When it comes to the webcam, modesty is nothing but an obstacle. There is no fourth wall, and the de facto style is to directly address the viewer, “eye-to-eye.” While heavily edited, talking head video bloggers offer a modern-day take on the ancient art of oratory.
Ze Frank embraced this pedestrian style and used it punctuate his original video syntax. In The Show, Frank created a nuanced rhythm in his delivery and editing, controlling the flow of his soliloquies down to the fraction of a second. His style is infectious; I watch a few episodes and I find myself talking like him. And the more talking heads I watch online, the more I see other people that have been infected, too. Here are variety of video bloggers all with strong Ze-nian influences.
Jay Smooth’s Ill Doctrine
Getting a shout-out in last month’s dead-tree Wired, Jay Smooth brings us the Ill Doctrine, serving up a humble voice and view on hip-hop amid the bombastic cacophony of rap demagogues. Cutting through others’ self-interested bravado, Ill Doc offers a no-nonsense opinion from one man with a webcam with no pretensions. Alternating between op-ed rants, masterful mashups, guest artist performances, and original raps, Smooth always keeps things fresh. I just wish he would post more often.
DeFranco mixes Ze’s formula for structure and delivery with a kitschy dose of tabloid cynicism. It’s like watching Ze read posts from The Superficial, but the young DeFranco always manages to make me smile at some poor starlet’s misfortune. DeFranco’s savvy thumbnailing and titling has helped lift his celebrity-cleavage-filled videos up into the “most viewed” section of YouTube.
If Ze was a female amateur porn star he might look something like Brooke Marks. The promo video for her members-only softcore site (NSFW) cuts between her rolling around wearing only electrical tape (geek turn-on) to Marks trying to capture Dick Cheney’s inimitable sneer (everyone-but-Condi turnoff). Her teasing ways are perfect Break-bait, where her videos have racked up several million views.
John Paczkowski’s Digital DailyReporting from Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher’s AllThingsD, Paczkowski reads tech news headlines with the swagger of a tired Ze. While I was always comforted by the assumption that Ze’s bloodshot eyes, unkempt hair, and presumably horrendous coffee breath were due to his artistry-driven insomnia, Paczkowski’s often beleaguered appearance must surely be caused by too much time spent scouring the interwebs for the scoop on Silicon Valley scuttlebutt. Still, Paczkowski has been ribbing the industry since the first bubble and has earned his webcam close-up.
Fitting in perfectly with Vimeo’s theme of short-form self-indulgence, Look Shiny is a hit-or-miss exercise in mental masturbation resulting from the host’s “exuberance of arrogant youth.” And that’s a compliment. Always extremely short, the episodes sway unsteadily between caustic observational humor and pointless self-deprecation…which, as I understand it, is the definition of a personal blog.