Sports racers forced to think for themselves.
March 18, 2007 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Bye, Ze. Zefrank, the very fine video blogger, who in a single year created a massive and devoted web community by asking his audience to dress their vacuums, whip ass with Ray, and make an Earth sandwich, has decided to call it quits and head off to Hollywood. Perhaps the resources will bring him a bigger audience. But I'll miss the hearts and flowers, even the occasional lecture. To think it all started with dancing lessons. [Previously]
posted by Toekneesan (35 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
has decided to call it quits and head off to Hollywood.

Er, actually his plan was one year from the start. You make it sound like he.. er.. sold out.
posted by Plutor at 4:24 PM on March 18, 2007

Am I the only one who doesn't understand the appeal of this guy or his show?
posted by saraswati at 5:01 PM on March 18, 2007

saraswati: "Am I the only one who doesn't understand the appeal of this guy or his show?"

Yeah. :)
posted by WCityMike at 5:02 PM on March 18, 2007

I avoided watching the show all week. I've been too despondent. I wish I had an ounce of that man's creativity.
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:10 PM on March 18, 2007

saraswati, I'd imagine you're not the only one, you're just in a tremendous minority. Maybe humor and/or creativity are not things you gravitate towards?
posted by jonson at 5:13 PM on March 18, 2007

Ze Frank has been one of my favorite net people for a long time... hopefully we'll be able to continue to enjoy his work in whatever medium he chooses.. I wish him the best, he's earned this shot...
posted by HuronBob at 5:15 PM on March 18, 2007

Chance of his Hollywood project being non-shit?
posted by smackfu at 5:17 PM on March 18, 2007

Maybe humor and/or creativity are not things you gravitate towards?

Ah yes, of course.
posted by saraswati at 5:18 PM on March 18, 2007

He's hilarious. And smart. And has a great sense of timing. And has great instincts about the audience. If he isn't a huge success in Hollywood, Hollywood has its head up its ass.

posted by mediareport at 5:29 PM on March 18, 2007

I knew the guy was brilliant the moment I saw his wonderful spam monologue (MOV). I liked it so much, I wrote it into a play.
posted by dbarefoot at 5:32 PM on March 18, 2007

Who here likes duckies? I love duckies.
posted by cotterpin at 6:09 PM on March 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

That talent scout has a good eye. Ze is going to hit it big. He's instantly likeable.
posted by painquale at 6:09 PM on March 18, 2007

Am I the only one who doesn't understand the appeal of this guy or his show?

If it makes you feel better, I don't love him either. I understand the appeal, I just don't share the love.

But good for him for being successful.
posted by tastybrains at 6:24 PM on March 18, 2007

He's a very smart guy, with a great ability to take a complex issue and explain it in a way that would usually never occur to me. I can understand the pressures he was under and why he chose to quit doing it after only a year. I look forward to his next project.
posted by Dave Faris at 6:45 PM on March 18, 2007

Dave Faris, he chose to quit doing it after a year at the beginning of the year; it was a planned one-year project. He carried it off as well as anybody could be expected to carry off such a thing, and he gave everybody who participated a real sense of community in a space where such a thing is hard to imagine, let alone achieve. Ze's a frickin' internet hero.
posted by cgc373 at 7:10 PM on March 18, 2007

Yeah. I know he planned on quitting early on. I once picked a daunting and ambitious blogging project, and planned on publishing new photos every day, told myself at the beginning that I was only going to do it a year. In the end, I missed lots of days, but did it for a couple years instead. It was too hard to think of new content every single day -- in my case, it was to difficult to think up a new place to try taking photos every day. I didn't watch his show frequently to know how many days he skipped, but for the stretch of time I did watch it, I recall that he managed to come up with a new video every single weekday, and I find that very impressive. That he managed to involve all those people speaks volumes as well. I actually eschewed user input on my project. But then, I'm a misanthrope, I guess.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:25 PM on March 18, 2007

Am I the only one who doesn't understand the appeal of this guy or his show?

Am I the only one who really hates comments that begin with "Am I the only one who..."? Yes, you are a unique snowflake. Thanks for sharing.
posted by spock at 7:35 PM on March 18, 2007

No, thank you, Ze.

It was a delightful year.
posted by msjen at 8:58 PM on March 18, 2007

Too clever. I'm just waiting until its revealed he's just the face of a group of comedians and video types a la lonelygirl.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:10 PM on March 18, 2007

We could do more with the type of of non-naive optimism that exuded throughout Ze's Show.
posted by todbot at 9:18 PM on March 18, 2007 [3 favorites]

Mr. Katzenberg advised him to “to stay kind of close to the system, but outside of it—to develop content, develop ideas, instead of trying to play to the game as it exists out there.”

Um, ok, *barf*.

We at the network want a dog with attitude. He's edgy, he's "in your face." You've heard the expression "let's get busy"? Well, this is a dog who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:03 PM on March 18, 2007

You'll be missed, ze.
posted by rsanheim at 10:23 PM on March 18, 2007

gottabefunky: It is extremely difficult for someone not versed in the system to get into the system, stay and succeed there. Even if you are talented at designing MonkeyWidgets, you might not be good at dealing with the MonkeyWidgets Union or the distribution centers or the regulatory groups that harangue large companies... and on and on.

I wanted to make games for a living. In 1994 I designed a game for IRC. Three years later, Acrophobia launched on the commercial Internet but only after building a following on the tiny IRC channels. Even though the game did well, I didn't fit into the larger game industry system as it existed then, so off I went.

Ze has done exactly the same thing writ large. His content has attracted an audience. HE has attracted an audience. Brilliant stuff. But that doesn't mean he can play by the rules as designed by Big Media. If he can, rock on! Sell out and keep a slice of your soul for your late 30s, and cash in while you can. But in the meantime, I'm guessing he could do any number of things that go big but aren't designed to stay big all the time -- could you imagine a random summertime The Show with Ze Frank on Comedy Central?

< /ramble>
posted by andreaazure at 11:52 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

My favorite--the one that made me a fan, really--is the Brain Crack episode (NSFW language).

When I saw it, it was exactly what I needed to hear. As though he knew me, and was perceptive enough to know that.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:54 PM on March 18, 2007

I enjoyed lots of his shows, particularly the music (How Do You Work This Thing and Hindsight is 20-20, in particular).

But I'll be massively surprised if Ze has any mainstream success. The Internet is a weird lens that magnifies certain aspects of people's characters and, sometimes, makes them worth a million dollars. Remove them from the Internet and, well, either they have to change into something else, or they fail. I would even say that TV/movies and the Internet are mutually incompatible mediums. Ze's going to struggle to make the crossover. (Still, at least he'll have something to chat about with Amanda Congdon now.)

Sure, Ze has a fan base, but it's like a rock band boasting about being popular in Armenia—Ze has millions of fans but it's like they're in a distant country, with little connection to the rest of the world we all inhabit. I would even say that boasting about being "Big on the Internet" is more of a hindrance than a help nowadays.

That said, I hope Ze does succeed. Sadly, I'll have to start hating him when he gets popular because I got in there early (known technically as the "Radiohead Effect"). But I'm sure he'll understand.
posted by humblepigeon at 3:03 AM on March 19, 2007

I've known Ze for a long time, got spend some time with him in a small creative retreat at the turn of the century. The guy is razor smart in addition to having some real gifts: some of Ze's experiments with The Show should be fascinating to ANY of us working to use this medium to entertain rather than just sell.

Got to see Ze briefly at SXSW in a crowded party where he seemed happy just to see someone who wasn't going to be asking for an autograph or to have their picture taken with him. I asked him what he most wanted to do once he put The Show behind him, and his answer without hesitation was "collaborate".

In the end, years later, I bet the ORG is the most enduring thing about this era of Ze's work: The Show just catapulted the collaborations (and some of the best stuff about The Show is driven by the audience, like Ray.)

I like to think that one "he's going Hollywood!" article is a ... um ... mistake. If you look at his podcasts from that period when he was in Los Angeles taking meetings, they are pretty clear about the difference between Hollywood and the Web (elequently as well.) Journalists are known to occassionally see the story they want to see.
posted by bclark at 7:03 AM on March 19, 2007

This episode is genius. I laughed so hard when taking the Ze break on this one that my office neighbors were disturbed.

I never figured out my power move. :(
posted by eatdonuts at 7:47 AM on March 19, 2007

Countdown to sitcom with wacky suburban neighbors in 5 ... 4 ... 3 ...

Because, you know, that's the only way they have to monetize this, for some reason.
posted by dhartung at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2007

I'll really miss The Show. My daily dose of ze was something I looked forward to... I do want him to be a success in whatever comes next, but more importantly I want it to be good. I wonder, if Hollywood really is on the path, if it won't chew him up and spit him out.

Speaking of which: I read an article in the New Yorker recently about a showbiz mom. Shudder. It perfectly described the soul-crushing ability of the machine that makes what passes for art there.
posted by e40 at 12:19 PM on March 19, 2007

...Huh. Well, I hope he succeeds.
posted by Many bubbles at 4:17 PM on March 19, 2007

[i]“…I'll be massively surprised if Ze has any mainstream success.”[/i]

I won’t.

He’s an unusually talented, creative, charismatic, and motivated individual.

What will surprise me is if Ze is even given half a chance in the nepotistic, brain-dead entertainment industry.
posted by rougy at 5:31 PM on March 19, 2007

saraswati: I see the appeal of Frank himself but find the show a little thin. As someone else said above, it's easy to see why people like him - good timing, commitment, consistency. And for five minutes a day, why not? But I've watched perhaps fifteen episodes of The Show and it's...well, it's Internet comedy. The guy comes off as a smart antic hipster whose adolescent glosses on the day's news wouldn't pass muster at a Daily Show spitballing session, and whose self-presentation in this profile bespeaks an unexpected lack of seriousness. (He sounds like a fucking prat talking about his 'celebrity.')

Or to put it another way: he's very, very good at being funny for five minutes in front of an audience of hipsters taking a break from work. I'm sure he gives engaging talks to the audience at something like (ugh) SXSW. But there's nothing about The Show to suggest that he's any kind of major talent. I'm in awe of his dedication (and free time), and pointlessly impressed by his natural charisma, but if you didn't watch a single episode of the show you missed nothing. He's right for his medium - in part because his medium is pretty damned limited, triumphalist crowing about his hipster audience and Amazing! New! Tech! notwithstanding.

I'd point to Homestar Runner as a similar case, though those guys seem to have more impressive talents than Frank; you get the sense they could smoothly make the move to longer-form storytelling given the opportunity. Still, a bit of fatigue set in over the years; as extraordinary as Strong Bad's email has been, I don't mind that I haven't watched it in months. Still, its appeal remains much broader than Frank's.
posted by waxbanks at 9:50 PM on March 19, 2007

And it's worth mentioning: the dancing lessons animation is worthwhile only for the spectacle of seeing someone unafraid to look much, much stupider than the average human would ever allow themselves to look on a dance floor.

Now get off my lawn!
posted by waxbanks at 9:51 PM on March 19, 2007

Someone (evidently) wilfully naïve about Hollywood sez:
If he isn't a huge success in Hollywood, Hollywood has its head up its ass.
Well, no. The individual merits of Ze Frank's Show aside, making Web-only niche comedy sketches for a small relatively homogeneous homegrown audience has almost nothing in common with making mass-market entertainment at the behest (and on the payroll) of a Big Media Company. Whether Frank has universal appeal remains to be seen, for better or worse. He very well might. But if he isn't willing/able to commit to an entirely different audience, and turns out to be (merely) a losing financial proposition for his new bosses, you can't blame the guys who sign the cheques.

Sorry for late-nite bitchery; I'm in pain.
posted by waxbanks at 10:02 PM on March 19, 2007

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