Friday, August 31, 2007

Black Republican Commercial

Here's the little sketch that could.

Simple enough concept, born from a chance encounter with the ACTUAL National Black Republican Association's website.

You can visit them here: http://www.nationalblackrepublicans.com/

Once you stumble across a site like that, its really all about the execution of the sketch.



On CNN, Fox, and all the round-table talk shows, we would see various black representatives of the Republican Party saying things like "let's make the parties fight for the black vote." Which sounds a little like Luke Skywalker saying "Aren't we being a little too hard on the Sith?"

While making this piece, someone pointed out that it was actually Democrats (the Dixiecrats to be specific) who attacked the demonstrators of the Civil Rights Movement. We don't deny this. But we'd also point out that most of those people and the generation that came after them are, or have become, Republicans.

After all, party platforms change and shift over time, even as the real battle, between progressives and conservatives, is on-going.

Ultimately, the party labels and political issues of today may look rather dated and unfamiliar just decades (not to mention centuries) from now.

And so, long live the Yeoman Farmer!

PS - Thanks to Will Ferrell yet again. This is another sketch of ours he "picked" for Funny Or Die. We appreciated the love.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hogwarts and School Vouchers

The President of the United States used today, the second anniversary of the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina, to again stress the need for "competition and choice in public schooling," mainly because the federal government is having a hard time rebuilding ANY of the public schools in New Orleans.

Yep, that's your President. No day is too sacred to push School Vouchers on the people.


The subject of school vouchers was one we wanted to tackle for a long time, but it was never quite clear how to do so in a way that was funny (comedy was always our job #1).

But then came the idea and the piece Poor Man's Hogwarts. One of our biggest and most well received pieces of all time.



Harry Potter fans liked the fact we did our research and kept things "accurate" (insofar as the Harry Potter references). People who appreciate a public policy message in their comedy dug it. People who like silly but smart comedy dug it (Yes, we fooled them all again!)

There were times while doing it where we felt like we might be making a case FOR school vouchers by accident, so we added Bashir's line at the end to make it clear that the point wasn't "public schools suck" but that "public schools are neglected" and need help.

The sheer size of the cast and script on this one meant we shot a lot of scenes that didn't make the cut. Maybe one day we'll make a part two with all that material in it. I know its a cliche to say, but there were some classic moments that would be great DVD material one day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mike Vick Pleads Guilty

It only seemed right given the news today that Mike Vick has entered a guilty plea that we re-post our infamous sketch from an earlier, more innocent time.



Did Mike Vick do it? We at The Message felt many different ways about it.

I felt he was guilty of killing dogs, and guilty of gambling. But the killing of the animals was only slightly worse, on a moral scale, than what proud hunters like Dick Cheney and John Kerry do all the time (i.e. kill defenseless foxes and ducks and birds and deer and so on and so forth).

I oppose all killing of animals for sport, but alas, poor Mr. Vick - if only he had donned an orange hat and vest when killing the dogs. He might have won the love of the Red States.

I'm sure some will argue that "this is different." After all, few of us befriend foxes and take them home with us. Birds, as we know, are lousy pets.

Also, others might say the bullet is a far more humane form of death than a three hundred pound black man choking the life out of Marmaduke's body (that's pretty damn sick, Vick).

In the end, however, I'm sure that, to the animals anyway, dead is dead. Killing for sport is killing for sport. And as always, culture defines what's acceptable and what's not. So old white men will continue to hunt and kill animals, but the country's urban youth (those who think this type of sport is cool) will be incarcerated.

Hopefully, we can stop killing all animals. But hey, that's just me. Like I said, everyone at the Message was affected differently by this story.

Bashir still thinks Mike Vick is 100% not guilty and has gone to Atlanta to find the real ringleader of the Dog Fighting Federation ("Rae Carruth!")

Meanwhile, it's the innocent who have to suffer. And I don't mean the kids or fans. Our producer Scott Stanford had just started to see a profit from his underground unicorn-fighting ring. Yes, unicorns. Rare. Deadly.

That's all gone now (the pens are empty, the hooves buried). When will we learn?! When WILL we learn...

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Black Ump is Out

Frequently we made it our mission to do stories that were off the beaten path.

The only way to stay interesting to viewers is to keep yourself interested and finding stories that piqued our interest was a huge part of our day.

To that end, many of our days start with reading about 20 news sites and the WIKIPEDIA homepage (read it every day, kids. It'll make your life richer)

We came across the story of the anniversary of the first black umpire in baseball and had to do a bit about it.

We always get a kick out of characters that can't win for losing.



The best part was Diallo, Scott and the PA throwing trash at me and trying to get the bat hit just right.

I think we did too many takes of them hitting me with that damned bat...they said we had to get it just right.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bashir and Beyonce (and Jay Z...I guess)

I admit it, I have a huge crush on the be-weaved one.

(Got no idea why, she just got the glow)

So when Jay and Beyonce BOTH put out songs last summer that dissed whoever they were in a relationship with we found a way to mix a funny bit with some wishful thinking.

What's great is that Angie was so spot on for this. Despite that fact that she's never trained as an actor or a host (Angie's a TV writer), our host is a naturally gifted comic performer... she just doesn't need alot of takes to nail it.



This was the first piece we did that had a huge buzz on AOL Black Voices.

And yes...Willie Tyler and Lester broke up years ago and are barely speaking.

Still and all, Beyonce never called.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Saddam gets it off his chest

This is probably one of my top five pieces of all time.

Given my background in theatre I just love a great performance and Diallo killed this in his function as our every-arab. I had an Egyptian buddy in town and on set the day we shot this and he taught Diallo all this Arabic that we ended up cutting because it slowed the piece down.

(Diallo said he came up with this walking through the Atlanta airport)

I love the piece because we make Saddam a stand up comic doing one-liners about topics that we were the first out the box to address.

There's about 10 other jokes we had to leave on the cutting room floor that most THE MESSAGE fans would appreciate.

Our big sadness with this piece is that we were gonna use Saddam as our go-to character to attack people since he's so hated (the way we ended up using Idi Amin Jr.). We figured he'd linger on death row in Iraq for years and years (like in America) and we could go to him all the time (Saddam disses 50, Saddam disses Karl Rove, etc.) It would be secret video dispatches from Saddam's holding cell.

But he was quickly executed so we could only do one.



We shot this when we were in the early days of THE MESSAGE and were going crazy doing 12 or 15 hour days. I think we may have shot this piece the same day as Condi (if you can believe it) or some other really big, involved piece.

Also, Kudos to Thomas for the cutaway where he rolls his eyes.

D.C. - The Trailer & Episode #1

So many things that could have been great. Our series "D.C." was one of them.

We had talked at one point of doing a black soap opera set in D.C. We knew it would allow us to do a series of sketches that had a narrative and a story arc, but we struggled with what our setting for the series would be.

With so many people at ThisJustIn wanting us to crank out Campaign-themed material, it seemed only natural to center our piece around the two most prominent African-Americans in politics these days - Condoleeza Rice and Barack Obama.

Hence, D.C. was born. It would mesh real events (ie, Barack's success at fund-raising) with fake events (Condi and Barack having an illicit affair). We could do what we love to do, which is to take the news and twist it into absurd forms - all in the hopes of illuminating some political point or point-of-view.



The hardest part of shooting this sketch was finding locations that looked like Washington (in other words, we had to shoot AROUND all of LA's palm trees and Spanish stucco architecture).

We also did not get the chance to use our regular make-up girl on this shoot (shout out to J. Hopson) and as such, Barack looks a little vampiric in a few of these scenes. For those wondering, Barack make-up takes about 30 to 40 minutes (mainly for the ears).

HERE'S THE FIRST EPISODE...dark, foreboding...it's sets up the main antagonists, and Bashir loved playing Clarence Thomas as ruminating puppetmaster.



With any luck we'd like to post the TWO additional episodes we shot that were NEVER aired. Can't say they tie up all the loose ends, but fans of the series will definitely appreciate some of their revelations.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Condi Raps...Everyone Wins

This video was a beast.

We knew it was good from the minute it was conceived and once it was featured on Youtube it was a wrap. We got people from all over the country and overseas who were writing about it and wondering who we were and what we were about. It was featured on tons of TV shows and got us to Aspen for the HBO comedy festival.

It put us on the map...

...except, the original account it posted to on Youtube was not ours yet, so it got a ton of subscriptions to material we had nothing to do it.

C'est la vie.



The most interesting thing about this piece is how it was conceived.

We didn't start with an agenda to do a piece on her and then searched for a vehicle.

But once we started writing it we kept adding things that made it stronger. Our composer Mike Cohen (who we went to college with) knocked it out the park. We had our friend Peppur Chambers do the choreography and spent a long night in our office working on steps. The editing took forever, we kept tweaking and tweaking. But we didn't wanna sell the thing short. Then...

We were scared as hell we'd be sued because of the beat...but satire is protected. The rest is history.

By the way, Diallo is always our Arab characters. There's an infamous piece we shot (that never aired) called "Osama Pop Lock" that made fun of the fact that our government can't seem to find the world's most dangerous terrorist in which D was pop-locking on the Sphynx. Ahh, wish you could have seen that.

Monday, August 20, 2007

2007 BET Awards

We fought for a long time to get press passes for the BET Awards. Sadly, neither HBO nor our Producer (nor our Associate Producer, nor our site manager, nor our friends at BET, nor the Press Woman at BET(!), nor prayer) got us our Press Pass.

So we ran up on the event guerilla-style! And you'll be surprised who will come and talk to you assuming you have a camera and a mic with some kind of symbol on it.

BLACK CINEMA REVIEW

What can be said about the state of black cinema? Are there any Melvin Van Peebles, or burgeoning Oscar Michaeux's out there today?

We asked ourselves these questions while standing in the Black Cinema section at Blockbuster.

Turns out your typical Amateur Asian porn has more story arc and coherent character development than these "black-themed" DVDs.

A couple of things we learned in making this piece:

1. Blockbusters on the white side of town often don't have a Black Cinema section. That was shocking to us. I personally thought everyone had the right to rent LOVE AIN'T SUPPOSED TO HURT. That's how Martin would have wanted it...

2. Going off script can sometimes lead to the best material.

3. We may never get the chance to work with Witherspoon.

Get a White Girl

The Black Eyes Peas are a mystery to us. They have done literally EVERYTHING a group can do to be considered sell outs and yet NO ONE ever calls them on it. Will I Am continues to make major paper doing tracks for everyone in the industry.

Then again, maybe it's us that is out of step. We're from the era in Hip Hop where being called a sellout was the worst thing possible (as opposed to a snitch) but now all I have to do is go outside to see Common hawking clothes from the Gap.

Still and all the Peas replaced a black singer with a white one...and made millions.

we had to say something.



Ahhh, Kim Hill, we hardly knew ye.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

When we started THE MESSAGE the big discussion in music was whether Hip Hop was dead. Sales were lagging and MTV wasn't really playing it anymore so we dove right in.

Our post-production and lighting was...um...still coming along. But as a first video we liked that we stuck to our guns on keeping a "news" element to our stuff. We got alot of pushback on that but in the end we made it work.



We then went back and shot a "man on the street" piece with Angela interviewing Thomas in the guise of a NeoSoul patron.

While we love NeoSoul music, we've always chafed at the way the spoken word crowd that most identifies with NeoSoul take themselves so seriously. (pachouli, dreads, cowry beads, annoyed).

Also, comedically, the Spoken Word crowd is one of the safest to pick on.



Finally, peep Thomas' dashiki...it appears in about 6 sketches and my mom made it for me in college (ah...the late 90's, what a great time).

also...Bronx Lebanon Hospital looks ALOT like Santa Monica Hospital.

Friday, August 17, 2007

We Try THE WIRE

It goes without saying that THE WIRE is one of the best shows on television and one whose fans don't like when people make fun of it.

What we loved about our spoof was that, by focusing on things that are present in all police shows and then making the details fit the show, we were able to spoof it in a way that the fans loved.



Despite the fact that we made this a while ago, many message fans consider it their favorite sketch.

Race Flag

This was one of the most controversial pieces we made. We thought it was hilarious, but the video was received just a LITTLE too warmly on a couple of conservative websites.



For the record, we think anyone black has, at some point, cringed when one of our clearly-in-the-wrong brothers and sisters decided to play the race card.

A taboo subject indeed, but definitely one worth exploring.

If you disagree, send the hate mail to our good friend Craig Bowers. The premise for this piece came from him. And FYI, he's the guy who plays K. Rellz in so many of our sketches.

Our Interview with Michael Eric Dyson

This is our interview with Michael Eric Dyson, one of the last videos we shot.




I love when we quiz him on Hip Hop samples towards the end. We would love to put a lot of Hip Hop "experts" on the same hot seat.

Dyson was great and we definitely thank him for being so willing to play along with a comedic web troupe.

Post Note: We were just getting to the point where we planned on doing more interviews with actual newsmakers and other interesting people. Hopefully in the future, we will be able to do so.

Our Salute to Black Writers

This one was short and sweet. Our producer, Scott, came up with the idea and we laughed about it for a week.



We played this for a room full of television and movie executives while at the HBO Aspen comedy and at first it was silent (shock) then a wave of laughter came from the crowd.

This one was also one of our early ones and has the old janky background we used when we first started.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The One That Started It All

PIMPS UP, BEARS DOWN

This is the first sketch we ever posted online.

We, like many of you, had been watching HOOKERS AT THE POINT on HBO and found it both tragic and hilarious.

We decided it was an easy one to parody, and we could just drive Diallo's car around Hollywood (where there are tons of hookers anyway) so the film would have an authentically tragic look.

We also learned on this one that the best parodies are when the actors are deadly serious...except for one absurd element.



The other great thing about this vid is we used family and friends. My brother Ish shot it and both my brother and cousin are the pimps. This was our first time working with Nef and she knocked it out the park. Crescent came through and killed it as well.

and yes...that's me in the bear suit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

MLK Day in LA

Every year Los Angeles hosts one of the nation's largest MLK day parades. Every year we've wanted to go down and cover the festivities. Not to make fun of it, but to have fun with it.



What surprised us the most when we got down there was how receptive the patrons were to our material. Hollywood will have you believing that regular black folk can't get down with higher brow material so they feed us a steady diet of WHO'S YOUR CADDY and SOUL PLANE...but the people were loving our stuff and we didn't have the real estate to put all the best parts into the sketch.

Rick Ross for ROSS

PRICES YOU CAN LIVE WITH!

We were super gung-ho when we first began doing THE MESSAGE and we actually shot this video the same day we shot Kimbo.

Whenever we look back on how much work we actually did we can't believe we pulled it off.



Michael Cohen, our composer did a great job re-producing the Rick Ross track and this was fun from start to finish.

This idea, like others, came from us just walking down the street. Ross' song "Push it" was on the radio alot so the song was in our head.



So...we were walking past Ross, one of us started humming his song and the rest is history.

Kimbo!!!!

We were first introduced to Kimbo by my brother, Ish (who plays Ice Cube in THE ICE CUBE CONSPIRACY) and we've been worried ever since.

Internet fight videos were (and still are) all the rage so we wanted to dive in with our own interpretation.



the thing is, afterward we kept getting random and weird emails from people all over America (and Ireland for some reason) who wanted our mailing address.

We think his people saw the video and wanted to get at us. But not in a good way.

Yet, this video, as with everything else we do, holds up under scrutiny. It makes fun of fighting and not just Kimbo. Plus it has a star wipe in it.

I was gonna post an actual Kimbo video here as well, but they're bloody and egregious and we're all tired of watching them (especially after the first 50 times.)

Also we shot this video at a really nice black neighborhood in Baldwin Hills (like the TV show on BET). and that's me in the terrible beard.

Summer of Fear

Ever felt manipulated by the news you watch?

Enjoy this post, one of two selected by Will Ferrell for his website's FunnyOrDie Picks.



We had a lot of fun making this one. It was cathartic in some ways...

We were in the office stressing over the headlines we saw on the Drudge Report ("Terrorist bombing!" "War with Iran Now!" "Bush! Cheney! 9/11!") when someone reminded us that this summer marks the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

The baby boomers were a generation who, in their youth, felt sure they could change the world for the better. Today's generation - not so much.

One challenge to any optimism comes from our Media, who do their best to scare us to death. We're fed a steady diet of images that are both disturbing and manipulating. These images often do not give us a full or even accurate account of what's really going on.

The times they are a-cynical, and we hoped this Summer of Fear piece reflected that cynicism.

On a fun note: Our producer Scott hates to act or be seen on camera. However, we begged him to be one of the "theater-goers" (he's the one who says "Hey, tap my phone.") The footage we have of him delivering this line (especially the ones that were left on the editing room floor) were so stiff, and hence hilarious, that the phrase "Tap my phone" became a default greeting on our hallway.

So if you should happen to see Scott out there in the real world, be sure to greet him with the phrase as he delivers it in this piece. He'll be so grateful you did...

Poor Man's Guide to the Stock Market

In light of today's market crash, enjoy something from the halcyon days of the past.



We always marvelled at how many "money guides" and "stock tips" there are out there, when most people are simply in need of a job.

So we wanted to highlight the ways most Americans participate (and don't participate) in the market's ups and downs.

Long Live THE MESSAGE

Here we'll keep the memory of THE MESSAGE alive.

To the many fans of the show, we'll repost our material here so you can continue to watch and enjoy.

We'll also give you more insight and commentary about our sketches and look forward to hearing from you.

Diallo and I (the creators of THE MESSAGE) will be doing work on other platforms (Websites, cable, network, etc.) and we'll use this page to keep you updated.

Also, we'll post new stuff from time to time.