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This a-hole has a posse.

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The Times today has an interesting piece on the new breed of low-print-run, high-gloss lifestyle magazines. The focus is Swindle, a relatively new mag that is apparently re-inventing the idea of the zine for Generation Y. (It also mentions, Lemon, a magazine which apparently is SCENTED).

About 3/4 of the way in, the piece quotes Shepard Fairey, who's one of the two creators of Swindle. They call him a "36-year-old street artist turned marketing guru." He's better known to the world as the creator of Obey and those stickers and wheatpastes that say, "Andre the Giant Has A Posse."

When I first started seeing the posters in San Francisco, maybe ten years ago, there was a captivating mystery to them. When I learned more about Fairey, I was doubley captivated... the wheatpastes were intended as a sort of satire of consumer culture, an advertisement for a product which didn't exist... agitprop for a nonexistent ideology.

Of course, since those posters became a phenomenon, Fairey has basically pooped upon his original idea by making his "Obey Giant" brand into just that -- a brand.

I'm not one to accuse people of selling out -- I know we all have to make a living, and I would have had no problem with Fairey using his aesthetic skill and renown to teach big companies to be cool or whatever. But what he did really took selling out to a new level.

And then I read this article, and read quotes like this:

"We want the advertising to sort of blend with the content," Mr. Fairey said on the phone from his Los Angeles marketing firm, Studio One, which counts 20th Century Fox and Coca-Cola as clients. "When there's an ad that doesn't seem simpatico, we think it messes up the feng shui of the magazine."

Barf city, right?

No amount of ironic magazine naming can wash out that stain.

Joke Treats for NY & LA

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It must be fun to live in New York or LA... it's a life full of beautiful people, expensive cocktails, and amazing comedy shows.

Two upcoming shows that unquestionably get The Sound of Young America seal of approval...

In LA: Neil & Paul's "Growing Up is Tough"

Neil Campbell and Paul Rust are a remarkable pair of sketch performers. Two young, sweet fellas with incalculable verve and a deep reserve of silly charm. Their shows are loose and winning, and often involve ascents into glorious madness. The closest analogy I can think of is Pee-Wee Herman -- somehow both lighthearted and scandalous. Their newest show, "Growing Up is Tough" is a thematically linked sketch program about coming of age.

You can see the show for $8, Friday May 12th, at the UCB Theater in LA. Click here to reserve tickets.

All the way across the country in New York, Elephant Larry are preparing their new show. As far as I can tell, it's called "The New Show!"

Elephant Larry is (are?) another set of charming young men -- old school chums, graduated from Cornell University. Their tight writing and winning performances earned them raves in both The Onion and The New York Times their last time out (2005's "Boom!"). The team's bizarre premises are executed straight and true, and the results are always guffaw-inducing. The New Show is running at the People's Improv Theater in New York May 13th & 20th and June 3rd, 17th, and 24th. You can buy tickets for the same paltry sum of $8 here.

Comedy Central: "We try to own everything."

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There's a remarkable piece in the Wall Street Journal today about the growing diversification of Comedy Central. The channel (owned by MTV Networks / Viacom) has expanded from simply being a cable channel to being a record company, non-traditional media content provider, and tour manager.

In a way, it's good news: the power of Viacom is getting behind comedy. It's also bad news, however, as Comedy Central extends it's hegemony in the comedy (and particularly standup comedy) media world.

It's clear that channel boss Doug Herzog's goal is to make CC the go-to brand for comedy entertainment. As he says in the article, "A guy can tell a joke Sunday night at the comedy club, and we can deliver it to our audience in six different ways the next day."

What Comedy Central is offering here is "a brand and a platform." One of the central problems in the standup business is this: most people like good comedy, but they aren't familiar with the talent the way they might be with a band or a TV star. Getting familiar with a comic usually means seeing their act -- and once you've seen it, well, you've seen it already. So why go see them?

So the brand platform (not to be confused with the brand and platform) becomes important -- if people trust the club they're going to, or "Comedy Central Presents," or "Blue Collar Comedy" or whatever, then they can go see something (or buy something) without seeing it first free and ruining the joke.

But it worries me nonetheless... mostly because there's not another brand to compete.

The Lanwhal

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Matt writes in to tell us about the lanwhal. This creature is like an ordinary whale, but it has evolved to live on land... so it can smoke cigarettes.

He was inspired to share the animal with us after hearing our discussion of the "Land Narwhal" in this week's College Years podcast.

Have you ever been inspired to create or share a fantastical creature by an episode of The Sound of Young America? If so, please share it with us at splangy@splangy.com!

Metro Santa Cruz knows what's up...

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Hey! Almost missed this great piece Bill Forman wrote about the show in the Metro Santa Cruz...

YOUNG AMERICAN: If Santa Cruz radio has chapters, one of them surely came to a close this month with the passing of Jesse Thorn's 'The Sound of Young America' from the KZSC airwaves. Thorn's final show for the station that saw him through those difficult college years at UCSC was titled 'Santa Cruz, You're Not That Far' (after the song by Dublin's The Thrills) and featured two of his all-time favorite segments: the debut episode of Mace Detective: Private Detective and an interview with primal rocker Andrew W. K., who talked about his UCSC professor uncle and gave Brendan Thorn, the host's little brother, career advice on how to be a rock superstar. As a result, Brendan, who's now 10, has a five-song Total Annihilation EP out featuring four originals and a cover of Iggy & The Stooges' 'I Wanna Be Your Dog.' The elder Thorn describes Andrew W.K. as "the most amazing person ever" and raved to Müz about how Andrew somehow combines total sincerity and amazing kindess with the intensity of hardcore punk and "those Swedish death metal bands that implant horns in their heads and kill people and eat them and stuff."

"It's possible," Thorn acknowleges, "that he's crazy."

But we digress. Asked why he left KZSC, Thorn said he hasn't been a student for two years now, and that he wanted to move beyond community-specific programming. After all, his show also airs on stations in San Francisco, Hattiesburg, Miss. and, of course, Walla Walla ("a town in Washington," he explains, "where they have a college and onions"). Thorn says he's in talks with another, mysterious unnamed Santa Cruz station that may end up hosting the show. "Hint," he offers, "it's not KDON." Which is too bad, because, as Thorn himself notes, "I'm in the house like YEEEEEEEEEEE."

Santa Cruzans can still get a weekly Sound of Young America fix by subscribing to the band's podcast through www.splangy.com. In fact, the show has just launched a second podcast reprising Thorn's "College Years," which will rerun all the old broadcasts in succession, a move bound to appeal to the show's hard-core fans as well as individuals with severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The Flaming Lips Live on NPR

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I Rock Cleveland has a great rip of The Flaming Lips' appearance on NPR's World Cafe.

Link

Ali LeRoit on The Treatment

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One of my favorite podcasts (and public radio shows) is KCRW's "The Treatment." Elvis Mitchell's interviews can occaisionally feel a bit sycophantic, but they're always insightful. And his guests usually merit the respect he gives them.

This week's episode of the show features an interview with Ali LeRoit. LeRoit has been one of Chris Rock's writing sidekicks for many years, since the Chris Rock Show days. In the interview, he talks charmingly about working with Rock, the Oscars, and "Everybody Loves Chris." Elvis even claims to love "Head of State." I saw that flick in the theater, and I can't say I agree (though Bernie Mac was pretty great in it).

Anyway, here's the MP3 of the show.

Rip Torn, Great American

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Can you imagine what it would be like to know Rip Torn in real life? This wonderful article in the Times Magazine will help you do just that.

Sugarush Beat Company

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I'm feeling this. Apparently a Rahsaan Patterson side project?

I'm against illegal downloading.

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But if I weren't, and I wanted to check out the commercially unavailable, critically acclaimed late-90s TV dramedy "Cupid," starring Jeremy Piven, I'd go here.

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