Black20 is a young, Brooklyn-based production team that creates comedy-oriented broadband entertainment. Its creators J. Crowley and Neil Punsalan planted the seeds of Black 20 back in their days of working as NBC tour guides. They wrote a script for a broadband comedy news show (a little like the Daily Show) called “Out of Context,” and pitched the show to the president of the network, Jeff Zucker, in an elevator. This could have been their big break into broadband television, but network politics and bureaucratic red tape prevented it from ever being produced. Crowley and Punsalan decided to independently release another short video about the secret life of the Easter bunny entitled, The Easter Bunny Hates You, which became one of the most popular viral videos in 2006 and made Crowley and Punasalan realize that they could completely bypass the networks. After a fortunate spin on the roulette wheel, Black20 set up shop on the web in early 2007.
Not only has Black20 continued with “secret lives” videos (Cupid, Santa), but it also produces a number of hysterical sketch-comedy based shows. The Network follows the lives of two viral internet video producers who make fun of Black20 itself and the whole concept of viral internet culture by taking themselves way too seriously. The Middle Show is a kind of stand up/news/pop-culture/public harassment show (think the Tom Green Show), in which host David Price asks strangers awkward questions, and also includes some episodes of the Black20 team messing around in the office. Finally, Black20 News, hosted by Jessie Cantrell, is kind of a spoof on Rocketboom, with news about less-than-newsworthy things like making a Valentines day reservation at White Castle. All in all, these shows are some of the best free entertainment on the internet, especially because they all self-consciously reference viral internet phenomenon. The website also offers hilarious “news” articles, with titles like, “Two African-American coaches in the Superbowl?”, and “Teen Nintendo Death,” as well as a forum and a merchandise shop.
A good place to start with Black 20 is the first episode of Network, entitled “First Day.” Two top-notch viral internet producers, played by Mike O’Gorman and Michael Torpey, start work at the Black20 office, where there is a lonely girl, scientists experimenting with Mentos and Diet Coke, and a dog rolling by on a skateboard (how I hope the Mad Magazine offices are like.) It’s all about the characters, their chemistry, and some amazing improv comedy.