by JEFF SPRY Cascade A&E Feature Writer
Capitalizing on the coffee-crazed culture of Central Oregon, local actor and comedian Nathan Woodworth has just completed work on The Barista Times, a humorous web-series filmed entirely at Sisters Coffee Company in downtown Sisters. Woodworth has teamed up with filmmaker Sam Pyke to create this caffeinated cup-of-life dramedy at a bustling java joint and plans to broadcast it on YouTube starting in July.
“It’s an online sketch comedy series that takes place only at a coffee shop,” said Woodworth. “It satirizes the crazy life of hardworking baristas and their loyal coffee-loving customers. Most of the sketches are based on true stories that have been slightly altered and we make a point of keeping our personal views balanced by poking fun at employees and customers with equal opportunity.”
Woodworth started writing this percolating project after he finished assignments for The Second City’s celebrated online comedy writing courses while waiting to get into the next level at Los Angeles’ The Groundlings school and theater, where stars like Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig and Jimmy Fallon got their start.
“I went down to Southern California in 2012 to begin training in improvisation at The Groundlings and had to audition,” he said. “I made it through all the improv levels really fast. We watched classic Monty Python, Laurel and Hardy, Malcolm in the Middle and Saturday Night Live. For Barista Times I wanted to challenge myself by seeing how many sketch ideas I could come up with in one location. My sister, Emily, who is a professional writer, and I both decided to set it at a coffee shop where we work. Confining it to one location actually gave us more ideas, and doing it at a coffee house allowed us access to the full spectrum of humanity.
“Everybody will be able to relate to the material. It’s not just about coffee or baristas, it’s about humans and the everyday errors we make and particular quirks we carry.”
This intriguing new web-series is highly influenced by the manic works of Monty Python, especially the antics of legendary cast members John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
“What we write is socially satirical but we didn’t set out to write it that way,” he explains. “We filmed nine episodes that each average three minutes. Five of the episodes are titled, Things Baristas Shouldn’t Do and those are what I like to call Scatter Sketches, basically brief bits featuring rapid-fire one-liners all having to do with one topic. A lot of it is centered on miscommunication, eccentric characters and rude customers.”
The Barista Times was filmed over the course of several weeks during off-hours in May by Sam Pyke at Hill Shadow Pictures.
“Sam and I co-directed it and my sister and I co-wrote and co-produced it. We used only professional actors and comedians in the lead roles, including myself and Emily, Derek Sitter, Gavin Douglas from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Chris Sulak, who spent six years at Second City in Chicago with Steve Carell. The show turned out to be really hilarious and we had an amazing improvisational cast that brought it to life.”
The premier of The Barista Times screens on July 5 at the Volcanic Theatre Pub in Bend. Doors open at 6pm. Live comedy starts at 7:30pm before showing all nine episodes. Derek Sitter will also be showing an enlightening documentary called Happy included with admission. Advanced tickets are $5 per person or $7 at the door.