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Comedy Central Premieres Shorts Showcase Nov. 7

Nickelodeon, into its third week of presenting a festival of shorts to viewers, sees Comedy Central has jumped in on the action with its new shorts compilation show called, JUMP CUTS, that premieres Nov. 7, 2004, at 12:00 am, midnight. This half-hour for the next four Sundays is for late night, adult comedy viewing with an interesting mix of animation and live action with an encore presentation on Wednesdays at 2:00 am.

U.S. cable viewers are suddenly getting some especially good exposure to animated shorts from the comfort of their living rooms, without having to travel to festivals and university screenings. Comedy Central viewers will be exposed to Don Hetzfeldt, Bill Plympton, Chris Elliot, Joe Nussbaum and Aardmans ANGRY KID as well as new work from Eugene Mirman, IngredientX, Hot Dog Boy, STRINDBERG AND HELIUM and other experimental filmmakers in a variety of styles such as clay animation, traditional 2D and cutouts.

There had always been the idea to have a short film series since the channel covers every other area of comedy, said Tricia Sherrer, manager, acquisitions, Comedy Central and JUMP CUTS supervising producer. The only holdout was that no one could agree on just the right format in terms of length, host or no host, commission or acquisitions. Its a lot of work to find just the right films that speak to each other, she told AWN.

It was decided that it would be good acquisitions project. When she pitched the show last year, she said, Lets bring in some new filmmakers that dont have an outlet for their work live and animated and give them a shot. Everyone makes a short film nowadays, from celebrities to a girl in Brooklyn alone in her apartment, theyre everywhere. This is a perfect opportunity to bring in some fresh talent and see what we can find.

Sherrer worked with a couple different distributors, plus people would send her films. She tried to keep things five minutes and under. GEORGE LUCAS IN LOVE is the only one that is longer.

Comedy Central didnt announce the search, but just kind of put it out there. I told everyone they have to be really funny, said Sherrer, who did all the initial screening. Her litmus test with anyone pitching her is, If the first thing you would say about it is its really funny, then it will work. If you would say its cute or its interesting or its weird, then its probably not for us. Funny has to be the first thing you think of.

She surfed the Net. If she found someones work she liked, she checked who they were linked to. When you find someone where you like their sensibility, then generally the people they link to share that sensibility. I did that sort of Google hunting thing, Sherrer explained.

They had submissions from the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, where her boss, Susie Kricena, vp of acquisitions, is a judge. Sometimes, Sherrer followed links sent by friends, which she found not only funny, but great for the show. Thats how I got STRINDBERG AND HELIUM. A friend of mine knew that it was my kind of sense of humor, and didnt know I was putting this show together. He sent me the link and said, this is dark, youll love it. I emailed back, not only do I love it, Im calling them right now.

When asked why mix, why not segregate live action and animation like most programmers do, Sherrer replied, I dont know one good reason for segregating. For our demographic, males -- and even females -- 18-34, we grew up with animation being part of what we expected our adult life to include. We have SOUTH PARK and THE SIMPSONS, things like that. We learned, OK, cartoons can be for adults. Its not that off-putting.

Im always surprised by someone who will say, I just dont like animation. Thats like saying you dont like live action. How can you say you dont like a whole group of something? Ill put them together. It will give me more material to work with. It fits with the idea behind the show, to throw a whole bunch of disparate pieces together and see how they look when they all came back up to the top.

Without a host and not dominated one way or another (Sherrer admits JUMP CUTS is animation heavy) the show maintains a certain balance and keeps it fun, she said.

Comedy Centrals on-air team did the show in-house. Kiffer Keegan did the graphics package, doing a literal jump-cutting concept. They shot stills of a live actor jumping, which is then graphically broken up for the wraparounds and bumpers.

The music was also done in-house by Mike Edwards, who is starting his own music production company called Sugar Cuts Inc. Sherrer told him she wanted a late night, hip hop, fun, funky sound to go along with the great images from Keegan. He turned the music out in three days. Im really happy with those guys, she said.

A hilarious short with an interesting technique is TALES OF MERE EXISTENCE: THE TIMES I HAVE SMOKED POT. Lev, the San Francisco-based creator describes it as, "A technique inspired by 'Lightening Sketch Artists from old vaudeville shows."

The shorts slated for the first episode are:

AH, L AMOURA Don Hertzfeldt film USA Santa Barbara, California

ANGRY KID - BAD NEWSDirector: Darren WalshWriters: Darren Walsh, Kieron SelfCast: Darren Walsh, David HoltProducer: Jacky ChrispU.K.

ALMOST BENDY: GIFTS Writer: Alexander RoseAnimator: Meredith ScardinoCast: Marc TrachtenbergUSA

TALES OF MERE EXISTENCE: THE TIMES I HAVE SMOKED POTWritten/directed/voiced by Lev USA San Francisco

THE LITTLE GUY: HERNIAA Wes Bay film Vancouver

ANGRY KID - PUERILEDirector: Darren WalshWriters: Mike BoothCast: Darren WalshProducer: Jacky ChrispU.K.

BUMBLE BEEINGWritten, directed/animated by Billy BlobCast: Venus Johnson, Jon Huckeby, William BlobinsonUSA Kansas City, Missouri

Upcoming episodes will feature more ANGRY KID and ALMOST BENDY shorts, STRINDBERG AND HELIUM: IN ABSINTHE AND WOMEN & AT HOME WITH THE KIDS, by Eun-Ha Paek and Erin Bradley; 25 WAYS TO QUIT SMOKING AND YOUR FACE, by Bill Plympton; DEAD KITTY, written/animated/narrated by Rachel Max and THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR, directed/animated/produced by Steve Baker.

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks