Stellar Interview: Edward Pokropski Takes Us Inside the Creation of His New Web Series, Defend Yours
Just last week, comedian and (now) show producer, Edward Pokropski released a new web series called Defend Yourself where guests are interviewed in between rounds of sparring in an actual boxing ring. The show is lively, challenging, and most of all- entertaining! We got a chance to catch up with Ed and learn the inspiration and process behind this awesome new project.
Congratulations on the debut of your new web series! We're very excited about this and dying to know- what was the inspiration behind creating this?
I was inspired by late night show games and a show called the Hot Ones where people eat very spicy wings while giving an interview. I liked the idea of challenging people in a physical way. I think it creates an interesting dynamic for the interview and allows people to "let their guard down" (pun intended).
Are you the sole creator?
I'm the creator and I'm working with fellow comedian Raj Belani who is my main DP (Director of Photography). Reese Scott owns the gym, Women's World of Boxing (Harlem), and she has created an amazing space for training as well as shooting. My girlfriend, Macy Goh, works as a designer and she has been amazing in advising me on general design and consistent aesthetic for GFX and text elements. This is definitely my first project of this type. I work in television and have worked on other narrative or sketch projects but nothing that combines my love of comedy, boxing and media.
You're also a comic. Tell us a little bit about your background in comedy?
I started about 2 years ago because I wanted to expand my own writing. I also got tired of complaining about not seeing enough representation for Asian Americans in media. Against my usual instincts, I decided I should try to do something a little more forward facing. I picked stand up because I can't sing or dance. I now run a monthly, all Asian, stand up show called Unwashed Comedy (on Facebook and Instagram). We usually host it at Stand Up NY on the upper west side, but have also held shows at Pine Box Rock Shop and Caveat in LES.
So, why boxing? How does it relate to comedy, in your opinion?
I learned how to box when I was 17 and loved it from the beginning. I guess it's one stereotype that stuck from growing up in Philly which has a rich history of boxing beyond just Rocky. I never boxed competitively but I was fortunate enough to train and spar with professional fighters, some of whom are now world champions. Boxing has been called "The Loneliest Sport" and comedians often talk about how stand up is a solo endeavor and can be a very lonely profession. It's in this way that I think comedy and boxing share a lot. The other being how you train and plan but once you get in a ring or on a stage, you have to adapt, even if just slightly. Fear is always present in both and it's the overcoming of that fear that make both incredibly rewarding.
How long has this project been in the works from concept to debut?
It all has moved pretty quickly! From real first draft of format to debut of the first episode, it's been about 2 months. I'm planning on shooting six more in the next round and try to release one a week, but they've been so fun to shoot and edit that I may try to do more. A lot will depend on how much interest I can spark off of these initial episodes. I am by no means a marketing guru.
What were your best and worst moments while seeing this project into fruition?
The best moment was sitting down after the first round of boxing with Gianmarco from the first episode. As I asked the next round of questions and I saw him slightly hunched over and sweating but with a huge smile on his face, I knew I had tapped into something. The worst moment was when I hit the publish button on the first episode. The doubt that washes over you in that moment is always a tough hurdle. Will people like it? Will people hate it? Or the worst thought we all have as creators is, "Will people even notice?"
And so, how has the response been so far?
It’s been received really well in general but, as is the case with most things, building an audience is it’s own challenge. Whenever anyone says they like something I’m always the type to go, “ok yeah but tell me what sucks about it.” Plus, I always feel like I need to take a shower after I tell people to “like and subscribe” and yet here I am... please LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE TO DEFEND YOURSELF!
Will you only have comics as guests on the show?
I think comics will always be a standard but I'd like to eventually expand it to anyone just doing cool things- artists, chefs, musicians, even pro-fighters. I'd love to have the tables turned on me in that way.
What advice do you have for anyone else who'd like to start their own web series one day?
Just shoot it and figure it out as you go along. Test, fail, change. Same as an open mic, you'll never know what works and what doesn't until you throw it out there. You can't score a knockout if you never throw a punch.
There you have it, folks! Big thank you to Edward Pokropski for taking the time to interview with us. You can watch and subscribe to Defend Yourself on YouTube. Be sure to follow the Facebook page as well as the Instagram page (@defendyourselfseries) for steady updates!