If you’ve watched Roommates, you know that MySpace has learned the art of the obvious shill (girls in bikinis dancing around a new Ford Focus isn’t exactly discrete). The seemingly innocuous Artist on Artist
series is a more thickly veiled attempt at product promotion, but regardless of marketing, it’s pretty cool.

Artist on Artist is the home for a long time MySpace thread of “viral video interviews” in which unexpected entertainers interview each other in cozy circumstances in segments that feel more spontaneous than produced.

The site was launched in January, 2007, when MySpace went live with what it called “a new profile community.” Engineered by Josh Brooks, MySpace’s Vice President of Content and Programming, the Artist on Artist page became a central hub for interviews that had originally appeared across the site’s multiple video channels and other pages.

Brooks explained it all in a detailed press release, touting how the unique format of the exclusive interviews with pop culture icons creates a fly on a wall experience for MySpace users.  I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘fly on the wall,’ but in each five or six minute interview you do get a chance to see artists on camera in a slightly different light.
The ultimate appeal of the interviews is the pairing of unlikely entertainers who turn out to be friends. We know, of course, that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez are pals, because they make a show of it, as they do on the show to promote Grindhouse. But did you know that Weird Al Yankovic and Seth Green are buddies? According to their colloquy, they met at the Playboy Mansion and later collaborated on Green’s animated show Robot Chicken and other projects.

The subsidiary premise of the Artist on Artist interviews is to provide a decent facade to an obvious promotional pairing.  It’s no surprise that Jessica Alba and Dane Cook are now palsy, as we learn when they come to discuss Good Luck Chuck.  Robert Downey and Richard Linklater talk friendly shop (promoting A Scanner Darkly), as do The Rock and Steve Carell (who recently finished shooting Get Smart together).

The Al Gore and Mos Def interview, on the other hand, is just plain cool.  The esteem the two have for one another is something special to watch (though a crew member doesn’t seem to like Al: he refuses to shake the former VP’s hand in early footage of the video).

Some of these mutual interviews also manage to transcend the promotional apparatus and achieve real wit and insight. For example it’s amusing to watch rocker Patti Smith (looking like Joey Ramone as she gets older – or is it vice versa?) try to describe to fellow Jerseyian Michael Imperioli the content of the animated show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

The funniest interview is the one between talk late night host Conan O’Brian and actor-comedian Jim Gaffigan, especially when they get on the topic of bacon and what O’Brien calls the marriage of “meat and candy.”

After watching, I can definitely deal with the shill, and wish that more artists would take some time to just talk shop on camera.  Getting them out of their natural elements creates an opportunity to provide fans with interesting perspectives.

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