I wanted to share this series “The Elevator Show” with you fine people for two reasons, one, I think some of the episodes are pretty brilliant, and two, it points the way for me toward the new online media that is fast overtaking older media in terms of creativity, fun, and intelligence. And yes, I used the word intelligence. With this in mind, I am pretty confident that the next waves of youtube sitcoms will be real productions, ones that can go head to head, and seriously will challenge, television. Or, for my future at least, I hope so.
As far as I can gather from the website, “Elevator” is filmed by Woody Tondorf, and produced by Runawaybox, which is a subsidiary of HBO, although you would not know it from the website. I think the show is filmed in Los Angeles, but really, for all I know, it could be Alaska. All the show really requires is a camera and an out of service elevator. Each episode we see Woody, dressed as Harold the Janitor, annoy fellow elevator-mates, interns, office workers, whatever. It’s short, it’s quick, and sometimes the shorts are very funny. I kept thinking that this could work in any number of mediums, including the three panel comic.
I chose this clip because it gets to why I think this show is so smart. Two actors, a slightly improvised script, and a quick rehearsal are all it takes to garner several thousand views, five stars on Youtube, and even more users clicking “subscribe.” It’s simple, intense, and witty, if not really smart; it is the kind of comedy that television gave up on after, say, Survivor. It’s not immature, yet anyone could enjoy it, from a ten year-old to an old woman in a nursing home and it’s not hitting any one demographic—namely the twentysomething males TV worships. It represents a nice side of the internet, one beyond the bromance of collegehumor or the snarkiness of cracked.com—Elevator reaches beyond the narrowcast and hits the universalcast (a word I just made up). This episode isn’t even about words, it’s simply movement. Really, of all the media I can think up, Elevator reminds me most of Edison’s Black Maria workshop and the beautiful, eccentric film that was recorded in that small shack.
What Tondorf points the way to is a new understanding of media as, yes, I’ll say it, Lawrence Lessig’s Creative Commons, something shared, enjoyed, and created by people, for people, not asking the question “will this sell?” but “will this make someone happy?” Wow. That’s a lot of praise for a 31 second video, but when you watch it you’ll see why I’m so effusive about this new media. All I keep thinking watching these minute gems of cinema—I gotta start recording, and fast!
P.S. This is a quote from Woody from an interview with Most Likely to Die Alone, “I’m not heading over to the NBC offices or the Universal lot waving my headshots around (mostly because I don’t have any) because we’re actively trying to build our audience HERE, in the web.” Good for you, Woody.