The Blog of Young America

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"Box Office Poison"

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This was the funniest thing I've ever seen on television, or at least on a talk show. I don't think I thought or talked about anything other than this for three solid weeks after I saw it. God bless Norm Macdonald, and God bless Conan O'Brien for going with it.

"Viral Marketing" at its worst.

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I just got an email from Heavy.com, an online video fartfest for young men. I presume they contacted me because I've posted about Sacha Baron Cohen and Borat before -- they're running a "viral" ad campaign (disguised as content) for the DVD release of Borat.

I once saw Heavy's co-founder, Simon Asaad, speak at a podcasting convention. It was a formative experience for me in the way that I view media, and particularly media on the internet. He took the dais and let it rip - berating the podcasters in attendance for working for free, and specifically for allowing their personal interests and passions to determine the nature of their work.

Then he ran down his company's achievements -- it's sort of a lowest-common-denominator video site -- taking particular note of the huge check Burger King had given them to host a "viral video" contest in which young men did various outrageous things while wearing Burger King masks. If I could pick one word to describe the tone of his speach, it would be "taunting." His main message: if you're not completely outrageous, your work is worthless. If you're paying for content, or paying content creators, you're worthless. There isn't, and shouldn't be, a line between advertising and content. The talk shocked and sickened me.

I'm certainly not against commercialization -- witness the advertisement to the right of this post. In fact, I was at the panel to learn about monetizing content -- which many of the non-offensive panelists on either side of Assad had also done. I'm not even against outrageousness -- Ze Frank is outrageous, it's one of the reasons he's so succesful. What I am against is duplicity. I don't like tricking people into advertising for you, or taking huge checks to blur the line between content and brand marketing. What happened to morality?

So imagine my dismay when I got this email:

Dear Jesse:

So we have the privilege of hosting the official Borat’s Videotime Contest — a Borat impersonation video contest — here on Heavy until March 30. I was hoping that the Sound of Young America would give this momentous event a shout out as Fox doesn’t seem to be doing much in the way of spreading the word. This promotion is part of a larger campaign for the DVD release of Borat (the movie) and the winner will be awarded a $3,500 cash prize. We’re hoping that this promotion will help resurrect some of the Borat-mania we’ve all enjoyed over the past couple months... After all, Borat’s exploits — and Sacha Baron Cohen’s multiple acts at large – unmask some interesting aspects of Americana and I wouldn’t want so see any such opportunities wasted.

The rules and regulations, along with the video submission upload page, can be found at http://XXXX.heavy.com .

I sure hope this is newsworthy to you and to your readership! Please let me know what you think.

With kind regards,
XXX XXX
Heavy.com, etc etc etc

I wrote back:

You mention that "Fox doesn't seem to be spreading the word." I should presume that Heavy is not being paid by Fox to host the contest?

Jesse
The Sound of Young America

The Heavy.com rep wrote back:

Fox is sponsoring this but we’re responsible for all the organization and prizing etc. Again, this is part of a larger campaign we’re running for them in conjunction with the DVD release of Borat. Your thoughts?

Here are my thoughts: Borat, the film, was succesful because it was outrageously good. It "went viral," becoming a popular topic of public discourse, for the same reason. I even participated in it, posting about the film, character, and even discussing it on a national radio show.

I don't have a problem with lots of people making lots of money off of this -- in fact, I think it's a great idea. Larry Charles, the film's director, just signed a big-money Hollywood deal to develop TV shows. Sacha Baron Cohen has gone from cult star to star star. Fox is basically printing money with the DVD release. There's a sequel in the works.

But do you really have to lie about it? Is misinformation the best way to spread a great idea?

I wrote to the heavy.com person:

My thoughts are that this kind of marketing is duplicitous, manipulative and really unfortunate. It's a crass commercialization of young people's creativity.

I would feel better about it if you weren't misrepresenting it as some sort of grassroots struggle. I'm not against advertisements, or contests, but I would never run something like this on my website, represent it as "of the people," and disguise the fact that it's a bought-and-paid-for commercial enterprise.

It's my hope that as this kind of marketing grows in popularity, so will our defenses against it. I hope great ideas will spread, and bought-and-paid-for ones will not. We can ask the Simon Assaads of the world to stop, but their greed won't let them. When we face this kind of deception, we need to take responsibility for standing up and being counted: this bullshit has to stop.

Podcast: Dan Harmon of Acceptable.tv

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Show: 
Bullseye

Dan Harmon is the executive producer of Acceptable.tv. It's a new multi-platform show from VH1 that builds on the success of Channel 101 and Channel 102, cult comedy phenomena in New York and Los Angeles.

Each episode of the television program will feature five short "shows," each about three minutes in length. The shows will also be posted on the website, where viewers will vote on which shows will return for a new episode the next week, and which will be "cancelled." In addition to shows produced by the staff of Acceptable.tv, the program and website will highlight user-created series.

Before co-creating Channel 101, Dan Harmon and his writing partner Rob Schrab co-created the cult television pilot Heat Vision & Jack, a parody of Knight Rider which starred Jack Black as a "super-intelligent renegade astronaut" and Owen Wilson as his talking motorcycle. Their antagonist was character actor Ron Silver, who played himself.

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New Sincerity V. Old Irony: Party Starters Edition

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Old Irony

The New Sincerity

Acceptable TV: Legal Law

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The folks behind Channel 101 and Channel 102 have a new project: Acceptable.TV. It's a lot like Channel 101 -- each TV show will have five short films, each presented as the first episode of a new "series." Over the weekend, the audience will choose which they'd like to see return. On the next episode, three are cancelled, and two renewed. They'll air "series" created by the Channel 101 team, as well as some created by viewers.

The first show airs March 23rd, but they've added some videos to the site already. Above is "Legal Law," starring our pal Jen Kirkman.

Tommorow, check out our interview with the series' Executive Producer, Dan Harmon.

The Internet's Got Tracy Morgan Goin' Nuts

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This is amazing and delightful, and I can only thank Amelie Gillette for bringing it to the attention of the American People.

The host of the show does a great job, I think, in keeping it together while the behind the camera people laugh uproariously.

Does anyone still have that MP3 of Tracy going crazy on morning radio for like 20 minutes straight? I think I posted it here once, but I lost it.

The Old Negro Space Program

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Thanks to the CC Insider for reminding me of this old chestnut: The Old Negro Space Program. And hey, director Andy Bobrow, who once let us use this film in a fundraising show in Santa Cruz, has a blog, which features great stuff like this post: "What would Jack Bauer do?"

Wayne's World

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I watched Wayne's World recently. Man, that's a fucking hilarious movie.

Above: the sorry fate of Mr. Doughnut-Head Man.

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