New BTTM Video: “It’s St. Patrick’s Day!” + Analysis
Monday March 15th 2010, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

Grab your green beer and join Better Than The Machine in celebrating our new-found Irish heritage that we just made up because, of course, “It’s St. Patrick’s Day!”

“It’s St. Patrick’s Day!” was directed and edited by Ballard C. Boyd.

I don’t know all that much about the creation of this particular video, and what I do know is basically from emails that got crisscrossed with mine. I don’t mean to imply that’s a bad thing; in fact, I mean exactly the opposite. That I didn’t have to manage the NYC minutiae from Denver is further indication that Christina is handling the producer job very well out there, which is quite a relief for me. Also, I’m disclaiming myself in the event that anything I say happened in a certain way didn’t really happen the way I say it did. You’ve been warned!

As a response to my asking whether anyone else realized that St. Patrick’s Day was coming up, Christina showed me some ideas for a St. Patrick’s Day sketch that she had written up, and I think the gang out in NYC had bounced some ideas around which might have been part of that typed up script. At one point, I suggested that a good angle might be satirizing how many people claim Irish heritage (jokingly or not) just to act like it’s fair game when they get totally and completely knockdown, blackout stupid drunk on St. Patrick’s Day in NYC. Whenever people act stupid, I believe it is our duty to point and laugh at them, whether through a satirical comedy sketch or, in many cases, through actual pointing and laughing.

Anyway, a bassinet with a note attached appeared on my front porch. The note read, “Finished Sketch For St. Patrick’s Day.” I know better than to look a gift bassinet in the mouth (so… many… babies…), and I really like this sketch, so I don’t know what else happened to get it made. I’m fairly certain it was filmed and cut on Sunday, which I have to give Ballard some mighty big credit for, because he’s sick and it’s always nice to have more time, so that shooting and editing on the same day can be avoided. Despite these apparent handicaps, though, it looks great and it flows really nicely from scene to scene. Ballard’s apartment continues to seem like a mansion with many distinctly different rooms on video, whereas in person, if more than two people are in the apartment, they are breaking the fire code. We’ve done a pretty good job creating sketches for holidays, which has left us with quite a backlog of non-holiday sketches that have been–and continue to be–shot. Which is really good.

Matt’s great in this sketch. I especially like the hair dryer bit in which Matt looks sort of like a dog with his head out the window of a moving car. Very funny stuff. Statistics show that people love it when Matt’s on screen, so hopefully a whole sketch with a happy, liquored up, jig-dancing Matt Gallo will attract a whole crowd of people who need their days brightened. I know watching him jigging got me through a rough day of brain chemo. I just looped the video on the jig, and can only imagine that Matt’s character happily goes about his St. Patrick’s Day from there. I haven’t actually seen the end of the video beyond the jig, because I don’t really care for that particular group’s sense of humor. I dug the jig though.

I submitted the sketch to some editors of various video sites, in the hope that with the advance notice, slight as it may be, the video might get featured somewhere. So keep your four leaf clovers close and hope for a big hullabaloo!

All right, that’s quite enough brain chemo-induced silly stupor for one evening. Aaron, Go Bra! Whatever that means.

–Reid O’Levin.

BTTM Analyses: Double Platinum “Foreplay?” & Newish Videos: “How To Juggle (An Iowa Training Film)” and “Sick Lovin’”
Thursday March 11th 2010, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

First BTTM Video To Hit Two Million Views!

I’m proud to announce that Better Than The Machine’s “Foreplay?” (the video we made in 2007, not the home game version we released for our “ages 18 and older” fans) hit two million views on YouTube sometime during the past few days. I had been watching it constantly in an attempt to be the two millionth viewer, then I was sort of half watching it so I could at least tell people on what day it hit two million views, then I got sick and just forgot about it. But that doesn’t make it any less significant, and it doesn’t mean I’m any less happy or proud!

As for the cause of the sketch’s continued success, I can think of no better analysis than that given by Carlos Cabrera, who said, “I’d like to thank people who clicked on our video in the hope that today would mysteriously be the day YouTube lets nudity and porn on their site. We owe our success to these angry, would-be masturbators.” True dat, Carlos, true dat. By which, of course, I mean there is true data to back that masturbation assertion up. For more on this momentous occasion, including the video itself and many more sexual allusions, please visit

How To Juggle (An Iowa Training Film)

Juggling may save your life one day. But it probably won’t.

This was the first Iowa Training Film directed, edited, and made to look like a crappy old VHS tape by Ballard. It was written by me.

Matt and I have talked about wanting Iowa Training Films to once again intentionally include over the top continuity errors, like the one found in the very first Iowa Training Film, How To Give Advice (hint: watch Matt’s hands and arms right after the “Good Advice” title). With that goal in mind, I got to work thinking up something very physical to teach. I came up with juggling and two different ways to very obviously mess with continuity. The first way was to cut to an obvious body double just for juggling and the second way was to cut to Matt with his arms behind his back and have someone standing behind him with their arms around and in front of Matt, juggling. Stunt arms!

They (those out in NYC) went with the first option and Paul played a body double juggler for the second time in a BTTM video. The first time, he stood in for me and juggled while wearing a bear costume and riding a unicycle. We got paid for that sketch… for some reason.

I’m a little sad that Iowa Training Steve (as Matt has named his character, so as to differentiate between this Steve and all his other characters named Steve) was not wearing a tie for the first time ever when we were trying to make an obvious huge continuity error which would have been furthered by him wearing a tie and Paul not wearing one. But he didn’t, and I’m only a little sad and I fully acknowledge that I am an OCD prick sometimes. I think the intended gag still works, and the second half of the video with Matt throwing juggling balls at Christina, who reaches to catch them waaaay too late, turned out exactly as I’d imagined. Very funny work all around, Iowa Training crew!

Oh, and something to look forward to for all you Iowa Training trainees out there: Matt also wrote a new Iowa Training video that was shot the same night as this one. It most likely won’t be released for a while, just to give both videos some time to breathe on their own. Matt’s video features his actual, real life girlfriend, so make sure to pay attention for it in the coming months, all you Matt Gallophiles! (Law enforcement has strongly advised us that calling you “Matt Gallo’s stalkers” only gives you undeserved validation.)

Sick Lovin’

Two lovers reveal to each other that they’ve been unfaithful in some… irregular ways.

Then they get down to some sick, sick lovin’.

As per usual, Ballard directed and edited this one. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote and rewrote the script, with constructive criticism and input along the way from BTTMers and David Reiman, who happened to be around when I was working on some long ago forgotten draft. There were many drafts. Ballard really pushed me to get this to production, and he gave me guidance on how to make the whole thing work.

At some point last year, Ballard told us that he really wanted to direct some two person conversational sketches, and asked us all to write some. I’d written many two person conversational sketches back in ’07, but based on their relative unpopularity (both inside and outside of the group, which sometimes included me), I figured I should avoid the format. It turns out, as with many things, I didn’t know what I was talking about. Two person conversational sketches are no longer to be feared!

I got down to the task of developing a couple of two person sketches without all that much physical action. For whatever reason, an early draft of this very sketch was the first thing that I came up with, and the first thing I pitched. I had intended it to be cutesy, with the different kinds of kisses. It was more like two kids put in an adult situation. However, nobody was really happy with that take on the idea because it was, admittedly, unfocused. Seven or eight drafts later, with help from Ballard and input from everyone, this thing is chock-full of lots of sick, sick Levin.

I’ve got to say, when I first turned this in, I sincerely did not picture myself in the sketch. I had no plan to be in The City when I came up with it. And then, a trip to NYC happened and we didn’t shoot it, and I continued not to picture myself in the sketch at all. I just intended it to be an easy one to knock off for two people in the group.

But alas, it just so happened that it made sense to work on it, and then film it the last time I was in town. I mention this because I must acknowledge what a real trooper Christina was in shooting this. She goes the distance for her comedy. There was another ending that escalated the entire thing even further that we shot several times. It included what I dubbed a “doggy kiss.” I think the cut as it is now is better without that, but I have to give Christina even more credit for licking my lipstick-and-petroleum-jelly-covered face when that brave comic act didn’t even end up in the sketch. Maybe it will make it onto some gag reel or something… we are approaching 100 videos on YouTube… hmm…

In the end, I’m happy with how it turned out and I’m glad Christina is still talking to me after the shoot.


New BTTM Video “The Sex Talk” + Analysis
Wednesday February 24th 2010, 1:08 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

Better Than The Machine’s newest video, “The Sex Talk,” takes on the age old question, “Where do babies come from?” It turns out I was way off. Waaaay off.

“The Sex Talk” was directed and edited by Ballard C. Boyd. It was written by Better Than The Machine and Will Nunziata. It was originally conceived and written for our seventh stage revue, It’s Not Me. It’s You., which was our first revue in which Will directed and co-wrote material.

“Seesaw,” as it is known in our live shows (I’ll get back to that), was a short “blackout” sketch in a show of longer sketches. Blackouts basically pop into the show between longer sketches, just for a quick joke or two, then the lights blackout. As you can see, their name is especially imaginative. We have several blackout sketches throughout our revues to keep the show’s pace changing, so that the audience doesn’t know what to expect next (too many blackouts in a row might lead to epileptic seizures… the audience wouldn’t see that coming, now would they? Hmmn.). In my experience, blackouts seem to require more forethought than longer stage sketches for us, because they don’t have a normal number of beats (thus you have to get more stuff out in less time), and also we’re still not very good improvisers (“Hello, I am a duck, and this is my brother Ted. Ted the duck. We are seeing Avatar. Quack!”). Which is okay, because we’re not an improv troupe. But we do use improvisation to flesh out our stage sketches, once they’re beated out, thanks to the tutelage of Coach Nunziata.

In the stage version, Carlos and Matt went up and down on an imaginary seesaw as Matt told Carlos where babies came from, thus giving “The Sex Talk” it’s originally shorthand stage name “Seesaw.” We have one or two word descriptions of every live sketch that only make sense if you’ve been around since the creation of that sketch. For instance, we have a sketch we call “Videogames,” which is about a guy and his girlfriend and his relationship changing with his other friends as a result of having a girlfriend. There are people playing videogames in the sketch, but the videogames really aren’t the focus. It makes sense. To us, at least. It can be hard on new stage wizards and lightning and thunder gods and techies.

It’s useful to have these short names because no one ever remembers the setlist, even when we’ve been doing a show for months, and even when the setlist has been hung in 15 different places backstage. So Paul will run back, pulling his clothes of and ask, “What’re we doing next?!” and we will say, “Cat Molestation!” And he’ll say, “I know that, but I mean what’s the next sketch?” And so on.

Paul is also in the stage version of this sketch as the kid’s dad, but Carlos, Christina, Matt and Ballard went out to Jersey to shoot this and at least one other video, and meanwhile Paul had to work that weekend if he ever wanted to see his puppy alive again. Christina was a better pointer to “inside” anyway. The kid in this video version that replaced Carlos from the stage version is also named Carlos. I think he’s Carlos’ nephew. I’m not sure of his last name, because Carlos hasn’t told me what it was, so I just called him L’il Carlos in the credits. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing Ballard shot Matt talking about innocuous things with Li’l Carlos, got some 2-shot footage and some close ups of the li’l guy, then released Li’l Carlos to go about his li’l life, in a place where he could not hear what Matt was saying in his close up. I apologize if I’ve ruined the magic of movies for you.

Okay, fine. All right. I’ll take a story from the vault for you because I can see this has clearly got you down. Paul and Matt once shot a video where they made a little girl, who had to be about the same age as Li’l Carlos, say, “you’re a fucking myth!” and her mom was watching the whole thing from 6 inches off of camera. So there you go, I hope I’ve restored the magic of movies for you. Or at least your faith in Better Than The Machine’s ability to permanently destroy one child’s innocence at a time.

Back to “The Sex Talk.” I like Li’l Carlos, he looked very concerned. I don’t know if he was easier to work with than all the kids Matt and Paul have worked with over the years, but I figure since his lines were cut out from the stage version, he was probably easy to shoot and send home (I also think it was shot in front of his home, which made this even easier). As for Matt, I think what he says in this sketch always gets dirtier and dirtier on stage. Which, you know, that’s cool if you’re into that sort of thing. And let me tell you, people on the Internet sure are into that sort of thing. Internet people like three things: dirty adult language, dirty porn, and Matt Gallo. I anticipate a major hit.

The first time I watched this, I was not totally keen on how it was shot. I did not like that Matt delivered his last line away from the camera, and I wanted a close up of Christina at the end. I thought it needed an extra beat, probably because I’m used to Big Carlos saying something in the stage version. Then I watched it again the next day, and I decided that, actually, I really like it. It somehow seems more real the way it’s shot than it would be with more cuts and stagey cheating of where and how people were faced. That’s why they pay Ballard the big bucks: he just knows these things.

I’m hoping to make it out there to NYC soon and shoot some stuff and perform on stage. I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed in hopes that doing so will help me get healthy enough to go… which made typing this blog entry a real bhijtgc hb . Dammit, it’s very hard to do, see?!


Now playing: Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down
via FoxyTunes

New BTTM Video “Presidents’ Day Debate” + Analysis
Monday February 15th 2010, 1:57 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

Better Than The Machine’s new Presidents’ Day video makes you decide if you’re on Team George or Team Abe in a debate/smackdown that pays tribute to our country’s forefathers.

The group came up with some ideas about Presidents’ Day sketches. Carlos wrote two different scripts, both of which were really funny. Ballard directed and edited the sketch with a neato keen new software toy that turned his handcam pans into smooth, smooth tracking shots. Paul and Carlos (the world’s shortest Lincoln) are totally on top of this thing–I think they’re both particularly good in this video. Of course, we mustn’t forget the second Matt Gallo cameo in as many weeks. This time, with a handle bar mustache, to boot! You just can’t beat Matt’s quick entrance into the sketch, only to be shot down immediately by Paul. You can’t. Trust me.

What did I have to do with any of this? Nothing. Nada. I just posted the video online. But–and I say this in all honesty–this has easily become one of my favorite BTTM sketches, even with the flagrant misuse of terms like “carpetbagger” and debate lingo. That’s okay, though. I’m a huge, huge Presidential history nerd and this video really hits the spot. Not only that, but I really, really like the way this was shot, with the constant smooth movement of the camera (so very smooth). It looks really sharp.

I think that very last shot with their hats flying off just as Carlos and Paul start going at each other is just brilliant. Speaking of which, my dad bought me that tricorn in colonial Williamsburg about 15 years ago. It’s served us well, so far in two very different sketches. Thanks Dad!

I also need to give Christina credit for producing her first sketch. She got people together, she tracked down costumes and she prodded some people who needed prodding. Nice work, CR.

All right, enough gushing. The crew just did a damn fine job with this one. Damn fine.


P.S. Damn fine!

New BTTM Video “Twilight First Date” + Analysis
Monday February 08th 2010, 6:20 pm
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

It’s Valentine’s Day in Better Than The Machine’s latest video “Twilight First Date.” Interspecies human/vampire dating may sound titillating, but is this a case of eternal love gone wrong? Judge for yourself!

“Twilight First Date” was directed and edited by Ballard. He really deserves special accolades for editing during a trip to see his girlfriend and during the Super Bowl. Uproarious applause for Ballard and just as much applause for, and a big thanks from BTTM for letting us borrow him, to Kelsey.

This sketch is a big swish for teamwork. Christina and I worked on various drafts, Ballard worked on a draft, Carlos and Christina brought their A game performances, Matt Gallo played his cameo to the snarkiest degree, and some significant others (Alex and Katla) sat in the background and did some truly convincing background acting–I believed that they were a whole crowd. I’m really impressed by Ballard’s ability to make a two person conversation interesting to watch. I used to be afraid of directing those, I think.

I will admit that I saw the first Twilight movie (Twilight) under some duress. While it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, I don’t seem to have either the love-it or hate-it attitude most people seem to have towards it. What I’m more interested in is the current vampire trend–it’s just odd. I don’t understand where it came from, or how it came about. I think this obsession that a lot of girls and women have with the undead has got to mean something… although, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it is. At any rate, this sketch was poking fun at the current vampire craze, rather than at Twilight or any other specific franchise or story.

The sketch actually started as a Valentine’s Day sketch with monsters, rather than a monster sketch that we’re tossing around for Valentine’s Day. And as much as I’m weirded out by (and glad we made fun of) the vampire fad, I originally pitched zombies. Other, more observant people in the group pointed out that vampires would be better. That’s why I’m glad I’m in this group, where everybody really makes one another’s ideas much, much better in a very constructive way.

I also really like the concept of vampire dentists and vampire accounts and vampire tax lawyers. They’ve got to live for an eternity unless someone kills them, so I’ve got to imagine they really must love those jobs. I wonder if there are any vampires who hold more exciting jobs. I wonder if there are any vampire astronauts or vampire rock ‘n roll stars. Weird.


Newish BTTM Videos: “Prank Calls” and “A Videophone Hello” + Analyses
Wednesday February 03rd 2010, 12:27 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine, Word Nerd

Two Better Than The Machine videos for the price of… two videos! What a steal! I missed posting and analyzing last week’s video here in my blog so I’ll show it off with this week’s video! Hooray!

Last week’s video, “Prank Calls,” shows off Matt Gallo’s amazing crank calling skills. We even managed to get a microphone into the room of the person he called! Wowzers!

In this week’s video, “A Videophone Hello,” I got to phone in my performance. Videophone it in, that is! Hiyo!

And if you didn’t like that logline, well then, here’s another one just for you: In this week’s video, “A Videophone Hello,” I get to experience instantaneous modern communication without the use of my semaphore flags! What a time to be alive!

Both videos were directed and edited by Ballard C. Boyd.

The interstitial videos continued unabated last week and on into this week, which caused some confusion, as the they do, rather explicitly, advertise new videos in February and it is now, scientifically speaking, February. To anyone who is confused: we didn’t say when in February we’d switch over from the sketch comedy videos that advertise new sketch comedy videos in February to February’s new sketch comedy videos that do not advertise new videos in February. Thus, scientifically speaking, we won’t be in breach of contract for at least another couple of weeks. Phew!

These two videos were shot at the beginning of a single Better Than The Machine meeting at Pace. I wanted Paul and Matt to be in them, since we’d released Carlos and Christina videos the two previous weeks. I especially wanted Paul to be in something so that people would be reminded of his existance, which is good to remind people of every know and again. When “Prank Calls” was being shot, they shut off the video feed with me, so I don’t know what they were doing out there.

I do know, however, that both Ballard and I had ideas for me appearing in a video on the computer screen (which is how I attend meetings). My idea was more complicated and homoerotic, so we did Ballard’s idea–which is to say we did Ballard’s idea because it was easier, not because it was less homoerotic. All of us have now been in these interstitials. On the Xbox, I think we’d get a medal for that. Or something. I don’t have an Xbox.

Here is an interesting fact: if you watch “Prank Calls” on, there’s a big ad covering me up for most of the video. I’m just doing my part for the team. Remember that, the team.

The big reason for making these interstitials was that they were quick and easy, and could be thrown together while we hopefully buckled down and worked harder on other videos. It’s been an interesting experiment. There has been a lot of writing, scheduling and some shooting, but I feel like without, at the very least, a second editor available in NYC (to say nothing of another full time director), it puts a tremendous strain on Ballard. It was hard for Paul and I when the two of us were directing and editing videos full time, and I am thus both very impressed and very thankful for Ballard’s tenacity.

We may go back to full videos next week, but I’m not making any promises! There is still another unreleased interstitial with Carlos and Christina, and we could probably make more if we wanted to, so don’t push us! We’ll do it! Maybe!


P.S. I have found a staggering number of words missing from Firefox’s dictionary, the latest of which is “analyses,” the plural form of “analysis.” It’s true.

New BTTM Video: “A Mouthful of Marshmallows!” + Analysis
Thursday January 21st 2010, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

Marvel at the sight of Christina Reynolds as she attempts to fill her mouth with 25 marshmallows at one time, exclusively for your amusement at seeing Christina Reynolds choke on marshmallows!

This is the second interstitial video for BTTM while we’re hopefully working on Betterrer Than The Machine videos, and man oh man, do I love this video. Ballard directed and edited it and also played the role of “The Director’s Legs.”

We don’t do much slapstick (e.g. I don’t think anyone’s been hit in the head with a chair since 2007), so I was not expecting something like this when I heard Ballard, Carlos and Christina had shot Christina’s idea of trying to fit 25 marshmallows into her mouth. But the night Ballard sent this to me, I watched it over and over and was laughing just as hard every time I watched it. So, maybe we’ll do some more slapstick soon. Or maybe it’s just good to do once in a while. We’ll see.

There is a different take of this that is also really, really funny where, after Ballard asks Carlos if he should get Christina some water, he (really) accidentally tripped on a wire from one of the lights and landed right in front of the camera. I really don’t like to see people getting hurt (hey, now you know the entire backstory of “Scarred by Scarred“–it’s autobiographical!), so I felt guilty for laughing even harder at that take; and boy was relieved when Ballard told me had not sustained any injuries (although, eerily, I had also taken a spill that night and sustained several injuries–too bad no one was filming that, it could have been America’s Funniest Home Video). The group decided there was too much going on in that take with Ballard falling. Maybe we’ll release it as an alternate take to the people on the mailing list or something…

Christina has been coming with new ideas and writing scripts like a fiend lately (a creative fiend?), and like I said, this was her idea. As I heard it, Carlos came up with the idea to jump in and do the Heimlich maneuver. I don’t know exactly what came from which brain, but it all got stirred up in a really funny way in the end. I’m very happy with the level of collaboration right now, especially between Christina, Carlos and Ballard.

Speaking of which, I think tonight we’re going to record an (or some) interstitial(s) with me in it (them) using the videoconference device (computer). I have variously referred to this as the Zordon Sessions, the Wizard of Oz “Pay No Heed To The Man Behind The Curtain” Sessions and The Darth Sidious “Everything Is Going According To Plan” Sessions. At any rate, it should be fun!

The only thing I did for this video was come up with the title. For some reason I can’t explain, I’ve had the name of the movie A Fistful of Dollars in my mind for a few days. I like the name “A Mouthful of Marshmallows,” and I think we should consider ourselves lucky I didn’t call it “Twilight: New Marshmallow” or “Shooting Interstitials At Ballard’s Apartment: The Squeakual” or “Marshmallows: The Gimmick… in 3-D!”


New BTTM Video: “Embarrassing Holiday Confessions” + Analysis
Saturday January 16th 2010, 12:51 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

I have a whole mess of health stuff that I’ve been waiting to post until some emotions about the subject of my ongoing health tribulations can be focused. While that hasn’t quite happened yet, I decided I should “man up” and stop avoiding blogging altogether. I very much regret not posting this particular post earlier in the week, because I really like this week’s new Better Than The Machine video and fear my non-post may have been misinterpreted otherwise. With that disclaiming out of the way, let’s take a look!

In this week’s new video, Carlos and Christina swap embarrassing holiday anecdotes and learn just how subjective the term “embarrassing” can be (it can be very subjective). Ouch.

“Embarrassing Holiday Confessions” was directed and edited by Ballard. This is the first of several short “interstitial videos” that will be released over the next month(-ish?) while The Machines are hopefully working on some more involved videos–writing them, scheduling them and filming them.

Christina came up with several really good ideas that involved she and Carlos in quick videos for these interstitials. She, Carlos and Ballard then really hammered them out and, of the original ideas Christina had come up with, two turned into really funny complete videos. This is one of those two videos, which we decided to release first since it is holiday related, and the holidays are quickly receding too far into the past, or perhaps proceeding way too far into the future. I like this video, and especially Carlos’ delightfully wonderful, straight and miserable delivery. Christina’s “that’s much worse” is super awkward, and putting the title over such a great awkward moment was just perfect.

That said, in my opinion, the other Carlos and Christina video (which will be released soon) is actually funnier. I really like this one, too, don’t get me wrong. The other one, though, had me in tears when I first watched it, and then when I watched it over and over again and again. I’m really excited for people to see it!

I’m happy that Christina and Carlos are stepping up in the void of me not being there full-time, Paul’s shituation and (hopefully) Ballard’s director-but-not-producer role this year. I missed this week’s meeting due to health issues, but I was really encouraged to hear that sketches that Christina wrote, that Carlos wrote, and maybe some stuff I wrote and/or am in the process of writing are going to be filmed next week. That was good news, well received.

I believe that the more people who are writing and submitting scripts within the group, the more teamwork that goes into fine tuning scripts, the more we bounce ideas around, the better we get at being a fully cohesive unit. In this way we have different voices in each sketch, different takes on comedy in each of our heads, but all funneled through the team to produce comedy that is distinctly Better Than The Machine. That makes me very, very excited for 2010.


Now playing: The Go! Team – Junior Kickstart
via FoxyTunes

From the hospital to home to more doctors’ offices.
Friday January 08th 2010, 3:16 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine, Friends, Health (Not Cancer), Leukemia

I am home from the hospital, but still quite tired and weak.

I must again thank all my friends, whether you’re friends from my physical world or my virtual one, for your outpouring of support. I have been overwhelmed with your kindness and your naming of bar trivia teams after me.

Since my release from the hospital, I’ve actually seen more doctors than I saw in the hospital. There’re all sorts of things wrong with me–all of which, I am assured, will be fixable in some way. It may take quite a lot of time and pain, but it will all be fixed. I’m blaming cancer for all of this. That’s right, I’m calling you out, my Leukemia.

My doctors are still waiting for something to grow in some conclusive manner on one of the many Petrie dishes on which they spread my lung goo. Meanwhile, I still have that unidentified goo in my lungs. I’m getting a lot of much-needed sleep, which is still being interrupted by some really impressive coughing fits. I have not coughed up anymore blood, though, which is a good thing.

We had a great Better Than The Machine meeting this evening that I was able to attend via videoconferencing. We haven’t had a regular meeting in what feels like a long, long time. Everyone was there and we got some stuff sorted out that’s needed sorting out for quite some time. New producer? The newly re-carred Carlos. This is the dawning of The Age of Cabrera! It was a lot of fun getting to brainstorm as a group again and even approaching that level where our creative energy moves seamlessly between us; we’re a little rusty, but we’ll be back in top form in no time. I think we were all missing it, and everyone seemed to be genuinely excited that we’re going to be meeting to write and brainstorm regularly again. It was great just laughing with those guys. It always is (even when it makes me cough up a lung).

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not draw your attention to Matt Gallo’s memoirs, which have just been published. Tonight, he gave Better Than The Machine a world exclusive preview, indicating that his memoirs “might include punctuation.” No, that’s not right. I am lying. Matt wouldn’t give us any preview, so I made that up. He is a shrewd business man, that Matt Gallo. “No freebies,” that’s his motto… that I also just made up. You can–nay, must!–buy the book that includes Matt’s memoirs on right now (note: this is a real link to buy this real book on the real, not something I made up, nor another absolutely stunningly clever link to an image). Congrats on being published, Matt!

I think that’s everything I’m willing to say under oath right now.

Not necessarily as clever as advertised. Hospital playset sold separately.

New BTTM Video: “Gateway Socialism PSA” + Analysis
Tuesday January 05th 2010, 10:32 am
Filed under: Better Than The Machine

It’s a healthy me in Better Than The Machine’s “Gateway Socialism PSA!” Down with healthcare!

No, no… wait a minute, I need my healthcare. Damn you, healthy Reid, daaamn you!

I wrote this sketch with the thought that it’d be good to have some one person sketches in the vault in case only one person was around to be filmed. It’s the last part of the “Reid Levin Trilogy of Unrelated Comedy Sketches That Were Filmed in December ’09.” Ballard directed and edited it. This video is a (hopefully apparent) satire on political discourse in America. Over the past nine months, the words “socialist” and “socialism” have been turned into ridiculous insults. Pundits have also been flinging words like “Marxist” and “communist” around as (intentionally) incorrect synonyms of socialism that are designed to recall fears about the Cold War to a public that largely doesn’t understand the differences between these political ideologies.

This sketch itself ended up being a case of the writer (me) having a different vision from the director (Ballard). When I wrote this, I had pictured it more in the tone of Gay Marriage Propaganda. Also, I intended all the portraits to be Communist leaders, and I had intended to (poorly) Gilliamate them myself.

However, Ballard said, “Trust me on this,” (several times), and so I did, because I’ve been very happy with all of the things I’ve written that he’s directed. This particular video also turned out very well, but it took a while to settle in with me. I often have trouble judging whether things I’ve written and then someone else has produced are good or not, no matter how well they actually turn out. I think it’s a matter of having trouble resolving the original ideas in my head with what the final product ends up being when someone else is responsible for that final product. Ballard really checked in with me about things and asked if things were okay as he worked on the video, and even if he hadn’t, I feel like his director’s eye is clearly more finely tuned for the final product than my pen, which might be better for starting some things. Still, the uncertainty lasted until I posted the video–which I’m glad I did.

I also made the hammer and sickle variant end title card. I started animating that, but when I heard the music Ballard had selected to go over the title card, I decided I didn’t want to detract from that funny music with the clanging metal sounds I wanted to use. I did have to change the year on the card (as I had originally made it last month/year/decade), and I finally figured out why every previous HD video I’ve exported from Final Cut Pro has been stretched too widely. It’s got to do with square pixels and HD pixels and the alignment of the planets… I don’t get any of it, but I got it to work right finally, at long least. And I think that sums this whole sketch up very well: not knowing how I got here, but being happy that I did.

–Reid in the hospital.

Now playing: Annie Little – Fly Me Away
via FoxyTunes