DJ Hostettler

Downloading “Shaky Advice from Samwell” a not-so-shaky proposition

By - Jun 10th, 2010 10:36 am
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The app’s opening image, captured off Quinn’s phone

Samwell’s “What What (In the Butt)” video was, by far, 2007’s “WTF (In the Butt)” video meme of the year, what with the then-unknown Chicago-area singer prancing about with singing, floating chocolate hearts and flaming crosses in a…pink airship? Who knows. Regardless, 28 million views later, Samwell’s quest for world domination continues unabated, thanks to the help of “What What’s” directors, Milwaukee residents Andrew Swant and Bobby Ciraldo. This year, the quest to achieve Samwell omnipresence comes in the form of “Shaky Advice from Samwell,” a magic 8-ball-esque application for the iPhone. As Samwell prepares to open for Snap! (as in “The Power” and “Rhythm is a Dancer” Snap! Awesome!) at Pridefest this weekend , Fan-Belt talks to the local directors about the app. And of course, since this thing is too silly not to review, we then test the application in the field.

First, the obvious question–where’d the idea come from to do an iPhone app?

After playing around with the iPhone and its “dollar store” approach to selling apps, we were struck by how cool and weird this new medium actually is. Unlike many traditional mediums, this one’s interactive. Professional video games are also an interactive medium, but they require massive amounts of work to create, and people’s expectations are high due to the steep price tag. Mobile phone apps are neat because they’re interactive, easy to make, and as far as expectations go, they’re practically disposable. “Impulse-buy art.”

Why did you guys decide on a magic-8-ball-esque advice app?

It’s something no one had thought of yet, and it was relatively easy to make. There are many 8 Ball-style Apps out there, but none of them have video clips of celebrities dishing out advice.

Did you have previous experience designing apps? How difficult was it to figure out the programming and design?

Bobby used to be a computer programmer; he’s pretty comfortable with this sort of thing. Unfortunately, it would be pretty tricky for someone just starting out to figure out how to make an app, but not impossible.

Is this just one more step in Samwell’s obvious plan to take over the planet via multimedia?

More accurately, our Samwell Project is part of a larger plan for Special Entertainment to take over the entire Milky Way Galaxy. We’ve already done music videos, interview videos, sketch comedy, public service announcements, and Samwell merchandise; and we have a feature film based on the “What What” video in the works. We couldn’t resist trying out this weird new medium of mobile device Apps.

Regarding that plan, how’s it worked so far? What else has Samwell been up to since the last few videos? Did “What What (in the Butt)” end up giving him any long-term visibility?

Our goal was to turn our friend into a world-wide celebrity, and everything is going according to plan! He’s been on numerous television shows, he gets a lot of press, he has songs on iTunes, and 30 million views on our YouTube channel is still pretty mind-blowing for us. Samwell has a new video in the works for a song called “Knees Got Dirty” and he’ll be performing at PrideFest, opening for the group Snap!  And of course there’s What What (In the Butt): The Movie, but details are still top secret.

You mentioned in our emails leading up to this that you’re working on a similar application with Neil Hamburger. How did you meet him?

We shot with Neil Hamburger a while back for our film Hamlet A.D.D., which is currently in post-production. Working with Mr. Hamburger was really fun, so we asked him if he’d be interested in doing an iPhone App. He said yes, so we recently shot with him again and it turned out great — really funny stuff. We’ve been Neil Hamburger fans for a long time, so working with him was an honor. The next celebrity we’d love to get into our Shaky Advice lineup is Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. And possibly Santa.

* * *

Once the answers to the email interview rolled in, it was time to test this sucker out in the field. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I don’t known an iPhone—I’m the proud owner of an Android, and “Shaky Advice” hasn’t been developed for it yet (says Andrew: “we’d like to do the Apps for Android too, but the programming is totally different, so it may take a while”). Fortunately, I have many pals on the iPhone bandwagon, and one Quinn Scharber stepped up to the plate and volunteered his phone at Dude Night, Cactus Club’s Wednesday celebration of all things dude (and thus, a perfect setting to test out anything involving Samwell).

Criswell Predicts!

The download cost Quinn a measly 99 cents, which I reimbursed him via the purchase of a $1 Genesee Cream Ale. The app itself is simple, silly, and fun—just ask your phone a question (like you don’t talk to/bitch at your phone already, come on), and shake it vigorously. Samwell goes into Criswell mode and delivers magic 8-ball-style responses, like “Sweetie…no!” It’s like having Juliet Capulet’s sassy gay friend on your phone, doing his damnedest not to lead you astray. For the cost of a Natty Ice at Dude Night, it’s not a bad choice for some stupid bar fun, especially if you’re deciding whether or not to go home with that creepy dude who’s been doing nothing but checking out the bush shots in those issues of Oui that Cactus leaves out on Wednesdays. You can find it in the iPhone app store, or download it here.

Categories: Interviews, Review, Rock

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