If you were ever a kid, and we’re going to go out on a limb and assume that you were, then you most likely picked up an issue or two of Mad Magazine. But there was that other magazine next to it on the newsstand. Cracked. Mad was the edgy, racy, sometimes even dirty (to a 12-year-old mind) funny mag, while Cracked was…well honestly, Cracked was the poor man’s Mad. (But at least it was better than Crazy, so that’s something.)
Today is a different story altogether. Mad is now a shadow of its former self, full of advertisements, with humor scared to offend your grandmother. It did spawn a moderately successful skit show that never lived up to its Saturday Night Live inspiration. And now its only other media presence is in an unfunny kids show on Cartoon Network. Cracked on the other hand has embraced change, let go of the newstand in 2007, and developed the #1 most visited humor site in the U.S.
A large part of Cracked.com’s success comes from its original web series “Agents of Cracked”, what we have to assume is an eerily exacting account of what goes on behind the scenes on any given day in the Cracked offices. He Geek She Geek was fortunate enough to get “AoC” stars and writers Dan O’Brien and Michael Swaim to take a few minutes out of their busy day of trying to kill each other to answer a few questions for us.
He Geek She Geek: Thanks, Michael and Dan, for taking time to speak to our tens of readers! I’ve been a huge fan of Cracked ever since I was a kid reading the magazine monthly. So my first question is when are you going to do a “Spy Vs. Spy” video?
Dan O’Brien: As soon as our lawyers figure out a way to do it legally, we’re all over it. Until then, we fear Mad’s legal team.
Michael Swaim: As soon as Mad signs an agreement promising not to sue us. I actually think Agents of Cracked is sort of a spiritual cousin to Spy vs. Spy, in that it’s two guys and one always gets destroyed. Our twist on the formula is that in our show, it’s always Dan. They couldn’t really do that in Spy vs. Spy without raising race questions, so I think we dodged a bullet there.
HGSG: Do you prefer being in front of the camera or in front of your keyboard?
DOB: I certainly enjoy performing with Michael and for Abe [Epperson, director of AoC], and I always have a blast working with our awesome cast and crew, but I’m so much more comfortable in front of the keyboard. Everyone who has seen me on film can’t get over how short I am. Apparently I write like a much taller and more confident man.
MS: I’ll say keyboard, but for editing reasons, not writing ones. Editing is a really under-appreciated part of the video workflow, and honestly my favorite part. Very zen. I’ll always love writing like the moon loves the stars or whatever, but I prefer to write in my head while walking around, so editing is my real computer cave-time. Acting is wonderful, but there’s a lot of tedium to it. With editing, at least your progress bars let you know exactly how long you’re going to be waiting around to do your job. Actors have no such luxury; only the cold comfort of a crafty muffin.
HGSG: Episode Four of “Agents of Cracked”, “HOORAH!SHOMON” is a rip-off of tribute to Kurosawa films. What kind of elements do you use to get that feel across?
DOB: To me, one multiple-perspective-storytelling trick that seems to get used the most is having one character say to another, “That’s not what happened, here’s what really happened,” and we certainly do our variation of that. It’s one of the clearest ways you can establish that you’re going to be hearing the same story from a different point of view. And if it’s still not clear what we’re doing, we shot every person’s version of the story like Peep Show, where it’s a first-person POV shot, so hopefully that’ll clue people in and let them know we’re in Michael Vision, or Dan Vision. And if it’s still not clear, we’ve superimposed the words “MICHAEL VISION” and “DAN VISION” on the screen.
MS: I’d say it’s more a rip-off of the rip-offs of Rashomon, in that I’ve never seen Rashomon but I have seen choice sitcom episodes throughout the years that used that “multiple witnesses tell their sides of the story” idea. For us, it was a huge opportunity to take the show visually and structurally to a place we don’t usually get to. Sort of a fun field trip away from our bread and butter, which, as I said, is me mercilessly ruining Daniel.
HGSG: When can we expect to see a feature-length “AoC” on the big screen?
DOB: As soon as someone gives us lots of money to make one! Do you have lots of money? Give it to me.
MS: When dreams come true, which, the way my life’s been going, may not be too far off. I’d love to make one, and if the opportunity ever arises, you can bet we’d jump on it. We’re not actively pursuing it ourselves, but that’s only because we’re already working around the clock on exciting Cracked projects.
HGSG: So far this year “Agents of Cracked” has won the People’s Telly for Best Humor and Best Web series, and also the Audience’s Choice Streamy Award. What awards will you try to win next?
DOB: What does it take to get a Nobel Peace Prize? I guess I’d want one of those, as long as the process isn’t too difficult or time-consuming, (I can’t imagine it is). They don’t carry as much prestige as a Streamy Award, but I wouldn’t mind dangling it from my neck on dates.
MS: I’m personally hoping to pick up an Emmy, because I always thought that statuette would be pretty hot up close and I’d like to confirm that. Also the honor.
HGSG: If someone who had never seen an episode of “AoC” had only 10 minutes to live, which episode would you have them watch so that their last minutes on earth would be worth it all?
DOB: Our episodes are, on average, 7 minutes long. We definitely don’t have any three-minute episodes, so I’d hate the idea of saying “Hey, you should watch this 7:30 episode,” knowing that the viewer would then have a full 2:30 of downtime before they died. That just seems rude, because what are you going to do with 2:30? Nothing that is as rewarding as watching AOC, that’s for sure. To that end, I would say “The Revenge of Roboface” and “The Trial of Dr. Baby.” Not because they’re the best, but because they’re two of our shorter episodes and, combined, give you a running time of 9:43 seconds. Assuming you watch one directly after the other, you’ll probably have to watch one 15-second pre-roll ad, so that brings your total time up to 9:58. Those final two seconds are yours, but I would suggest using them to shout “Thank you” into the air. We’ll hear you. We’ll hear you.
MS: That one where all your loved ones tell you that you are appreciated and will be missed. Not the funniest episode, I know, but seems weirdly appropriate. Call me crazy.
HGSG: Thanks again for sitting down with us (I assume you sit down when you type) for a bit. Here’s hoping this interview will be the one that gets your website on the map! See you at the Fold-In (always hated messing up my Cracked mag, but, man, that page was a hoot!)