Kris Slater is having a hard time with his lines. It’s supposed to be an easy shoot, maybe three pages of material, but he keeps crouching between takes, trying to catch his breath and keep his lunch down. Two banged-up racks of fluorescents bounce jagged light off his just-dyed hair in the Industrial Road studio of WoodRocket.com. They’re shooting the last scene for Bob’s Boners, a dirty Bob’s Burgers parody, and Slater is playing Jimmy Pesto Jr. He can’t quite hit the accent, and that isn’t helping.
Director Lee Roy Myers reads Slater’s lines back to him, reminding him to come into the scene before he starts to speak, and to stay open to the camera. Myers does a pretty good version of the show’s retainer-lisped Jimmy Jr. Before the shoot started, he mentioned offhand that Bob’s was his favorite show on television. He had to add this scene because the porno was missing something, character-wise.
Which is not, exactly, what you expect a skin-flick director to be especially concerned about.
The shoot winds up taking three hours, but if Myers ever gets annoyed, he doesn’t show it. When he talks, he sounds sort of like comedian David Cross and he oozes Canadian politesse. During breaks, he makes sure the handful of people on set are comfortable, reminding them there’s a craft service table set up in WoodRocket’s tiny kitchen. After it’s over, Slater sprints out of the room to vomit. Loudly. That stomach bug was no joke. Multiple takes of a dancing scene probably didn’t help, but Myers was trying to nail down verisimilitude in Slater’s Jimmy Jr. boogie. Does that make him the Stanley Kubrick of porn directors?
“I’m bearded. That’s about as close as we get,” Myers deadpans. Then he brightens. “And I did The Shining [parody], so yeah, sure, why not?”
Myers, 37, is the director of dozens of porn parodies, from SpongeKnob SquareNuts to Game of Bones to 30 Rock: A XXX Parody. (OK, fine. They don’t all get the dick-joke naming convention. It’s as upsetting to us as it is to you.) He’s also the architect of a website that functions as a barely-funhouse-mirror version of directors like Kevin Smith, who turned his early career subtext into text with 2008’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
In all those Smith movies (just like in Judd Apatow’s catalog), there’s a central heart and humor reaching toward raunch. With Myers—who, like Smith, is a bearded, baggy-shorted pop-culture obsessive—the raunch might be front and center, but it’s reaching one hand across the divide to its mainstream sex comedy cousins.
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Avenue Q summed it up neatly: “The Internet is for porn.”
Far be it from us to question the wisdom of singing puppets. The Internet, as it can remind you at every imaginable turn, really is for porn. And while that’s true, WoodRocket is an evolutionary step. Long gone are those halcyon days of dial-up, where if you plugged in your modem at noon to download a racy picture, by dinnertime you’d have most of a neck and half of a shoulder. We’re beyond that era where the first grainy, 640k video you pursued was a barely watchable clip of the Pam Anderson sex tape. The Internet is for porn, but WoodRocket is porn of the Internet.
On @Midnight, host Chris Hardwick correctly pointed out that the Internet has but one true god: Nicolas Cage. So when Myers dressed a couple of models in Raising Arizona and Peggy Sue Got Married finery, the Internet, understandably, lost its collective mind. The photo set went viral in July like Ebola in a sewage plant.
Then Myers did it again in September. The Internet’s favorite goofy uncle, “Weird Al” Yankovic, dominated screens in a wave of mass nostalgia for ’80s MTV and churning demand for grammar-focused “Blurred Lines” parodies. Myers was ahead of the curve and released another photo set, this one with models dressed in costumes from Yankovic’s 1989 cult flick UHF. The safe-for-work versions of those pics were everywhere from A.V. Club to Salon to RollingStone.com. It was the perfect looking-glass moment of parodying a parodist. By adding boobs.
“We go online every day. We spend hours and hours, not just spying and trolling, we’re there to participate. I’m a Redditor. My wife is on constantly. I’ve done two or three [Ask Me Anythings]. I love when something weird comes out,” Myers says. “I remember when YouTube became popular. I remember looking at viral videos going, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing. This is everything I want. This is for a short-attention span audience.’ It’s pop culture and comedy. It’s a milkshake of society’s best and worst. It’s the craziest thing in the world, and we try to capture all of it.”
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Growing up on a steady diet of Russ Meyer movies and unhinged Troma Entertainment left Myers with a taste for grimy exploitation fare. It wasn’t even a short step—it was more of a lean—into exploring the less-clothed corners of cinema.
“I always thought low-budget filmmaking equaled you must have nudity. I wanted to be a low-budget filmmaker, therefore I was going to at least do soft-core type things with violence and gore,” he says. “My folks always made me swear not to become a drug dealer and not to do porn. The two things that would ruin my life. So, I never dealt drugs. One out of two’s not bad.”
Myers’ earliest flirtations with porn came when he was a poor film student in Canada. Naked News was a big deal online. He wanted to move the ball by creating a nudie soap opera, The Young and the Topless. (Those parody instincts run deep.) But it didn’t catch on, and there were bills to pay. One of the ways he paid them was shooting adult material. After a stint working as a porn buyer for a pay-per-view company, Myers moved into the directing ranks in 2008 with distributor New Sensations, where he helmed The Office: A XXX Parody.
In 2011, Myers struck out on his own as a director for hire. Shortly after that, he and a business partner started cooking the plan for WoodRocket. It launched in 2012, but soon the cost of doing business in L.A. would prove prohibitive for an advertising-supported website that gives away the product.
So in May 2013, Myers moved the operation to Las Vegas, where he can play in relative freedom. Those experiments include traditional porn and the parodies, but they also leave room for odd bits such as “Ask a Porn Star,” “Topless Girls Reading Books” and “James Deen Loves Food”—wherein the popular porn actor does things like rank ketchup or take an utterly demoralized dive into the world’s ugliest cake.
It’s borderline subversive. Game of Bones might lure ’em in with a promise of hot Khaleesi action, but once a viewer is there, they might get anything from sexy Adventure Time cosplay (“We’ve been told we ruin a lot of childhoods,” notes Myers’ production manager, who goes by “Seth’s Beard.”) to political commentary (with boobs).
“It’s all something that grown adults can appreciate. I saw it with our friend Justin Donaldson who’s a director at Funny or Die. [Donaldson directed a WoodRocket] sketch called ‘How to Get Contraception at Hobby Lobby,’” Myers says. “Funny or Die came to our sets a few times. They did these mock interviews. It was this tour of a [Golden Girls] parody shoot. Automatically when you see a porn person naked, wigged like Bea Arthur, it’s already weird.”
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Before the shoot, Slater, unsolicited, goes off on how much he likes working with Myers, how he’s patient in a way that other directors aren’t always. When you’re trying to coax porn actors into nailing down comedic timing and character mannerisms, it would be understandable to get frustrated in a time-is-money movie set environment. Myers says he’s only lost his cool on-set twice.
“It’s a type of respect that often only comes from other directors who were performers,” says frequent Myers collaborator Deen. “Most directors in his position don’t empathize with the performer as much as he does. He wants everyone to be happy and comfortable and to enjoy themselves. … But a lot of people who are just directors care more about how their movie looks than how people feel.”
Myers doesn’t brim with Jack Horner/Jackie Treehorn swagger. His wife, Honey, is on set for the Bob’s Boners shoot to operate the equipment—a hand-held digital SLR camera for video and an iPhone for sound. Myers says they met on Myspace after he was in film school, and he got her approval before going full time into porn. She helps him with post-production. It’s mom-and-pop porn at its finest, so when he talks about his pragmatic, blue-collar outlook on filmmaking, it makes sense.
“The talk when you’re on a porn set usually is about other porn sets. It’s ‘This guy, he was shooting a POV scene and he was resting the camera on my face. I could barely stay hard, what an asshole.’ I don’t want to be remembered like that. I want to be the guy who made doing extra work for a porno a little easier,” he says. “If they can’t get an erection because I scream at them, or if they can’t remember the dialogue because they’re stressed out or angry, that’s my fault. The thing is, I want to go home like everybody else. It’s a fun job, but it’s a job.”
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Then again, not everyone’s job gets the attention of big players in the entertainment industry. When his 30 Rock came out in 2009, even New York magazine paid attention. (“It’s actually disturbing how true to the show this thing is.” A compliment, we guess?) So did 30 Rock, the non-porno version.
The show does an episode where Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) gets Liz Lemon’s (Tina Fey) life rights. So he makes a porno parody of Lemon’s life. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a show that’s a parody of Saturday Night Live doing a parody of someone else’s porn parody about the parody show. Which we’re pretty sure is the inspiration for Inception.
While 30 Rock was doing the episode, though, the show reached out to Myers.
“We got a call from NBC casting. They wanted to audition our stars from our porn parody, so we filmed their audition. I guess they weren’t good enough at playing themselves,” he says.
“Part of me, like most people, is always going to be part starfucker. … I immerse myself in pop culture to do WoodRocket stuff. To be recognized by the people that I immerse myself in, it’s meta and it’s surreal, but it’s really like ‘Oh, somebody who does something real for a living that I’m mocking thinks it’s funny. It blows me away sometimes.’”