By Sara Kay
An ‘80s rock phenomenon is going on now, on Hofstra’s interactive website.
Photo: Sara Haile
“Oh yeah. Oh F*** yeah.” The first words ever uttered in a C-oh!-bra episode set the mood for the rest of the series.
Hofstra senior Ian Meltzer plays Rip “Thunderdome” Richards, a lead singer of a retro rock band, modeled after ‘80s rockers Kip Winger and Steven Percy. Mike “The Misery” Michaels (played by alumni James Appleton), Phil Smith, (senior Stephen Dworkin), and Sam Kolls (senior Erik Delosh) round out the C-oh!-bra band, that attracted hundreds of followers at Hofstra and has lately attracted more far-flung fans as well.
“We’re huge in Canada,” says Ian.
The guys knew they wanted to do a series about music, but it took some brainstorming to put the concept of C-oh!-bra together. “About a year ago, we were just sitting around talking about music, and how I wanted to be in a ‘80s band,” says Meltzer. “And then it kind of progressed to, well, let’s be in a ‘80s band. And then, let’s make a joke ‘80s band.” However fun it sounded at first, the guys came to realize that it would take a lot of work. “I wrote down a concept from what we all were talking about,” says Meltzer. “From there we kind of went with it.”
After agreeing on the general idea of the show, the writers had to develop its characters. Rip, Mike, Phil and Sam needed depth, dialogue and a cool wardrobe. To make for good comedy, each band member had to be unique. “We wanted Rip to be the eccentric, front man who, there’s something clearly wrong with,” says Meltzer. “Sam we wanted to be the one who has the talent, who actually does rock, which is funny because he rocks the hardest but he doesn’t talk about it.”
“Mike’s character was kind of a joke,” Meltzer adds. “He’s the biggest out of all of us.”
“He’s also very sensitive,” says Dworkin.
“And to play on that,” Meltzer adds, “Phil is the smallest of all of us, but he’s just so damn mean.”
Steph, (pronounced Shteph), played by Jen DiMatteo, serves as the love interest, resulting in a love triangle between Mike, Steph and Phil. “We wanted something real life,” says Meltzer. “We figured it would be funny because she was with Mike who’s the complete opposite of Phil, and then she left Mike for Phil, so it’s like, what’s going on?”
“Then Mike constantly tries to win her back,” Dworkin says.
“We wanted the big and little guy to be the main conflict, always at each other’s nerves,” Meltzer says.
But C-oh!-bra wasn’t just about being funny, it was about being authentic. “As far as costumes go, we just watched a lot of ‘80s rock music videos,” says Delosh. Each character had his own look, and the guys made sure to match the hair and clothing accordingly. “We knew that Ian’s character would have the most outrageous clothes since he’s lead singer,” Delosh says. “As far as everyone else, Sam was pretty plain with ripped jeans and a white t-shirt or no shirt at all, since he’s a pretty bland character. For Phil and Mike we went with what would be funny, something typical back in the ‘80s.”
“The hair was typical of the time; bleached and disgusting,” he continues. “We tried to match our hair colors with the wigs. We wanted Ian’s to be a David Lee Roth rip off.”
The reaction from the audience of C-oh!-bra is something the guys considered from the beginning. “We wanted it to be a life changing experience,” says Delosh, laughing.
“It was a very specific group of people that would get it,” he adds. “Eventually it would branch out, though.”
Meltzer says even for people who don’t know ‘80s rock, the show “still has elements you would find funny. People still laugh.”
All the cast members agree the seven-episode web series was a great learning experience. “When you watch TV, or you watch web content, you think it’s easy to do,” Delosh says. “But when you actually go to do it, it’s a lot more than you think it would be. It’s frustrating at times, we got on each other’s nerves, but there were more than enough occasions when we would have fun.”
It was hard finding crew, because few were familiar with web TV.
“Sometimes we found that it was just the five of us with a camera,” DiMatteo says.
Aside from the shortage of help, there were other bumps in the road.
“We re-wrote three times in production,” Meltzer says. “The last scene, James wrote literally two hours before we went and filmed it. Everything was kind of on-the-fly production. In the middle we stopped for two weeks, because we all wanted to kill each other. We had to decide if we thought it should be done or not done, but then we decided to finish it up.”
“It was definitely frustrating, to say the least,” says Delosh.
After all the conflicts, mishaps, fights and laughs, C-oh!-bra has made its presence known not only to Hofstra students, but also to other followers who have found them on the web. Currently, they are being reviewed by Tilzy.tv. “If you get reviewed by them, it’s a really big deal,” says Meltzer. “We’ve submitted to all types of web TV awards, so hopefully we’ll hear back from them.”
“Promotion, especially self-promotion, is the key,” says Delosh. “Nobody is going to find out about you unless you promote yourselves.” With Internet-based promotion, the band managed to pick up a following. “We spent hours after midnight just posting links, trying to get people to watch it. Every little bit helps.”
Now that C-oh!-bra is over, and the guys have retired their wigs and instruments, they are already cooking up their next web series. “We’re currently writing a pilot,” says Meltzer. “It’s much different; it’s like a comedy drama, like real life, much less specific.”
How would C-oh!-bra band members say good-bye to their fans?
“Mike would be emotional, use big words the wrong way. He would start crying, and compare C-oh!-bra to a flower,” says Delosh and Meltzer.
“Sam Kolls would move onto the next band on the list of bands” says Delosh. “He never had a reason to pick C-oh!-bra, he just fell into that slot as lead guitarist. He never really cares about anything. As long as he’s playing he doesn’t care.”
And Phil would say, “If any ladies are interested, I’m now single, drop me a line.”
Want to catch up on the 80’s rock web series? Go to C-oh!-bra’s interactive channel, and as Mike would say, “get some.”