The blog http://zefrank.com, or http://youtube.com/zefrank1, is maintained by a man named Ze Frank. He was born March 27th, 1972 and grew up in Albany, New York under his German-American parents, and later moved to Providence, Rhode Island to attend Brown University where he studied neuroscience in 1995. He was listed ‘2nd author’ on a paper in the Journal Of Neuroscience called “Developmental Inhibitory Gate Controls the Relay of Activity to the Superficial Layers of the Visual Cortex”. While at Brown, he sang lead vocals and played guitar in a funk band called Dowdy Smack, who broke up in 1998. Their music can be found on his his website under a link called “my old band” under the heading “Other Stuff”.
His online presence all started when he decided to send out an online birthday invitation in 2001. The link he sent out anchored to a web page entitled, “How To Dance Properly”, with several buttons to click, each playing a short clip of a corresponding dance move. He said he was listening to Justify My Love by Madonna when he recorded his dances. What ended up happening was that this page was forwarded over and over again until it was receiving about a million page requests per day. This led to a big charge from his internet service provider for the 100 gigabytes of daily web traffic he was getting. With success of this birthday invitation, Ze continued updating the site with short films, music, video games, interactive projects, and even an educational video for children called “Don’t Vacuum Your Face.” The site got awards such as the Webby award in 2002 for Best Personal Website. Ze would later be asked to speak at a TED talk in 2006 entitled, “Ze Frank’s Nerdcore Comedy,” and again in 2010 with a talk called, “Ze Frank’s Web Playroom”. On March 17, 2006, Ze Frank started a revolutionary daily web series called “The Show”. In it, he interacted with his audience, sang songs about the topic of the video, played a game of chess with the audience over the course of many videos, talked about current events on news sites, and even once included musician guest star Jonathan Coulton to cover many of his songs he sang throughout The Show. Over the course of the show, thousands of photos, videos, and other submissions were sent in by his viewers for challenges, and even 1,000 photos were sent in during a 24 hour period. Episodes of the show were uploaded every weekday until March 17, 2007, a year after he started. The show was a success. Afterward he signed to be represented by the United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, California. In the process of the show, he influenced many current popular video bloggers such as Vlogbrothers and Wheezywaiter. What happened was that Ze had invented a completely new format for online video, called the Vlog, or Video Log. People have spoken into cameras, but not like Ze. The personal nature of his videos, along with fast-paced cuts between thoughts marks a noticeable signature style that many borrow today. Hank Green of Vlogbrothers even referred to Ze as “the father of video blogging” at Vidcon in the Summer of 2012. It’s rare that an online personality is this unanimously liked, and I believe he deserves it.
Ownership of the blog is 100% by Ze Frank. Evidence of his know-how on maintaining websites, blogs, etc. goes back to that first birthday invitation he sent out in 2001. His blog is more open to discussion and submissions than any blog I've ever seen. Many projects that caused spikes in his notoriety were based on another person or people, rather than himself. In May of 2006, Ze challenged the audience of “The Show” to creates the universe's first Earth Sandwich. The parameters of this project were than two people had to place bread on the ground on exact opposite ends of the earth at the same time, and with picture proof. It only took one month from the time of the challenge for two groups to sandwich the earth in baguettes. One was placed in Spain, close to Madrid, and the other just outside of Aukland, New Zealand. Quite possibly his most popular project ever conducted is called “chillout song”. A woman named Laura had just moved to a new city for a new job, and was was stressing out about it. Having seen Ze Frank's projects, she decided to write in some time after “the show” ended. Her email read:
Hello Ze,Im a fan of Songs You Already Know. If you make another, could you please make a song for "Song for when you're overwhelmed"? A nice sweet calmdown song. An audio-hug. A song that huddles around you and whispers "shhhhhhh, calm the fuck down. s'okay".Thanks for considering, Mister Frank.xoxox Laura
The conversation between Laura and Ze continued with him asking her to describe what it felt like when she got overwhelmed. She sent back an email of comparable length of the first one, but much heavier. It was her inner thoughts while at work, frustrated that no one was acknowledging that she was a person who needed interaction, mercy, and sleep. He then secretly wrote a quick version of a chorus, recorded it, and sent it out to his audience who recorded their own vocals for submission. He received about thirty submissions and mixed them together without any pitch correction to make the chorus of the song. Meanwhile, Laura thought Ze had forgotten about her:
Hi Mr.Frank,has the overwhelmed song project died? Im sorry for pestering.big sighbig sighnot any better, here.xxoxxLaura
Finally, Ze sent her the final song just before releasing it to the public and she liked it. In her last email, she spoke of hom great it was that a total stranger would do something so great for her, and than many more total strangers would help out so much. The story, emails, and song can be found at http://www.zefrank.com/chillout/ .
Honestly, there are much too many videos of Ze's to go over, so I picked out the most notable of them from his newest series, “a show”. On April 9th, 2012, Ze posted a video entitled, “An Invocation For Beginnings”. This was the first video Ze posted for his new project, which is a sort of “comeback” from the old days. He immediately declares that he is scared, why he’s scared, and what he’s going to do about it. He quickly turns his problem on its head, spewing profound advice into his camera, invoking beginnings in people, encouraging them to start. It’s all about starting something. He says that life isn’t about waiting for something to start, but about doing things. He’s doing it. He did it. This is the beginning. Two days later, a video is uploaded called, “Been A While”. He starts off saying that it has in fact been a while, and is “warming up”. He responds to a comment left about how people donated money, and it would be funny if he just made a year’s worth of videos of him writing on his nipples. At this point, it’s still all a bit silly, video doing many zooms and moving around, but he arrives at a point. Then comes a ramble about fake memories he’s had about how different “back in my day” was. He gets at memories being less accurate than we think, that “memories are dreams when you’re awake.” At the end, the show splits off into another segment where “Now, Lee Hall will animate your dreams”. In this segment, users will submit audio of them conversationally talking about an interesting dream they had. Lee Hall then makes a creative animation detailing that dream, while the audio is played. This is recurring. Two days after that, he posts a video called “Michelle Part 1”. It starts off fast-paced, introducing the magic cubby into the mix. Ze’s backdrop for the videos in this show are in front of a wall of cubbies, featuring little things and books. The magic cubby premise is introduced into the show as an extra rhetorical device, or even for comedy. It’s like another person, who sometimes says things that Ze didn’t. Then starts the first project of the show. A girl named Michelle writes in asking Ze if he could write her a song about her situation. Her friend asked out a boy he liked on her behalf, and he said no. She doesn’t want to be scared to talk to him or see him, and wants to remain friends with him. Ze quickly turns the attention to her friend in the story. His advice is that when she asks to do something on her behalf, to say, “Do you want me to wipe your ass for you too?” and send her on her way. He then asks the audience to submit clips of them singing a tune that he wrote, to be compiled and remixed later into the final song. “Warming Up The Nows” was then posted on April 16th. He goes over three news stories, stating he’s 'warming up the nows', as to bring freshness to reading news. The first section is Ze criticizing Obama for “not solutions”, stating that it’s easy to come up with what the solution isn’t, rather than the solution. Second story is about the Arab Spring, which he compares to the Irish Spring, going back and forth between video and talking, showing how hard the times are there. Last section is about the Warren Buffet rule, which is “getting it’s ass handed to it” by congress. It states that rich people pay the same taxes that middle and lower class people do. A couple days later, “Special Effects” is uploaded. Someone writes in asking a question about why he uses so many special effects, to which Ze changes pace and makes a humorous video about a special effects program to change his emotions, as to strike back about how you can’t fake emotions, and that’s the bulk of this video. Fast-forward past many other videos to January 4th. “Bag of Snot” is posted. He uses a butterfly wing metaphor to say that he wants to start off 2013 with a bang, and he wants his audience to too. He then talks about the museum exhibit filled with crowd-contributed projects, and that it’s opening in a week. He lastly asks the audience to submit their most vexing would-you-rather questions, to be judged by one of his interns for a later project. “Kindness Dammit” is posted four days later. Ze tells a story about how he was at a meeting and a particular woman was telling jokes to the people at the table. Ze started to feel like she was taking attention from him, started anticipating her jokes, and thinking of how he could tell them better. In the middle of this rampage, his friend looked to her and said, “You’re so funny.” He then realized how important that is to say to someone, and how wonderful of thing that would be to hear from someone. He then goes on a tangent about how important kindness is, that it has an impact almost no matter what, citing a time in 2nd grade when a teacher of unknown identity placed a hand on his shoulder when he was having a bad day, and how he still remembered it. He starts with the kindness by saying “You are really good at would-you-rathers. He reads a few of them, all very perplexing. A week later, he uploads “Envy”. He’s in a hotel, lower-quality camera, and someone asks him to talk about envy, and how he deals with it. He says easy thing is to imagine that the person who has what you want is slowly suffering by having it, but that’s just taking pleasure in someone else’s misery. What he gets to is that it’s better to look back at all the things you already have. He ends on a question, “How do you deal with envy?”. This opens up much discussion in the comment section. Ze has an active community. A week after that, “Hard F#$@ng Work”. He starts by talking about a dream he had in which he was crawling on the ground and couldn’t get anywhere. A friend of his said it was a stress dream and claimed that he was “working too hard”. The video then is about what “hard work” is. He talks about having a job in his late twenties where he had a boss who put in 30 hour days. He modeled his behavior after that guy, finding his 100% work capacity. He later found out that the guy was struggling with a cocaine addiction at the time, but it was too late, he had already modeled his work after him. He uses advice from Carl Jung to say that the cure for not wanting to grow up is work. Hard work. February 19th: “Take The Human Test”. Apart with his new stylistic change, coming with working for Buzzfeed, this video is a collection of questions aimed at uniting people. Things that almost all people have done at least one point in their lives. Have you ever tried to unlock your house with your car keys? Have you ever shut down your computer just to stop one email from sending? A week later, he posts “Tough Love”. This one was in song form, like a ton of his old ones from 2006 - 2007. The song is written from the perspective of animals, and it aims to give “tough love” to people who don’t do certain things like not doing the dishes or not standing up to your boss. It is filled with little bursts of inspiration for things. On March 5th, he posts “Don't Yuck My Yum”. This one is about experiences involving someone putting down something you like. They key to this concept is that you like something totally harmless, but someone else discourages you from appreciating that thing. Maybe they think it isn’t cool, or manly, or that you’ll embarrass yourself. He says that sometimes he feels that way to other people too. Like when someone finds something funny that’s completely predictable and overdone, as if his discontent is more valuable than their joy. “Find The others” is uploaded on March 12th. This is one of Ze’s voiceover videos. It’s not funny like many of them, it’s inspirational. What he’s trying to get at in this one is that each individual person has complex thoughts inside them, and most of them hide from the world. We all think a lot of the same things, but use club passwords like “How’s the weather?”. He wants us to ‘find the others,’ because we each hold a piece of the puzzle. On March 24th, “Carrot Hugs” is posted. It's a break from his normal style, a happy refreshing little song about carrot love, a slide show of carrots that look like they’re hugging each other. It’s reminiscent of how he used to write songs in his old show. Lastly, Ze posts “Anus Writes A Letter” on April 10th. It's a humorous little video in which different parts of the male human body talk to each other. It’s a tad raunchy, but very clever and inventive.
Ze Frank's videos in 2012 and 2013 seemed to have been targeted to people, especially creative people, who feel like they are alone with their worries and problems. The common theme is people being united through commonalities that had never been taken notice of. In the top comments sections of his more inspirational videos, his fans often share gratitude toward Ze for acknowledging problems they could never properly think about. Ze Frank's “Don't Yuck My Yum” particularly spoke to me. It's a concept I believe everyone has experienced from both sides, which naturally happens when people have different opinions. When I saw the video for the first time, I immediately thought of a time in middle school when a peer showed hatred toward a band I liked, and told me that they weren't cool to like. As lack of justice would have it, I believed him. I stopped listening to that band, and I lived with a little regret as a result. I continued to listen to that band as a “guilty pleasure”, and never saw that it was okay to like them. Like many people, I had never spoken to another person about how okay it is to have “guilty pleasures”, or even if putting them in a separate category is okay. Ze uploaded “Don't Yuck My Yum” and cleared things up, and I feel he does that for many people. More with commonalities, “Hard F#$@ng Work” is right down the alley of the common man. Hard work is a phrase we as people in the modern age hear all the time. It's the kind of work one must do to be above the rest, and to have any success. If it's not above average, it's not “hard work”, right? I didn't grow up a hard worker, to be honest. I grew up in a family with enough money for school, and was never forced into a situation that I had to fully work my way though... until I moved out. The transition of this part of my life was huge, and it scared me. I was comforted knowing that Ze, and the community hanging around the comment section, knew what I was going through. That's what Ze wants, it seems. Every now and then, he will do something humanizing; something that reminds you that he just a person due to sharing one of his own flaws. One of the most prominent examples of this is in the video blog post “Kindness Dammit” in which he talks about a meeting he went to. He caught himself worrying about a woman at the table getting attention instead of himself. These thoughts continued until a friend of his broke up the conversation with, “You're so funny”. I was once having a bad day at work, and the security guard, who I was pretty good friends with, came up behind me and started a funny conversation that last about 20 seconds, but made a huge difference. I feel that people who watched that video thought back to times when saw kindness go a long way, or had felt better as a result of someone showing it to them. With these things said, I am much more drawn to posts with similarities to my life. The videos I remember are ones that explain a phenomenon that has already happened in my life.
His blog is excellent, and I've become a huge fan. Aside from his newest show, I had been watching “the show” over and over since I discovered it in my first year of college. The man is a content-creating revolutionary. His ability to think in big-pictures allows him to bring the most out in his audience. The first project I ever participated in of his was for Martin Luther King Day one year. He created a Flash applet that took individual frames from the I Have A Dream speech, and enabled drawing tools. Soon, thousands of frames were colored in, and the speech was revived with community. I've been stuck on his work ever since. With the funding success of his latest show, he was able to open a museum exhibit for a couple days in Santa Cruz that showcased submissions from all of the people involved in projects throughout “a show”. With the official end of “a show”, he has been off making whatever content he feels like. A ton of his recent videos are in a format he invented called “True Facts”, in which he humorously discusses a subject over some b roll. For instance, he made a video called True Facts About Morgan Freeman in which he satirically claims miracles happening such as, “Morgan Freeman was born in 1937. He narrated his own birth.”. Most of his “True Facts” videos are about animals, and serve as sort of a mock wildlife documentary format.
Ze Frank has proven again and again that he can master any format of content creation. He is better than most at having huge success while still appearing to be a normal person. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Frank at Vidcon 2012, and I can confirm this. I would recommend anyone follow his work, as he has something for all walks of life.