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30 min read

The Power of Authenticity and Self-Awareness On Your Road To Success

Joep Vermolen


Watch the Episode on YouTube

Allow us to give some background, because this is a show unlike any we've done before.

Joe has been a fan of Toon on Netflix for awhile which is a Dutch comedy about a reclusive, socially awkward jingle composer who must navigate the nightmarish world of show biz after a viral video skyrockets him to fame.

Fame aside, the main character is relatable to many solopreneurs, so Joe wanted to have the actor who played him on the show.

Thinking I (Carly) was only going to watch the first few episodes to prep for this interview, I turned it on, and one week and two seasons later, I had completed the series, and could totally see why Joe was so into it (and has watched the series three times). It's. Awesome.

In this episode, Joe and I sat down with star and co-creator of the show, Joep Vermolen, to discuss his journey as a solopreneur himself, and how he went from that to having a show on Netflix. The story is wild.

He's witty, authentic (a theme for the episode), and charming and led us through one heck of an interview.

If you're a solopreneur, somebody who wants to be inspired, or just a person wanting to hear a good story, or sneak peek into the world of television, this episode is for you.


Oh, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast and leave us a five-star review :)

Connect with Joep Vermolen

Favorite Quote About Success:

"Find your people." - Conan O'Brien


Going solo in business doesn't mean you're alone! Join our thriving Facebook community group exclusively designed for solopreneurs!  Connect with like-minded individuals who understand the unique challenges and triumphs of running a business single-handedly. Gain valuable insights, discover proven strategies, and unlock the power of networking as you engage in lively discussions and receive expert advice. We hope to see you there!

About Joep Vermolen

Joep is an actor, writer, and content creator, best known for Toon.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on Apple Podcasts Thanks!


Full Episode Transcript

Joep Vermolen (00:00):

For me, everything I did being a solo entrepreneur, failed when I tried to do it all by myself. Everything that worked out really started happening when I started engaging with other people and finding the right people. If it's comedy that you do, the people that make you laugh and you make them laugh,

Intro (00:19):

Welcome to Solopreneur the One-Person Business podcast for professionals ready to take charge of their company of one and reclaim their freedom. Join us as we bring you inspiring stories, invaluable insights and practical strategies from successful solopreneurs and industry experts. Get ready to feel empowered to create a thriving business that aligns with your unique goals and allows you to live life on your own terms. Here are your hosts, Joe Rando and Carly Reese.

Joe Rando (00:52):

Welcome to Solopreneur the One-Person Business podcast. I'm one of your hosts, Joe Rando.

Carly Ries (00:59):

And I'm Carly Ries.

Joe Rando (01:01):

So how does a solopreneur go from composing music to starring in a TV show made for a small country and then wind up getting picked up by Netflix? Well, today we're going to find out, and I'm going to be asking the questions because I've seen his entire series three times through,

Carly Ries (01:17):

And I've only seen it one time through.

Joe Rando (01:20):

Joep Vermelon starred in the Netflix comedy Toon, spelled TOON like cartoon, but it's pronounced Tone. If you haven't seen it, it's probably because it's in Dutch. It's in the Dutch language. And you probably think that a country with only 17 and a half million people can't possibly produce a comedy that kicks butt on anything Hollywood has done for a few decades. But you'd be totally wrong about that, at least in my humble opinion. Toon is about a quiet loner who unwillingly gets thrown into the social media spotlight. The more he tries to escape it, to be left alone, the more famous he becomes. It absolutely brilliantly skewers the social media influence culture. As I mentioned, I've watched it three times through. I keep finding funny things to laugh at, and that's why I'm so excited to meet this guy. I am actually just a little bit starstruck, so bear with me here. I'm pleased to welcome to the solopreneur of the One-Person Business podcast, Joep Vermolen. Welcome to the show.

Joep Vermolen (02:21):

Oh Wow. Thank you so much.

Joe Rando (02:29):

I do a little bit of Dutch. I spend a lot of time in the network for you.

Joep Vermolen (02:34):


Joe Rando (02:37):

So as I alluded to a minute ago, I'm really psyched about the interview. I love the show. It's really cool to talk to you, and I'd love to ask you all kinds of questions about the show, but we're really more interested in how you, as a solepreneur, a self-employed person, one-person business, how you went from that to creating a show for Netflix. You've clearly had quite a ride. Let's just dig in here. So you have a master's degree in music composition and production, if I'm not mistaken.

Joep Vermolen (03:08):

That's right.

Joe Rando (03:08):

What got you into acting?

Joep Vermolen (03:11):

I think it all started when I met Beer ten Kate, he's the director of Toon, and he was a friend of a friend. I was living in a student home in Hilversum with a lot of people who were studying music. Some of them were studying film at the same school. One of my friends that I was living with Johan, he was best friends with Beer. Beer came around to our house and he showed me something that he was working on, which was very sort of humble, low grade, little sketches that he was working on with friends. We just film it at home with their own equipment, and he had the idea to maybe later make it into a drama comedy series. I was a bit of a comedy nerd and Beer and I really enjoyed the same stuff and we just became friends.


When I saw what he was doing in Dutch, I had never seen anything, anyone doing that kind of humor in Dutch. I thought it was really good, really funny. I just had this feeling when I saw it, I felt I need to have something to do with this guy's work. As you said, I was studying music at the time. I would make music sometimes for films and documentaries and stuff. So I just sent him an email and I said, I don't know why but I feel like I need to be involved in this project in any way possible. Could you maybe use me as a composer or maybe I could walk around in the background? And then he said, "we're filming something soon and we need sound to be recorded on set" So he said, can you do that?


Can you record sound on set? I said, "yeah, sure". Which was a lie. I had no idea how to do that. Turned out I wasn't able to fake it for very long because we were standing on set and I was messing around with this little microphone. I didn't know how it worked. The end result is completely inaudible, by the way, but they were still trying to cast one last person in this show idea that they had. It was an idea about a few friends who were going to make a movie together. So we needed to cast people that you have on a film set, and they still had to cast this character they thought of who was really shy, who did some production work on set, and he would have almost no lines, but everyone would just walk over him and he would be kind of the lovable loser, I guess.


They saw me messing around with a little microphone, and they were just looking at me, Beer and his best friend, Robert, who would star in Toon as Robbie, the marketing guy. They just looked at me and they said to each other, if this guy can be himself on camera, this is kind of the idiot that we're looking for. So they said, "Hey, instead of making music for us, would you like to try out auditioning for this role?" Which was a bit out of left field for me because I had never really considered acting seriously before. It was kind of a secret dream, but yeah, Beer and I had been so connected around comedy and what was funny and making each other laugh that he just gave me the confidence and he said, let's just try this.


Just try to make us laugh. We'll see what happens. I auditioned for this role as The Loser who said nothing, and I thought I nailed it just by being myself. It took me a long time before I was sure whether it was a compliment or not, but I took it. Then I spent one day, exactly one day on set for his self-produced pilot of this series. I had two scenes and it was the most fun I ever had. I loved it. Then they tried to shop around. The pilot didn't get sold anywhere, and their energy had sacked in a little bit. They had been shopping around this project for so long, and they were just a little bit demotivated at that point, which I totally understood after putting so much time and effort in.


But I wasn't, I just arrived. I was full of energy. So I was like, okay, let's think up with something new. What are we going to do now? Beer and I spent some days just trying to think of new concepts. And I think the simplest concept we ever came up with is, "well, what if we do it about ourselves? It's a show about ourselves, and the everyday awkwardness we get into, me being a composer who's very insecure about his own work. What kind of shenanigans do you get into? And that was the idea, really. That was the first idea of Toon. At some point we decided that I should play the role, which was kind of crazy, but that's how I ended up being an actor. Toon was the first project I acted in.

Carly Ries (08:30):

Wow, that is wild. Because you are so good in that show. To know that it was your first go around.

Joep Vermolen (08:38):

Yeah, thank you. When we heard that we got to make the show, I said to Beer, "Should I get acting classes really fast now because I don't know what I'm doing?" And he was really adamant. He said, "No, I know how your brain works. If you're going to learn about acting now, you're just going to get insecure and you're going to question yourself." He said, "we're doing something here that works for this show. I think you're just going to try to make me laugh. I'll try to make you laugh." We decided then to try to not take it any more seriously than that and not lose sight of that. When we make it with our friends, if our friends think what we do is funny, then that should be it. And I think it was right, because years later, I did do one acting class, which was a really good one, but it did make me pretty insecure as well. I think he was right.

Carly Ries (09:37):

Imagine you could channel those insecurities into your character since he had so many things that he wasn't prepared for.

Joep Vermolen (09:44):

I think that should be the lesson here. I don't think people should think, oh, okay, so you could just not be an actor and then act in everything. I had a lot of luck that I was able to put so much of myself into this role. I think most of the work went into just forgetting the camera is there. But as you can probably tell, there wasn't a lot of character work needed. It wasn't a very transformative role in way

Joe Rando (10:12):

The White Stripes, the band, Meg, she's a drummer, but she's not a drummer. He doesn't want a drummer. Jack White does not want a drummer. He wants her, which makes sense. That's cool.

Joep Vermolen (10:26):

Yeah, exactly.

Joe Rando (10:27):

I think you answered my next question, which is where the idea for the show came from, unless, do you have anything you could elaborate on there? You said it was yourselves, but not to give away anything beyond the first episode, but the concept here really focuses around Toon. His house is kind of invaded by his sister's friends for a party, and he doesn't want them there. Finally, they bug him to play music because they know he's a musician, and he sings a song about Get Out of My House. And that gets recorded and put on YouTube and goes viral. Now he's not only being bugged by these people being in his house, but the next day finds out that he's a YouTube sensation. How did that idea come about? How did you take it from just your friends doing what they do, to this? When I look at it, I see a two season skewering of social media culture and a brilliant one at that.

Joep Vermolen (11:27):

Thanks. Yeah, I could tell you about that because there was one very clear moment in which we found what the show had to be about. The first time that we pitched the show somewhere to a network, who didn't end up taking it, we got some feedback that I think was very fair. At that point, the ideas we had were, okay, so I am Toon. I have a very strange kind of surreal housemate who has a lot of adventures that we never see, but we always hear about, and the rest of it was just everyday awkward things that we would tell each other about our life. So it's me, Beer, ten Kate and Dirk van Pelt. We kind of came up with the show. Dirk is the writer. A lot of ideas were born from us just telling each other things about our life and our fears and awkward things we encounter.


At some point, we pitched the show and that's what we had. Awkward Guy, he's a composer, he has a strange housemate, he does everyday awkward things. So we pitched it and we got as feedback. They said, okay, I'm sure it's funny, but what's the show about? How do I sell this to my friends? It's the show with this character. What happens? There should be a little bit more that happens.

Joe Rando (12:47):

They didn't want the Seinfeld show about nothing idea.

Joep Vermolen (12:51):

Right. They had already done that, exactly. So we started thinking about it. We thought, yeah, they're probably right. But what also happened is they did say, you're very welcome to come back if you find your niche, the story, basically. So they were kind of enthusiastic about what we had, which caused in me, a huge panic attack. I was very prone to panic attacks anyway at that time. But I came home and I thought, okay, the pitch went pretty well. We may be invited back. What if this actually works? That would mean that I would have to star in a TV show, and I've never done anything like that. I was also just in many ways a very insecure person at that time. I kind of liked my being anonymous. I didn't even socially, like the limelight at parties and stuff, so I hadn't really considered that very well. I got home, got a huge panic attack, and I decided I cannot be involved in this way. I would love to think about comedy ideas with these guys if they'll allow me, but I should not play this role.


It's ridiculous. I called an emergency meeting with Beer and Dirk at the bar that we would always use to think of things. I told them, "Guys, I'm so sorry. I just realized that what I'm getting into here is my biggest fear. I'm going to be seen by all these people. I don't really want that. I don't know if I can do this. I'd rather be behind the scenes because my face on screen is literally my worst nightmare." So then what happened is what always happens with these guys, when I try to tell them something real, they say, we totally hear you, but that's what should happen to Toon. That's the show. I think that's the show! What should happen to our character is his worst nightmare. You're basically a version of this character. He should become famous against his will. And then the whole arc of the show, we suddenly had it. This guy should become famous and he should not want it. His whole hero's journey should be to not be famous anymore.

Joe Rando (15:12):

This is the most meta thing I've ever heard.

Joep Vermolen (15:14):

I know. It was hard for me to keep track of what are my thoughts? What are Toon's thoughts? But that argument was so good that I thought, wow, man, I have to play it if you guys still want me to because it's so true. It's so close to my own feelings. But of course, there was also a big part of me that just let the fear rule, which I did a lot in my life. Of course, there was also a big part of me that did want to do this. That was like I would just being on set with those guys that first day and coming up with ideas of what the character could be. I never had so much fun doing anything. So trying to retreat was also kind of a heartbreaking decision. So they also opened the door for me, and gave me so much confidence. They were like, you can do this. We're going to do this together, but it's so close to your own story now, you have to do this. And then they promised me that I could have different hair, fake beard, glasses, which we never got around to doing.


So that's how the big idea of the show really was born.

Joe Rando (16:20):

I could never have imagined that this story would be that good. I'm glad I asked. So, the show was made, I assume, by a Dutch television network. Is that fair?

Joep Vermolen (16:33):

Yeah. There's a telecom company called KPN and they had this idea that they wanted to make their own shows just like Netflix was doing at that time. So they were looking for new ideas that would fit. They had some pretty strange criteria, which just happened to match our idea. They wanted to make something for a young audience that involved music in some way, because I think they had kind of a partnership with something related to music. Our show was about a composer who would become famous through music so it just fit. We pitched it to a producer as a really small web series. We would need almost no money, just film it ourselves with our friends, put it all live. And it just coincided with them getting this phone call from KPN and whether they had any ideas lying around or any things they wanted to pitch.


We had just called the day before. So our producer called NewBe and the head guy, good friend of mine, he said, "yeah, we can do this as a web series maybe, but we could also try to pitch it as a full on series for KPN." So we did. We expected nothing because none of us had any experience in this. A little later we got the call that they liked it. I think we had actually pitched it with some visuals. We did two little scenes that ended up in the show as well. We had filled them very amateurishly, and then NewBe helped us to film one of those scenes again, but a little bit more professional. With that scene in hand and some scripts, we pitched it to KPN and they decided to make our show for two seasons. There were many panic attacks. The crazy thing, between the moment that we got the call, huge panic attack, and us doing all the pre-production. So coming up with the scripts and casting all the other actors, there were many panic attacks. By this time they started calling it a panic syndrome.

Joe Rando (18:56):

Wow. so this is real. You're not using panic attack in a figurative sense?

Joep Vermolen (19:01):

No, no.

Joe Rando (19:02):

Okay. I apologize. We say that a lot, "I'm having a panic attack" but this is real world.

Joep Vermolen (19:21):

A panic disorder, I think.


We use it to each other as well. When we're coming up with comedy, we tend to use the word death wish a lot. Something really made us have a death wish, which sometimes makes people really concerned. And then we say, no, no, we don't mean literally. We're just so embarrassed we wanted to die a little bit. So I use panic attack in both ways as well. I like to talk about it with a lot of levity because I think it helps, most things anyway.

Joe Rando (19:55):

And it's good for our listening audience because I think most solopreneurs at some point have a true down and dirty panic attack in the process of quitting their job or whatever it is that they do to decide to move into doing their own thing.

Joep Vermolen (20:09):


Carly Ries (20:10):

The unknown.

Joep Vermolen (20:11):

Yeah, Exactly. That was exactly what it was. I think starting this process, it didn't make it worse because I found out later a lot more about what caused all these attacks and stuff. But what I'm saying, during the casting and everything, before we started filming, I still had a bunch of panic attacks. I remember having some castings while having a full on panic attack, but the day before we started filming was the last huge panic attack I ever had, which is so crazy.

Carly Ries (20:46):

The anticipation and the buildup maybe.

Joep Vermolen (20:49):

I think it took so much time for me to wrap my head around this because it sounds a little bit magical and stuff, and I'm not that spiritual or magical of a person, but what I think it is, I think the first time I was on set for the first real day of filming, which should have been the most intimidating, scary day of my life, I think I just felt that I was kind of in the right place. Doing something where felt so much trust from the people around me, and something about it worked.


I could tell from day one, something about it worked. I heard later that they had a whole plan B for, okay, what if this guy turns out cannot act at all or has constant panic attacks while we're trying to film. But everybody was hoping that it would work. Whether it does work is up to the eye of the beholder, of course. But I think I just wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing before when I was working as a composer. I was always working alone. I found it very stressful work. I was very insecure about it, and it caused me a lot of panic. Looking back, I think that job caused me so much panic. And here I was doing something that was potentially a lot scarier, but it just felt so much more comfortable. It felt like I work with people that I really respect, but also feel like I deserve my place there. It was very strange because the first time after that that I felt a little bit of panic coming on again, was when I was supposed to make the music for the show. There was also the idea that I would act as a composer with my friend Dylan.

Joe Rando (22:33):

Did you write "Get Out Of My House"?

Joep Vermolen (22:34):

No, Beer wrote the words, and I think Dylan set it to music. I think it was a little bit of a collaboration between them.

Joe Rando (22:46):

Okay. But you wrote the other music, the background music, the score?

Joep Vermolen (22:50):

No, I was supposed to, that was the idea. And then I got involved in the casting and in the editing and the acting and thinking about scripts, all this stuff I knew nothing about, and I loved it all. Then I was supposed to do the only thing that I was supposed to have any knowledge about, and I started panicking again. That was the day I realized that I just wasn't doing the right thing. I wasn't in the job that I was supposed to be in. And that's the day that I asked Dylan to make all of the music, which he said, "well, okay".


Which he did an amazing job. I think I only ended up making one or two bits. There's one episode where Toon uses sleeping medication mixed with alcohol, and he ends up having made some music that he cannot remember, and he has to pitch it to do a big label boss, and it's the most insane music ever. That's the only music I ended up making. I kind of formed that from a lot of stuff that I made during my master of music, a lot of music that I was embarrassed about. I just thought, let's give it a second life. Let's laugh at it one more time.

Joe Rando (23:55):

I remember it. It was hysterical.

Joep Vermolen (24:00):

And I haven't had a major panic attack since.

Joe Rando (24:03):

Very amazing. So you do this. We've come along to the point where you've got the ability, you're making this show. How does Netflix get involved? That just seems amazing. I've seen a few shows on Netflix in foreign languages. They had Dark, which was in German, but that had overdubbing in English if you wanted it. I don't like overdubbing, so I always watch shows in their native language. But you guys did Toon in Dutch and only in Dutch. I know you spent a lot of energy making sure the subtitles worked really well, the English subtitles, which usually those aren't very reliable. But how did to get a show picked up by Netflix, were you involved in that at all?

Joep Vermolen (24:49):

Yeah, shout out to Rinske Verberg. She did all the subtitles from Dutch to English, and she not only was able to preserve all the weird Dutch humor, but she was at point, actually able to make it funnier. We were reading and said, that's an even a better joke. That's amazing. She really did a great job. So the answer is that I had nothing to do with this. I know that KPN made five shows, and then they stopped making shows. I think they changed their minds about the whole venture. I'm not sure what went on there. then I think a year or two after that, Beer and I were watching television and we saw one of these shows that they had made on another channel. So we thought "oh, we didn't know that that was possible, that it could have kind of a second life." I know that everything else happened between the producer from NewBe and Netflix. I think he told this story, but it's too long ago for me to relay it, but I think he met someone at a party who just got this job, very high function at Netflix, Europe,


They started talking about what he did, and this person happens to have seen the trailer for Toon at some point, and then remembered the show. It was like, "Hey, that trailer made me laugh. Whatever happened to that show?" Then I think they watched it and liked it. We got a call from Jeroen who said "let's go out to dinner." We said, okay, we haven't spoken to each other in a while. That's fun. So we went out to dinner and he said, "I have some crazy news. The show got picked up by Netflix. It's going to have an all new release, and that's what we're celebrating today." Our minds exploded because we never expected that to happen.

Joe Rando (26:50):

That is great.

Carly Ries (26:52):

Gosh, I feel like I'm at a loss of words right now. I can't even imagine handling that kind of news.

Joep Vermolen (26:59):

Yeah, It was a lot. I was like, panic attack? No, still no panic attack. That's strange. That was the weirdest part. Still no panic attack.

Carly Ries (27:07):

This is where I'm meant to be still.

Joep Vermolen (27:10):

Yeah, apparently.

Joe Rando (27:13):

Obviously your career has developed very, let's say, organically. This wasn't some master plan you came up with when you were eight years old. If you had to point to some key decisions that you made over the course of going from music composition and I know you're doing some other new stuff in terms acting and video and that kind of thing. But if you had to point to one or two key decisions that you made that kind of made it possible for you to find your way into the career you were meant for, what would you point to? Anything in particular?

Joep Vermolen (27:54):

Yeah, I think that first email to Beer was a big one. I always think back at that. I'm so happy that even though I wasn't really doing what I was supposed to be doing and I wasn't necessarily feeling the best in my own skin, there was kind of a radar that picked up, I have to be involved in this. It was an out of character email for me to send. I'm not sure what, I'm not sure how, but I really want to be involved in your project somehow and kind of attaching myself, stalking basically, let's call it what it is. Attaching myself to this project, to this guy where I felt like there's something here. Then once we started talking about comedy, I felt like we just bring out something in each other that I think is worth a lot. I didn't have the words back then to describe what that was. So I'm really glad that I wasn't my normal shy self at that moment and said, "nah, nevermind". Even though, of course, as I told you, there were some moments to follow in which I still tried to kind of retreat out of either modesty or insecurity.


So maybe that was kind of a key decision. Also, I think to really blindly trust these people that I had found, Beer and Dirk. If they hadn't said so many times that they thought I could do this, I never would've thought that I could do this. Just being an actor in a lead role in a serious production, there was no reason to think that I could do it. There was always kind of a nagging feeling that I would like to be able to do it. It was kind a secret dream. But I'm really glad that I took those guys' opinions about everything so seriously that I was also able to take their opinions about me seriously. So I thought, Hey, if you think I can do it, let's just try it.

Joe Rando (30:12):

If I can summarize it, you took a chance on something you thought you wanted and you trusted good people, I think those are two pretty good life lessons for moving your career forward for solopreneurs or anybody else. What kinds of things have you done? Toon was a few years ago. What kinds of things are you doing since then? We don't get to see them here in the US because I think you pretty much work in Dutch, but tell us a little bit about what you're doing, what it's about, what you've done since then.

Joep Vermolen (30:46):

When we started making Toon, it was basically two years just doing that. A season takes about a year to make. We made two seasons back to back and we had a lot of involvement behind the scenes, which an actor doesn't always get to do. I got to learn a lot about the whole creation process. I see it as one giant masterclass that I just got for free. It was really nice. So those two years, I basically only did that. After we finished, I took a little bit of time to kind of assess what had happened in my life. It was also really crazy when it all came out, because we had been making it in such a bubble, we only saw each other every day and kind of neglected my friends. Suddenly this show came out and people had opinions about it, and it was kind of a crazy thing to experience. I really did not know what it meant for what I was supposed to be doing after that.


I thought, okay, now I'm a composer who spent two years doing this super left the field thing. Now what? Because within the context of Toon, I would say that I got more comfortable during these two seasons. I got more comfortable pitching ideas in the room to these guys. I got more comfortable acting in this role. But I still thought, okay, so this is something I feel pretty comfortable in now, but what is that thing? That thing is acting in this particular style with a script that's written by Dirk, directed by Beer. That's not a very widely applicable to the skill. I still had no idea if I could act in anything else, how would that work? So I took it really slowly. I kind of said no to things that came in because I really didn't know what I wanted to do, what I was supposed to do after this.


So I took some time. But I realized more and more that I could never go back to where I was because this felt so much more fun. I thought, yeah, I found a new purpose here. Then slowly I started acting in other little projects and really started enjoying that. Also, one of the things I enjoyed most about the whole process of creating the show was the casting. So when we went into pre-production before filming, there was a period of writing the scripts, which Dirk wrote, but we thought of a lot of stuff together. Then Dirk would be off riding and Beer would be off, pre-producing, scouting locations and everything. And I was just there. I decided to just take this time and invest it into casting, because we knew casting the show would be kind of a challenge because I have a very particular kind of acting style, I suppose, if you can say that, which just means I just do what I do, and I couldn't really do anything else.


So all the other actors had to be in kind of the same universe as me, basically. I knew that not all actors would be good at that. I started investing a lot of time and just watching a lot of Dutch shows and looking for these actors, even if they had only a couple of lines where I thought these could work in our Toon of voice. We saw a lot of people, really, a lot of people. Then Beer and I did all the auditions. He would always be there as the director. I would always play the counterparts, even if the counterparts were other characters. That was basically my acting school, I suppose, where I got to try out some stuff.


I really enjoyed the process of casting. Casting is such a strange and awkward thing to do as an actor, which I didn't know at that time, but I could tell from the actors coming in, and I got so much pleasure in trying to make it a nice space and get people relaxed to the point where we could convince them, we're just having some fun. Let's not take it too seriously here. Let's just see if we can make each other laugh, see if we can make it feel real. I enjoyed that so much that I applied at a casting agency as well, and did that for a couple of years. I assisted at a casting bureau where the most fun part of the job is I got to play all the counterparts. That was another kind of free acting school for me as well. To see 20 of the great Dutch actors come in for the same role and acting opposite them, seeing how everybody would interpret it differently. It was a super amazing experience as an actor who was trying to learn more about acting.


So I did that for a while, started acting more. Also, I was working on this new idea for a comedy sketch show with Robbert Bleij. Robbert, one of my best friends. He plays Robbie in the show Toon. After Toon, we had this idea to make a comedy sketch show. We started putting a lot of time into that, watching sketch shows, trying to ride, trying to film sketches.

Joe Rando (36:17):

Is this called A thousand percent success?

Joep Vermolen (36:20):

That's something that did kind of come out of that. Yeah.

Joe Rando (36:24):

I saw that when I was doing some Googling the other day, but go ahead. I'm sorry.

Joep Vermolen (36:29):

No, that actually fits in well. So Robbert and I started doing more together. We tried self-producing some stuff. We filmed something about two guys who were trying to make a YouTube program where they were teaching people about how to be creative. But then we played messed up versions of ourselves of two guys who obviously didn't have a creative bone in their body, didn't know what they were doing, and it got seen by almost nobody, but it got seen by one person from We Film, which is a really great production company, and they said, shouldn't we try and get you together with another company so you could make this bigger? They got us into contact with De Speld. De Speld is like a Dutch equivalent of the Onion. It's a really great Dutch satire platform. They kind of liked our videos and together with them, we came up with something to make it sort of more relevant and it would fit their satire thing. One thing that was going on a lot at that point in the Netherlands is if you would watch a video on YouTube, you would get an ad before the video of just some guy who would tell you that you should quit school and you should give him all your money, and then he would teach you to become successful.

Joe Rando (38:09):

Somehow we have both.

Joep Vermolen (38:12):

The success coach's culture. Good to hear that it translates. Actually, not that great to hear, but that's an opinion. So we thought, let's spoof that. Then Robbert and I made this show together with De Speld. Also Beer directed it again. We wrote it together with De Speld, two success coaches that were desperately trying to be successful themselves. Obviously, again, no success in their life ever. They were only just arguing with each other, but they were trying to keep up this veneer of success. It was kind of funny because it was during Covid that we did this, and we always ended every episode by saying we always had three tips to be successful in something. The third tip was always "come to our very expensive success event", which was kind of a running gag. But then we finished the series and then Covid had hit. We always said as a joke, The Ziggo Dome, one of our biggest, coolest venues in the country.


We always said, "come to our success event at the Ziggo Dome". But then Beer came up with the idea, Ziggo Dome is empty now. Maybe we can contact them and we could actually do this success event there. But the joke will be that no one shows up so that we don't need any audience. So we got to do this special last episode, but we were in a completely empty Ziggo Dome, and we did a 25 minute, kind of live streamed, success event where a small spoiler for the guys, because you can't even watch it, it's an all in Dutch. I think the big secret that we led people with the success event to, was something that the big secret to success was you have to host your own success event and also charge four and a half thousand per ticket, and then you can be as successful and rich as we are.

Joe Rando (40:06):

That's Great.

Joep Vermolen (40:06):

It was just a little bit of a take down of that culture that kind of annoyed us.

Joe Rando (40:11):

So now you've done social media culture and success coaching culture. All right, who's next? That's the question.

Joep Vermolen (40:19):

I do have to say that in almost everything we do, I hope that you kind of recognize this in Toon, because we're actually usually not that good at and not that interesting in taking something external down, something that's outside of us. Almost everything we do, we kind of try to take ourselves down a little bit as well. I mean these success coaches were a little bit of an exception. But then when we write these characters, we put a lot of our own insecurities and stuff into that, because I never find it that interesting in comedy to sort of point at something that's completely outside of yourself and say, that's stupid, or they're idiots, or whatever.

Joe Rando (41:04):

It's very clear that you're embodying the thing that you are taking down

Joep Vermolen (41:12):

There also always has to be a little bit of ourselves in that, that we can make fun of ourselves a little bit as well.

Joe Rando (41:19):

So what's next? Can you talk about what you're doing next?

Joep Vermolen (41:24):

Beer and I just started working on a new web series that we're self producing. It's kind of about awkward dates, basically. I was in a relationship for a very long time, and then the last few years, for the first time in my life, I was not in a relationship. I went on dating apps for the first time ever. I went on my first date ever one and a half years ago, and experienced a lot of true cringe. Especially with myself. So that gave a lot of inspiration. I'm working on several ideas now that incorporate a lot of the things that I experienced there. We're doing a web show about this, about awkward dates, and I'm also starting up now trying to do some standup. I did for the first time a year ago. I went on a standup stage for the first time, did a few minutes, then had to have about six months recuperating from the shock of that. Man, that is a scary thing to do.

Joe Rando (42:31):

I'm sure it is.

Joep Vermolen (42:34):

Yeah. I'm working on some new material also about things that I experienced through dating and some other stuff. I'm actually on a stage tomorrow for about, I think the first time now. It's scary and it's interesting to experience, I can tell you that.

Joe Rando (42:53):

You are definitely pushing out of your comfort zone, which is awesome. I'm going to have to start learning more Dutch because I want to watch these, but I can get some of the jokes, but I'm missing a lot.

Carly Ries (43:09):

When watching your show, I did notice there are so many words that we say in English that I didn't need the subtitles for. I never realized the similarities.

Joep Vermolen (43:23):

Oh, yeah. I guess a lot of it, probably more than I realize sounds similar. Then people at Amsterdam have this tendency that most other people find very annoying, which I agree with, but I do it myself as well, where we've been so brought up on American and English shows and culture that a lot of English words just slip in when we're speaking. This is considered to be pretty pretentious when you do it, which is true. But it happens. I think that happens in this show sometimes as well.

Joe Rando (44:00):

People in the Netherlands speak English better than a lot of people in the United States speak English. That's my experience. So we are basically wrapping up here. We always ask this, and I'm hoping that you saw this question. What is your favorite quote about success?

Joep Vermolen (44:23):

Yeah, there was only one thing that kind of pops up in my head, and it's something I think about a lot. I don't want to misquote him, so I'm going to say I think Conan O'Brien kind said it. I'm a big Conan O'Brien fan. This is the way I remember it. He was talking about success and how he ended up being able to do what he did, what he's doing. But then his point kind of expanded to, what for him is also kind of the point of life as well. It's only basically three words. He said, "the point is to find your people". And that is something that I think about so much, and that has completely decided this path of my life as well. Sometimes people who have a show idea, they contact me for advice. How do you get your show bait? I always say, I dunno. First of all, we were super lucky, but second of all, I think something I would encourage you to do if you're working on something on your own is find your people.


There was something very magical that happened when Beer and me and Dirk and also Robbert, that I'm working a lot with more now, went into a room together where ideas just started kind of flowing that could have never happened without the other person. And also, this is going to sound maybe a little bit strange, but we really bring out the best in each other and they also bring out the best in me. If I could talk about me, sometimes I walk out of a room with them and I think, whoa, some of my ideas in there we're really good. And I don't know where they came from. I only have them when I'm in this room, with those people. Something kind of magical tends to happen, and we all bring out the best in each other. I think it's finding those people who do that to you and that you do that oo. I think it's kind of an interesting take on, because this podcast, of course, is so much about the solo, like solo entrepreneurs. But for me, everything I did being a solo entrepreneur, failed when I tried to do it all by myself. And everything that worked out really started happening when I really started engaging with other people and finding the people that, yeah, if it's comedy that you do, the people that make you laugh and you make them laugh. People that get your creativity flowing for some reason.

Joe Rando (46:58):

We tell solopreneurs this all the time, don't do it alone. Yeah, you're in business for yourself, but find other people to help you or you to help them. So you're preaching to the choir here on that one.

Joep Vermolen (47:13):

That's good.

Joe Rando (47:14):

How can people follow you or get in touch or learn Dutch so they can watch your stuff? No, I mean, is there a way people can kind see what's going on with you? Are you on Instagram?

Joep Vermolen (47:29):

I'm on Instagram. Joep Vermolen, just my name. I try to keep it a little bit bilingual when I have anything interesting to tell people. What I found the last few years, if somebody says, "Hey, I discovered the show Toon". It's usually people who are actively trying to learn Dutch, because it's actually one of the only shows on Netflix that you can watch in Dutch with English subtitles. So a lot of people start just wanting to learn Dutch, and then they learn very mumbling, awkward Dutch, I suppose

Joe Rando (48:09):

So when I go to the Netherlands and I speak some of my limited Dutch, the first question I get is, why? Why do you want to learn Dutch? Then they're charmed because I'm trying and I end up in an hour long conversation, which makes it all worth it, but it's just the funniest thing because they are all like why?

Joep Vermolen (48:31):

Yeah, that's a very Dutch response. So yeah, it's just Instagram.

Joe Rando (48:38):

Well, cool. Thank you so much. This was really awesome. I have had so much fun talking with you. But that's it for this edition of Solopreneur, the One Person Business podcast. Please be sure to subscribe via your favorite podcast app, and please leave us a five star review. We do this to help solopreneurs and your review gets us to reach even more of them. So we'll keep doing this for free as long as it's growing. We're here to help you. Tell your friends, at least your solopreneur friends, about the podcast. If you can be totally awesome, post it on social media and get the word out. Anyway, we'll see you next week on Solopreneur the One-Person Business podcast. Take care. Thank you.

Closing (49:27):

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