Why You Should Try SXSWi

Why You Should Try SXSWi (photo)

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There are many motivations to make the nerd pilgrimage to Austin, which, as it was related to me by a local cab driver, was first an idea the city came up with to replenish the lack of foot traffic when UT students leave the city for spring break. As the natives escape, the town is momentarily invaded by a mix of geeks, both of the film and tech persuasion. They — we — are often described as obsessives but, more accurately, are people who have a serious passion for what they do.

In particular, it takes a certain type to come to South By Southwest Interactive, and every year that type becomes less a type and simply the direction that’s driving so many aspects of our daily lives. Politics, race, age, communication, retail, industrial — the list goes on and on. You’d be hard pressed to find a industry that hasn’t been radically influenced by the effect the technologies dissected and analyzed here.

But it’s hardly academic. It can be, but a majority of goes on at SXSWi is networking. Sure, a good deal of it is superfluous, but there’s also a high concentration of decision makers in a very small area who are bound to encounter opportunities they may not find anywhere else.

It’s no coincidence that Austin is the city that launched some of the most game-changing applications in the past several years, Twitter being the biggest and Foursquare being the most recent. How game changing? Look around your news media diet and count up the number of instances you hear someone’s Twitter being mentioned. If you’re hearing about something that happened anywhere in the world, I am willing to bet someone posted it to Twitter before anywhere else, period.

Foursquare, like Twitter, had an incubation period at their first SXSW. It was adopted eary by a cliquey, influential set of people and a year later had begun to reach substantial audiences. Twitter is thought to be around six million users today, and Foursquare around 60,000. But there hasn’t really been a singular app to come out of this year’s SXSWi that’s ended up on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

The applications that help keep everyone organized about where they need to go seem to be the most useful, Plancast being a particularly popular one that launched an iPhone app just before the conference. A app called Hot Potato was used by many to discuss panels as they were in progress in sort of a closed room Twitter. However, Twitter is still the king when it came to providing instant feedback on anything that was happening at any moment at the conference.

So if the networking, the technology, the free drinks and food, the parties, the gadgets, the next new thing, and an opportunity to take your startup to the next level appeals to you, how do you get to SXSWi 2011? Well, first I would suggest trying to get yourself on a panel. Find a topic that you’re opinionated in and approach the panel moderator. That’s exactly what I did, and it pays for your entry into the conference with Gold level access, getting you into both the movie and interactive portion of the festival.

It also gets you discounts on your hotel, which you should book very early. The panel experience allows you to reach a larger audience and market yourself in a way that can open up other opportunities with folks in the audience or those who may watch it later online. If you’re a writer, it can open up additional freelance gigs or invites to speak at other conferences. Anyone who works in that kind of business knows you need to find as many of those jobs as possible to stay afloat — a big part of that is marketing yourself, and this is one of the best ways to do just that.

The panel I spoke on yesterday was attended by David Carr of the New York Times, who happens to be one of the writers I admire most. He tweeted about our panel and told us afterwards how much he enjoyed it. It was a real honor and incredibly satisfying to be able to get that kind of feedback from someone who I think is at the top of his game and understands what I am trying to accomplish better than anyone else.

If you’ve never been to SXSWi and you’ve been following along vicariously through those who are here, now is the perfect time to start hatching plans to get here in 2011, when it will be even bigger and better. I’ve given you a few tips on how to make that easier, it’s up to you now to make it happen. I promise — you will not be disappointed.

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Doctor Feelgood

8 Hilarious Doctor Who Spoofs

Catch a Doctor Who Season 9 marathon Friday, November 6th starting at 6P ET/PT.

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Doctor Who is one of the most influential shows in all of spacetime.  Before you step into the TARDIS for IFC’s Doctor Who Season 9 marathon, check out some fantastic parodies and tributes to the Time Lord.

1. The Lenny Henry Doctor

UK comedian Lenny Henry spoofed the Doc way back in 1985. Starring alongside genuine Doctor companion Peri, it’s an ode to everything wonderful about the old series.

2. My (Re)Generation – Shooting Stars

Anarchic UK comedy quiz show Shooting Stars featured a music video by The (Doctor) Who, a band built from four versions of the eponymous character, with their hit song “My (Re)Generation” filmed in black and white inside an old TARDIS.

3. Doctor Who Anime

Fan-made anime “Space-Time Adventure DOCTOR WHO” is a labor of more love and skill that pays tribute to both the Doctor and anime tropes with equal measure. Paul “OtaKing” Johnson combined the Third Doctor with late-’80s style cyberpunk anime, crafting custom-made animations to turn a harvest of authentic quotes from the original series into all-new jokes. You gotta love the Doctor addressing a scantily clad anime protagonist with,”Oh for heaven’s sake girl, go and put something warm on.”

4. The Web of Caves

Part of the BBC’s “Doctor Who Night” in 1999, “The Web of Caves” was a work of love so intense it affected the future of the real series. The black-and-white parody of the early Doctor’s trials — complete with unbalanced audio, ill-considered evil plans and the eternal stone quarries — was co-written by and starred Mark Gatiss, who would go on to write several genuine Doctor Who episodes as well as appearing in the official series.

5. Kit Kat Daleks

Kit Kat’s “Take a Break” advert arrayed characters taking a break from their usual behavior. A needlepointing rugby player, classically violining metal-heads, and considerate sitcom husbands were flanked by Daleks charging through a shopping center with Hare Krishnas crying “PEACE-AND-LOVE! PEACE-AND-LOVE!” Their brief bliss-break was reduced even further when the rights-holders noticed that the Daleks were being used without permission. Because the only thing more terrifying than Daleks are lawyers.

6. Do You Have a License To Save This Planet?

As you can probably tell from their name, the BBV made a business of skating so close to BBC licensed properties.They had permission to make many spin-off productions, and they didn’t have official permission to make many more, but made them anyway. The most blatant was “Do You Have a License To Save This Planet?” starring Sylvester McCoy, but definitely legally not as the Seventh Doctor. No, he was the Foot Doctor, travelling time and space in a washing machine and fighting threats to the authorized canon in a half-hour adoring mockery of his own role.

7. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot

To celebrate the “Day of the Doctor” 50th anniversary episode, past Doctors attempted to sneak onto the set to make their mark from the past. A gloriously self-aware comedy written and produced by the Fifth Doctor, and a must-watch for fans of the series.

8. The Curse of the Fatal Death

“The Curse of the Fatal Death” combined Doctor Who with the Comic Relief telethon, and the combination of classics with charity was anything a Whovian could have dreamed of. The multi-part mockery starred Rowan Atkinson, Richard E Grant, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, and Joannna Lumley as regenerations of the world’s most famous time traveler.

Fred on Seth

Fred's TV Recap

Watch Fred Armisen Give an ‘Extremely Accurate’ TV Recap

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT on IFC.

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Did you know that Portlandia and Documentary Now! co-star Fred Armisen is so addicted to television that he can recap any show you throw at him? It’s an astounding feat, one that Seth Meyers had to share with the world in a recent episode of Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Fred is tasked to review last week’s episode of Haven which, due to popular misconception, is not actually a SyFy program loosely based on a Stephen King novel that focuses on Canadian townspeople with supernatural afflictions. Rather, as Fred explains, it’s “sort of a Friday Night Lights type of show,” centered around a small-town football team called The Havens. But because the town is so small, not only can they barely afford a football, they don’t have another team to play against. It’s a character study, really.

For more Fred, be sure to check back here for news on the sixth season of Portlandia, which premieres January 21st at 10P ET/PT on IFC.


Cosplayers Gonna Play

7 Basic Tips for Talking to Cosplayers

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Since Todd Margaret was at New York Comic Con, we hit the show floor to ask costumed fans for some tips on how best to interact with cosplayers. Check out what we discovered below.

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Want more fun from New York Comic Con? Read the letter David Cross wrote to Todd Margaret fans.

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross in Mr. Show With Bob and David.

Best of Mr. Show

10 Mr. Show Sketches That Were Ahead of Their Time

David Cross returns as Todd Margaret January 7th at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: HBO/Brillstein-Grey

Proving the old adage that anything is possible if you wish hard enough, this month marked the return of comedy pioneers Bob Odenkirk and David Cross to the TV sketch arena with their new Netflix show W/ Bob and David. Featuring many of the writers and cast members (including Comedy Bang! Bang! host Scott Aukerman) who made the ’90s sketch program Mr. Show such an indelible cult classic, the long-awaited follow-up possesses the same sharp, satirical eye as its predecessor.

But in case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Show and how culturally significant its comedy still is two decades later, here are the 10 most important sketches the series produced. And for more David Cross, be sure to catch the return of Todd Margaret on IFC beginning January 7th at 10P ET/PT.

10. GloboChem

For every faceless, multinational, multi-billion-dollar conglomerate, there are countless daily meetings just like this one: corporate pitchmen and bottomliners brainstorming ways to humanize their company’s image while tapping as many markets and demos as possible. And who better to accomplish this herculean task than a magical, pansexual, non-threatening spokesthing named Pit Pat?

9. The Mr. Show Water Cooler

Not too long ago, CNN was a trusted news source, Fox News languished in cable obscurity, and non-substantive political commentary based on monologue jokes and stand-up bits was relegated to variety shows like Politically Incorrect. But in the years since this sketch aired, comedy news outlets like The Daily Show, The Onion, and Last Week Tonight have become far more in-depth than our current cable news offerings and, according to multiple studies, they command a much more knowledgeable audience. Today, the “Mr. Show Water Cooler” sketch is more of an indictment of the “uninformed, unrehearsed political jam sessions” from the mainstream media than the satirical news shows that skewer them.

8. The Story of Everest

Lanky Jay Johnston undercuts his triumph of scaling Mount Everest by repeatedly falling against two racks of his mother’s thimbles in a mesmerizing display of physical comedy. And the fact there’s not much more to the scene makes it incredible. The overall simplicity of the premise, the realistic bewilderment and frustration of the parents, and how the basic tenets of comedy — timing, heightening, misdirection, etc. — are warped or outright abandoned makes this sketch a fascinating study of subtlety within slapstick.

7. Fairsley Foods

Without the financial resources, tax loopholes, and teams of lawyers that your average retail giant maintains, small family-run shops don’t stand a chance in most free market scenarios. So when a humble local supermarket chain is put in the sights of a mega-mart’s cutthroat smear campaign, there’s not much to do but close down locations and spend a fortune on child-sized tracking collars. The satire of mom & pop’s losing ground to mega-chains is just another example of Mr. Show eerily predicting the future.

6. The Prenatal Pageant

Years before Toddlers and Tiaras and Honey Boo-Boo popularized the alien world of child pageants and pushed the lowest-common denominator to record lows, a sketch like “Prenatal Pageant” seemed like a farfetched (albeit hilariously astute) portrayal of pageant families. But with 21st-century hindsight, Bob and David weren’t too far off from how those starry-eyed, reality show parents would treat a potential embryonic meal ticket.

5. Ronnie Dobbs

Once again, Mr. Show — the satirical prognosticator that it was — anticipated the precipitous decline of our celebrity tabloid culture. Ronnie Dobbs, the oft-arrested redneck who’s had brushes with the law in every state, achieves fame and fortune by simply being a petty criminal on a Cops-like reality show. And honestly, is that really different from today’s reality stars who get ample airtime and exorbitant per-episode paychecks?

4. Mr. Show Boys’ Club

In this biting take on the swinging-’60s sexism that predates Mad Men and is still present in many institutions, “Mr. Show Object” Jill Talley discovers that the Mr. Show Boys’ Club not only parades women around in skimpy outfits and deer antlers (a thinly veiled dig at the Playboy Club), but also offers meager concessions to its young female members. At a time when women are still fighting for equal pay and adequate health care, the sketch is sadly still very relevant.

3. The Teardrop Awards

As a stand-up, David Cross has railed against the cynical marketing in the wake of a tragedy. (Check out his thoughts on American flags post-9/11.) And playing a singer-songwriter who lost his five-year-old son a year prior, Cross explores similar exploitative territory with jubilant acceptance speeches after winning awards for his commemorative songs. A cathartic sketch for anyone who has felt gross after seeing suffering and misfortune capitalized on in the age of knee-jerk social media reactions.

2. The Last American Indian

The last living descendent of an ancient tribe is close to death as government agents watch over him and wait to take his land. All that’s left of his rich and storied culture is the foggy memories of a man in his twilight years — ones that could be confusing history with the film Billy Jack. It’s an incredibly dark and poignant reminder of the civilizations that have been lost and forgotten in the annals of war and subjugation.

1. Pre-Taped Call-In Show and The Audition

While these two sketches may not have the satirical edge of other Mr. Show scenes, they’re both master lessons on sketch writing that have inspired countless comedians. Both penned by Dino Stamatopoulos of Community and Moral Orel fame, “Pre-Taped Call-In Show” and “Audition” feature multiple layers of meta-comedy and gut-busting rage that stems from casually benign misunderstandings. To make a diehard fan out of a person unfamiliar with Mr. Show, simply show them these two sketches that continue to influence everything from Adult Swim to IFC’s own Comedy Bang! Bang!.

Want more comedy from the mind of David Cross? Check out the trailer for the return of Todd Margaret

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