“Just Give Me a Damned Cigarette” : JibJab Goes Puppets for Year-End-Review

"Just Give Me A Damned Cigarette," sings Obama Puppet in the 2010 JibJab Review

One of the things that gets me through the holidays is the anticipation and enjoyment of JibJab’s annual year-end song parody. When Twitter rumors about CNN’s announcing Morgan Freeman’s death this week, I called JibJab’s Voice Jim Meskimen (website/on YouTube) to see if he’d do his classic Freeman impersonation. He did in this “Morgan Freeman is Alive” video, and it fooled many.

I’m a raving fan of Jim, who does virtually every voice you’ve heard on JibJab. (Go subscribe to him and you’ll see his Knestor learn ya about gift giving), and he tipped me off to the fact that the 2010 JibJab review is now out! You can also add your face to the first-ever JibJab stop action in “Santa Claus is Coming To Town.”

Check it out below, and notice it’s all puppets instead of the typical flash animation. JibJab took us behind the curtain with a step-by-step “behind scenes” blog. I can’t find what I’d hoped to see: Jim singing in the studio (there is a scratch music page that’s currently sparse).

Meet Evan Spiridellis of Jibjab Media (Via Knestor, the Smart Borat)

Knestor, the smart-man’s Borat, is the awkwardly intelligent alter ego of Jim Meskimen. Jim is that voice you’ve heard as just about every political figure on JibJab’s celebrated animations, and he’s been the subject of countless blog posts here.

Professor Knestor Jackdaws Is Not Just an Awkward British Historian and Curator of Creativity. He's the Alter Ego of Jim Meskimen, The Voice of JibJab.

So it’s a delight to see the bow-tie, tweed jacket wearing faux Brit interviewing the very real Evan Spiridellis of JibJab media. See more of Knestor at Jim Meskimen’s top-secret YouTube account. Knestor sees the flower in the box. Do you?

My four favorite moments:

  1. Spiridellis acknowledges his Ethopian doll is in poor taste. One of those brilliant moments you’re so glad wasn’t chopped out in a dastardly moment of politically correct editing, because you can see he really feels it.
  2. Meskimen is mentioned as the voice of JibJab like he’s not in the room. You can just hear Evan instinctively honoring that his pal is in character.
  3. Knestor thinks the dynamite figures on a birthday cake are, in fact, wieners. That moment may go unnoticed by most, but it had this 14-year-old 40-something guy giggling.
  4. In a wonderful example of Meskimen’s improv abilities, Knestor reminds us that uploading your head to JibJab permits you to keep your head when you’re done. We don’t care if he’s used this bit before, because it seems to glide out his brain like a child from a water slide.

I saw a live webcast of JibJab by FallofAutumnDistro in July 2008, and remember thinking, “wow these guys aren’t just talented, but really likeable.” The company was born in a manger by a frustrated investor banker with a Wharton MBA (Gregg Spiridellis) and Evan, his award-winning animator and brother. In a parallel universe, I was their third brother who was often picked on, never amounted to much, but helped turn some of their bulletin-board notecards green.

This Wright-Brothers Like Logo Celebrates the Brothers Who Gave Flight to Something No Less Important Than Airplanes.

This interview with Evan, a fellow Jim Henson fan, reminds me that the dudes in this Santa Monica, California creative nerve center may not wear tattoos but may sport some of the coolest jobs of our generation.

WTF? It’s Jan. 3? JibJab.

Woah. How’d it get to be January 3? I haven’t done my 2010 predictions for online video, and I’ve got a crap load of writing to do before my first draft manuscript is due for “Beyond Viral Video.”

Well here’s JibJab’s 2009 best-of musical animated video parody thingy, and JibJab’s blog posts some “behind the scenes” information about the writing (including a pdf draft of all the versions).

A modern Mel Blanc, Jim Meskimen (see his site), does most of the JibJab voices (see out-takes video below), and here’s a blog post about the recording session. Bring back the caption contests, Jim!

The bar has been set so high on these that it’s nearly impossible for the good JibJab people to leap previous annual tunes. How do you top the Kerry/Bush “This Land” in 2004?). But if you put aside the others you’ll enjoy this… It definitely tops 2007 if not 2008.

But not 2002’s farting elves of course. Not 2002’s farting elves.

Jim Sings! from JibJab on Vimeo.

Coolest Interview JibJab Creators Have Ever Done

jibjab logo“People like to look at themselves,” JibJab co-creator Gregg Spiridellis told fans last night to explain the appeal of JibJab Sendables — one of just a few cash-makers for the company that spawned several of the most viral video animations ever. Gregg and his brother Evan said it the live show with fans was the “coolest interview” they’ve done (see 10-minute clip below).

Alan Lastufka, know on YouTube as fallofautumndistro, invited the NJ natives to interact with JibJab Junkies via live video on Blog.tv. (a website helping some YouTube Cewebrities connect with fans and earn some additional cash through ads).

The Spiridellis brothers talked from the heart — not the marketing script — and dropped words like “nipple” and “banana hammock” as if we’re with them in their Freshman dorm. If you’ve ever marvelled at the JibJab cartoon musical satires, then you may find this unscripted format intriguing. The fourth wall is gone, and the brothers relax with the lack of lights, big cameras and nervous action from journalists, producers and production assistants.

On a continuum between meeting someone live and watching them on a late-night TV interview, the Blog.tv experience was an experience far closer to the former. The duo took random questions in a relaxed, bemused style unlike an edited TV package or even live television. We watch the awkward pauses between their sound bites, how they transition between each other, and the way they handle quirky questions with improvisational wit.

There’s a moment where they chuckle about their paultry earnings, and we get a peak into a playtful motive of their collaborations. And the event punctuates with them walking off camera and out the room, but not before inviting their “marketing guy” to speak to the audience (he doesn’t, but in fairness he does look like he’s younger than my Charlie).

The Spiridellis are now my second favorite brother duo. Above the Cohen brothers, but second, of course, to Nalts and his brother Chris [who I love even when I don’t return his calls… and from whom I stole the college nickname “Nalts”].

Gregg and Evan’s live appearance makes it hard to hide the fact that they are far more interested in the fun and humor of their satire than in capitalizing on it. They seem to work like crazy and love it, and you may not watch another JibJab without thinking back to this fascinating peak at the Spiridellis. While there are moments that drag and a few gratuitous plugs for JibJab, we experience insights into the spirit lurking behind the whimsical JibJab moments.

Do I sound like a fan gone rabid? Yeah, I am.

A Nurse, Marketer and Homeless Guy Break Dance

picture-12.pngOnline video collaborations are probably my favorite part of online video. Probably the first online-video creator with whom I developed a parasocial relation was the affable homeless guy from Texas known as Marquisdejolie. He has a blog. Google it (anyone catch that reference?).

Via JibJab, here’s him break dancing with me, and songwriter-nurse-YouTuber, ChristopherMast.

Before online video, it’s unlikely that we’d have ever met, much less appear break dancing together. And you might argue that would have been a good thing, but I beg to differ.