(EDITOR’S NOTE: Herewith, the Nerdist Channel presents the return of Sifl and Olly, this week trying to get their YouTube view counts up for their video game reviews by any means possible. They haven’t aged a bit, by the way. And you can find official Sifl and Olly merchandise at Zazzle. Also, follow Liam Lynch at @lynchland and S&O at @realsiflandolly. And now, over to Brian for a chat with Liam himself….)
Back when MTV was more than just reality television, the halcyon days of the 1990s, it programmed some absurd comedies that ended up being too ahead of their time. One of those was the sock puppet variety show for grown-ups known as The Sifl and Olly Show. The show ran for two seasons and was the brainchild of lifelong friends Matt Crocco and Liam Lynch, who filled it with meandering dialogue, weird songs, and bizarre sketches. The show is back, this time on the Nerdist Channel, and we spoke to Liam Lynch about what it’s like to bring these characters back in web form.
Nerdist: What did you learn in your first attempts to adapt Sifl and Olly to the internet?
Liam Lynch: Well, my first attempt was actually back in 2001. We did a whole “season 3” that was made for the internet only, but it never ended up going out. Back then online video was BAD, extremely low-res. We had to make sure none of the scenes had too much detail. We had to make sure any on screen text was large and thick and legible since we were working with so few pixels. This time around, it’s been wonderful. It’s so nice to make them in HD and to do the graphics and stuff myself. Before the internet, there was a certain spirit that was only found on “cable access”… a cheap, home made, unprofessional type of quality. Sifl and Olly were really based on this and came from that notion. The internet is a massive world wide cable access channel now… but the spirit is the same. You can do it yourself. You can be a TV show if you want to. So really, they never needed to adapt to anything to be on the internet.
N: How is this version of Sifl and Olly different from the Machinima review show you did, and how is it different from the original show?
LL: Well, the original show was a half hour and consisted of short vignette segments. Interviews, calls from the public, a word with Chester, songs… this show on Nerdist is like one of those segments in a way. I always wanted to do a video game segment on Sifl and Olly, and we did do a lot of video game based songs and skits. So the theme of the segment is different from the original show, although we are doing “calls from the gamers,” which is exactly the same as “calls from the public”. These new episodes I made for Machinima were such a blast to make. I had more freedom to include some of my other geeky interests. I had more freedom than with Machinima… not because of Machinima, though, they were so supportive and up for anything… it’s the difference in the audience. Machinima’s viewers are so such a horde of hardcore gamers. With more subscribers than anyone, it also highly increases the number of assholes and comment trolls. Machinima is branching out (or trying to) beyond the types of shows that made them popular… which is really gaming reviews and stuff for hardcore gamers. It’s a vast topic, but it’s also cornered by itself.
With the Nerdist audience, I think, though, the subscribers are far less, they are people that appreciate imagination and probably subscribed because they are “fans” of something. All of Nerdist Channel’s shows have a backbone of being a fan of something… or getting inspired by something… so I think these Sifl and Olly episodes will go over much better with the Nerdist viewers than the Machinima subscribers. Many of the Machinima subscribers were too young to remember Sifl and Olly, and their 14 year old egos were challenged by something that looked like it should be for “kids.” It also wasn’t about specific real games that they had, or footage of headshots set to electronica. Ha ha… In these new ones for Nerdist, I was able to have even more fun dragging in things I’m a fan of, like Doctor Who and Star Wars and other fun things. I’m so excited for folks to see these new episodes.
N: How has working in the web video space changed since you started?
LL: Well, I’ve been doing web videos for a long time now. I started my video podcast, Lynchland, back in 2004. It was among the first of the video podcasts on iTunes. (Back then I was always in the top 25 podcasts, because there were only 20. Ha ha.) I have thought of lots of show ideas. I use the web as a creative sandbox. My YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/heyliam, shows some of my weird experiments, skits and music videos. I don’t think web video is really ALL video. It’s why we don’t have antennas on our TVs anymore. It makes me want to endlessly make shows, because anyone can self-publish now. It’s a huge freedom to experiment with ideas. No matter what it is, there will be an audience out there of people that both hate and love whatever you do. It’s a constant throwing of roses and rocks. So you might as well just do something that YOU love and makes you happy. The web is a platform we humans have created to do just that. I just love that doing videos on the web gives a kid in his basement the same chance as it gives HBO or NBC. It’s a fair playing ground where people decide. I like that.