July 24, 2012 -
The saucy title of the Borgata’s viral film, Casino Virgins, will attract lots of attention but it’s the off-beat yet G-rated humor that the casino is counting on to spread the word about the resort. Casino Virgins is a series of three promotional videos that the Atlantic City casino hopes goes viral through YouTube.
The teaser and two episodes featuring a couple of, um, Casino Virgins, a pair of sincere but relatively clueless visitors to the Atlantic City resort. The videos highlight the luxury aspects of the Borgata while managing to make light of them at the same time. That may be interpreted as a kind of dig at the Revel, whose self-sense of hip is a little hard to miss.
No interpretation is needed for the Borgata videos themselves—they are funny. The comedy duo playing the Casino Virgins, Billy Scafuri and Adam Lustick, are responsible for that. They also conceived they pieces and wrote the material.
Billy and Adam grew up in New York, though they did not meet until 2004 when Billy was studying at Hofstra and Adam was at NYU. They started collaborating, and when Billy founded the sketch comedy group Harvard Sailing Team with his long time friend Chris Smith, only a short stint in London to study Shakespeare prevented Adam from joining them immediately. Since then HST has been developing a reputation for solid performances, as highlighted by recent praise in the New York Times.
The pair are now in Los Angeles, as Adam has joined the crew for the ambush comedy show Punk’d on MTV.
Here’s the teaser for Casino Virgins, Episodes 1 and 2 below.
PhillyGambles talked with Billy and Adam about the making of Casino Virgins and what it was like to work with the Borgata.
PG: How did you get connected with the Borgata?
Billy: They reached out to our agent in L.A. He is originally from Texas, so we had to laugh when he brought it up not knowing the Borgata. We had done some branded concepts in the past and worked with marketing agencies. It was a perfect conversion of interests.
PG: Were they OK with the concept and the jokes you planned to do?
Billy: There was a lot of back and forth in pre-production. They are careful about their image. But they let us do the video that we wanted to make. We were able to run around and capture what we wanted. We drafted about 75-100 casino jokes, and only about one or two did they not like.
Then we just had to map out where we wanted to do the jokes. It was all shot in one day in 8 locations around the Borgata.
Adam: Comically amazing to work with. The Borgata team were real fullbacks for us, getting every spot ready before we arrived. They were always ready for us, whether at the restaurant or wherever we were shooting.
PG: It does not take a careful look to see that the chips are not Borgata chips, so assuming the poker and blackjack games were staged who were the other people there?
Billy: They were casino employees. They were all really helpful. On any given day it is a different set of 2000 people there, but they are familial, and they are always helpful for the brand.
PG: There is one sequence where various employees tell you to get out. How many different places did you do that to get that sequence?
Adam: That was actually just the three. In the store where we asked for the dragon suit, the salesperson said, “Get out” and we realized that would be funny. With the waitress Billy asked for some ridiculously complicated drink, and we asked the security guard where the Go Fish table was. Billy, who edited the video, did a good job to just sequence the “get out” part.
PG: So clearly there is an element of change on the fly. But what about the props? Did you just find the ring-pops there? The Club MurMur glasses?
Billy: It’s funny because we do not use a lot of props with HST. We approach comedy from a lo-fi perspective. But we knew we wanted to ask about ring-pops. So the day before we got a bag of them, and the tickets. As for the glasses, like we said each department was ready for us. The club gave us the glow sticks, the glasses, some t-shirts.
Adam: The restaurant gave us a delicious steak.
Casino Virgins, Part 1
PG: Obviously in the videos you play clueless gamblers, but the jokes are very knowing. Are you gamblers? Did you frequent the Borgata and Atlantic City when you were in New York?
Billy: We had been to a friend’s bachelor party, and we also went out as a whole organization once for a long night out before working the next day.
PG: So you get the subject, you’re coming from an informed point of view.
Adam: Yes, that’s important.
Billy: Like Sacha Baron Cohen is a comic genius, and he’s smart. Which you have to be to play a stupid person.
PG: So most of the interaction is with casino staff in on the joke, but there is the one segment at the Racebook where someone tells you to knock it off.
Billy: That was real. The racebook reaction was a genuine reaction. We really wanted to be out of there quickly.
Adam: One thing we did not want to do was disrupt anyone that was in the Borgata. A casino is often an emotional place, and people are on vacation. We did not want to stay there long.
Billy: It helped that the Borgata people were there to run interference. I was a wreck at the Racebook. Adam was giggling the whole time.
Adam: Billy and I have different tolerances for self-humiliation that way. But it can be uncomfortable.
PG: And yet you are working on Punk’d.
Adam: It’s still uncomfortable.
PG: Any other thoughts on the videos you want to share?
Billy: Kudos to the Borgata. They had a clear understanding of the difference between a commercial and a viral video.
Adam: Online marketing is very different these days. People are very aware when they are being manipulated.
Billy: The Borgata really supported us and let us do something that we wanted to do.
Adam: We had a great time doing it.
PG: Is there a part three for Casino Virgins coming?
Billy: I’ll just say “dot dot dot”.
PG: Lastly, do you have a dragon shirt?
Adam: Neither of us have a dragon shirt. We barely have shirts.
Casino Virgins, Part 2