When the book is written on the rise of web video in the 2000s, the easiest way to explore the majority of those early pioneers will be by tracking sketch comedy troupes — groups born of live comedy venues, which then moved onto YouTube and other platforms in search of wider audiences.
Some of these troupes, such as Human Giant and Derrick Comedy, gave birth to comedy stars like Rob Huebel, Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover — but what nearly all of these sketch troupes have in common is the fact that most of them aren’t really working together anymore.
One of these troupes was Olde English, which rose to prominence in 2006 and 2007, with popular shorts including One Picture Every Day and Akon Calls T-Pain. But their latest project might be their last: A feature-length film, riffing off the titular party game, called The Exquisite Corpse Project.
Exquisite Corpse Project is a hybrid of comedy and drama, documentary and fiction, and also, in its unique way, a coming-of-age story. The film tracks five filmmakers, either former members of Olde English or frequent collaborators, who co-wrote a feature-length film; each person, however, was only able to read the last five pages of the previous section before writing their section.
The results are a mish-mash of different genres and stories, with characters changing personality and in some cases even names depending on the whims of the writers. The actors remain the same, but the story is in constant flux.
In between clips of the various segments, meanwhile, the filmmakers are interviewed: Some of whom were fully engaged with the project and some of whom might have been deliberately trying to sabotage it.
But according to director/producer Ben Popik, who spearheaded the project, it was an opportunity to work with his friends one last time, before they permanently scattered from Brooklyn to other careers and destinations, including Los Angeles and Belize.
Appropriately enough, Exquisite Corpse Project has found its home in digital distribution, similar in style to the model being developed by VHX and Chill Direct. However, Exquisite Corpse can be found via a new player on the scene: The Awl comedy brand Splitsider, which launched the Splitsider Presents brand with the release of Exquisite Corpse.
Pay attention when you download, though — while Exquisite Corpse only costs $5, Splitsider has some very specific rules for its purchase. From the landing page:
“You can download the video 5 times. Once you’ve got it, it’s yours to do with as you like: sync it to your Zune, stream it over wi-fi to your spouse, burn
it to DVD, etc.”
“You get 3 video streams and each stream lasts 6 hours. When they’re all gone, you will need to purchase the show again to do more streaming. (Download a copy to keep it forever.)”
Exquisite Corpse Project is the sort of film that defines niche — an independent docu-comedy about the making of a movie — however, it fits well with a brand like Splitsider’s. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this approach, and what other projects Splitsider decides to take on.