It was Tuesday night at Eastside Tavern and Derrick Comedy ensemble member D.C. Pierson was rap battling MU student and local comedian Dan Shar.
After just one round of competition, the two had endeared themselves to each other. "Man, you're so nice, all I wanna do is be friends with you/but unfortunately the rules of rap battle mean I have to insult you," Pearson rapped.
Fortunately for the two comedians, the irony of two innocent and friendly people forced into an aggressive situation proved hilarious and laughter ensued.
Perhaps it worked so well because it's a comedic device with which Pierson is familiar. Students might recognize Derrick Comedy from their hit viral sketch, "Bro Rape," which views the light-hearted world of Axe-wearing Dave Matthews Band fans through the considerably darker scope of "To Catch a Predator."
Pierson and fellow ensemble member Dominic Dierkes are in Columbia this week promoting their new feature length film, "Mystery Team." The movie tells the story of a group of young detectives (think Encyclopedia Brown at age 18, if he had never matured in any way) who take on a double homicide case and get pulled into the seedy world of sex, drugs and violence.
The film sees nationwide distribution this fall, but the Derrick troupe — which also includes Donald Glover, Meggie McFadden and Dan Eckman — has decided to take an unconventional route.
"It will open nationwide in the fall, but until then we're opening the film in these small markets (like Columbia)," Dierkes said. "I think a big misconception is that we have this corporate machine behind us. The film does have a distributor, but if you saw the distributor, it's just like, 12 guys in an office in L.A."
There's nothing small-scale about the film. In fact, it's the result of Derrick abandoning constraints in effort to make a film of which they would be proud.
"We initially shopped around an entirely different film," Dierkes said. "We wrote up this other script with the intention of it being very low budget and easy to produce, and studios kept saying no, you know, because we weren't very excited about it. But then we had the idea for what became 'Mystery Team,' which we were very happy with and excited about, so we kept developing that and here we are."
The film opened at Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews.
"In fact, I sort of crossed a threshold last night (at Eastside)," Pearson said. "Since it opened, I would say things like, 'We've been told it's a good movie, check out the trailer, you might like it.' Last night, I abandoned that pretense, and was more — 'well, it's a good movie. Go see it. You'll like it.' "
Despite having a strong background in writing and producing sketches, Derrick found the format of producing a feature length film an entirely different task.
"We shot the film under a very strict and tight schedule," Dierkes said. "The movie was shot in just seven weeks, due to Donald's hiatus from '30 Rock' and budget constraints."
Donald Glover was a staff writer at NBC's "30 Rock" before leaving for a role on the new comedy "Community," also on NBC.
Marketing the film for a larger audience also proved a different animal.
"Our distributor said, 'We should put something familiar in the ads, like 'from the makers of (our YouTube videos),' " Dierkes said. "But then they took a look at our catalogue of sketches" — a catalogue which includes titles such as ‘Shouting Homeless Realtor,’ ‘Bro Rape,’ ‘Blowjob Girl’ and most succinctly, ‘Guns.’ We decided that might be a bad idea."
"Mystery Team" opens at Ragtag Cinema this weekend, playing at 7:30 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday.
Pierson and Dierkes will be hosting Q&A sessions after the showings.