“The Dana Carvey Show”: Well, They Hired a Hell of a Staff!

Dana Carvey left Saturday Night Live in 1993 as one of the best-known comedians in America. Besides innumerable memorable characters on SNL, he had starred in Wayne’s World (1992) to prove himself in Hollywood. When he started shopping a variety comedy show he had his pick of networks, finally settling on ABC just before they were bought by Disney. Slotted behind ratings juggernaut Home Improvement it seemed like The Dana Carvey Show was destined for greatness. Not so much. Esoteric, weird humor did not interest the Home Improvement crowd (or Disney) and it would only last eight episodes. However, the show did hire an impressive array of unknown talent that would go on to great things, including performers Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert as well as writers Jon Glaser, Robert Carlock, and Dino Stamatopoulos. This GQ piece is an interesting autopsy of a crushing failure by some of the most talented comedic talent in America.

Teats Out: An Oral History of the Rise and Fall (and Rise) of “The Dana Carvey Show”

GQ.com, 8.8.11

The Beatles Get Turned On to Acid

The Beatles transformation from pop superstars to psychedelic rockers was influential not just in music but in society. What was one prime instigator for this evolution? Acid! George and John were unknowingly dosed by a shady dentist in 1965 and it changed their life. Later that year they dosed again at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s Los Angeles mansion. Ringo and some other celebrities joined them this time and they had an intense trip. This party also included their first exposure to Ravi Shankar and the sitar–an influence that would grow to gigantic proportions in later years. Vice recounts when the Beatles changed forever.

The Oral History of the First Two Times the Beatles Took Acid

Vice.com, 12.4.16


“Friends”: The Right Setting with the Right Actors and the Right Director at the Right Time

As David Schwimmer notes in an engrossing Vanity Fair oral history of Friends, finding one actor who is perfect for a role is a true victory. Finding six actors who are perfect fits, and then they all turn out to have perfect chemistry, is divine intervention. And that’s Friends. Conceived by young playwrights turned TV producers Marta Kaufmann and David Crane, their pitch hit the sweet spot that NBC (and everyone else) was looking to fill: a close-knit group of young, attractive adults trying to make it together in the big city. The stories about casting, finding success, handling success, and the inevitable end–everyone involved gives honest, heartfelt answers while adding fascinating anecdotes. A great read (and there’s a fun slideshow too).

With Friends Like These

VanityFair.com, 4.26.12

“Raw Data”: The New Standard in Virtual-Reality Gaming

Virtual Reality has been the apple in the eye of tech enthusiasts for decades, but it’s only in the last few years that consumers have had access to VR headsets that begin to deliver on the immense promise. The first-gen Rift and Hive headsets (among others) will likely be looked back on the way we look at the first iPhone or iPod now. A starting point. USC’s Mixed Reality Lab has become the nation’s hotbed of VR innovation. Palmer Luckey (founder of Oculus) got his start there. And now comes Survios, a startup founded by three graduates of the Lab. Survios is making waves with Raw Data, an immersive zombie apocalypse game that many are calling the new standard in VR gameplay. Movement, graphics, and actions are synced better than ever before, and people are noticing. In September it became the first VR game to gross $1M in a month. Last week it won Game of the Year at the AMD VR Game awards. And it only finished its production releases this week. Rolling Stone catches the wave.

‘Raw Data’: An Oral History

RollingStone.com, 10.18.17

“Jackass”: Charming Idiocy

Jackass grew out of the skate-flick genre of the 90s, where the goal was to do gnarly tricks that your friends would dig. The Jackass crew took that aesthetic and applied it to any stunt that was both daring and funny. They exploded as a MTV show, and once the lawyers clamped down, had a successful movie trilogy. There is no shortage of copycats, but the originals excelled due to their self-deprecation and easy camaraderie. Although their legacy has been clouded through drug and alcohol abuse, the Jackass crew long ago cemented their legacy as lovable idiots.

An Oral History of ‘Jackass: The Movie’

Vice.com, 10.3.17

Cassini: Uncovering the Secrets of Saturn

Saturn is one of the great celestial bodies for obvious reasons, but the Voyager probe had shown us that its moons were quite the charming bunch. As Bonnie Buratti, a JPL scientist, put it: “There was Titan, which looked kind of like an Earth in deep freeze. Enceladus looked like it was covered in snow. And there was Iapetus, a moon with one half as dark as tar and the other half basically as bright as snow.” Thus, a follow-up mission was needed, and it would be Cassini, the last of the giant space probes. It would prove to be one humanity’s great achievements, as it surpassed every goal and hope to deliver science that will take decades to fully decipher. Its accomplishments are legion, but here’s a sampling. It dropped the Huygens probe onto Titan, the first time a human probe landed on a non-Moon moon. Huygens discovered the Titan is remarkably Earth-like, with rain, rivers, lakes and seas, as well as prebiotic chemicals. Cassini found active ice plumes on Enceladus. It discovered that Saturn’s iconic rings are dynamic and can model planet formation. The list goes on. In honor of its final plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, the Los Angeles Times provides a poignant oral history of how the spacecraft came to be using interviews with some very proud scientists and engineers.

‘OK. Let’s do it!’ An oral history of how NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn came to be

LATimes.com, 9.12.17

MTV’s “TRL”: “The Frosted Tips Era”

Total Request Live, better known as TRL, will always be remembered as a product of its time, a kind of pop music zenith before filesharing and streaming would help reshape the industry. Britney and Christina, N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys, all broadcast live from Times Square in front of thousands of screaming teenagers. Carson Fucking Daly. In honor of MTV’s reboot, Billboard takes a look back at a modern pop-culture institution, and one that its principals show a remarkable amount of perspective in evaluating.

An Oral History of ‘TRL’: Trump’s Demands, Mariah’s Meltdown and Anthrax Scares

Billboard.com, 9.28.17

The Trump Presidency

Our 45th President’s administration has been many things, but most of all it’s been chaotic. A week doesn’t go by without some major story, and sometimes a day doesn’t go by. Trump has already fired a laundry list of his appointees and the survivors all have wounds. This environment has led to an unprecedented number of leaks from within his team as they try to manage the unmanageable. The Republic thought it would be a hoot to collect a healthy sample of these anonymous leaks and present them as an oral history of a national embarrassment.

An Oral History of the Trump Administration

NewRepublic.com, 10.2.17