Grab a pen and paper, because you’re going to want to write this down: I MUST WATCH “STRAPPED FOR CASH” NOW! The latest creative endeavor from one of Brokelyn’s own, Eric Silver, goes straight for the sexual gold. (And yes, he sticks the landing.)
“Strapped for Cash” is a quick-witted series that follows roommates Eric and Isis (a legit dominatrix) living in Brooklyn, and doing the whole cohabiting thing that we all know so well. The dry and honest depictions of Isis’s career as a dominatrix coupled with Eric’s aloof but benevolent acceptance of all sexual kinks is exactly the type of peace and love the world needs right now. (I’m looking at you, Mike Pence.)
Eric let me pick his brain about BDSM, creating original content and much more. So before you cancel all your evening plans to watch season one on repeat, cozy up on your delayed 2 train and meet your new favorite comedian: Eric Silver.
How did you meet Isis?
By total chance. One summer I was flying out to San Francisco for a college friend’s bachelor party, and leaving out of JFK. That night there were storms that I have never seen on any day I’ve traveled. The rain was coming down in sheets, and I was standing at my gate watching them roll back the departure time for my flight by hours in a matter of a few minutes. I think I had a 5pm flight that didn’t look like it was leaving until 11pm at the earliest. We’re all standing around watching the screen update, and there’s a collective sigh of “We’re fucked.” The guy next to me, a complete stranger, turns to me and goes, “Bar?”
So we head to the bar right by the gate and grab a drink. Next, another woman on our flight comes over and asks us about the status and we ask her if she wants to join us. Before we knew it there were like 6 of us, all strangers, all stranded in JFK, and drinking together. It was like summer camp. We were all best friends right away. And that first woman was Isis. She initially introduced herself as a dominatrix, which we took in stride and didn’t press for further details on, and then it came out that she was in adult films.
A quick run to the bathroom confirmed it was definitely her, and eventually she was sharing stories with the group about her session with a client the night before. Isis and I hit it off, and wound up exchanging numbers, especially after I told her I also made videos (albeit of a different sort).
What inspired you to create this web series?
I happened to be in-between roommates and struggling to fill the empty room in my apartment. I was out in San Francisco visiting my girlfriend, who was living there at the time, and Isis happened to be in town. We had a meeting to talk about some logistics for an unscripted show, and Isis mentioned that she had been kicked out of the apartment she rents in Manhattan exclusively for sessions when she comes to New York.
My girlfriend – who already gets a lot of credit for being game to have a lunch meeting with my adult film star friend while I was out visiting her for the weekend – suggested that Isis take my empty room. It would have been an amazing setup for me, since Isis would likely only come to New York once a month for about a week, but was down to pay half the rent. And the idea of businessmen coming to the apartment to get dominated and finding me watching TV in my boxers in the living room really entertained me. We wound up not living together because I was afraid I might get kicked out of my place and Isis was pretty sure her clientele wouldn’t want to come to Brooklyn.
So I realized I could make a simple series where the only element that changed would be the clients coming to the apartment. Isis was down, and I was excited to keep expenses and shooting days down by filming the whole thing exclusively in my apartment. Inspiration is kind of weird like that. Sometimes it’s elements that you picked up and set down because they weren’t feasible at the time, and then it’s other practical considerations like format and audience, or it’s your girlfriend suggesting you live with a professional dominatrix.
Are any of the episodes based on real situations that Isis dealt with while having a roommate in New York?
None of these are based on experiences Isis had with a roommate. To the best of my knowledge, she was renting from a woman, and it might have been sort of like an Airbnb situation, where she cleared out for the week Isis was in town. The episodes are definitely based on real situations, though. Isis gets offers for people to be her servant on a pretty regular basis, I would guess. The story she tells in “Toilet Training” is 100% something that happened, and the conversation we have on screen is a pretty close approximation to what our actual conversation about it was. I definitely real-life gagged at, “Why waste a tasty flush?”
How much research was put into the dominatrix lifestyle?
In preparation for that other project, Isis and I had hours of conversation both over the phone and in person. In retrospect, I’m really thankful for not approaching it from a comedic angle from the beginning. It’s really easy to ask for Isis’ best stories, and then laugh and poke fun at people’s sexual kinks, but also it’s kind of punching down. Talking to Isis from the perspective of a documentarian made me focus on the more important things, like how people who are in that world feel about what they do, and how it helps them.
One thing Isis has always told me is that she feels more like a sexual therapist. People come to kink and BDSM for a lot of different reasons, but some of them have legitimate pain and/or issues that they’re trying to work through, and this helps them do it in a safe, gratifying way.
What is your favorite episode?
Ugh, I like all of them for a lot of different reasons! “Isis Love” still makes me laugh even now, which after you’ve watched several cuts of every episode over and over is nearly impossible. But I’ll say “Master and Servant” because it gets a lot done in a very little amount of time. That could easily be turned into a half-hour episode. There’s a nice simple story to hang a lot of jokes on, and Eric Yearwood (“Joe”) is so good at the physical comedy in it. He was game for everything we did to him in that and the pilot episode, and really breathed life into all my dumb joke ideas. I also made one of the most beautiful omelets I’ve ever made as a prop for that episode, so that’s another point for it.
What do you hope the audience will take away from “Strapped for Cash”?
I think foremost both Isis and I would want people to come away feeling more comfortable bringing kink and BDSM into the light, and to stop other-ing or (no pun intended) fetishizing it. “Strapped for Cash” is a comedy series, yes, but the clients aren’t meant to be the butt of the joke. It’s not like in Pulp Fiction where the gimp is meant to set a surreal, scary tone by his very nature. For me the humor is in the juxtaposition of these people who are engaging in totally legitimate acts, but it’s in a shared sphere with a non-participant’s home space. These clients didn’t schedule to have a session which includes some random dude making conversation in the waiting room, and Eric is being pushed outside of his vanilla sex life essentially through osmosis. But also sometimes people’s kinks are funny! I think it’s ok to have a healthy laugh at the kinds of things that get people off, as long as we’re not judging the person and name-calling. I’m perfectly fine regarding people who put mayonnaise on turkey sandwiches and only ketchup on hot dogs as ABSOLUTE FUCKING MONSTERS but that’s where I draw the line on judging people by their personal tastes.
What does “Strapped for Cash” get right and 50 Shades get wrong?
From the get-go, I think the most glaring thing that “Strapped for Cash” gets right that 50 Shades gets wrong is consent. Not that I’m the world’s expert on that book/movie, but my understanding from the general reaction to it is that Christian essentially pressures Ana into signing a contract dictating the terms of their relationship. He wants to control every aspect of her existence, from what clothes she wears to the foods she’s allowed to eat.
Now, that is a totally valid and real thing that couples engage in. What’s incorrect is the dramatic depiction of Ana feeling uncomfortable agreeing to Christian’s desires, but doing so because she doesn’t want to lose him. It paints BDSM as mysterious, sexual, and dangerous. It does so with a character who is both sexually inexperienced and kind of unwilling. Dominance-submissive relationships are agreements that both parties come into because it gives them mutual pleasure.
Every client in “Strapped for Cash” is there because that’s where they want to be. They are paying “tribute” for the honor of being dominated by Isis, and Isis enjoys the role she plays in their session. And besides all that, the Red Room of Pain is complete bullshit. Who’s rich enough to have a room dedicated solely to BDSM and sex toys? This is New York, we’d skimp on all the theatrical accouterments and rent that shit out!
What would you say is the biggest thing you learned about BDSM?
As I said before, probably the biggest thing I learned is that it really can be a form of therapy for people. Sure, some people may find their way to it because they’re tired of “vanilla” sex, but when you hear the detailed kinds of rituals that people are into when they get off, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that they’re working through something very specific in their past. That’s not to imply some sort of personal damage or deviation, but just to say that people’s lives are more interesting and complex than we often consider them to be. Sometimes society forces by external pressure and internal pressure (on the part of the individual) to conform to a conception of “normalcy,” and things we aren’t willing to acknowledge about ourselves manifest in strange and very specific ways.
And lastly, as Isis says, are your parents into “some dirty nasty stuff?”
I have not asked them, and I do not plan to. Though my mother recently reminisced (unprompted, I promise) about Gowanus, and how my dad used to take her there to “park”. That was more than enough for me to hear, though I sincerely hope they have a wonderful and gratifying sex life. My imagination is limited, so anything involving my father and what would make him happy would probably include him DVR’ing episodes of “Monk” or “Columbo” in the background. That must be a kink for someone, right?
Check out season one now!