New York's next Internet comedy sensationWednesday, December 9, 2009
James Cameron’s SFX habit gets so bad while making Avatar that his studio cuts him off. Cameron takes to the streets, giving away sexual favors for just a little more motion-capture. This isn’t a page from an indie filmmaker’s dream journal; it’s the first episode of Revision3's new web sketch series Landline TV. I spoke to one of the Jared Neumark, on of the show’s creators, about how his group formed, what it tries to do and where it seems to be going.
In August of 2008 Saj Pothiawala, Paul Briganti and Jared Neumark got together and decided to make a sketch group focused on everything from politics to entertainment. “Our goal was a grown up College Humor, or what SNL could be if it tried to be on the Internet,” says Neumark. They had huge success from day one, when the first video they put online, “Hockey Moms Against Sarah Palin,” exploded. It started racking up views (today it has over 600,000) and was even mentioned on The O’Reilly Factor.
Landline TV’s success is in its ability to be quick with jokes while uploading videos that look professional. Comedy videos online run the gamut from sketches that avoid cultural references in order to achieve a timeless quality to videos that revolve around the news items of the day but stuck with the aesthetic of a freshmen year film student. Landline is able combine polish with speed, and because of that it’s finding a large audience.
Sometimes the current nature of their videos can be dangerous. Landline TV’s own YouTube account describes the group as “Comically relevant... for about a week or so.” For example they have one sketch that revolved around John McCain’s inability to use email. That video was banished to “the vault” because by the time it was ready to air the joke was dead. Neumark, however, seems unconcerned with possible expiration dates on their sketches, saying, “sure, things will get old, but that just means we have to keep other stuff coming out.” Political sketches seem to have the shortest shelf life, with most of their election period work having peaked long ago. Compare that to Landline’s most viewed video, the 5-million-times-watched “Transformers 2: CGI Megan Fox Even Hotter This Time,” which is about the technological breakthroughs of that summer blockbuster.
What struck me most during my conversation with Neumark is how much the three members understand the business aspect to their comedy group. Save for a few notable exceptions, the web is filled with funny people who think that if they just turn on a camera they can launch themselves to stardom. Each one of the Landline guys has an active roll behind the scenes of their videos, and their presence in front of the camera is often through cameos (the only member of the group featured in the first Revision3 video is Neumark, whose seen for three seconds painted up to look like an alien from Avatar). For most videos, Neumark is in charge of business relations and marketing, Pothiawala takes the producing duties and Briganti serves as director and editor.
The group seems to have a keen understanding of what to do and how to sell it, turning a video comedy group into a marketable franchise. Landline TV is one of YouTube’s more prolific sketch groups, producing 70 videos in its first year. Now with Revision3’s offer of a weekly show that will air every Wednesday at 9 a.m., it will have a more legitimate medium, a way to get its work on iTunes and more opportunities with advertisers. The next step, according to Neumark, is to look for office space and expand its writing staff. “We need a bunch of people in a room and brainstorm ideas to break from. You can't really do that in an apartment in Brooklyn.”
Hopefully an office in Manhattan won’t take away any of the agility and creativity that has carried Landline TV through this far.