‘Preschool Inc.’ schools viewers on grown-up absurdity with a side of funny
YVR Screen Scene is proudly biased when it comes to the work of Matt Clarke and David Milchard. We state this bias upfront, because it will absolutely colour the words that follow:
We’re fans of Clarke and Milchard, AKA CocoMilk Productions, AKA a Vancouver-based dream team specializing in premium digital scripted content. We want everybody else to be fans, too, so that Clarke and Milchard will be compelled to produce content for years to come.
Take a wander through their online oeuvre – which includes gems like Small Cop, Paranormal Solutions Inc., and the 109,587,464-views-and-counting hit Convos with my 2yo – and you’ll probably find yourself LOL-ing at, and reflecting on, the absurdity of many aspects of the human condition.
This has been especially true with Convos, the conceit of which is that Clarke and Milchard recreate conversations that Clarke has with his daughter Coco, but with a grown man (Milchard) playing the kiddo.
It’s funny because kids are funny, honest, and don’t give a shit. It’s funny when we hear their unsullied wisdom related through the vessel of a grown man.
Clarke and Milchard’s latest series, Preschool Inc., is a worthy addition to the CocoMilk family.
Preschool Inc. is set in a cookie-cutter preschool classroom: bright colours; precocious kids; a peppy teacher with a sunny disposition.
Except in Preschool Inc., only half of the students are precocious kids. The rest are composites of incredibly grown-up special interests: Corporate CEO (Milchard), Banking Industry (Francoise Robertson), Oil & Gas Lobby (John Shaw), and Foreign Policy (Richard Zeman).
“One thing that being a parent taught me is that I’m a giant hypocrite,” says Clarke in a recent phone interview.
He’s on the line with Milchard, who directs the episodes in addition to his Corporate CEO duties.
Clarke describes this lesson of parenthood lesson as a “humbling revelation,” and says that it compelled him to consider the other ways in which grown-ups are hypocritical. “We teach our kids things and then seem to just abandon those ideals in the adult world, and I thought, ‘That could be a fun idea for a show,’” he says.
Preschool was the perfect setting for the series because “it’s this kind of pure place where it’s all about these altruistic ideals: sharing and kindness and taking responsibility for yourself,” says Clarke. “You just see a big lack of that in the world, and especially parts of society that are successful. And I thought that was a fun little contradiction, and we could have fun with it.”
Oil & Gas Lobby doesn’t want to clean up his mess after he spills his paint all over the carpet. Banking Industry has some disruptive ideas about sharing snacks. Corporate CEO unapologetically monopolizes the classroom’s Lego supply.
Adult viewers will recognize the characters for what they are – biting and on-point composites of morally bankrupt segments of society – but during the filming process, the child actors often wouldn’t get the joke, according to Clarke, which speaks to the conceit of the show. “In Preschool Inc., the joke is that a lot of these concepts don’t make sense to a kid when you look at the world and approach the world with an innocence, and a lot of the things that [the grown-ups] are saying or justifying don’t make sense,” says Clarke.
While every CocoMilk property is largely different from its kin, there is a flavour of humour that connects them – although even Clarke finds it difficult to describe just what that flavour actually is.
“I think it’s something that tickles our own funny bone – and I think it’s kind of a selfish endeavour, honestly,” says Clarke. “Both [the CocoMilkTV and Convos channels] are places for us to express our own ideas and just play with what we think is funny. A lot of it is kind of experimental. David and I both have different sensibilities in a lot of ways, but also where we overlap, our Venn diagram, is usually pretty good.”
Milchard characterizes the CocoMilk partnership as an exciting convergence of like minds. “We often have the same opinions, just at different times, which ultimately works out to coming up with an idea that we think is worthy of creating and expressing,” he says.
They build their ideas organically, through bubbling conversations that begin with statements like “‘that seems like an interesting topic,’ or ‘that would be a fun way to tell that story,’ or ‘we don’t normally see stories or jokes or situations expressed in that way,’” says Milchard. “If there’s one thing I think we’ve done well over the years, it’s that we do have a unique way of setting up something that’s funny, and also editing it and following it through, so from the set-up to the editing to the end, I think we have a unique perspective on what’s funny.”
Preschool Inc. is currently in the midst of its initial four-episode run. The CocoMilk team is launching one episode per week on YouTube – “It has become a bit of a trick to be present now on any of the social media platforms,” notes Milchard. “The oldie way is to be constantly putting up content every day, and that’s what a lot of social creators and social influencers do, which is hard for us creators of premium scripted content” – and word-of-mouth is key to attracting eyeballs and keeping the creative fires burning. “If you like something, tell people about it,” says Clarke.
Which is why YVR Screen Scene is proud to tell you that we like Preschool Inc.; we really, really like it.