The Show With Ze Frank, 2006-2007

Ze Frank took his curtain call yesterday and, just like TV, the internet breaks your heart. We come to need our TV friends on schedule and then one day they're just gone, the show's over, it's never coming back. Reruns remind us of what was once, but they're never the real McCoy. So it is now with our internet friends.

The Show was one example of a new kind of art form, one made by an ongoing collaboration of a performer and dozens, hundreds, even thousands of participants dispersed around the country and the world and connected by the internet. The community created something that only a web-based network could achieve. Frank is certainly a remarkable talent, but he alone could not have made The Show. For its potential to be realized, many hands had to set to work. Its special energy came from knowing that every day the sportsracers were ready to interact in the creative effort. All art is the product of a network of cooperation, but the internet is providing opportunities to adjust the balance between artists and support personnel in favor of more democratic arrangements.

Today's LAT has a nice primer+appreciation (thx Chuck). Here are some of my favorite episodes. There are 250 in total, so this list could be way longer.

The sportsracer show, in which the audience thanks Ze for The Show.

Ze takes the sportsracers's recordings to Ray, whose song they remixed and turned into a video.

The ep with Ze's holiday song (at the end) naming all the political figures in the news in his polyphonic a capella vocals. I've watched this one about seven hundred times and it never gets old.

Ze barfs out Scrabble tiles. In response, Valleywag wrote, "Ze Frank is one of the very few new web video stars with that attribute they used to call, um, talent."

Thanksgiving won much praise in the blogs for the way it captures family dynamics.

The episode in which Ze picks a fight with Rocketboom over their use of metrics to measure the size of their audience, sardonic in its assessment of differences between old and new media.

"Left turn ok" is the very meta episode with a stream-of-consciousness voice-over from the mind of a skeptical viewer. I really love this one.

A first installment on the ins and outs of videoblogging is mercilessly mocking.

On college being only sort of like the real world; in the next one on this topic: choosing a major is like choosing where to live.

"Fingers in Food" is a lot too zany. The next day begins, "Are the new viewers gone yet?"

"Jon Benet" is one of the best eps, a parody of bizlit bullshit about brands.

For his 100th episode, Ze reminisces about childhood, growing up as a child of immigrants. This one has an unusual non-comic tone.

On copyright, YouTube and participatory culture.

"Condoleeza's Magic Satchel" gonna save the day, one of the crazier songs.

Ugly MySpace contestants introduced + the "I know me some ugly song" + the defense of amateur aesthetics in the user-generated content age. This is one of the very best.

Ideas are like brain crack. Classic.

Fabuloso Friday: the viewers wrote the script of this one and although it doesn't quite work as an episode, it's a feat of collaboration nonetheless.

"Austrian Arrows" answers the question "are you gay?" No, Ze says, but I like gay things. Then a segment about all the gay things Ze likes. This ep also has Ze doing a hilarious Austrian accent.

"Summer Jamz" introduces new viewers to all of The Show's inside jokes in a way that makes no sense to new viewers.

The episode "anti-intellectualism" has one of my favorite Ze songs. It goes, "Let's watch the monkey dance, anti-intellectualism!/Make fun of the south of France, anti-intellectualism!..."

"Are the New Viewers Gone Yet?" An episode begins with boring stuff to turn away people who don't watch regularly. Then Ze asks, "Are the new viewers gone yet?" When I was a new viewer, this bit was one of things that made me love The Show.

An early episode mocks Starbucks, a favorite target, and includes a beloved song, "Who loves the little duckies in the pond..." The duckie became Frank's mascot.

"Yes No I This Is," one of GWB's mangled attempts at making sense, became an inside joke.

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