CHICAGO — Anyone with a cellphone and a laptop can make a Web series. But it's tough to pull off something that looks professionally made. Enter the sharply produced Kam Kardashian, a satire of pop culture and minority status as seen through the eyes of hard-drinking, hair-brained schemers.
It began its second season last month at Kamkardashian.com.
Filmmaker Ryan Logan and theater actor Fawzia Mirza, who also stars, created the series last year, centering the action on a fictional long-lost Kardashian sister, a lesbian who has been "cut off, kicked out and left to fend for herself," banished to Chicago and relegated to black-sheep status.
That's a ripe premise. Mirza created the character for an audition, and the idea took on a life of its own. (She and Logan are also the show's co-writers.)
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"I have about four different layers of minority status," Mirza said. "I'm queer, I'm Muslim, I'm Pakistani and I'm a woman. I've spent my life trying to insert myself into the majority. And, like them or not, one of the greatest majorities in pop culture right now are the Kardashians."
Logan and Mirza have been smart enough to develop a narrative that credibly exists independent of the Us Weekly wormhole where the Kardashians typically exist. This character is bitter and sardonic. She's a mess. And she's saddled with that famous last name.
Also, Mirza looks like she could pass for a Kardashian.
"I'm someone who looks a certain way," she said. "Am I the most TV-friendly-looking person? No. And my castability in Chicago is limited. This was about, let's create our own stuff and tell our own stories, and cast people who look real and who are funny."
Logan said the first season was made with no budget. They raised $5,000 on Kickstarter for the second season, but even that is a negligible sum.
"A lot of people might think, 'You're making a Web series, so make as simple as possible,'" Logan said. "But you're putting your name out there. We want to show people what we can do. If something looks too videolike, we try to change it because we want it to look cinematic."
Even the costume choices are bang-on. Kam's signature look is biker chick topped with a quasi-Kris Jenner haircut; her idiot best friend (a very droll Mary Hollis Inboden) is a walking parody of quirk in a ratty fur jacket and swim floaties.
There's a confidence at work in the series that's evident from the start (the first episode, called "The Gay One," features Kam knocking back shots of whiskey and ranting to an unseen bartender), but it wasn't until Episode 3 that the series found its voice with the addition of Inboden. At its best, the show is like a latter-day version of Laverne & Shirley.
Here's Inboden trying to explain the plot of the movie The Kids Are All Right to her BFF: "We've got these kids and this life and these groceries and these candles, and we're just not talking enough, we're not talking! And you are my Miss Right, Annette Bening, but Mark Ruffalo is my Mr. Right Now!"
A later episode sees the pair kidnapped by an underworld gay-and-lesbian cabal. "We spoon-feed the media stories about queer celebrities that we handcraft," they're told. "The gay agenda is real, ladies. And we want you to be a part of it." That includes burying any evidence of Kam's long-ago affair with prosecutor Marcia Clark, a contretemps that got Kam booted from her family in the first place.
That's a funny detail even the real-life Clark (who faced off against the late Robert Kardashian, a defense attorney and the pater familias, during the O.J. Simpson murder trial) can laugh at. Clark tweeted: "Given Kim's romantic choices, you wouldn't think they'd be so intolerant, would you? #kamishilarious."
The Kardashians themselves have not acknowledged the series.
"But wouldn't that be great if they did?" Mirza said.
New episodes posted every Wednesday at Kamkardashian.com.