large focus on the ludicrous ways severely outmoded patriarchal messaging seeks to drive consumer thinking, VODville brings us mildly thought provoking and entirely hilarious anecdotes that are all too real and ridiculous.
We caught up with Maddy to find out more about the creative process of bringing political and social issues into brilliant comedic fruition.
Warning: Sketches may contain themes surrounding the narcissistic quest to obtain vast internet fame, invasive survey questionnaires, and misogynist dating ‘advice’ set to keep the patriarchy alive and well. Viewers are advised that discomfort and/or belly laughs may occur during consumption.
What’s your background and how did VODville emerge?
I studied film production at uni and after that staged two plays and made a web series. I was keen to build up an online portfolio and so I started writing sketches, firstly on another channel ‘Those Two Duffers’ and now for ‘VODville’.
I developed VODville with my partner Julien Chichignoud. Mostly, I do the writing, acting and co-directing and he handles all the sound, filming and post production, as well as picking up the slack with directing when I'm on camera. Whenever we have someone else help with any of these roles we are eternally grateful! Overall we've been very fortunate and have had amazing cast and crew come on board with certain sketches – we’re increasingly working with great people.
Do you write most of the sketches?
So far I’ve written most of the sketches and we’ve started working with other writers to develop more. I have some sketches that I’ve been working on for over a year and then I write some sketches in 5 minutes (if only they were all like that!) Sometimes I have a clear, often political, message, and sometimes the sketch is inspired by something I think is funny or silly.
What can you share with us about your writing process?
Often, once I have an idea for a sketch, I do a lot of research - watching videos (such as dating advice videos), reading articles and blogs, basically looking up anything related to whatever it is I'm trying to satirise and/or explore. I call it 'devotion to producing a thoroughly researched video', and Julien calls it 'procrastination'.
It's a hectic schedule. Often we're editing a sketch while we're writing new ones and filming others. We're aiming to release sketches periodically and focus a little on marketing - which we are absolutely hopeless at.
Your sketch ‘If Only Girls Dressed Properly’ caused a stir. What was the response like from your perspective?
It was really encouraging to see such a great response and, mostly, people seemed to agree with the statement we were making.
VODville’s themes often explore entitlement and privilege - are you irked by these topics generally speaking?
I like to explore and expose issues that are close to my heart - privilege, equity, sustainability etc. I'm no expert on any of these topics, but I try to keep informed by following a variety of writers, scientists, bloggers and other public figures. When I'm angry or frustrated about something, I try to pinpoint the specific issue and make a something of it. It can get depressing but I think these responses are powerful forces that definitely drive a lot of the sketches. There are, however, some things that make me so incensed that I'm at a loss as to how to translate that into an entertaining sketch. Some things I keep in the back of my mind and hope that one day I'll be able to form some kind of funny piece. I’ve always been interested in political issues and I tend to channel this by pointing out the hypocrisy, idiocy or lunacy behind certain beliefs or movements or situations through the sketches.
How do you decide which character ‘you’ will play?
I often like to play the nasty or silly characters. Sometimes though it all depends on who else we cast and what role is left.
Are any of the sketches based on real people that you may or may not (reluctantly) endure in your day-to-day life?
None of the sketches are based on someone I know personally, but a lot of them are based on people I know of or who have some sort of online presence.
What are you doing when you’re not creating sketches?
I spend time with my toddler, which means that sketches are often fit in during nap time and bedtime. I was a stay-at-home mum until a few months ago and now I work part time as a screenwriter.
I am quite a new - but now avid - consumer of the comedy world. I recently got on to Chelsea Peretti’s stand up and I’m hooked. Who is on your radar at the moment?
Chelsea Peretti is the best! Her stand up is hilarious and I love her in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I also watched Crazyhead and Chewing Gum recently on Netflix, which star very talented and funny women. The Baroness Von Sketch Show has great sketches and I always go back to Key and Peele, Mitchell and Webb, and Britanick for some big laughs.
Same goes for Luis CK. He’s funny AF on some topics and very charming, but what’s up with the misogyny and references to “pussy”? And when does it veer into unfunny land?
We have a strict policy to not cross the line - you can be funny without hurting an innocent person. Comedy is a useful tool to lampoon the privileged, but there is nothing funny about mocking marginalised groups.
What’s next for VODville?
We’re going to continue posting sketches regularly (hopefully!) and we’d like to start working on a web series soon. As we’re new to the Melbourne scene we’re still meeting people and starting to collaborate with some really talented actors and crew.