Cut to a scene when I'm back in college and I was raiding the Tufts music library for blues cd's, standup comedy cd's and films and you will understand a little better. You see, I thought place shifting media could be better incorporated into college life. That could have meant a roving soundtrack for night rambles in Somerville, MA or bringing clips from films to project on the wall to announce my presence, or just sharing the standup comedy or skits that I had seen that my friends hadn't...having better technology to help explain what I had seen to others would have been cool.
At that time TV, the king of media distribution methods, was restrictive. When I spent hours in the library researching stuff I got to put out a paper, get a grade and continue partying for another semester. My exploration of media archives had no value at the time but to give me a reason to do iffy impressions of impersonators from SNL. I could not show off what I had found because I could not broadcast TV myself like Youtube now promises. In the famously overused 80's phrase 'what I really wanted to do was direct'...the clips to other people with some place shifting tool that hadn't been invented yet. All we had were walkmen and the rabbit (remember those things that put cable in rooms that didn't pay for cable?). There actually were mp3 players but no one had them and there wasn't any tv on them.
Usually people say that porn is the first thing to spur media innovation - and it does, (until it leaves red marks) but porn is private. When it comes to media sharing, I say jokes are the bite-sized bits that can be shared like M&M's. If it's about sharing, Comedy is King.
Comedy Sharing throughout history:
People have always aped comedians. Americans are the biggest media consumers which means that we do it all the time. We do it at meals, between class and on coffee breaks, we can't stop quoting movies or tv skits. I can remember European friends at dinners with mostly americans just didn't understand what I would call 'Media Recreation' culture. It's not retro...referencing 80's movies is a recreation and it only really shows the freshness of your personal media library. We are reflecting that real life has recorded analogies, and we are re-creating to enjoy that life repeatedly imitates art (or we are saying the origins of the comedy we endorse is sound). I don't consider this an affliction, it's that we want to show off what we've found and share it with others.
3 forms of Television Comedy:
1) Standup - The purest form of comedy that can be found in comedy hours or specials. Best examples Eddie Murphy's Raw, and Richard Pryor's Live on the Sunset Strip if you haven't seen these pause this blog, enter these films on your Netflix queue and return at your leisure.
In fact eddie murphy in either Raw or Delierious explained what happens when people who have discovered comedy without the necessary talent to share it actually can destroy comedy. (This is his how Eddie became known as the 'Fuck you Man'). Thing is... I can't actually which remember movie this was in and don't care to search because services have not yet caught up. Blinkx and Veotag and others need to sell a service to search old films and tv for keywords. They can sell it either to the public (ad supported) or to media companies so video meta data can flourish out there and increase the power of a video maven. I think these firms are doing the lord's work because I would benefit. Maybe GoogTubleClick can help here by sparing an algorithm or two. But that's for another blog post.
2) Skit show, live or slightly canned - best examples are Saturday Night Live, SCTV and Chappelle's Show Seasons 1 & 2. They are the reason for the Daily Show and Colbert Report, they are the reason why Dana Carvey will now be forever linked to Gerald Ford and Tom Brokaw on the internet.
3) Sitcom - in front of a studio audience or fully canned with only a few set places to film - Cheers, Seinfeld or the growing trend of filmed Sitcoms that follow characters everywhere and rely on dialog and facial expressions more than theater-esque blocking like Curb your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development.
Terry Gilliam, director of Monty Python said Americans lack the sense of irony and self-deprecation that the British do. I think this could be why our comedy sometimes lags behind theirs to the point where Sacha Baron Cohen can have a second career in the US as Ali G and Borat without Americans noticing, and why the Office is somehow hot in the US yet very few people think to watch the BBC version of The Office to see why they got it years earlier. Now the Brits are 5 hours ahead, so they should beat us to it right? Maybe its just more about distribution - our tastes might change to like more internationally programmed shows if we had better access to it and a long-tail / maven driven rating system were in place. Joost can do this if it wishes because content can come from anywhere, which means that if you are watching the Office with someone they can tell you about the BBC office and you can go and find it while you are still watching TV. For now we rely on HBO to scout out hot shows from across the pond and bring them here so their creators can make real money through syndication, which is why we get to see Extras.
All of these forms can be shared, and are shared inefficiently by people quoting them all the time.
Valiant efforts to allow better sharing, or free distribution of TV:
1) Youtube, Megite and many other video clip sites has allowed people to share SNL clips like Lazy Sunday which I would give you a link to but I'm not allowed to do that. Soon we will get a service from NBC/Newscorp that should probably be called MeToob since it won't do anything new, just create a YouTube competitor with all the stuff from NBC late night and Fox animated shows that you've been watching on YouTube.
2) A twist on Youtube has been how Online TV channels are being created / incorporated into social networks like MySpace and Facebook by companies like Ziddio and KickApps through white label products sold to social networking companies and cable companies like Comcast.
3) Youtube, Zannel and others are trying to mobilize this experience either on carrier decks or on the Mobile internet - this has actually been promised but I don't think people are using this yet because you don't search through crap your phone - see Steve Smith's mobile insider for more.
4) Wikipedia/IMDB - allows people to find the director, cast or what that character has been in. This works better on mobile than at home, because you can request info immediately when you are talking with someone, but it's very academic and usually doesn't translate into the experience, it's mostly for winning arguments.
5) TiVo allows you to record funny shows so you can share them with people when they come over to your house. TiVo is failing because it wants to sell you TiVo machines instead of just the service through cable operators.
6) Sling Media got CBS to okay the sharing of clips from CBS if both you and your friend own a slingbox, which is proving to be the Lazer-Tag model. It's not working because Lazer tag guns were expensive, (and the commerical said 'the arena' was sold separately) and no one is paying to share unless they already have the equipment to do so. Much like TiVo Sling needs to be incorporated into something we actually buy. But it's a great idea if the product marketing were changed.
7) Joost I think that Joost has the chance to take all 3 forms of Television Comedy and amplify their distribution as well as allow us to be innovative in the way we enjoy them. With an ad-supported free distribution model Joost lets you 'channel chat' while you are watching with others who are not in the same room as you - much like chatting on Xbox. You can also take screen shots of shows and post them on your myspace, ning or other personalized pages.
Right now Joost's channel chat sucks, hopefully it will get better. Joost's link to gTalk IM service helps broadcast to people the title of what you are watching at any time. Broadcasting what you are watching is cool but scary because it is still tough to find content on Joost that is not embarrassing to tell people you are watching - thank you DiddyTV. I think that Joost should also include MSN messenger because most people outside of the states use MSN, and US chatters on Xbox will be likely targets for Joost anyway.
So what's actually on Joost? Comedic Innovators. When the 0.8 build was pushed to us Comedy Central appeared with Stella. I knew the Stella trio from MTV's 'the State', the only online artifact of the State can be found on eBay - the $100+ VHS - to me a stalwart 'screw you' to the media sharing community. Even David Wain who manages the 'the State''s brand has thrown its hands up and asked fans to plead in writing to Viacom to rerun the old episodes - I'd say the best way to get people to love the State again is to write to MTV and get the State reruns on Joost - The State FAQ.
Joost also has Zach Galifianakis from Man Bites Dog. He's also in the Sarah Silverman show and the Comedians of Comedy both not yet on Joost but programs which prove that Zach is one of the hardest working comedians out there. Like David Cross, Zach risks his reputation and like the late Chris Farley he risks body to push the boundaries of comedy.
TiVO is cool, white label DVR's are cheaper, but recording services are still focused on private enjoyment, or 'Programming your own TV'. When fans TiVo shows, the clips stay stuck in their TV (or DVR more specifically) which means that we haven't evolved since 1982 when the best way to share in media was to have your daughter hook up with a Poltergeist. Well guess what? They're HEEEre! (who's here honey?) The TV People are here...
Since we are no longer going to be able to post the full video without copyright infringements on youtube or our own blogs Joost can help you share TV for free. TV is not yet searchable but when it is the possibilities will move laptop TV back to the realm of real TV watchers, people who like to watch professionally programmed TV, not cat's licking themselves. That's Bob Saget's job remember? So if you didn't know that it was Bill Hader doing Peter O'Toole in the SNL News skit, that's ok. Just chat with your friends and maybe you'll find out without having to flip to google and interupt your program.
8) Full mobile sharing of TV clips - TBD - A downloadable player like Joost or Mobile Web sites that can share video are in their early stages in the US. Veeker is a company that focuses on posting personal films from mobile to web. Sharing clips from real tv programs from phone to phone could proliferate more quickly in Japan and Korea where data connections are many times faster but if you buy my Comedy Sharing argument there is less of an archive of good, recorded comedy in those countries to warrant such a service over by der.