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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    The mood was somber yet optimistic when I sat down to interview Greg Miller. He, along with three other friends, quit their jobs at IGN earlier this month to launch Kinda Funny, an online hub for podcasts, play-throughs, Oreo Cookie reviews, and the team’s latest opinions on gaming. But there’s still one big question on everyone’s mind: Why would these four men leave IGN? The Daily Dot caught up with Miller recently to try and figure that out.

    “I wanted to write about video games forever, let alone at IGN, the No. 1 site… It has been a dream for eight years,” Miller said. “Somewhere along the line, that changed.”

    With Kinda Funny, the idea is to bring fans content and entertainment directly, without any corporate filters. It’s the cachet of their own personalities that they’re trying to capitalize on. While it’s definitely a risky move, Miller and his team feel confident enough to go all in—even if that means leaving a stable salary with benefits.

    Back in 2012, Miller recognized the power of YouTube and started his own channel called GameOverGreggy. When he told IGN that he was going to start making his own content, it caught the company by surprise, but Greg assured IGN that these were just funny YouTube videos about things outside of gaming—things that his bosses “wouldn’t want,” like talking to pal Colin Moriarty “about ants.” IGN let Miller continue his YouTube channel as long as his gaming discussion remained exclusively at IGN.

    What Miller didn’t expect to see was the rapidity with which his YouTube channel grew, with many of his fans from IGN eagerly following him over to see his review on Birthday Cake Oreos. Eventually, Moriarty and Miller started the GameOverGreggy Show, a weekly video podcast with producer and cameraman Tim Gettys and Nick Scarpino. The show continued to grow, and it racked up more and more fans.

    In October, the team rebranded as Kinda Funny and launched a Patreon. Patreon is a crowdfunding site in which people can become patrons of a project and donate on a monthly basis. As of the time of publication, the Kinda Funny Patreon is raking in over $17,000 a month.

    This patronage model is far from new. Rooster Teeth, another major geek media production house (disclosure: Rooster Teeth is a video partner of the Daily Dot), really pioneered the idea of taking direct monetary support from its most ardent of fans. With that, Rooster Teeth has expanded and grown immensely. Miller says he sees Rooster Teeth as one of his role models: “We literally are them before they got super successful.”

    All along, the team had been managing both working at IGN and making Kinda Funny content on the side, but they were starting to feel that dividing attention between the two projects was getting to be rather exhausting, and it was “the Kinda Funny stuff that was suffering.”

    Lest they ever get to the point where they weren’t giving IGN their “all,” the team made an important decision: Miller realized that “Kinda Funny would be their only jobs.” The team knew that they would part ways from IGN eventually; they “just didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did.”

    It wasn’t a choice the team took lightly. Miller had been with IGN since his early 20s, with Moriarty connected with the site since he was 18. Scarpino had been with the site for 10 years, working as producer of video content, and Gettys started as a video intern, which evolved into a full-time job over the course of the last five years. When it comes to jobs on the Internet, these are rather long tenures. The site had given all four of them so much, and it had helped propel them to Internet fame and celebrity.

    Not only that, but working for a site like IGN isn’t your typical cubicle job. There’s reportedly a lot of creative collaboration, and Miller says he wanted to work at IGN for the rest of his life. So leaving IGN was like leaving family. “Every day was a vacation there; every day was working with your best friends,” Miller said. “It’s bittersweet leaving, for sure.”

    On Jan. 5, when Miller, Moriarty, Scarpino, and Gettys announced that they had quit IGN, the video game portion of the Internet went crazy. The story quickly began trending on r/games, N4G, and NeoGAF.

    For Miller, “it was humbling.” He says he was “so blown away” by the respect with which the announcement was handled, “and then let alone everyone reacted so positively.”

    Jan. 5 was also when the team launched a second Patreon for Kinda Funny Games. It was a rather contentious decision, one that Miller and Moriarty felt would be met with “backlash.” The two were worried about “hurting the feelings” of their fans that supported them on the first Patreon. Meanwhile Miller wanted to make sure that fans from the first Patreon got their money’s worth, and Gettys was “pushing hard for two Patreons from the beginning.” Even the Patreon team assured the Kinda Funny gang that “other podcasts do that.”

    Gettys and Patreon were right. At the time of publication, the Kinda Funny Games Patreon is bringing in over $22,000 a month. It’s clear that there’s a huge demand for the team’s gaming content.

    But even if both Patreons combined bring in almost $500,000 a year, it’s still going to be a difficult ride. Polygon’s Ben Kuchera broke down the real cost of going indie, when that $500,000 is divided between four men and decimated by Patreon fees, taxes, expenses, and more. It all adds up rather quickly.

    Doing Kinda Funny full-time is like “E3 every day” according to Miller. The team is putting in a tremendous amount of time and work, more than they were at IGN. In terms of hour-to-pay ratio, it’s quite likely the team is making less than they were while at IGN, at least according to Kuchera. Granted, now things are on their terms.

    The question on everyone’s mind when they heard Miller and Moriarty would be quitting was what would be the fate of Podcast Beyond. The show, which has been going on for the past six years with over 370 episodes, is IGN’s most downloaded podcast, with over 1 million plays a month.

    This conversation went “back and forth for a long time” between Miller and IGN. Clearly the podcast has been a huge success, with an enormous family of dedicated fans. “Should we do it at all” was the question that was going back and forth between Miller and Moriarty as they drank bourbon late into the night. Should they try and buy Podcast Beyond from IGN, or just quit and never do an episode again?

    So far, IGN has allowed Miller and Moriarty to continue Podcast Beyond “to be there for the kids.” Currently they are making episodes on a freelance basis, slowly weaning listeners off of Miller and Moriarty and toward the idea that other IGN editors eventually will be taking over and making the show their own.

    It’s surprising how well things are going for Kinda Funny. Not only were they able to part ways with IGN on their terms, the team is already able to start accomplishing their goals. Currently on its Patreon, the team has added stretch goals for Scarpino and Gettys’ ideas, including top 10 shows, skits, and an animated pilot—all things that would have been difficult to get greenlit at IGN.

    The outpouring of support from the Kinda Funny community has been outstanding. Many fans have sent the team résumés and offered free website building or assistance in video editing. There’s clearly a lot of love for the team, and fans really do not want to see Kinda Funny fail.

    With platforms like YouTube and Patreon, content creators do not have to cater to major studios or development houses. The cachet of the independent creator is stronger than ever, and Kinda Funny team is showing just how far they can go on their own.

    Photo courtesy of Kinda Funny

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    As promised, the new Fantastic Four reboot looks pretty serious.

    Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), the reboot stars a cast of acclaimed actors including Miles Teller (Whiplash), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott), and Kate Mara (House of Cards). The first trailer is here, and it bears more of a resemblance to gritty superhero movies like Man of Steel than to the more lighthearted Fantastic Four movies of the mid-2000s.

    This reimagining of the Fantastic Four gives the characters their superpowers by transporting them to another dimension. In the trailer, we get a wide-ranging look at the film without giving away any real plot details, including a glimpse of each of the characters' powers and some hints about their non-superheroic jobs. (Speaking of superheroes, there's no sign of their costumes yet, if indeed they have traditional versions of the Fantastic Four outfits at all. All we see in this trailer is what appears to be a kind of spacesuit-like body armor.)

    The question now is whether Josh Trank's Chronicle credibility shines through, or if Fantastic Four winds up being dismissed as yet another dreaded "gritty reboot." Judging by this trailer, it could go either way.

    Photo via 20th Century Fox/YouTube

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    Before last year's Super Bowl, we got a taste of what halftime performers the Red Hot Chili Peppers might have in store. Sadly, they didn't end up playing "Abracadabralifornia."   

    Now, 2015 Super Bowl halftime guest Katy Perry's song with Lenny Kravitz has leaked, and while it's not quite as revelatory as the Chili Peppers' song, it does explain what football is, for those who only watch football during the Super Bowl. And it seems like Perry is in on the leak

    Make sure you get all the way to the end for Kravitz's verse.

    Yes, you'll quickly realize this clip comes courtesy of Tim Heidecker, one half of comedy duo Tim & Eric, who's been leaking Super Bowl halftime songs for years

    Also, they already came up with the best Super Bowl commercial

    Photo via Lunchbox LP/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    If Glee came to life at a Texas high school, it might look like this video of high schoolers dancing to Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson's newest hit, "Uptown Funk."

    Drama teacher Scot Pankey at Dallas' A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School spearheaded the number, dancing his way through the school's halls and meeting up with different groups of students for dance moments in this one-take video. It was shot and edited by students as well.

    "I heard the song before Christmas and fell in love with it," Pankey told the Dallas Morning News. "We are a project-based school—there are only two in the Metroplex—and that means you give the students a project, put them in teams, and they have to come up with solutions. They had three weeks to work on it, then present as a group what they learned."

    Pankey made it the first lesson of the year, and told his six drama classes that he'd participate with them, despite not being a dancer. You can't really learn more hands-on about the new nature of fame without creating and starring in a viral video. These students all deserve an A+.

    Screengrab via TrippyJV/YouTube

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    Taylor Swift's Twitter account appears to have been hijacked by Lizard Squad hackers.

    Swift confirmed the hack via Tumblr and said that Twitter is actively working to shut down the attackers. 

    "My Twitter got hacked but don’t worry, Twitter is deleting the hacker tweets and locking my account until they can figure out how this happened and get me new passwords," Swift (or a member of her team) wrote. "Never a dull moment."

    It's not currently clear whether the hackers responsible for the Christmas Day attacks on Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN) and Microsoft's Xbox Live. But all signs point to yes. 

    A Twitter user going by the handle @Lizzard is promoting the attack, which appears to have been perpetrated by the person or people behind @notchf. Both accounts list affiliations to Lizard Squad in their Twitter bios.

    The @notchf call for retweets from Swift's account has already generated dozens of responses from people trying to get a fake shoutout from the pop star's handle. 

    Update 12:57pm ET, Jan. 27:They've hit Swift'sInstagram account as well. Her account appears to be completely offline at the time of this writing.

    Update 1:20pm ET, Jan. 27: Swift's Instagram account is back online. The account displays the same recent images as before it went offline, and no new images have been posted.

    Update 3:30pm ET, Jan. 27: Twitter has suspended both @Lizzard and @notchF. Taylor Swift's account, @taylorswift13, appears to be back in her control. She's celebrating with some mocking tweets, and shot down allegations by @Lizzard that the hackers acquired nude photos of the singer during their hijinx.

    Photo via AZills/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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    Proving that even cool companies need to face the bottom line, Snapchat has quickly moved beyond time-bomb messaging in attempt to become an attractive content and advertising platform.

    In launching its newest feature, Discover, on Tuesday morning, Snapchat added a dozen content companies to its service, including Food Network, who will provide ad-sponsored daily feeds.

    With more than 700 million images and videos being sent, Snapchat has grown to be a powerful messaging platform for millennials. Discover comes four months after the company launched its first paid ad, a 20-second spot for the film, “Ouija.” Prior to that ad, Snapchat saw limited opportunities for revenue from its existing features.

    Food Network will provide between five and 10 curated stories each day that can be viewed by users who swipe left in the app. Ritz Crackers is the launch sponsor for the targeted digital-food feed.

    "Audiences are more food-conscious than ever before,"  said Brooke Johnson, President of Food Network & Cooking Channel," and the Discover Food Network channel on Snapchat will provide users with the great content they love, designed specifically for their mobile devices."

    In addition to Food Network, Snapchat's Discover feature will include CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, the Daily Mail, ESPN, National Geographic, People, Vice, Yahoo News, and Warner Brothers.

    Comedy Central said it would publish between five and six stories each day, with clips taken from popular shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and its new late-night program The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

    The move into sponsored content could prove to be risky for Snapchat. Its millennial user base could deem the service's move as the first stage in Snapchat selling out. If that opinion caught on, Snapchat would transform from a cool company into just another mobile service in search of ad dollars. How Snapchat implements the service and ensures that its partners deliver relevant stories, images, and videos will go a long way in shaping users' reception of this new feature.

    The next step in Snapchat's monetization strategy would appear to be using its Snapcash feature to enable transactions on its platform. However, critics have pointed to weaknesses in the service, which launched in November 2014, including security issues that have plagued Snapchat's platform since its launch.

    Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III

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    The Americans, which begins its third season on Wednesday night on FX, is one of the best TV shows you're not watching. Despite solid acting, snappy writing, and tense, compelling family and political drama, the series has flown under the radar almost as much as its main characters, a family of Russian spies posing as U.S. citizens.

    One of the best parts of The Americans is how extensively its stories, props, and characters are grounded in real events. Its creator, Joe Weisberg, used to work for the CIA, and he brings to the series a deep understanding of how the U.S. government really did root out Russian spies embedded in America.

    FBI and CIA efforts to catch so-called "illegals" operating at the direction of the Kremlin began at the outset of the Cold War, but these counterespionage missions continue to this day. With The Americans preparing to kick off its third season, here are some of the most famous spy-ring busts that mirror events on the show.

    The Anna Chapman affair

    The Justice Department announced espionage charges against 11 people, 10 of whom the government had in custody, on Monday, June 28, 2010. The official charge was "conspiring to act as unlawful agents of the Russian Federation within the United States," but the DOJ press release spelled it out more clearly in its opening line, calling it "long-term, 'deep-cover' assignments."

    As soon as the arrests were announced, the media began pouring over the profiles of the alleged spies. Almost immediately, the world seized upon a beautiful then-28-year-old woman named Anna Chapman. The New York Postcalled her "the spy ring's 'femme fatale'" and "a flame-haired, 007-worthy beauty." Chapman's husband, who was apparently unaware of his wife's secret deeds, told the Telegraph, "It made sense because of all her erratic behavior, all these high society people she was going on about."

    "“Her father controlled everything in her life," Chapman's husband added, "and I felt she would have done anything for her dad."

    This high-profile spy-ring bust actually served as the inspiration for The Americans. The beautiful and cunning Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) borrows many of her mannerisms and strategies from Anna Chapman.

    In late 2011, the government released many of its records from "Operation Ghost Stories," the FBI's official name for the counterespionage operation that nabbed Chapman and her compatriots. "The arrests of 10 Russian spies last year," the FBI said, "provided a chilling reminder that espionage on U.S. soil did not disappear when the Cold War ended."

    Stock-exchange snoops

    The FBI's 2010 investigation led, over the next four years, to a separate set of arrests announced just this week, on Monday, Jan. 26. The three men, who operated out of New York City, allegedly tried to recruit others to their cause and steal secrets about the New York Stock Exchange and U.S. sanctions against Russia.

    On The Americans, most of the secondary Russian characters in the U.S. officially work at the Russian Embassy, which has a section called the rezidentura for coordinating undercover operations. In the spy ring that the government busted this month, one of the men, Evgeny Buryakov, "pos[ed] as an employee in the Manhattan office of a Russian bank."

    Russian embassy employees use their diplomatic cover to hide many of their illegal acts, but at least the U.S. government knows that those employees are working in the country. As the DOJ pointed out in its press release, Buryakov didn't register as a foreign agent, which embassy employees must do, because he arrived as a private citizen.

    "Agents operating under such non-official cover," the government said, "typically are subject to less scrutiny by the host government."

    A secret agent and a hollow nickel

    The fall of Soviet spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, who lived in New York City under the name "Mark," began with a hollow nickel. In June 1953, a newsboy received the nickel while making his rounds, and upon dropping it, he discovered that it contained a tiny piece of paper with numbers on it.

    A four-year investigation by the FBI, with the assistance of KGB defector Reino Hayhanen, eventually led to Abel, who was arrested while in possession of a "shortwave radio, paint tubes and technical books, along with hollowed-out pencils, tie clips, nails and coins for microfilm containers."

    Abel used the alias "Emil Goldfus" in the Brooklyn Heights artist community. One of his longtime friends there, Burton Silverman, told the New York Times, "There was something very convincing about him in that setting." 

    In 1962, the U.S. government traded Abel back to Russia in exchange for Francis Gary Powers, the Air Force pilot whose U-2 spy plane had been shot down two years prior.

    The woman who fooled Einstein

    Albert Einstein was a veritable genius, but even he wasn't immune to feminine wiles. Russian spy Maria Konnenkova took advantage of this fact by dating Einstein in the 1940s in order to learn about the Manhattan Project.

    "Most Russian female spies were very beautiful, charming, well-educated, sly, and used good logic," Lyudmila Mikhailova, a Russian museum director, told the Moscow Times on the occasion of an exhibit about the Soviet Union's undercover women.

    Like most Soviet spies, Konnenkova didn't happen upon the profession by accident. Instead, she was recruited. KGB agent Yelizaveta Zarubina, whose husband was famous spy-ring leader Vasily Zarubin, picked Konnenkova to join the effort, presumably for her combination of brains and good looks.

    "The Zarubins, who played key roles in obtaining the secrets of the U.S. bomb for the Soviet Union, were probably the biggest family of Soviet spies," the St. Petersburg Times declared. "Both of Zarubin's wives and his daughter worked for the secret services."

    If you're familiar with the season 2 finale of The Americans, that family-tradition aspect of the KGB's "illegals" program will strike a chord with you.

    The third season of The Americans, featuring drama and tactics inspired by real-world events like these, premieres on Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 10pm ET on FX.

    Photo via FX

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    If you were mesmerized by the small blonde-wigged dancer who vogued, twirled, and stomped her way through the video for Sia’s “Chandelier” last year, you likely rejoiced at the release of “Elastic Heart” earlier this month.

    The video features Maddie Ziegler, the same captivating dancer who starred in the critically acclaimed “Chandelier” video, alongside actor Shia LaBeouf. The stark, contrasting figures of a small-framed, lithe Ziegler and a lumbering, brooding LaBeouf wrestle, chase, and comfort each other while encircled by a cage-like dome. So what’s it all about?

    YouTube channel DanceOn has released a fascinating look at the story behind the video, and it may make you see the enigmatic duet in a new light. The video, an episode of Dance On series The Edge, includes interviews with Sia (obscured by a bunch of bananas), Ziegler, and LaBeouf, as well as choreographer Ryan Heffington and co-director Daniel Askill.

    Sia explains that she found Ziegler like many a reality TV watcher: “I was watching Dance Moms.” Although the Lifetime series centers around glitzy dance competitions and a campy, tough-as-nails dance teacher, Sia admits that Ziegler’s performance on the show moved her to tears.

    “I thought if I can cry watching a kid do that kind of choreography that’s highly commercial, then she must have something special.”

    Sia also says she was thrilled to bring LaBeouf on board for the second video in what will be a trilogy of videos featuring Ziegler: “I’m one of his greatest fans; he’s my favorite actor.” LaBeouf and Sia worked together to create the concept of Ziegler and LaBeouf embodying the same space to represent two parts of one self.

    For more of Ziegler’s dynamic dancing, you can make like Sia and binge-watch Dance Moms, which is currently streaming on Netflix.

    Screengrab via DanceOn/YouTube

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    After months of speculation and hand-wringing and vision-boarding, the cast of the all-lady Ghostbustersreboot has finally been announced, and it's an SNL-heavy affair. 

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, current Saturday Night Live cast members Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones are in negotiations for the film, as is former cast member Kristen Wiig. Her Bridesmaids co-star Melissa McCarthy is confirmed. OG Ghostbuster Bill Murray apparently predicted Wiig and McCarthy's inclusion, though his involvement in the next installment is still unclear. After Harold Ramis (who played Dr. Egon Spengler in the original movie) passed away last year, original director Ivan Reitman bowed out of directing Ghostbusters 3

    Bridesmaids director Paul Feig not-so-subtly announced the cast on Twitter today, and will helm the reboot, which is scheduled to start shooting this summer in New York.

    No word if Dana or Zuul is on board. 

    H/T Hollywood Reporter | Photo via The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    Following a "friendly" agreement on Monday, rock legend Tom Petty will receive royalties and writing credits over Sam Smith's worldwide 2014 pop smash, "Stay With Me." The similarities between "Stay With Me" and Petty's 1989 hit "Won't Back Down" came to a boil this month following the former's Grammy acclaim and nomination for both Record and Song of the Year.

    The British singer agreed to add both Petty and songwriter Jeff Lynne's names to the credits. However, Smith's camp calls the resemblance a "complete coincidence." 

    Petty and Lynne will not be considered Grammy candidates for "Stay With Me," but that's a technicality—it sure sounds like they should. 

    As a semi-related credit to Petty's respect for the fringes of creative licenses as this relates to ripping people off, the Los Angeles Timesnoted his sparkling, honest approach. Ten years ago a Petty book called Conversations with Tom Petty contained the following  exchange between Petty and journalist Paul Zollo, when Zollo brought up the subject:

    [Petty:] Yeah. That happens sometimes. You look up, and you think you've come up with something, and you realize somebody else has done it first. You try not to let it bug you. What bugs you the most is when you write something and then realize it's somebody else's song. That'll happen to me two times a month. I'll be working with something and then realize I'm channeling this melody from somewhere else, and then I have to abandon the idea. But there's only so many words and so many notes, so sometimes you do cross somebody else's territory. 

    [Zollo:] Have you found that as the years have gone by, you're better at knowing when you're using somebody else's melody?

    [Petty:] Yeah. And when that happens, I just have to throw it away.

    [Zollo:] Throw it away or change it?

    [Petty:] Well, I just usually pitch it. And start over. Because if I change a note or two, it's still going to be in my head that it's that other song. So I think every songwriter must have that problem from time to time. You play something and you realize it's Beethoven, or the Beatles.

    Then again, maybe Petty just writes overly simple music.

    Photo via 3FM Serious Radio/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    Louis C.K. has been a popular underdog for long enough, now, that it should be cool to not like him. By this point in one's success, reviews should be saying things like "it's just not as good as his older stuff," and praise of the work in hip environments should be met with eye rolls. 

    The thing about Louis, though, is that a lot of his effort goes into his work's evolution. He spends a year, for each special, molding his act at comedy clubs and chiseling away what doesn't work. It's a process that could be a problem for somebody with his level of fame—each of his shows is packed with die-hard fans that would probably laugh at anything he says—but he has an unusual level of self-awareness, for somebody as critically acclaimed as he is, that allows him to account for this bias and sort the belly laughs from the ones born of adoration. His career is a constant flight from the concept of "Yes Men," and the question asked during each show isn't "am I making this audience laugh?" but "is this material funny?"

    A lot of comedians are stunned by Louis's strategy of throwing his entire act into the trash once a year, but it's this approach that makes Live at the Comedy Store, his sixth hour-long special, such exciting news. Getting your hands on new Louis C.K. material is the comedy equivalent of listening to a new Beatles release in the 1960s—he's a mad scientist in the medium he works in, constantly striving to tweak formulas and redefine his format, and it's always awesome to see what he's been cooking up in his lab. He seems to always keep one step ahead of his audience—he's the first person to get bored.

    Live at the Comedy Store is the straight-up goofiest that Louis has been in years. He describes the special, on his website, as something resembling his earlier days when he "used to just make noises and be funny for no particular reason," and this is accurate (there are a lot more goofy voices than we've seen since his popularity started exploding with 2006's Shameless) but this particular goofiness probably couldn't have been done in his early days. Since Shameless, he's been continually pushing his comedy farther into metaphysical realms, utilizing brutal self-deprecation as a means to explore what makes humanity tick, and Comedy Store is the pinnacle of this work bathed in absurdity. Yes, it's goofy, but it's not stupid—there's a sturdy foundation of intellectual study, decades in the making, that goes under his impression of two rats fucking in the cowgirl position.

    This special is probably just as random as it is goofy. In the past, Louis' specials have been crafted like finely tuned essays, with discernible lines dividing each subject and callbacks to earlier jokes. Here, some bits feel only half-performed: When you think Louis is just getting started on a subject, suddenly he's on to the next one. But it requires close attention to notice that, because, by the time you're realizing the subject has changed, you're already cracking up at what's followed it.

    Like free jazz, it's a style that only artists that are absolute masters of their craft can pull off. To be this random, you need a hell of a toolbox to pull from, and Louis's toolbox is, at this point, ridiculously expansive. And it's not that he's just telling random pieces of larger bits—it's that he's only telling the funniest parts of them. Like a Subaru that's had its radio removed to make it lighter for rally racing, he's boiled each joke down to the bare minimum, strictly essential pieces required to make them work, and he jumps from joke to joke like a comedic DJ. He makes it look easy, but his ability to pull back from one bit and go into a completely different one—because he suddenly realizes it'd make a better transition—is insanely impressive. 

    Louis has released Live at the Comedy Store in the same manner that he first pioneered with Live at the Beacon Theater: As downloaded files on his website that cost $5 to access. It's a sweet deal, and it's the fist time that a 1080p option has been offered (you can also stream the show, download it in lower-quality HD or SD formats, and download strictly audio versions in MP3 and FLAC versions). It's also a release strategy that's allowed him to do something else revolutionary: He shows a portion of his opening act, Jay London, who's a club comic that he's admired since the '80s. We only see a bit of London's opening performance, but it's very funny, and it's pretty amazing to see any comic give a few minutes to somebody else on one of their specials. 

    You can download Live at the Comedy Storehere, and it will be airing on the FX network sometime this spring.

    Screengrab via Louis C.K./YouTube

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    The live-action role-playing (LARP) community has been portrayed in various comedic ways across TV and film, but it’s often a narrow or one-sided depiction. The webseries In Game is attempting to give it another dimension.

    The show’s written by Mark Philip Lichtenstein, Zoe Samuel, and Keisha Zollar, who scripted relatable characters: Aaron Eisenberg plays cocky new guy Brayden; Megan Sass is the sarcastic, e-cig-smoking Steinhaus. In the first episode, we’re introduced to the players mid-game in the alternate universe of New Amsterdam, then quickly brought back to life in New York City when the doorbell rings.

    Zollar plays Sheila Vandenbroek, the founder of the coterie, who also works in finance. Vandenbroek role-plays as Count de Glacszealin, “a vampire who hails from ancient Polish nobility” who also resembles her “wealthy, upper class white dude boss.” Zollar, who’s starred in Orange Is the New Black and performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, said Lichtenstein’s experience in the LARP community shaped the show.

    “I’ve always been in love with nerd and geek culture,” she said. “We met once a week for six months and wrote it.”

    Over the course of 10 episodes, In Game blurs the line between fantasy and reality; the LARP personae are extensions of the show’s characters, as well as a channel for dealing with real-life issues. Zollar says that was intentional, as they attempted a more theatrical take on LARP.

    “The character that I play, Sheila—because this is a world that’s made of fantasy—her character in the game, in New Amsterdam, is an attractive white male,” she explained. “Not that Sheila wants to be that, she’s just curious to play that role. Exploring fantasy isn’t about being dissatisfied with your own life; it’s about curiosity and wondering what these things are like as well.”

    In Game also subtly explores issues of gender and race within the geek community, which Zollar says was important to the whole crew.

    “I feel like I’ve been in many spaces, especially in geek and nerd culture, that tend to not be as diverse,” she said. “Then I go to a con, and I see cons that are very diverse. There’s part of me that isn’t satisfied with the disconnect in terms of representation. There’s a diverse group of people that’s consuming all this geeky, nerdy culture, however we’re not having that reflected back at us. So I think that’s why we wanted to show this is about enthusiasm, and… your desire to want to be in the nerd tribe, less what you look like.”

    The female characters in In Game are, refreshingly, not stereotypes of what a “geek girl” might be. In episode 3, Steinhaus remarks she’s selling a tapestry on Etsy that’s a “reimagining of Derek Jeter as the 14th Doctor,” but it doesn’t feel like a forced reference. Zollar’s character is notable because we don’t often see black women represented within mainstream geek culture. She says it “raises everybody up if there’s a vast array of representation, because then it’s about the content, the message, the pure aesthetic of the people… I don’t want to belittle the women who get put into the geek girl aesthetic. I’m not anti-that. I think we need everybody. I feel like I’m having my geeky Sheryl Sandberg moment.

    “There are certain aspects of geek culture that have been portrayed that have a certain aesthetic,” she added. “I’m not saying those should go away. I’m just saying that it would be rad to include more people in this narrative.”

    In addition to roles on OITNB and Broad City, two shows Zollar says are challenging ideas of race and gender, she’s also involved with An Uncomfortable Conversation About Race, a panel that took place at the Peoples Improv Theater in New York City last December. It’s being made into a documentary; the Kickstarter for the project was successfully funded in October, and the doc is now in post-production. But the idea came last May, initially focused around the bussing of immigrant children.

    “Over the summer, while I was already in pre-production, Ferguson happened,” she said. “And then things around Eric Garner happened and then basically the summer exploded and gave it a different weight and context, all of which is valid. It came from other racial tensions, but then the tensions kept mounting over the summer.”

    In Game doesn’t address race as directly as An Uncomfortable Conversation, but it does sketch an alternate view of what the community really looks like, and it aims to be accessible to all. 

    The series’ first season is currently on YouTube, and season 2 is in the works, according to Zollar. They’re currently looking for ways to fund the next season, and waiting to see how people respond. In a way, the tagline for In Game is perfect: “Life is an extended challenge.” 

    Screengrab via In Game the Series/YouTube 

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    Add the words “ephemeral entertainment” to your modern media vocabulary. AT&T is entering the scripted-video scene by collaborating with YouTube stars to produce a short series that will run on Snapchat.

    Talk about a media mouthful.

    SnapperHero, the AT&T series, will debut by the end of March. The company said in a statement that SnapperHero would offer “real-time, immediate engagement meets a fun superhero universe.” In short, it will be fast-paced video that will please millennial users of the popular messaging and content-sharing platform.

    After its debut, SnapperHero's 12 episodes will roll out over the course of a month. The YouTube stars participating include Anna Akana (The Foster;Hello, My Name is Dorris; Monsters), Freddie Wong (Video Game High School), Harley Morenstein (Epic Meal Time), and Shaun McBride (Shonduras). SnapperHero is produced by the team behind Corridor Digital, a popular YouTube channel. Fullscreen Network and Astronauts Wanted also serve as producers.

    While launch partners have not been named, AT&T and its production partners shouldn't have much trouble bringing on advertisers for this millennial-centric sponsored-content push.

    This will not be AT&T’s first venture into the world of scripted online video. The global telecommunications firm teamed up with United Talent Agency to produce Summer Break, a series that followed a group of L.A. teenagers as they tackled different challenges during their summer vacations. Season one of that series drew close to six million views on YouTube.

    The money train continues to roll for Snapchat, which yesterday launched a new content marketing platform called Discover. Thanks to AT&T, the company has another potentially major revenue stream at its fingertips. The more cash-flow avenues a startup can point to, the more mature it looks in a competitive marketplace. Business-savvy moves like SnapperHero also help Snapchat balance its twin goals of satisfying investors while remaining cool to its youthful user base.

    Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III

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    We now have a reason to look forward to summer aside from the warmer weather.

    After years of speculation of a reunion, Netflixannounced last month that it had picked up the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer for a limited eight-episode miniseries. Called Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, it’s set to, as the name suggests, tell the story of that first day at Camp Firewood in the summer of 1981.

    And the whole gang’s back for all of the summer action. The returning cast (including Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, and Elizabeth Banks) is missing from the trailer all but in name, but that’s plenty for us to be even more excited about summer—and summer camp.

    H/T Deadline | Screengrab via Netflix/YouTube

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    GoDaddy has pulled its Super Bowl ad after intense backlash over its depiction of animal cruelty.

    The ad, which premiered on Today on Tuesday morning, at first appeared to be a parody of Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads featuring an adorable puppy. Like Budweiser’s ad this year, the GoDaddy spot zeroes in on a golden retriever puppy who must find his own way home after getting separated from his owner.

    But instead of being happy that his puppy made it home in one piece, the owner in the GoDaddy ad is excited for another reason. Here is the controversial ad, featuring a cameo from longtime GoDaddy spokeswoman Danica Patrick.

    GoDaddy has been criticized for previous Super Bowl ads, mainly over how it depicts women, but the shock and backlash over this year’s ad began as soon as Today’s anchors finished watching it. That backlash went even further online as people criticized GoDaddy's rosy depiction of puppy mills

    Animal-welfare advocates launched a petition calling for GoDaddy to pull the ad; the petition gathered more than 42,000 signatures by the time it closed. Helena Yurcho, who started the petition, wrote that regardless of whether GoDaddy’s ad was satirical, it was “offensive” and  could end up being harmful to dogs.

    The ad essentially encourages the existence of for-profit puppy mills while shelter animals wait patiently for their forever homes, or worse—euthanization. By glamorizing online animal purchases, GoDaddy also glosses over the dangers of this process: animals can and often are sold to people who run fighting rings, abuse animals, or otherwise do not adequately care for them.

    Animal rights are no laughing matter and for GoDaddy to portray them as such is cruel and irresponsible.

    GoDaddy heeded the backlash after just a few hours and pulled its ad.

    In a blog post, GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving explained that the ad supposed to raise awareness of how people used GoDaddy to build their presence and their brands online. Irving and GoDaddy clearly didn't expect the response that the ad received.

    "At the end of the day," Irving wrote, "our purpose at GoDaddy is to help small businesses around the world build a successful online presence. We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause. However, we underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear."

    Irving reassured GoDaddy customers and angry Internet users that Buddy, the puppy in the ad, came from a reputable breeder and was safe and sound as GoDaddy’s Chief Companion Officer and the loving pet of a long-time employee.

    GoDaddy plans to air a different, hopefully less-controversial ad during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

    H/T Uproxx | Photo via GoDaddy

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    Usually Jimmy Fallon’sshow tune medleys and wild sing-alongs are relegated to his late-night show, but last weekend the NBC host decided to take his pipes off set and bring them down to New York City’s Marie's Crisis Cafe

    The West Village piano bar, which is renowned for its nightly sing-alongs, is somewhat of an institution among the musical theater set and is no stranger to celebrity cameos. But instead of an appearance by a Broadway diva, the bar got an SNL surprise as the host turned up and began an impromptu rendition of Grease's “Summer Nights."

     The eager, albeit drunk, crowd joined in immediately and gave their best performance as T-Birds and Pink Ladies.

    If this performance doesn't leave you wanting Fallon as your show tune-singing, bar-hopping celebrity BFF, then I don't know what will. 

    H/T TMZ | Photo via mattkleinschmidt/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    When the pressure of writing real lyrics just get to be too much, musicians across all genres turn to their secret weapon of choice: the "whoa-oo-oh." 

    Now, thanks to video editor Joseph Rubino, a supercut of 60 instances of the warbling vocalization can prove how prevalent the phenomenon really is in popular music today. Thankfully, not every "whoa-oo-oh" is a carbon copy. There are variations on the phrase, but it's all clearly from the same root.

    From Fall Out Boy to Beyoncé and everyone in between, musicians are forsaking lyrics for some vocal acrobatics to get their point across, and based on the collective chart positions of the tracks featured, we clearly love it.

    H/T Tastefully Offensive | Photo via Walmart/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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    The premise of AOL Originals' new webseries, Inspired—celebrities talking about life-changing moments of inspiration—is a promising one. But as is the danger of any series that relies upon a succession of subjects, the results here are mixed. 

    The choice to begin the series with the skier Bode Miller is a curious one. Miller—who reveals himself to be boorish, un-self-consciously recalling being the "poster boy" of the Turin Olympics and chatting about medals he "should" have won—is the least interesting of the bunch. What should have been an interesting story of a near-death experience is turned by Miller's monotonous delivery into a chore. Even some excellent photography of the incident fails to ramp up the energy.

    Luckily, later episodes are more successful: Doc Rivers relating his wife's various text messages during the 2008 NBA finals is a treat, and Chris Carter outlining the pitching process for The X-Filesis a welcome reminder of that show's greatness. And in Lisa Ling's episode—the pick of this bunch of five—it's nice to hear a story that doesn't center on the episode's featured "star." Her telling of the processes involved in getting her sister, abducted by North Korean forces and sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp, back home puts the rest of the series' recollections in the shade. 

    But throughout each episode, there is a nagging feeling that we've heard all this before. And that's because in most cases, we have—most of the incidents regaled by Inspired's celebrities are well-documented and… well, old. An exception is Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz's take on the beginnings of thirtysomething(an odd choice to be featured), but the novelty of the story will be tempered by the target demographic's likely apathy toward that show. It's a fundamental problem, and hopefully something that is rectified when the second batch of five episodes drops on March 4. 

    Screengrab via AOL Originals/YouTube

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    If your cup could tell you the calories of what you're drinking, would you make healthier food choices? That's the idea behind  Vessyl, a new smart cup, and thanks to PBS Digital series Everything But The News, we get a first-hand look at the future of food technology.

    One of our favorite webseries of 2014 is back in the new year with new episodes, making more visits to digital startups and asking the hard questions. This week host Steve Goldbloom visits the Mark One headquarters and gets a hands-on test with its  Vessyl device, which analyzes the liquid you drink on the molecular level to tell you what you've got in your cup, right down to the brand name. 

    Of course, Goldbloom asks the tough questions like if they can also make him a plate, and where exactly they're manufacturing this smart technology. As much as Goldbloom pokes fun, a cup that keeps you honest about your liquid intake is a helpful tool for dieters everywhere, and with 10,000 already sold they're making a dent in the market. 

    Screengrab via Everything But The News/YouTube

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    Fox’s popular animated series Bob’s Burgers and a mega-fan blogger have a life-changing announcement: the Bob's Burgers cookbook of your dreams is on the way.

    The culinary genius, Cole Bowden, launched the Bob’s Burger Experiment blog in response to the comedy series as a college student, oblivious to basic cooking do’s and dont’s. The humorous series focuses on the Belcher family-owned burger joint, each episode revealing a deliciously named burger, and viewers will soon be able to try them in real life thanks to Bowden.

    The creator of the cartoon comedy, Loren Bouchard, and Bowden will team up to create the much-anticipated cookbook, according to NPR’s The Salt. Bouchard will produce the artwork while Bowden will cook up the real meat of the story.

    After two years of curating the mouth-watering burger blog, creations like the “Blondes Have More Fun-Gus Burger” will have uniquely printed recipes. Or for you kinky burger lovers, the Foot Feta-Ish Burger can be a reality.

    “The work he has done deserves to be printed and bound and put up on a shelf somewhere,” Bouchard told The Salt. “He’s done so much culinary heavy lifting, we wouldn’t do it without Cole.”

    Thanks to both Bouchard’s literary creativity and Bowdens savory brilliance, Bob’s Burgers fanatics will fatten up on the “I Know Why The Cajun Burger Sings” and tons more burger experiments.

    H/T The Salt | Photo via ultrakml/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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