I actually discovered it after the project was over. The duckies, the sports racers, world-wide sandwiches, and the ugly MySpace profiles were all finished projects that had been immortalized in this strange, eclectic mix of abruptly (but expertly) edited videos. I don’t remember how I found out about “The Show with Ze Frank,” but it was probably on the recommendation of some podcast host. The web site that housed all of the videos for “The Show” was very strange for two reasons- 1) it had rubber duckies of various sizes, colors, and shapes and; 2) It was not Youtube. Today, the site has undergone only minor changes. The proprietary video player has now been replaced with a blip.tv player and there’s a button on the right that allows you to “like” every video on Facebook. “The Show” drew thousands of viewers before Youtube was the go-to place for video on the Internet. The episodes were shared between dedicated fans while Facebook was only available to people with certain college email addresses. But what is, truly remarkable about “The Show” is that you have either stopped reading this and started watching your favorite videos all over again, or you have never heard of this before but the video above has instant resonance with you. It’s playful, but incredibly honest at the same time. It’s simultaneously goofy and sincere. It’s the ur comedy viral video show and after a very successful run on Kickstarter, it’s coming back.
Are the new readers gone yet? No? Then I should probably go over some background information:
Ze Frank made a video every weekday for an entire year starting on March 17, 2006. They were not uploaded on Youtube (and you still cannot find them) but they were syndicated on an RSS feed. You could get them as a video podcast download or view them on his web site. Watching The Show on the web site was a little more rewarding than the podcast feed. He would make subtle (or not so subtle) gestures to the sidebar and other parts of the site from his (the videos’?) position in the center of the page. The show’s content was user-driven. Ze would ask viewers (called sports racers) to dress up their vacuum cleaners, submit “power moves“, or make an “earth sandwich.” Almost every episode included a small segment called “s-s-s-something from the comments.” Ze would also discuss a variety of subjects including politics, love, board games, marketing, and anti-intellectualism.
Now, almost five years after the last episode, Ze Frank has collected $146,752 to make “A Show with Ze Frank.” Here’s the pitch:
I think The Show worked because it gave people a strong sense of community. Obviously there’s almost nothing physical about this community. There are shirts, some sports racer meetups, and the physical hardware that The Show is saved on, but the rest is all hyperreal and augmented. The community contains a secret language (hence my generous use of “scare quotes”) of surreal symbols and words. Episodes stand alone as entertaining individual videos, but they are emotionally resonant when you’ve seen or participated in the whole project. This is the difference between projects like Epic Meal Time, 5 Second Films and even My Drunk Kitchen. These shows have dedicated followers and foster varying degrees of community involvement. Hannah Hart’s work comes close, but actual MDK episodes rarely make requests for material for future shows.
Ze Frank’s shows are recursive. The Show’s very existence creates a viewership community, which then creates content for more shows, which then makes for a more dedicated community. This sort of recursive, prosumer entertainment relies on the same self-organizing social forces that make Facebook or Performative Internet memes possible. The cohesion and dedication of these communities are constituted and constantly maintained through the development of various organizing logics. These include in-jokes, arcane vocabulary, and symbols (usually on t-shirts) just to name a few. Ze Frank, consciously or subconsciously, knows this and has made the establishment of these organizing logics, a top priority. Backers of “A Show with Ze Frank” have already received nine updates. The first solicit ideas for community projects. Then comes update number 4:
You have to agree on the names for the 4 Gabbles that everyone will be divided into when the show begins. I will need them by next Thursday (March 8 )
UPDATE : Once you decide on the names I will need a hanko seal design for each. I have provided a template. use only lines of that thickness, remember they have to be carved. (i will make some final edits once they are submitted) http://www.zefrank.com/kickstarter/hanko_template.ai
if you are interested in how to make these stamps, i created a little tutorial : http://zefrank.tumblr.com/post/18626339725/how-to-make-your-hanko-stamp
I dont’ know what a Gabble is, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to mean a lot to me in the next few months.