NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Robin Williams performs during the 6th Annual Stand Up For Heroes at the Beacon Theatre on November 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images) Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images Chris Gethard is a comedian, writer, and host of a cult public-access show that we wrote about here . He is also the author of the memoir A Bad Idea I’m About to Do . It is sometime in 1990 or 1991, and I am in my friend’s basement and we are giddy over the movie we are about to watch - Good Morning, Vietnam. We are excited because Robin Williams is in this movie. And one undebatable fact when you are 11 in the early 90s is that Robin Williams is funny as shit . We put the tape in. And we do not understand this movie. The cultural significance of Vietnam means nothing to us. The sad parts are confusing, and we talk about the Beastie Boys during them. But anything resembling a joke we laugh hard at. Because Robin Williams said it. When we were younger, we pretended to sleep while our parents watched his stand-up, and we laughed even though we didn’t know why he sweated so much or moved so fast or referenced a thing called cocaine so often. * It is the early 2000s and I am sitting in my room, in the basement of a house on Hamilton Street in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I am depressed, because I was depressed every day back then. There is nothing about that sentence that’s hyperbolic — I suffer from depression every day. I sleep on a small foam couch and eat all my meals at a very weird pizza place called Tata’s and make no effort whatsoever to improve my state of being. And on this day in particular, I sit on my small foam couch-bed and I stare at my television. Mrs. Doubtfire is playing because this is the early 2000s and Mrs. Doubtfire and Groundhog Day are legally required to be playing on cable television at all times. I start laughing. I’m already in my 20s, and Mrs. Doubtfire is not for me, and I am … [Read more...] about What It Was Like to Do Surprise Improv With Robin Williams
Danielle Bregoli, a.k.a. Bhad Bhabie. Photo: Paul_Archuleta/FilmMagic Danielle Bregoli, who you probably know as the teen whose Dr. Phil segment, “ I Want to Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried to Frame Me for a Crime ,” launched her to viral fame and a music career, would like you to download her new mobile game. More specifically, she’d like you to “ pick up yo damn phone and download this, it’s free !” The “cash me outside howbowdah” originator, known also by her stage name Bhad Bhabie, is right. The game, Ride or Die , is free. Technically. But, as with most free phone games, this just translates to a barrage of ads. Ads where an errant tap will pull you from the game you’re playing to a screen where you’ll be prompted to download something else. At one point I tapped the word “skip.” I did not get to skip the ad I was watching. The App Store opened automatically instead. There are also the usual in-app purchase options, like buying your way out of watching ads or buying extra lives or different outfits. Photo: BBTV Interactive You play as a tiny, animated Bregoli, complete with dyed-red ponytail and acrylics, jumping from car to car, collecting cash and avoiding obstacles while the cops chase you. It’s reminiscent of the iPhone game Subway Surfers , a personal favorite of mine, in that the road ahead of you is divided into lanes. The comparison ends there, though. The controls for Bregoli’s game are hard to maneuver, and not in a way that becomes more fun once you figure things out and get a feel for it. If you die, an ad, or two, awaits you. I think the idea is to rack up enough cash to eventually upgrade your stolen vehicle. I maxed out at a boring sedan, before an overlong ad caused my eyes to wander over to Twitter and forget about the game entirely. I’m all for diversifying revenue streams, but this just ain’t it. Bregoli’s music career was a pleasant surprise. (“ … [Read more...] about Bhad Bhabie’s New Phone Game Is a Cash (Me Outside) Grab
Photo: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage Some of the most beloved, groundbreaking, and influential television comedy series have been tragically cut short before they even had the chance to reach their prime. The Ben Stiller Show , Strangers with Candy , and Freaks and Geeks all suffered the fate of short runs before later achieving cult success. Occasionally, a “gone too soon” show gets a second chance, as was the case with Arrested Development . But even with the power of Netflix behind it, the seven-year hiatus left the series battling with some post-resurrection atrophy. It seems like for a series to have a chance of survival after cancellation, it needs a loyal following and a swift rescue before time takes it toll, which brings us to Loosely Exactly Nicole . The scripted comedy series inspired by the life of its star, comedian and Girl Code talking head Nicole Byer, had one season at MTV before getting dropped, along with most of the network’s other scripted programming. Byer was “pretty devastated,” but with the help of her therapist, eventually moved on. A few months later Facebook made a move to pick up the series for a second season , which premiered last month on the social media giant’s Watch platform. I talked to Byer about the show’s second chance, her comedy history, and why comedians should be talking about getting their money right. You grew up in New Jersey and then moved to New York. Is New York where you started performing? I had taken acting classes in New Jersey. I can’t remember the name of the theater place, but this guy named Ralph Colombino had this acting school [The Actor’s Playground School of Theater] that my friend Chris was taking classes at, so I was like, “Oh, let me try.” I had done plays in high school and whatnot. I moved to New York and went to a performing arts college, but it wasn’t until UCB that I started performing on the regular, figuring out how I’m funny, why I’m funny, … [Read more...] about Catching Up with Nicole Byer
Photo-Illustration: Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images Much of Clubhouse is boring — or, at least, disproportionately filled with the awkward in-between of group interaction. This is far from a novel observation, and it’s an observation that continues to be made even as the attention and discourse around the audio chat app rose to fever pitch over the past few weeks. Pulling data from Apptopia, the New York Times reported that the app had been downloaded over four million times in the past month alone, which broadly corresponds with my own immediate networks. I started out the year with few outside my professional circles knowing what the app was; now, it’s something that gets brought up in my various Whatsapp groups every few days. That I personally find much of the app boring is a subjective contention, of course. I’m certain a substantial portion of the app’s user base would passionately differ from my assessment, and perhaps rightly so. I’ve only been on the thing for about a week, and I get the sense many users have cultivated a different relationship with the platform than I have. I, for one, picked up the app in search of experiences that justify time away from other things I could be doing: watching a movie, chasing my cat, lurking in far-flung subreddits, plowing through more podcasts. On that front, I often find little of comparable value, even when there is spectacle. Yet I am compelled, because there is something genuinely compelling about the Clubhouse experience. I keep dipping back into the app when I have a few minutes to spare, leaving it on in the background as I do other things — cleaning the house, making lunch, figuring out tax forms — when my brain is tired from listening to podcasts demanding close attention. Again, I rarely find anything worthwhile, but that’s part of the pleasure I get from it. And let’s be clear: Boringness is not antithetical to pleasure. It’s kinda why I’ve developed great affinities … [Read more...] about Does Clubhouse Mean Bad Things for Podcasting?
The Xenomorph of Alien: Covenant. Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox The writers of the 1979 sci-fi horror movie Alien conceived of their title entity as a “perfect killing machine,” which the Swiss designer H. R. Giger translated into the realm of the “biomechanical” — a fusion of “phallic symbols and motorcycle parts,” in the words of the film’s concept artist, Ron Cobb. Thus equipped, the black, drooling, helmet-headed alien became the mascot of a subgenre that would come to be known as “body horror.” Neither fully male nor female, it murdered people by raping them (through the mouth, via a squiggly “face-hugger”) and implanting a seed that quickly led to a grisly birth. Subsequent Alien films have featured corporate-funded scientists who sacrificed unwitting employees to capture this rare species and harness its power for war and profit. Meanwhile, audiences wondered, How did it evolve in the first place? Actually, I didn’t wonder. I rather liked the mystery of it. But for reasons that would take another sort of evolutionist to chart, studio blockbusters have produced a weird relationship between greedhead businessmen and sci-fi geeks, and so 20th Century Fox and director Ridley Scott have set out to explain — in multiple installments — how this perfect killing machine came to be. Their first prequel, Prometheus , was a tease that left most audiences irritated by the absence of, well, aliens. The latest is more revelatory — and much, much gorier. And it opens like Passengers ! A ship — the Covenant — carrying colonists to a distant, habitable planet is threatened by an explosion in space that forces crew members out of suspended-animation pods and incinerates the commander (a cameo by an overexposed star whom most of us could do, in this instance, without). While they’re awake, they pick up a faint human signal from a closer, more habitable planet. It’s eerie, that signal: You can hear a John Denver song. Is it a siren luring … [Read more...] about Is an Origin Story We Might Not Have Wanted
Photo: Alpgiray Kelem/Getty Images The Undervalued Work of the Audio Producer By Skye Pillsbury Earlier this year, eleven producers, editors, and engineers who had been hired by Condé Nast Entertainment (CNE) to create weekly flagship podcasts for its WIRED , Vogue , and Pitchfork brands posted an open letter detailing the experience of working for, and eventually leaving, the media company. The letter alleged a work environment in which management had little understanding of the resources and time required to produce high-quality podcasts, where staff was consistently left in the dark in regards to long-term planning and job security, and employees were viewed as interchangeable and easily replaceable. “It was very chaotic,” Ninna Gaensler-Debs, who was hired to work on the Get WIRED podcast, told me over the phone last week. “There was a lot of confusion over what the roles were going to be. We were very much making it up as we went along. We were just trying to keep up with production, and we were super understaffed.” Eventually, the group was successful in convincing CNE executives to add support, and the audio team achieved something akin to a production groove. But those gains didn’t last for long. According to the letter, CNE then abruptly outsourced The Pitchfork Review podcast to an external production firm. Its former staffers were told that they could either leave the company or find a place on the Get WIRED team. Shortly thereafter, the In Vogue podcast team learned their jobs would be terminated as well. “What was shocking was having the experience of really, truly being seen as a cog in a machine,” Megan Lubin, a producer on the In Vogue project, told me last week. Gaensler-Debs claimed that during a final meeting with management, a CNE vice president — who was theoretically responsible for the Get WIRED podcast — confessed that she hadn’t listened to a single episode of the new show. “That will forever be … [Read more...] about Are Podcast Producers Properly Valued?