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Mortified Makes Teenage Pain Fun

Remember those poems, songs and journal entries you wrote in middle school? Those old notebooks filled with detailed descriptions of undying teenage love, lyrics from your first ballad, or a detailed account, dear diary, of the WORST THING EVER that happened at school today. Even if you tossed those pages long ago, the new web series launching today from Mortified can help you relish in those same awkward, painful memories of others.

The Mortified Shoebox Show will feature both performances from the live show like the funny Stairway to Winnipeg clip above, and animated versions of live performances like I Hate Drake, below.

Mortified is this comic excavation of these strange and extraordinary things we created as kids,” said founder David Nadelberg. “Journals, lyrics…the really amazing stories buried in the pages of people’s lives.” Mortified started off as a stage show in Los Angeles, one in which brave folks came in and shared their adolescent writings. Then it caught on, to such as degree that there are regular live shows in eight cities around the country (plus an upcoming one in Sweden), and two Mortified books have been published.

But Nadelberg wants a bigger audience, and instead of going the traditional TV route, he’s taking Mortified to the web.

“I think the liberty that the Internet offers us is that we don’t have to wait for Hollywood’s permission anymore just to put something out,” said Nadelberg.

The first “season” will feature eight or nine episodes, with new ones released each week. While most episodes will be under five minutes, some stories get into the seven-to-eight-minute range, which Nadelberg realizes might be a challenge for Internet audiences. “Most online video doesn’t attempt to run an emotional gamut. We can do content that is very funny but also has poignancy and is oftentimes sad. You get that in film and you get that in TV shows, but not a lot of that online,” said Nadelberg, adding that, “It very well may be that the Internet audiences are not into that.”

The entire series is being self-produced by Mortified with no plans to monetize the first season with any kind of ads. Right now they just want to attract eyeballs.

In an interesting, and possibly short-sighted twist, Mortified doesn’t have any plans to incorporate a UGC element into their online video plans. “I think it’s potentially a better idea than execution,” said Nadelberg, “We’re pretty protective of the brand and vetting content.” He’s quick to point out that the live shows have open casting, but are not open mic. Each applicant is interviewed before being allowed to perform. Nadelberg doesn’t want thousands of webcam confessionals pushing aside the quality content. This is understandable, but it seems easy enough to vet people’s stories before posting them online.

Regardless, just watching Mortified is sure to make you rummage through boxes to find and flip through the pages of your old journal. Maybe they’ll make a show out of you.

5 Responses to “Mortified Makes Teenage Pain Fun”

  1. We are flattered to have inspired a debate, no matter how small. In fact, we actually think this is a very worthwhile discussion to be had beyond mere mention of our project, Mortified.

    In Chris’ defense, I guess I should have clarified when doing the interview that Mortified is not doing UGC directly in relation to our new ‘video show’.

    However, we have (as SR noted) for many years already had a popular UGC component to Mortified (Woe & Tell:, which allows unfiltered user contributions in a manner that we believe adds value to our brand. And we are actively working on ways to make this existing version more modern (resources being the biggest hurdle).

    Admittedly, our current UGC model is very antiquated and in need of a major update (hence submissions were shut down due to the efforts of a militant, anti-semitic hacker who plastered our site with propaganda). But for all its shortcomings, our UGC section gets the job done… and lots of people enjoy it, blog about it, and even cover it in the media.

    So given our resources as a very small, grassroots organization with healthy press but minimal funding, this is what we have to offer for now.

    We fully recognize the benefits of UGC, and when we are able to harness it better than we already do — in a manner we can afford and feel comfortable with — we will. This model just may not tie directly into our video show per se.

    Hope that clarifies.

    As for SR, yes, doing UGC for the sake of doing UGC can be damaging if done poorly. Especially if you are a small brand that cannot easily deflect mistakes. Some UGC content can indeed add clutter rather than value. It all depends on the type of content you are asking people to submit. Indeed, this is a subject we have given a lot of thought to over the years.

    Anyway, it’s a discussion worth seeing more of… as it relates to things MUCH bigger than little old us.

    In short, you are both right. (And we hope that doesn’t sound like a cop out answer.)

  2. Thanks for the response. I guess I was flashing back to the Fancast write-up, where Liz wrote:

    That’s a pretty good idea, but Comcast is totally missing the potential of amateur content and user participation.

    Or the Macrovision piece last month, where Chris wrote:

    TV Guide may be the go-to source for professional, mainstream content, but it basically ignores independently-produced video.

    Maybe I’m overreacting a little because it’s Monday and I’m grumpy. Before we ask “where’s the UGC?” perhaps we should ask “what would UGC add to this, and what would it take away.” With a concept like Mortified, isn’t there a real danger people would start just making stuff up?

    I have no connection to Mortified (or Comcast, TV Guide or any other business discussed herein), but it seems to me that Mortified is trying to build a brand, like This American Life on NPR, or The Moth reading series, or even someone like ZeFrank. Ze found really smart ways to invite his audience to participate, and maybe once Mortified establishes themselves they will too. I see they’re already taking text and photos (or were until they were hacked:

  3. Chris Albrecht

    Hey SR,

    Thanks for the comment. But for something like Mortified, which is based entirely on the stories of everyday people, it seems like a natural fit to include a UGC component.

  4. Thanks for the criticism, SR. I think it’s a little bit more nuanced, though, in that we think online video offers far more opportunities for interactivity/participation, and it’s strange when people don’t take advantage of them.

  5. Can someone explain to me why seemingly every NewTeeVee writer seems to think UGC is or should be a necessary component to every business you report on?

    I read NTV regularly because you’re reliably on top of the news. But when you drift from reporting to analysis, some very weird, seemingly unsupported biases show.