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Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Plain-text, non-Web-2.0 Story of FarkTV

The Plain-text, non-Web-2.0 Story of FarkTV:

So, you want to know about FarkTV? Well, Drew Curtis would like to tell you a bit about it - but there's some background to go over first.

First, A Little History

Back in 1999 Drew Curtis started Fark.com. Somewhere along the way it became source material for seemingly every news agency, entertainment news source and morning radio show in the U.S. and Canada. Fark is used as a resource for finding funny news material by the writers at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, among many, many others. Tracking traffic via Google Analytics shows that when Fark's traffic is ranked by visits from people at the same corporation (tracked via IP blocks and using fairy dust and gnomes or some such black magic), Fark receives the most traffic from someplace called Turner.com (TimeWarner) followed closely by someplace called NewsCorp (FoxNews). This is traffic coming to Fark from individuals using their own computers at work, not referral traffic. And it's global, including traffic from the UK, Australia, Sweden, Russia, Japan, and other random places. Incidentally, and we can't explain why, there's one IP address coming to Fark on a regular basis from an Internet address assigned to The Vatican. Just one. No joke.


Could There Be A Fark TV Show?

For years people have been emailing Drew telling him that they had just stopped working on TV shows that culled nearly all their material from articles appearing on Fark. During the course of conversations with these former cast members, directors, producers and writers, each would tell him "Drew, you should do a Fark TV show." A few years ago, Drew attempted to follow that advice. He talked to several different networks. Here's an example of how these conversations went:

Drew: "I have this great show idea, it's really good. You should pick it up."

Executive: "Huh? What? Fart dot com? Never heard of it."

Executive's assistant: "OMG I LOVE FARK I CHECK IT OUT EVERY DAY AND CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT IT."

It turns out that, in Hollywood, most executives have never heard of Fark. Probably because they're busy. Busy people don't have time to read Fark. Assistants of busy people apparently do have time to read Fark, however. For example, when Drew went to pitch a show idea to MTV, the executive said that he hadn't heard of Fark, but just about everyone else in the office said that they'd not only heard of it, but that they visited the site HOURLY.

It turns out that convincing an executive-type that there's a website out there with five million monthly readers that is used as a resource by practically every media and entertainment outlet on the planet that (and this is the important bit) they've never heard of is nearly impossible. Because it sounds like total BS.

By 2006, Drew had pretty much given up on the idea of having a Fark TV show.


So how did this all come about?

Fark TV is the brainchild of three Farkers, listed in no particular order: Joe Peacock, Bill Doty and Ben Barak.

Joe Peacock has been a Farker for years, and is the author of the "user-edited book on the web" series called Mentally Incontinent (and self-published, hilarious, self-depricating, Drew-recommended book by the same name which you should go out and buy right now.) He found Fark rather unceremoniously in 2000 while surfing the net by typing random words in the URL bar of his browser when he should have been working. That last bit of information may SEEM extraneous, but it really speaks volumes about Joe's character.

Joe was digitally introduced to Drew by Bill Doty, long time friend of both men and webmaster of Broken Newz, the very-proudly-ranked #2 satire website on the entire internet. Bill and Joe had been friends for many, many years and writing collaborators for just as long. They are the proud architects of several fun Internet pranks that Fark used to find out which media outlets use Fark for material. Bill and Joe would write amusing but believable news stories (such as "19 People including 4 Officers Injured at Kenny Rogers Book Signing," "California To Introduce State-Funded Vasectamies to Cut Off Obese Gene" and "Barry Bonds to beat Sadahara Oh's Home Run Record" to name a few), post it on a real-looking news website, and Fark would link to it as if it were real news. Then everyone would sit back and see who mentioned the fake news - which, invariably, was every major news network - MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, the Associated Press, Drudge Report (well... Drudge isn't "major" - we just wanted to mention that we nailed him) and so on. These experiments catagorically proved that major media networks use Fark as a major source of news. Fark was the only place these fake stories appeared, and suddenly the same stories were in mainstream news. That's no coincidence.

Given that Bill knew Drew liked good things, he sent Drew a copy of Joe's book. Drew sent Joe an email expressing to him how much he enjoyed the book, and Joe responded by offering to pick up the lunch tab when he was next in Lexington, KY - an offer Drew took up one fine December afternoon. The two laughed and talked about the pranks Joe and Bill had pulled in the past and pretty much parted pleasantly with not much fanfare at all. Drew did have to leave his car in the parking lot though, he had too many beers to drive. It stayed there for three days.

Not long after, Joe (a software geek at heart) picked up a software development contract with Fox News, where he took a picture of a wall where they hung several screenshots of various websites, Fark, BoingBoing, Metafilter and so forth. In large print at the top of the wall was a banner that read "Competition". Drew wanted a better copy for his upcoming humorous media analysis book of crap posing as news coming out May 31st 2007 which you should go out and pre-order right now because it's really funny and true at the same time. Joe said sure, but sadly, when he made his way back to the main offices, they'd since torn down the collage. So it goes. The really important thing here is that Joe was able to see first-hand the upcoming web delivery strategy that Fox had in mind for the future - and it got the ol' mind going.

When the call for submissions on a new broadband-based network called Super Deluxe arose, Bill and Joe began the process of pitching random show ideas to them. During the course of writing treatments, the two approached Drew (among other net-celebrity friends) about the possibility of appearing in a few episodes of a really silly show that would have probably stunk. They caught Drew one night when he'd had too much to drink, and he drunkenly suggested that the team write a treatment for a Fark-based show. There wasn't anything to lose by trying, so Bill flew from Las Vegas, NV to Atlanta, GA to meet with Joe and set upon the task of finding a director that they knew could take their wacky writing styles and visually deliver a top-notch show based on Fark.com.

Longtime friend of Bill and Joe's, Ben Barak, was really the only choice.

Ben is the owner of one of the most successful video production companies in Atlanta, Sanctified Crack Gorilla Productions, and overall a decent guy. His unorthodox directorial style and indelible work ethic is truly unique among film makers. Bill and Joe knew that Ben possessed not only the guerilla-sense to direct the kind of show that would need to be made if it were based on Fark.com, he also had the versatility, technical skill and compositional variety it would take to pull this thing off.

The team was in place and the production of the demo was well under way when suddenly, out of the blue, Joe received a call from the creative director over at Super Deluxe. He was a massive Fark fan and very nearly exploded when he found out that the opportunity to get a show based on Fark.com was available. He insisted that, come hell or high water, there was absolutely, definitely going to be a Fark show on Super Deluxe.


Why Super Deluxe?

Super Deluxe is the first broadband network launching entirely with original production-quality content. They're not doing what everyone else is doing. They're not putting a huge stable of crappy re-runs online that youve already seen on TV a million times. They're not inundating their network with thousands of videos of people playing guitars or candid little vignettes of guys getting kicked in the nuts (although that stuff is pretty funny). No one has ever seen this before - it's an Internet-launched network with professionally produced shows. It's the future of video.

One huge advantage for Fark doing a show with Super Deluxe is that its online-only. Other websites have tried doing video on TV networks and failed. This is because they can't get their online audience to tune in (or set their DVRs to record) to a backwater network like MTV 3 at, say, 2am on a Sunday morning. This may seem counter-intuitive but lets face it: the coveted 18-35 demographic is either already getting most of its video content off of the Internet, or it soon will be. The obvious solution is, if you have an online audience, put the content online where they can find it.

Another huge advantage is the flexibility this gives Fark TV. Super Deluxe is content to sit back and let Joe, Bill, and Ben do pretty much whatever they want. No TV Network would ever allow a group of people who had never written, produced, or acted in a TV show to produce a TV show. They're taking a huge risk with us, but theyve seen what the Fark TV crew has produced so far, and they think theyve found a diamond in the rough.


The Show

The problem with amusing news shows these days is everyone has a guy behind a desk. "Hey, it worked for Jon Stewart, right?" Yea, it did, and that's because he's Jon Freakin' Stewart. Unless you're someone of Jon Stewart caliber, and no one over here is, that's just not going to work. "Guy Behind a Desk" has been done to death. We needed something new.

The concept of the show is simple: the writers sit around and read Fark, looking for news stories. When they find a funny one, they film their take on what could have possibly happened with the events leading up to or immediately following events found on Fark. Ta da, instant entertainment.


Do you want to join the cast or the writing team?

Joe, Bill and Ben have no problem with anyone wanting to come down to Atlanta and hang out with them to work on future shows. They can't pay you, but Drop them a line if you're interested. HOWEVER (and this is a big however, which is why it's bolded and in all-caps), please don't email story ideas, skit concepts, jokes or anything else -- to prevent any legal messes, we have to declare that anything sent in is owned by This Is Not Art Productions to do with as they see fit (but we won't even open them - so DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME [or ours]). They're not going to rip off the idea, they're just worried that someone will send in a story idea they already had and sue them when they use it. Yes, another case where assholes ruined it for everyone.


Hey Media people

Please help us get the word out about this show. You've used Fark for a resource for years and that's great, we're happy that you like us and find us useful. We really need a media blitz on this one because it's damn funny, the guys who made it are genuinely good folks who have never actually produced a TV Show before, and most of all because Drew has run up a huge ass tab at his local bar and they're threatening to bulldoze his dog. Drew has a ton of radio and TV experience and loves to do interviews, sometimes even sober. You won't regret having him on, he's funny, and if you let him he'll talk your ear off.

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