The R-Rated Comedy is here to stay

In 2007 I wrote a short paper about how film audiences might have driven a shift for a new type of comedy: the R-rated comedy. Since then I continue to find myself going back to this paper and wonder if this has now become a permanent change. Five years ago I quoted Judd Apatow as Hollywood’s new lord of LOL hits, and in 2007 “studio execs…speak of making comedy in a ‘post-Judd world.'” That’s big.

Creating blockbuster comedies like The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, Apatow has proven “there’s a certain style and tone of comedy movies that people like,” (Hollywood Reporter). This style of R-rated comedy replaces funny exaggerated stereotypical characters with more relatable actors and situations.

Some could argue that technology has given people a greater opportunity to share their stories using cheaper tools, but technology gets blamed for impacting everything. I asked myself in 2007, “has the era of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies become boring as they venture into more dramatic roles?” You can decide, or believe that these actors are reacting to an industry shift because the audience demands more raunchy, realistic humor. Now that it’s 2012, I see a slight shift in Sandler’s career, like acting in Apatow’s 2009 Funny People, which was funny but set to a very dark and serious situation. He continues to do comedy, just toned down from his days of Little Nicky and The Waterboy.

When it comes to comedy, I want to see something I can relate to. The R-rated comedy continues to be funny because directors and writers illicit a reaction from the crowd by showcasing situations we can relate to, and stays away from the stereotypical leading man/woman who exerts all that is found in a popular high school athlete or cheerleader. We, as the audience find ourselves in these same situations, and that is funny. Rolling Stone reviewed Superbad as “powered by a comedy dream team, this shit faced American Graffiti dares to show it has a heart.” These movies, and Apatow, are also becoming brand builders for actors like Seth Rogen and Steve Carell.

Not only are “raunchy-yet-resonant laughfests” (Entertainment Weekly) making us double over in hysterics, they are also very commercially viable. In a 2007 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Sony reflected on the sell-ability of these comedies: “Before then, people were afraid of these hard, R-rated comedies with really out-there subject matter, but suddenly that is a positive.” Sony reported a loss of $134.8 million loss in 2006, but a positive income of $23 million in 2007, confirming that Superbad helped move them out of the red.

Positive revenues are one way to test audience reaction, or to confirm what you already knew was a winner. In a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Apatow reflects on his past television flops, “Maybe there’s not many people who get this – that this is a niche, like a college band.” Pressure from television producers who could not move away from the standard template, helped push Apatow to film to produce the (then) niche comedy The 40-Year Old Virgin, which ultimately “usher[ed] in a new wave of foul-mouthed R-rated comedies,” (Rolling Stone).

Back in 2007, I predicted this shift to the R-rated comedy was here to stay-which I think has proven true after five years. You can see this from revenue and just the adoption of catch phrases, the audience is continuing to demand raunchier, realistic humor.

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Blogging while driving…is good for the soul

Now that texting, talking on your cell and singing while driving (wait that should JUST be  me) is becoming illegal…I blogged. During my latest escape from Seattle I was asked by my good friend to cut the cord for her new blog “Itinerary Unknown.” Her goal is to create a space where women can blog about their travel experiences, I think it’s a wonderful idea!

One thing I thought about when trying to obey the traffic laws is the impact of device juggling. It’s way more distracting than chatting on the phone! Possibly because I was on a road trip and swapping from my Google maps screen, to listen to a song my Ipod just played, or quickly grabbing my Flip to video a dust tornado…but maybe I’m a consumer asking for a solution?… or someone to avoid on the freeway?

Anyways, please read my accounts of my solo trip down to the Grand Canyon through Salt Lake City then back up through Vegas and Portland. But just a quick count of all the devices I used: HTC HD2, my laptop, Flip, Canon 30D, Zune, Ipod Nano, and ALL the connectors to keep them charged over the 3,100 miles I drove!

…and the most adoring piece of technology I used sadly (being a Microsoft-ie) was my Google Maps app on my HD2, I seriously wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without it.

Digital Media Economics Reflection

I am an avid consumer of digital technologies, which makes this course very relevant as we struggle with how content should be distributed and how to monetize it. In the beginning of the quarter I presented myself with this question, “Is there an instance where something touches digital networks and doesn’t feel the effect of falling costs?” This is in response to Moore’s Law, but do I feel I’ve reached the answer? Maybe. It is obvious that as a digital immigrant I still hold onto the “atoms” of production in some sense, meaning I still feel there is a physical representation of everything, but I need to alter my thinking. Today everything touches digital networks, with maybe a few exceptions in developing worlds that haven’t been gifted technology yet. Ayush Agarwal from Madrona Venture Group said in an October lecture “we don’t till farms, we till information.” This is very true. We have evolved into a society that relies on the combined knowledge of the collective. In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody he speaks about the dissolution of specialized trades like the scribe; today we see journalists shrinking away with the advent of user generated content and citizen journalism. We even see the whole structure of marketing changing with the shift of content creation going to the common man.

Traditionally we’ve relied on advertising to learn about products, today we have user reviews on Amazon, Gizmodo and many other places that tell us what real consumers think of the products. In fact, companies like Amazon and even the Super Bowl rely on their consumer audience to produce advertisements for them. This is something that would have never happened prior to the Internet for many reasons. First, we’ve proved over and over in the MCDM that the cost of technology is so low, anyone can make a video, do some graphics, create a song, or use other’s content to create something completely new like a mashup of a Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani song. What is even more fascinating is that people enjoy creating content with limited or no monetary reward; this provides a real authentic look at consumerism, but is very challenging for companies trying to make a profit. Because of these few reasons, (but surely not just these two reasons) blogs are so popular.

When Tracy Record, the Editor of the West Seattle Blog came to talk with our class in October, she emphasized that hyperlocal journalism is just touching the edges of capability. Prior to her discussion I often didn’t think of blogs vertically, I just thought of them in categories like sports, local, pets, etc. She opened my eyes to the breadth still available for blogs. For example, she feels there is still tremendous opportunity in her immediate community for additional blogs that focus on the youth. This could be anywhere from teen issues around sex, education and after school activities, to a place where elementary children can come to engage in games, pictures and stories. They sky is the limit, and I was interested to hear Tracy’s opinion on hyperlocal journalists teaming up with the Seattle Times. I agree with her view that these should be separate, with some courteous connection for the sake of reporting honest news. It seems that larger media corporations are trying to dangle the idea of “exposure” to journalists who have already found their new niche outside a failing journalism career. Continue reading

Questioning the Impact of Social Media

On Tuesday we spoke a lot about Clay Shirky, partially because most people choose to read his book Here Comes Everybody and review it. Seeing that so many people choose his book is really a compliment to how good it is. One of my favorite concepts in his book ask you to consider how changing communication changes society. Not only does this quote mean that due to new technology people will do things differently, it actually changes what we anticipate and expect as a society.

Not long ago it wasn’t rare to loose touch with high school friends and only see them at reunions. Tools like Facebook and LinkedIn bring these people back into our lives and in some cases, make us wonder if someone they haven’t talked to in 12 years really needs to know everything about their life. In a Geek’s post How Social Media Has Changed My Life the author addresses the importance social media plays in his life. Social media “has strengthened existing friendships, it has allowed me to find new friendships and gotten a taste of life in different parts of the country.” After the gravity of inclusion swallows you, I feel people realize social media is a great benefit. In class we spoke about how certain technologies are expected for digital natives…I wonder how many “when I was a kid” stories I will be telling to astonished children in 10 years.

It seems that society is moving towards a view of ‘knowing a little about everyone,’ rather than just ‘knowing a lot about a few’ close people. Families separated by thousands of miles are able to watch their grandchildren, nieces and nephews grow up using YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and many more. How will people acknowledge friends as ‘good’ or ‘acquaintance’ now that we have running threads of daily activities? Will it become expected to have a social profile and what new privacy issues will arise from it? Will there still be some people out there in 10, 20 or 30 years who refuse to have any online presence? If knowledge becomes instantaneous how will that alter what our children are expected to learn and retain? These are all questions that we will have to answer in the days, months and years to come.

I Get the “Gist”

gist“Gist helps you build stronger relationships by connecting the inbox to the web.” Listening to T. A. McCann, Founder and CEO of new social networking site Gist, was refreshing. His idea for this new tool comes from the realization that there’s too much information out there and lines between personal and professional are blurring. According to him we need to think about a way to organize our data in a discreet way, by thinking of relationships.

Take for example my online social persona, I have 1. a LinkedIn account, 2. Twitter, 3. Facebook, 4. Myspace, 5. A blog and more. The value of a tool like Gist is to aggregate all this information in one place so you can get a quick glimpse of someone. This helps you see a deeper view of your contacts by seeing their latest tweets, blog entry and the last email communication you had with them…all in one place.

Currently this tool is in beta and will likely offer premium services for a fee, but if you are a business person and use CRM solutions like Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce, Gist can integrate and add an additional layer of personal connection. Everyone is now becoming immersed in creating their online alias; a tool like Gist is a great step in helping people maintain relationships by saving time.

Thoughts on Corporate Media and Hyperlocal Journalism

On Tuesday, Tracy, the Editor at the West Seattle Blog came and talked to us about the business of hyperlocal journalism and how corporate media is trying to sink it’s teeth into it. An interesting point she made was that it took corporate media so long to screw up what they have now, it’s sad to see them stomping on hyperlocal journalism, mainly by exploiting local blogs to squeeze a few more pennies out.

With so many community blogs in Seattle, is there still room for more competition? Tracy says “yes.” One thing I often don’t consider when thinking about blogs is the breadth of blogs. Tracy said there is plenty of room for additional overlapping blogs in Seattle, especially in the youth market. I had never given much consideration to generational blogging.

Using the Seattle youth music market could be a great place to initiate a blog around a common interest. This could also be used to communicate youth activities, sports, and extracurricular activities. This could also be a podium to discuss important teen issues. Using students to create the content can provide a learning experience and create a positive online image versus the “out of control” teen Myspace pages they’ll regret in about 10 years.

According to Tracy though, this would also be the type of communication vehicle corporate media would salavate over, especially do to all the impressionable minds.

Anderson, Economics & the Lightbulb

Chris Anderson is so popular right now. As I read Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business again I generally get what he’s trying to sell. His concept is cool, that we have “trends driving the spread of free business models across the economy.”  We’re faced with decisions because internet and technology have become second nature, but I feel this cycle of change is just a part of an ever evolving society. In Hoskin, McFadyen and Finn’s book Media Economics, they demonstrate the predictability of markets in mathematical terms, although I wonder how emotion plays into this.

In this past Tuesday’s class, I was relieved to find that other people had trouble interpreting the Media Economics book. I was also amused by people’s need to find the key to unlock the secret to some of the concepts. Talking about diminishing marginal returns made me dizzy until Kathy used the beverage analogy: the 10th gulp of a cold drink on hot day is not as refreshing as the first. For economics I do agree with some people in the class, the light bulb has to turn on, otherwise it’s just memorizing stuff and not understanding how they relate.

Learning more about media economics, even the tough stuff, will make it easier to understand the changing landscape that Anderson points out. In fact, I think it’s very important. Being able to pick apart business models that deal with little to no profit and find a way to many money is important because it proves that our current situation is sustainable and here to stay.