CORVALLIS — Gabe Reitzes wants “Mixed Signals,” the sketch comedy show he produces for Oregon State University’s KBVR-TV, to be a bag of Belly Flops.
Reitzes is a fan of the slightly squashed, imperfectly-shaped candies that the Jelly Belly jelly bean company dubs “Belly Flops.” That’s the philosophy he wants his show to embrace.
“It’s more fun, because they’re all weird and misshapen,” he said. “I want this to be the Belly Flops of TV. I want to lean into the imperfectness, or the mixed bags.”
The show is one of three being produced for the 2022-23 academic year, alongside the “Locals Live” area concerts and various sporting events at Linn-Benton Community College, also available for viewing on YouTube.
Written and directed by volunteers, each episode of “Mixed Signals” is roughly 15 minutes of pure college-humor lunacy, spoofing commercials, talk shows, informational speakers and social situations.
Check out “Mr. Constantine,” for example, the children’s television show host who, with his puppet sidekick Mr. Peanut, cheerfully leads his young audience through a do-it-yourself exorcism. Or “Sword for Her,” the new product guaranteed to end harassment and get women listened to at meetings. “Men won’t be able to take their eyes off you,” the voiceover promises.
Reitzes is particularly looking forward to the Valentine’s Day skit that will air on Feb. 16, in which an already awkward moment goes horribly wrong.
“It’s meeting your partner’s parents, but their dad is Dracula and nobody addresses it,” he said.
Reitzes, a fifth-year New Media Communications major at OSU, had been thinking about the show for a while but only formally pitched it last spring. He plans four episodes each term, with the first four already available for viewing.
Although shows are edited, he wanted to do something with the feel of live TV and low-budget production: something that gave the feeling of performing with no safety net.
“I’ve always really been into comedy: standup, Monty Python, ‘Kids in the Hall,’” he said. “(I want) something where it’s safe to experiment. If you take a big swing and it doesn’t work, we have three other sketches anyway. That’s the brand.”
Alden Micklavzina, KBVR-TV’s station manager, had mixed feelings about the pitch at the beginning.
“My reaction was a lot of excitement, because we haven’t had much of that (comedy shows) in recent years,” he said.
That said, he also had concerns. Comedy is tough to do well and takes a lot of time and effort, something often in short supply for stressed students. Also, he wanted to make sure Reitzes’ vision for a loose-knit variety act still kept a “solid aesthetic,” a theme that didn’t shift too dramatically from show to show.
Micklavzina said he’s loved what he’s seen so far, however. The graphics between each skit, known as “bumps,” help keep the show together, and the humor – dry and surreal – carries through each episode.
He’s also impressed by Reitzes’ organizational abilities. Each show varies widely in terms of props, shooting locales, editing needs and volunteer times, but somehow, the biweekly show producer has managed to keep it all together.
For Reitzes, who hopes to make a career out of television production, getting the practice with such details now is critical. Personally, he said, he’s never been great with deadlines, but show production demands them – along with clear communication, organizing logistics and even writing professional emails.
“It’s Executive Function Boot Camp for me,” he said.
When the academic year ends, “Mixed Signals” may end, also. Reitzes will be graduating and it will be up to future television producers to pitch new shows.
In the meantime, he said, “It feels really cool to be creating a space where people can express themselves and not necessarily feel like they have to fit themselves into someone else’s vision.”
“I want to really try and get as weird as we can.”