Best Web Series of 2014: The Impression Guys by Soul Pancake

“The Impression Guys” is the best online-video series of 2014. Get a bowl of oatmeal, pull out your phone, and check it out. So far episode one and episode two have launched, and new episodes are each Monday.

It’s produced by Soul Pancake, which was founded by Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office). It also features Angela Kinsey (who was Angela Martin in The Office), and this week’s episode (number 2) featured Matt Jones from Breaking Bad.

Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand play tortured optimists who are trying to shift from impressionism to character acting.
Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand play tortured optimists who are trying to shift from impressionism to character acting.

But the duo that carries the series so far is Jim Meskimen (playing Jim Marshall) and Ross Marquand (as Ross Marvin). Long-time readers of WVFF will know I’ve had a long-time creative crush on Meskimen, who is the voice behind the infamous JibJab cartoons. He’s a masterful impressionist who also is a really sweet guy. His mom is Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham.

Meskimen admits a lot of it is improv, but credits the success to “Impressionist Guys” writer and creator Ben Shelton, who also does The Flipside series for SoulPancake. “He runs a really happy set, has a great crew and makes the most of what has to be the smallest budget in television,” Meskimen told me.

SoulPancake also is living up to the “soul” in its name. Says Jim about SP, “their flow is positive and re-affirming… not edgy.”

Anyway, here’s the fun of the series. You’ll first dismiss it as an excuse to stitch together some very good impressions by Meskimen, Marquand and others. But if you give it time, you’ll realize there’s a depth to the characters and a compelling storyline. Some vulnerability that you don’t see coming.

Give it a watch. Let me know what you think!

Episode 1: Premier

Episode 2: The Worst Impression

 

Discovery And Revision3: Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate

I’m at an industry event yesterday in NYC and I run into the affable Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3. He follows this little blog occasionally, and we’ve spoken at numerous industry events. (Jim is also cool, geeky and provocative… important attributes of “emerging media mavens”).

For no particular reason, I asked him when someone was going to acquire his studio. He smiles and says, “acquire or invest?” Moments later a Google guy tipped me off to the TechCrunch rumor earlier this week that Discovery was acquiring Revision3. Psychic powers? Apparently.

Well chocolate and peanut butter merge, friends.

Revision3 discovery

All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka just reported that Discovery Communications acquired Revision3. Says Kafka:

Discovery isn’t disclosing a purchase price, but multiple sources familiar with the transaction tell me the cable guys will pay around $30 million for the start-up. The company ended up raising about $10 million during its six-year lifespan, with the last chunk coming from a group of investors that included Mark Cuban.

Revision3 will continue operating out of its San Francisco headquarters, and make its own web shows. Obviously Discovery will want to figure out ways to leverage Revision3’s experience in online-video audience development and distribution. 

Revision3 now has Discovery’s dollars, distribution and clout with advertisers, and Discovery gets to learn how to produce video more efficiently. “We produce content on a $500,000 to $750,000 an hour scale,” said Discovery’s digital leader JB Perrette. “Producing something at a tenth of that cost means it has to be very different.”

For those reasons, I like this combination better than peanut butter and chocolate. Revision3 was one of the first online-video properties, and Discovery Channel was a cable network that began to figure out online video earlier than others (see my “Shark” blog post about Discovery from 2009). Now it gets interesting.

“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).

See You at Blogworld in Vegas

As I mentioned in a recent video (“Advertising Doesn’t Have to Suck,” I’m off to Blogworld. It’s the “South by Southwest” of social media, and packed with bloggers, vloggers, and even stupid people. Steve Garfield (fellow video enthusiast) is leading a session, and we’re both doing book signings on Friday. On Friday, he signs “Get Seen” at 2:00 and I sign “Beyond Viral” at 2:30. I plan to stalk his fans holding a sign that says, “if you liked Get Seen, you might also like Beyond Viral.”

Sadly Samsung’s Galaxy never came through, so I won’t be smashing my iPad. I tried. However I will be stalking Kent Nichols and Jim Louderback (cheesy photo below). You can bet on that.

Jim Louderback Likes Geeky Computer Magazines

Friends, don’t be anti-social media… come hang. (See “anti-social media” below):

I’m Gonna Kick Your Ass on the Cartoon Caption Contest, Peter

Hey, Peter. Yeah- Peter Justason. The guy I used to work with at Johnson & Johnson. I’m gonna kick your ass on Meskimen’s new cartoon-caption contest. Instead of semi-annual, he’s going for WEEKLY. I will destroy you.

See his announcement here.

For the rest of you… about 5 years ago before your fancy moving pictures, this was my favorite thing to do on the Internet when The Onion wasn’t fresh. See more at www.appliedsilliness.com.

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.

JibJab Raises Bar Again: With Obama vs. McCain Parody

There are two forms of comedy that I can’t envision ever “jumping the shark.” They are “The Office” (either UK or US) and “JibJab.” While not every JibJab tops the previous, this one is certainly a giant move in the right direction. We see voice personality Jim Meskimen getting tossed in the air from a poke in the rear. We see Obama singing about changing while riding Unicorns over rainbows. Hillary takes on a communism badge for 2012 elections. McCain pokes himself in a puss-filled face and then collapses behind wheelchair-contained friends.

And this is me free forming off my first view of a video experience I’ll no doubt enjoy several dozen more times (today).

Thank you, Jim. Thank you, JibJab. This sent little unicorn rainbows down my spine!

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