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Sarasota Tuesday, Sep. 21, 2021 2 months ago

Sarasota High School student parodies her own school's news

Sarasota High senior's parody news program fulfills her search for absurdities.
by: Harry Sayer Staff Writer

Anya Studebaker walks into frame, fully decked out in cowboy attire with a wide-brimmed hat and an obviously fake mustache. 

She may look something like a rodeo clown, but it’s no laughing matter for the Sarasota High School senior. She’s made her bones producing and hosting a comedy news show about Sarasota High School based on the premise that she fills in  with parodies, wise cracks and inside jokes when the real program doesn't deliver.

Anya Studebaker spends hours each week filming and editing her show in her dad's studio.

And, it just delivered. For the first time this school year.

As the saying goes — this town just ain’t big enough for the both of them. Until next week, that is. 

The goofy gunfight was another day of filming for Studebaker’s show “The Backup Bridge,” a weekly  program posted on YouTube each week poking fun at her school’s official production “The Bridge.” 

The 17-year-old student sits behind a news anchor desk each week and gives updates about the school’s goings-ons as satirically as she can. As her catchline goes, her show is “The news source that fills in when The Bridge does not fulfill.”

"The Backup Bridge" started in early 2021 as a way to escape boredom during the pandemic but has become something much more important to Studebaker — a way to express herself and explore her comic chops week in and week out.

“I’ve learned to take myself less seriously,” Studebaker said. “In the beginning I was super self-conscious about doing a western accent that’s really bad or wearing a fake mustache … I didn’t want people to think I’m weird. Now I’ve just accepted that I am weird, it’s a part of me.”

Studebaker’s path  began when a COVID-19 exposure at school sent her home to quarantine. At the same time, she said the school’s news video program “The Bridge” began falling behind. 

“I thought ‘Well, I’ll make my own video’, ” Studebaker said. “Why not? I had nothing better to do.”

If a typical “The Bridge” edition covered sports and weather and random school facts then “The Backup Bridge” would do the same — with some twists of Studebaker’s own design. 

“(The Bridge) kept coming up with new segments, but they wouldn’t always keep going with them,” Studebaker said. “In the last quarter they added a fast facts (segment) and I was like ‘That’s so weird but also great (for me)’.

The videos started as something of an in-joke for her and her classmates – a recurring segment has her talking trash about her classmate Gabe who runs a club she doesn’t understand — but it’s grown in popularity. Now she can go down the hallway and have students ask if she’s the “Backup Bridge” girl. 

 Studebaker’s father's career involves video and podcast production, so some of the technical skills have rubbed off. Growing up in and around the studio — including a teenage rebellion phase where she tried to ignore her dad’s tech savvy — Studebaker now films her shows from that very place. Her shows offer a professional look.

Studebaker's shows are usually full of background effects and costumes to go with them.

She concedes -- now -- that her dad’s knowledge has come in handy. Studebaker is busy with extracurriculars but carves out time each Monday to shoot and edit. Her dad often helps with editing throughout the week and the video is posted typically Friday.

“We used to sit down and it’d take hours to edit, he tried to teach me and I was resilient at first,” Studebaker said.  “But now I’ve become very specific in what I want and I do it all.”

The series's subject matter has been varied but its secret weapon is its rapid-fire editing. 

Studebaker grew up watching “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” which has given her an appreciation of absurdist comedy. Many of her videos cut quickly or rely on quick moments of comedy that can leave a viewer off-kilter. 

She often leans into the awkward and said that there is often funny found in uncomfortable pauses that  last just a little too long.

“I like to find the absurdities in regular things,” Studebaker “I’m not a serious person at all … It’s so much funnier to find everyday situations you can pull comedy out of.”

Her recent cowboy-themed show had her ruminating on the point of a show that’s run out of material from the original to imitate. The solution? Get even weirder.

“I’m almost in a transitional phase, not going off the rails but I did hit a wall,” Studebaker said. “The Bridge’s first episode this school year was (just) last week, there’s not a lot to work with. I’ve decided to do what I think is funny now.”

Her shows now included eerie, empty re-creations of the "Full House" intro, re-editing sports reels of her soccer games to have opponents blowing up mid-trip, and a "Family Guy"-inspired “Grinds My Gears” segment featuring her teacher, Adam Hughes. In one episode, though, she parodied her own show when she took over Hughes' segment when it was late-arriving. 

Still, everything has an end and Studebaker has thought about what will happen when she leaves for Rollins College next school year. She could pass the torch, let the show go or perhaps continue sketch shows in college.

“It’s nice to have something you put a lot of work into and how you want it and getting to see reactions,” Studebaker said. “I’ve put the hard work into this, I edited and did all this stuff and people enjoy it.”

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