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Fireworks Safety

July 3rd, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Here’s some Happy Fourth wishes from my old college friend Meredith Bragg, part of the creative force behind the Defenders of Stan:

Hope your holidays are full of booze and explosives — safe enough that nobody gets too injured, but not so safe you don’t get a good story out of it …

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Captain America Brushes His Teeth With Whiskey.

July 1st, 2008 by D.Billy

It’s a tough time for Captain America. Advances in military technology have made a jacked-up dude with discus skills all but obsolete on the battlefield, the current U.S. administration is one that ol’ Steve Rogers might not be too stoked to shill for, and his rumored cameo in the Louis Leterrier / Ed Norton Incredible Hulk film was cut. And he was also assassinated last year, which will put anyone out of sorts. So until the upcoming Avengers movie gives Cap something worthwhile to do, we’re just going to assume that he’s sitting around his apartment in his robe and Al Gore post-2004 election beard, swigging the fire water and staring longingly at a picture of the Red Skull in front of the TV.

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Coal: Cheap, Abundant, Clean

June 13th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

I’ve posted here before about the Free Love Forum — they’re friends of mine, and the folks who made the widely popular MS Paint video. I saw them last night as a part of Sketchfest at the UCB Theatre, and they just killed.

They screened this video in between live sketches. It’s a pitch-perfect takeoff of alternative-energy commercials and American ignorance … a TV ad for coal energy.


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Tending Romantic Zombie Bar, Greg and Lou Present Lou and Greg

May 6th, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

Gorilla in his undies

I was an extra in the pilot for a zombie romantic comedy this weekend — another one of my friend Eliza’s zany schemes to dominate Internet comedy. We filmed at Planet Rose Karaoke in the East Village, a small karaoke bar painted bright red with a lot of zebra-print furniture and a leopard-print carpet filthy enough to shock John Waters.

It looked like everyone in the bar had been simultaneously kidnapped by aliens at closing time the night before. There were beer bottles everywhere, the bar was all sticky, and a lashing of vomit festooned the edge of the men’s toilet. Using my highly trained sense of party forensics, I deduced that it’s pretty fun place to be on a Saturday night.

I played the bartender in a club scene where this guy nervously navigates a rebound after a bad breakup with a nightmare woman who talks in baby talk, drinks Sprite and tequila and hates listening to music. We spent all day shooting a scene that will probably take five minutes to watch, tops. We did a lot of taking and retaking, hearing the same lines again and again. That’s how it goes when you’re shooting pretty much anything — the difference being that since everyone on camera was a really good improv comedian, each take was funny in a different, distinct way while still using the same old words.

That’s why I love doing Eliza’s shoots — I always met really cool people. Like my new friend Lou.

Lou’s one half of a comedy duo called Greg and Lou Present Lou and Greg. You might recognize ‘em from their video Office Pornwhich did pretty well on Digg a little while back.

They’re putting on a show tomorrow night at UCB, too — here’s the info:

Greg and Lou Present Lou and Greg in: The Fuck-It List
Written by Greg Burke, Lou Perez, and AJ Morales

Thursday May 8th, 6:30 PM at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre
307 West 26th street @ 8th Ave (map here)

Tickets are $5, reservations here

I’d be there my damn self if I weren’t booked solid already, for real. Lou was cracking me up all day Sunday, and he’s sure a nice young man who deserves five lousy bucks. Here’s Office Porn, just as a taste — more videos here.

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25 Pounds of Dead Ferrets in the Freezer: Just TRY Not to Judge

February 1st, 2008 by Jeff Simmermon

All kinds of dorky hobbies are out of the closet now that the geeks have inherited the earth. Sci-fi’s a big enterprise now (har har) … now that “Lost” and computer programming is big business, all the nerds like me are out of the closet and partying in the light, blinking while our eyes adjust to the brightness of the pop-culture spotlight.

Loving comic books was once an express ticket to a lonely lifetime in Mom’s basement. Now they’re big, big blockbusting big business. I dated an actual human woman once who took me to see “300″ and “Spiderman 3.” It was her idea. Here in New York, a grown man can wear a Batman t-shirt out in public without shame. It’s a beautiful thing.

Now that all us nerds are out basking in uncloseted comfort, we owe something to the rest of the world. We shouldn’t forget what it was like to be punished for something as simple as liking things the rest of the world didn’t get. We got to be respectful, got to be patient with strangers’ weird obsessions. Even when it’s really, really tough to get.

Seeing a guy on a unicycle just breaks my heart. I imagine him in a completely empty apartment, empty save for a pile of burger wrappers and dust bunnies … and a unicycle lying in the middle of the floor. He says aloud, “Well, that’s it. Everything’s gone, all of it. The worst is over, but one thing’s for sure: I’l never get laid again. Might as well learn to love this unicycle …” Heartbreaking. But it’s not my place to judge.

A Segway — that’s the unicycle 2.0. It’s even more pathetic than a unicycle because it doesn’t even require any physical skills to operate. Cops that ride Segways around might as well be on My LIttle Pony big wheels for all the respect they inspire. But I digress.

On one level it’s pretty easy to keep an open mind. Live and let live and just work for the weekend, and it’s all gonna be cool.

However, ferret lovers exist on an entirely different level altogether. Ferrets are kinda cute, I’ll give them that. But so are subway rats. Ferrets are long rats, plain and simple. And there’s something about die-hard ferret lovers that really, really creeps me out:

I keep watching this thing, over and over, and I’m trying to stop judging, trying to get beyond to a higher place. But man, NOTHING’S gonna make that okay.

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Subway Music: Clanking Funk, Stolen Dancer

December 3rd, 2007 by Jeff Simmermon

I got on the wrong subway last night and it turned out so right — while navigating through the Times Square catacombs I heard this incredible clanking funk like a groovy factory or Tom Waits in the late ’90s. Turns out it was a spectacular pots-and-buckets drummer, the godfather of all buskers knocking out rhythms simultaneously organic and industrial.

I broke out my camera to take some video and the drumemr stopped the beat to point at me with a stick and shout “Five dollars for the video!” at the top of his lungs. I didn’t get it at first, and he had to shout a number of times, to the terrific enjoyment of the crowd. Then I got it and gave the guy ten bucks. He was that good by himself, but his dancer was amazing.

You can see the drummer and dancer in my video, below. The dancer is cold stole by the rhythm at first and it is giving him a sickness that is gonna turn real good. Like how a flu shot wears you out a little but toughens you right up — this man goes from a twitching rhythmic allergy into an incredible, fluid poet.

Again, I can only shoot 30 seconds at a time, so this is cut together from a number of smaller pieces.

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SoCalled – You Are Never Alone

November 13th, 2007 by Jeff Simmermon

I just discovered SoCalled about fifteen minutes ago and I’m smitten already. This video has the best things in the world all in one place: cowboys, retro robots, soulful singing and solid beats. It also would have scared the absolute whoopsies out of me when I was younger, along with mimes and certain department store mannequins. And the wind.

Here’s SoCalled’s MySpace page, and the video for ‘You Are Never Alone’:

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That Saddle, It Feels Mighty Fine

February 22nd, 2007 by Jeff Simmermon

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I flew to LA with my writing partner a while back to pitch an idea for a Web-based TV show. More about that here, but suffice it to say that despite it being politely rejected almost immediately, we got some good advice and I had probably one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve had in my career as a writer.

My partner and I vowed to get back on the horse, and saddle up we have.

We’ve spent the past few weeks tearing out virtual hair out to re-craft a treatment for our story, one that reads “funny” immediately, as opposed to one that relies on gobs of wacky backstory to explain itself.

Or, in our case, gobs of wacky backstory delivered by me in a nervous monotone, too scared to look at the development exec but too proud to look at the floor. This results in a flat delivery from a bald guy in a necktie with a thousand-yard stare that would make the Son of Sam say “C’mon man, lighten up, jeez.”

So yeah, the two things I learned were: you got to SELL the funny, right there on the paper. And during the pitch, lighten up a bit your damn self.

That’s what a story treatment is, as I understand it: a two-page document that encapsulates the spirit of the show and all its characters, written magnetically and simply for people who are, in all actuality, too busy to read it themselves. Here’s one for “Freaks and Geeks,” a doomed and fantastic TV show that was also too smart for its audience. We’ve been pretty much using this as a Bible, really. The series Bible itself is pretty fascinating, too.

And that “as I understand it,” that’s the doozy right there. I didn’t even THINK about any of this stuff before January. January, 2007. So yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing. We’re just winging it here. Totally making it up as we go along. It’s terrifying and frustrating when there’s nobody to turn to, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s jsut awesome enough to make everything turn four inches tall except us and this towering pile of golden copy … which will become compost in 24 hours. You gotta kill your darlings, man, and today’s golden egg is tomorrow’s shit-smeared goose fetus.

People have been saying to us “Why don’t you guys just make it yourselves and put the thing on YouTube? You know, generate some buzz?” And those people, they have a solid point. But I mean, look. I’m not an actor or a director. Yet. I just got into this in January, and my partner, he’s not a seasoned pro, either. We don’t have a camera, editing software, any of that stuff. But we got laptops and meager enough connections to pitch through. So to our way of thinking, why work for free when you can try to get paid along the way to developing it yourself?

I mean, shit. YouTube and the rest of Web 2.0 is making a lot of money off the great mirage of user-generated content. And to some extent, that’s fine. I mean, I don’t get a dime for this blog. But one day people are gonna realize it and say “man, we’re a bunch of suckers.” And how awesome would it be to get paid for writing now, rather than later?

That mindset, I think has been my greatest helper AND hindrance in my writing career. On the one hand, I get paid. Sometimes. On the other, I might not go out on limbs that I should.

Anyway. After working as an extra for my friend Meredith’s stellar Web-based TV show ‘Defenders of Stan’ this last weekend, my beat got turned right around. Please, if you have a few minutes, go check out the shows. They’re only 5 minutes apiece and they’re AWESOME. And you know what? These guys are just DOING it, for real, seat of the pants, not holding their breath for a damn thing, and it’s working out well for them.

That’s right: they’re becoming very successful by simply doing the exact opposite of what my partner and I think is a good idea.

So we started writing scripts this week. We’re moving forward again, and CHRIST is it ever cool. I forget, on a weekly basis, how much I love writing. Maybe blogging makes me a little tired sometimes. It’s a freaking treadmill. But just WRITING, creating stuff, making jokes, telling stories … there’s nothing like it in the world. One of my writing partners and I cranked out two 5-minute scripts this week. They’re rough. They might not be funny, and they probably completely suck. Just pixels on the hard drive, knowing you put in a solid couple days and made yourself laugh doing it … again, nothing like it in the world.

Now I’m exhausted and giddy. I’ve been consuming bourbon and coffee in a 1:1 ratio all night and it’s time to lie down and let them fight it out. Tomorrow, we’re going to talk. We’ve yet to cram these tattered little rags with stories on them into a real story structure, but I feel awesome all the same.

Now if I could just get PAID to feel like this …

This link will take you to a pretty awesome tutorial on the basics of story structure for Web video. It’s a fascinating read, and goes a long way toward explaining why some short films are worth re-watching and forwarding to your friends, and why a LOT of “user-generated content” in the video-sharing world completely blows.

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