BROADWAY — What’s so funny about a grocery store?
For most stores, nothing. There’s fresh produce, hopefully a few sale items and plenty of canned goods, but not much humor.
At the Co-opportunity market on Broadway, one guy thinks there’s funny to be made in an unlikely place.
Ben Wolfinsohn, the creator of “Co-op Stories,” believes that laughs are found among the organic lemons and lentils.
A member of the market, Wolfinsohn thought there was something unique about his favorite place to stock up on food. Somewhere, there were slices of life that needed to be shared, needed to be laughed about.
So, he created a web series to reveal some of the lesser seen but humorous sides of the Santa Monica institution.
“I’ve been going to the Co-op for 15 years,” Wolfinsohn said. “The people in there are interesting and funny.”
Not all of the stories are true to life, but they all come from Wolfinsohn’s experience perusing the rows of groceries, finding inspiration.
Everything from a customer trying to use his smart phone for checkout to a mother and daughter being forced into an uncomfortable conversation about sex, Wolfinsohn found something to laugh about.
The entertainment industry veteran thought there were the makings of a series within the Co-op’s doors.
In short order, Wolfinsohn approached the market’s managers, pitching his concept for what would become “Co-op Stories.” In no time, all parities agreed that this was a project worth doing and the green light was on.
“It was fortuitous timing,” said Ricardo Chavira, the marketing director of the Co-op. “We had been discussing doing more web video.”
Chavira said that the idea of marketing the store online was heavy on the Co-op leadership’s minds. Wolfinsohn just happened to come across their path at the right time.
The filmmaker was granted access to the market during early morning and late night hours to begin filming.
Shoots were scheduled and Wolfinsohn began searching for his cast. There are a few industry professionals like Zachary Ray Sherman, who is best known for his role on the revamped version of “90210,” who he recruited. Still, he needed more bodies.
He didn’t have to look further than the Co-op’s own staff.
Among the rank and file there were a few gems ready for their spotlight. Wolfinsohn said that one in particular has stood out.
Timmy McHugh, who usually is bagging groceries, has emerged as one of the series’ stars. He comes across like the amateur he is, but Wolfinsohn likes it that way. The series is shot in a mockumentary style, so the closer to reality the better.
“I try to have them play themselves,” Wolfinsohn said. “They aren’t actors, so I don’t want them to do things they can’t do.”
Instead, he just wants them to react naturally to the situations they find themselves in. They aren’t expected to stretch too far, but are still expected to do what they can to tell the story.
A perfect example of the series’ realism comes during episode two. Actual Co-op employee Janet Lee Rodriguez spots Sherman shopping at the store and can’t help but ask the young actor about the business. Herself an aspiring actress in real life, Rodriguez stalks Sherman as he tries to shop.
It isn’t long before she irks Sherman, who in turn tells Rodriguez that he’s been on a major show while she toils at a small neighborhood market. He basically just wanted her to leave him alone, but it doesn’t detract her.
Rodriguez, with little pause, approaches a co-worker regaling him with a tale about the two actors being close friends.
It’s subtle, but Wolfinsohn sees humor there.
To date, he’s produced 11 episodes with thoughts of continuing the project as long as Co-op management allows him to have access to the building.
“We’re just seeing how it’s going to go,” Wolfinsohn said. “Let me see how long I have ideas.”
The series is available on YouTube and at www.co-op-stories.com.