They were different times way back not-quite-a-fortnight-ago on July 25, 2012, when Bob Odenkirk floated his sixth ever tweet. As of this writing, he’s up to eight. But this one read, “I have a short film in this issue of the online magazine “The Occasional” check it out— its [sic] called ‘Read My Screenplay.’” Tabling an editorial style argument against the need for [sic]’ing tweets (especially in light of that I will eventually commit the Great sin of paraphrasing a comedian, and third-party no less), this bit of info gently registered as something pleasant but orbited on my periphery as being sort of foreign for now. “Cool,” was my exact first thought but then it resigned to something in the vein of “but I’m not made of MUBI money.”
Perhaps DVR’ing, Kindles, Koozies, NOOKs and Crannies are all old hat for you, but The Occasional is in fact an iPad magazine and although I have no allusions about my steering passenger status, I’m not keen to quickly out myself as a veritable hardware Oliver Twist in this respect. I mean, there’s always been a digital divide for content’s journey from A to Me, well analog in the case of affording a Home Box Office subscription and being able to catch Mr. Odenkirk’s work on Mr. Show with Bob and David and The Larry Sanders Show at the time, or at least historically a digits divide as to whether or not folks had the nickel and/or proximity to get their mitts on the newsy, paper-based Barreled Cheese Gazette and the like. Yet it is not with nostalgia but a sense of adjustment that the third issue of Funny or Die’s brilliantly hilarious The Occasional has already placed itself in the hallowed tradition of Mad, National Lampoon, Spy, and The Onion (the latter of which has curiously disappeared in the Twin Cities market and is now locally published by the Austin American Statesman).
In his recent Just For Laughs Keynote address, the always cogent and comical Patton Oswalt spoke about the abundance of choice in this freeing new media milieu and “post-Louie world” where “content is king.” Oswalt held up an iPhone as the key that has unlocked comedians from the tether of “the gatekeepers.” And indeed, The Occasional is also available on the iPhone. And not to sound like I’m looking a gift horse in the mouth, neigh, I mean “Nay!” but I’m one of those people who have been more excited about the prospect of a cell “phone” and/or service provider that could deliver landline reliability (eyes on you AT&T) before rolling out all the bells and whistles and my new favorite funny e-zine. But ready or not is moot, and it’s just on us whether we can bask in a glorious left field gem and eschew that whole “Internet use disorder” deal. But dammit, however The Occasional might show up on a brainpan-n-scan, I’m such a fan!
With a creative team lead by editor-in-chief Dan Abramson and art director Nate Maggio, the roster of contributors for the July/August issue is a bastion of marquee comedic talent matched with a wonderfully imaginative and satiric visual layout. With photographs by Robyn Von Swank, the “A Day in the Life of Sarah Silverman” cover story by Silverman and Dan Abramson plays like an audio tour guide/slide show for her fans to follow along on her day being very famous and successful. Silverman narrates as a chime lets you know when to swipe to the next picture. Along with spot on fake ads for ABC Family programming and McTavish’s blended pure apple juice, Simon Rich’s “Moon Landing Transcript” is an LOL triumph of brevity with a bickering Buzz Aldrin. Other features, to name a few, include: “A Bunch of Shit We Didn’t Know What To Do With,” “5 Questions by Jenny Slate,” “Tyler Perry’s House of Tyler Perry, “ “How To Fight A Trashcan by Heather Anne Campbell,” a Q&A or rather a “K&A with Jackée Harry by Julie Klausner,” movie lessons learned in “Film School by Kumail Nanjiani” and the “Prince magazine” within a magazine by Jake Fogelnest (chandeliers, anyone?).
In an utterly inspired and sustained bit, “Woody Allen’s Answering Machine” has Tim Heidecker voicing 27 unreturned messages left by the actor Tony Roberts who gets increasingly anxious, aging, and plucky. I don’t know what kind of awards go to audio portions of digital magazines, but it’s a bravura performance.
And then to ensure that this is an embarrassment of riches, Bob Odenkirk’s film “Read My Screenplay” is a fantastically pitch black humored short that involves novice screenwriting limo drivers and is scored to the Yo La Tengo song “Sudden Organ” (dig the “Two To Tango” screenplay title nod). The film stars D.V. DeVincentis as “Constipated Writer” and features John Ennis. Writer/director/producer/actor Bob Odenkirk (who some may first recognize as attorney Saul Goodman on AMC’s Breaking Bad) is an exemplar of this “post-Louie” paradigm where an artist is deserving of an endeavor with total artistic control.
Here’s to hoping that The Occasional continues to showcase such a deep bench of magnificent contributors. In his “Letter from the Editor,” Dan Abramson writes, “We really hope you enjoy this issue as it’s our third and we feel we’re starting to get a hang of this magazine thing. I want to look back at this issue as `The One Where We Figure It Out.’ Though that sounds like the name of a Friends episode. I hate that I know that…” Well, Abramson & Company have figured it out and Godspeed for the rest of us to catch up.