A journey to the hard and hairy heart of Masculathon
Deep in the woods, 11 men gather together for a primal rite of passage and tests of inner and outer strength to determine who among them will rise above not only each other, but all men. They must conquer…the Masculathon!”
While this description may read like the back cover of a Titan porno, Masculathon is a new comedy web series from filmmaking brothers Josh and Robi Levy. It’s a series that is both a satire of and a celebration of men, masculinity and the average Joe. Josh Levy says the new project grew out of their conversations as 30-something brothers: “He’s straight, I’m gay, and it’s given us a lot of insight into each other and men in general that we wanted to share with a wider audience.”
The brothers invited their friends and favourite Toronto comedians such as Brian Barlow, Robin Collins and Jonathan Soja up to a cabin near Bobcaygeon, north of Peterborough, for a fast and intense three-day shoot. “All these guys came in character and stayed in character all weekend,” Levy says, and while the Masculathon events were plotted out, the actors improvised their dialogue as their characters competed to take the place of The Man.
“The Man represents the spirit of men,” Levy says. “A new one has been chosen every 17 years from the dawn of time… The Last Supper was actually a Masculathon,” he teases. When it came time to cast the role of the living embodiment of masculinity, there was really only one choice: venerable fab columnist Paul Bellini.
“God, I’m so nelly,” laughs Bellini. “I thought, ‘How can I do it?’” But with his four-day scruff, mirrored sunglasses and motorcycle, Bellini as The Man is “a little bit subversive, a little bit perfect,” says Levy. “Paul and I have been best friends for, oh God, maybe 16 years. We co-wrote my first feature, Hayseed, and we created the TV show Locker Room together.” Levy reveals, “Long before I met him, I actually entered The Kids in the Hall’s ‘Touch Paul Bellini’ contest. Paul has been my muse.”
“Oh, I wasn’t the first choice,” says Bellini. “Josh wanted Scott Thompson, but Scott couldn’t do it. I think it was Robi who said, “Oh, just let Bellini do it.” Insisting he’s not an actor, Bellini combined the look of Canadian character actor Don Francks with the voice of a straight buddy named Gary to create The Man. But with three days of heavy costumes, out in the woods, shooting until 1am, he says, “I got very bitchy. I was exhausted. The fucking thing was a Masculathon!”
“Josh is all about preserving masculinity,” says Bellini. “A lot of people don’t like that; they see it as ‘straight-acting,’ but I’m sorry, it is sexually appealing. Let’s stop looking at it as the ‘enemy’ or the ‘lie’ and see it for what it really is: another way of being. It’s not all self-loathing. Some guys are just butch, some guys are just nelly, and some guys go back and forth.” That male spirit, says Levy, is what Masculathon celebrates. “Without getting into identity politics, the only point we make is that gay men are men, too.” Having a gay character embraced without question by the others shows, he says, “the most political thing we can do is just be ourselves and be open with the people in our immediate circle. What a lot of men really want is to communicate.”
Each week, for the rest of this year, a new video will be added to the Masculathon YouTube page, some brief, some epic. “It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure,” Levy says. “You can watch as much or as little as you like, in order or out of order.” Levy has also approached artist Jason Bone to do a spinoff comic book. “The best part is that there’s nobody getting between us and our audience. There are no advertisers, no studio execs giving us notes. We just get out there and say what we want to say.” Spoken like The Man himself.