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Sitcom to Focus on “Lighter Side” of Being Vegan

In the second season of Joanne Rose’s Web-based TV series Vegan 101, Eric Roberts’ character, Dr. Eaton Wright, delivers lines like, “Are you tired of breathing the same air as ignorant people?” and “Do you eat meat because you’re a loser? Or, are you a loser because you eat meat?” The dialogue is amusing because it reflects the way many vegans think. Through her production company, Vegan Vision Productions, Rose is in the process of developing a new sitcom called Sex and the Single Vegan. What follows is an interview I conducted (via e-mail) with Rose, who is vacationing in her native Australia.

DB: You point out in the pitch video for Sex and the Single Vegan that “some of the reasons for being vegan are pretty serious. In my new series … I wanted to show the lighter side of things.” Would you talk about the importance of subject-specific humor in terms of inspiring thought and conversation among non-vegans and offering vegans entertainment to which they can relate?

Joanne Rose

Joanne Rose

JR: To me, humor is the missing ingredient in a healthy lifestyle. Society has become so accustomed to receiving messages of doom and gloom through the media that I wondered how many of us had thought to see the humor in our own lives. We have become so serious. In relation to subject-specific humor, I wanted to show that vegans are regular people, too – our compassionate lifestyle is the difference – and that we aren’t all hippies. The main character in the show is named Jennifer Richards and she happens to be a vegan, but the series is not a “vegan show.” Non-vegans will be able to relate to the show because it focuses on real-life situations such as reaching your 30s and wondering where your life is headed, being single and the challenges of dating, and having the courage to design your own life.

DB: Vegan 101 is described on the Vegan Vision Productions website as “the world’s first vegan comedy series on the Web … The show consists of exaggerated parodies of veganism from all walks of life.” How conscious were you, in producing the episodes, of creating contexts that would be “familiar” to vegans and non-vegans alike?

JR: Being a vegan since 1994, I had been asked many questions from non-vegans over the years, and some of the questions (were) borderline … ridiculous.  … I discovered through speaking with other vegans over the years that this was something they faced, too. We began to share which questions we were often asked and it became a really funny conversation. With this in mind, I was inspired to write material. Non-vegans who are fans of Vegan 101 have shared with me that they have friends or know people who are like some of the characters I created. I wrote the sketches so that it would appeal to vegans and non-vegans.

DB: The series’ satire is over the top to the point that it lampoons not just the vegan lifestyle and worldview but the contemporary sitcom itself – sort of pointing out that vegans are everywhere and look just like everybody else. Is there a vegan stereotype you were erasing?

JR: I wanted to remove the stereotype that we are all hippies. Not that there is anything wrong with being a hippie, but I wanted to get the message across that we are indeed like everyone else.

DB: The self-deprecating dialogue, I think, is as entertaining as it is reflective of how many vegans think. A character in the first season of Vegan 101 tells your character, “I can tell you eat cooked food. Your eyes are dull.” In the series’ second season, Eric Roberts, as Dr. Eaton Wright, delivers lines like, “Are you tired of breathing the same air as ignorant people?” and “Do you eat meat because you’re a loser? Or, are you a loser because you eat meat?” In one episode, he says, “People may think you’re weird because you’re a vegan,” to which your character, Erica Sprout-Wright, adds, “You’re bombarded with the same questions.” To what extent was the idea to give people a glimpse into how vegans think – and to give vegans entertainment that celebrates our worldview?

JR: With comedy, you can get away with so much … The idea was to have people really stop and think about their actions and … ask themselves whether they’re contributing to a healthier planet or (further harming) a sick planet.

DB: I would think that product-placement could be an effective way of supporting your productions. Have you explored the possibilities?

JR: I considered product placement a few years ago with Vegan 101, but ultimately we would need to team up with an advertising agency for this to be successful.

DB: Has any television network expressed interest in adding Sex and the Single Vegan to its programming? I would think that there would be a “get in on the ground floor” attitude among forward-thinking network executives, in terms of your work being unique in its thematic content. What kind of feedback have you received from the TV industry?

JR: I am currently in the last stages of (script) rewrites … working alongside my script consultant, who has been absolutely incredible throughout the whole process. This is the first TV pilot I have written. We are looking at pitching to networks … in Los Angeles in the summer. I am staying hopeful that the script’s uniqueness will be a plus.

Could you talk a bit about the platforms you’re using – and those that are available to you – to reach audiences?

JR: Vegan 101 is … syndicated through Web TV, TiVo, mobile devices, VOD, (and) Hulu, and (will) soon … be on Roku. My priority is to have Sex and the Single Vegan launch on TV and then (move) on to the Web. Vegan 101 exists exclusively on the Web.

Visit Rose’s Mobcaster campaign page to help support the development and production of the Sex and the Single Vegan pilot.

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