Laughing local

The Levinson bros. at Dayton Music Art and Film Fest

By Amanda Dee

Photo: Comedians and Dayton natives Stephen (left) and Joel Levinson host the DMAFF film event; photo: Jennifer Taylor

Sometimes daddy issues can destroy a man’s sense of masculinity, but Joel and Stephen Levinson decided instead to run with that insecurity and hide right behind the TV screen. They watched their “stoic, serious” dad laugh at “Airplane!” and the like, and thought maybe, just maybe, that’s how they could get to his heart.

I’m not sure if they succeeded, but they have achieved and are achieving comedic success – and they started right here, in Dayton. And now, they’re back, for a night and possibly for a full-length musical comedy feature film playing up the people and scenes of a city Joel, living in Yellow Springs, still calls home.

Shelly Hulce organized the film side of this year’s Dayton Music, Art and Film Festival (DMAFF), formerly Dayton Music Festival, with the assistance of sponsor Miamisburg’s Star City Glass Co., Black Box Improv Theater owner Justin Howard, and Trey Stone, local musician and former music director of Second City Chicago. Starting with a screening of Zucker brothers’ (“The Naked Gun,” “Airplane!”) film “Top Secret!” and a Q&A with a different set of brothers, Stephen and Joel, the night concludes with improv and, afterward, a meet and greet with the Levinson brothers.

Although 2016 marks Hulce’s second year as the leader helming the first “F” in DMAFF, she has 11 years with the festival under her belt and certification from the Association of Film Commissioners International.

Like Dayton’s LGBT Film Fest, Hulce dubs her side of the festival “a gathering of film,” additionally one “to promote microcinema here in Dayton.”

Microcinema is the Robin Hood of film, “providing accessible and unique screening experiences to support filmmakers of all budgets,” Dayton Microcinema’s Facebook description reads. As a venue, it puts the little people first, serving up “traditional seating but non-mainstream screenings” or “small pop-up / ultra low budget venue that moves from space to space to accentuate the experience of screening.” As a genre, it celebrates the “experimental, art house, or underground.”

“We are a city full of John Waters types,” Hulce says, “and they need a cinema.”

That access, “entirely out of the L.A. system,” is what Joel and Stephen say drew them to pursue their own independent film and host the film side of things at DMAFF.

And now, Joel and Stephen pitch for their Dayton-based musical comedy feature film, “BOY BAND: The (heart emoji) Throb Story”: “It’s not about cancer or global warming, it’s not about orphans in the Sudan or anything else that makes an indie film. It’s a silly goofball comedy imagining a boy band who’ve grown up into balding, fat idiots.”

Although Stephen (The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon) and Joel Levinson (that one speedo video from the internet) say they might not spark recognition in audience members, they’ve worked with a collection of names that probably will give, and have gifted, them a lot of laughs. If the brothers meet their budget on Kickstarter, “Boy Band” will star Seth Herzog (The Tonight Show), Jordan Carlos (The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore), and Steve Agee (The Sarah Silverman Program), and some more funny people.

Joel and Stephen also helped found 2776, an “epic musical/comedy extravaganza” with more than 80 comedians and actors laying down 28 tracks for the charity OneKid OneWorld. “Along the way they meet notable Americans,” the synopsis of the album reads, “from God (Patton Oswalt) to the Common Cold (Aimee Mann). Can America be saved? Kind of. It’s complicated.”

Joel didn’t think the idea was great at first (he’s trying to sell it, I think), but Stephen persuaded him otherwise: “I’m usually very skeptical of new ideas because I’m lazy, and any new film idea means a lot of writing and revisions. And, if we were actually going to produce it, way more work than that. But Joel told me his thoughts on the movie, and I was in love with the concept from the start.”

“Then,” Joel adds, “I knew we had something.”

The brothers have been producing comedy since they were kids, “trying to crack up [their] parents around the Passover table,” Stephen recalls.

They realized they could also write comedy in their 20s, when they spent a month together in L.A. “We worked tirelessly on a script about skin-eating lizards from the future that come back to medieval times,” Joel explains. “Knowing what we know now about movies, I estimate that its budget would be 200-300 million dollars. So probably saving that for our fifth movie.”

And now, Joel and Stephen’s pitch for one evening of your time (they do better this time):

“Because 90 percent of the people I know haven’t seen ‘Top Secret!’” Joel says. “Will it hold up? NO IDEA! But if you can even imagine yourself appreciating Val Kilmer as a teen idol singing behind the lines with the resistance in East Germany, then you’re the kind of person I wanna hang out with.”

“Also,” Stephen adds, “I’m told there might be beer.”

The film events of DMAFF take place Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Black Box Theater, 518 E 3rd St. in Dayton. The event runs from 7-10:30 p.m. followed by a meet and greet with Joel and Stephen at 10:45 p.m. Admission is included in DMAFF wristband ticket price, or $10 at the door. For more information on the Levinson brothers or to contribute to their Kickstarter campaign, please visit For more information on Dayton Microcinema or the festival, please find ‘Dayton Microcinema’ on Facebook or call the Blackbox at 937.369.0747.

Tags: , ,

Reach DCP Editor Amanda Dee at

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Got an Opinion?


We are interested to hear what you think.  Please send us a message. [contact-form 4 “Opinion”]  

Springfield’s hidden gem


Referred to as an American Folk Art site, I didn’t know what I expected on my journey to Springfield’s Hartman […]

Debate 7/17: Flag on the Play


Q: Should persons with certain known behavioral tendencies such as suicide or violence be prohibited from owning guns? Legislatures across […]

Conspiracy Theorist 7/17: Hooray for Domino’s

Year after year, the same roads are torn up and road crews patch them. But they never really repair them. […]

On Your Marc 7/17: Good any day

First, a funny story. Larry Lee, the big tackle from Roth High School, for a number of reasons decided he […]

The Cult, Stone Temple Pilots, and Bush at Rose

CULT 2016 Tim Cadiente-2

“Rock and roll never forgets,” the classic rock song goes, and Billy Duffy, guitarist and founding member of the British […]