You Can’t Do That On Television
By Laura Marcus

With old-school standbys like The Real World and Road Rules and next generation iterations like The Hills and Engaged & Underaged, reality television has always been MTV’s bread and butter. But maybe the network is realizing that its audience is tired of watching rich kids party and swap spit. They want fart jokes, they want balls-to-the-wall sketch comedy, and they want it now.

The three-man collective Human Giant is here to help. The brainchild of New York City comedians Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer, Human Giant is more than just a bunch of dudes with fake blood, unruly chest hair and big ideas. Their show, which premiered in April, is made up of the short films they have been creating for the past few years and test-screening in small clubs and bars. With guest stars like comedian Patton Oswalt, rapper Ghostface Killah and surfer Kelly Slater, each sketch is loosely based on a script but leans heavily on improvisation.

Aziz Ansari is the short, bearded South Asian member of the collective. A standout writer and performer, his wide-eyed, childlike demeanor often triggers the punchline for the group’s absurdist sketches (for example, he’s the bait for a child molestation sting operation). The comedian moved to New York City in 2000 to go to college. (“Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, I always wanted to go live in the 'big city.’”) Having excelled academically in high school, his parents were not surprised when he enrolled in NYU’s Stern School of Business. But they were shocked when he decided to pursue comedy, performing stand-up throughout the city. He was dedicated to the discipline while at school (his website details the number of entertainment internships he won and lost during his college years) and by the time he left NYU, he had enough credentials to commit to comedy full time. A year after he graduated, Ansari met Huebel and Scheer, and one month later, they started working together. By the end of 2005, the same year Ansari won the Emerging Comics of New York Best Male Stand-Up award, they had joined up with director Jason Woliner and decided on a name.

But just because Human Giant is now going corporate, it doesn’t mean they’re going PG. “They pretty much let us do what we want,” says Ansari. “The only thing they won’t let us have is handguns. We can have crossbows, hatchets and Uzis, just no handguns. Oh, and we can’t start fires because of the whole Beavis and Butt-Head thing.” He laughs and continues, “We have a sketch where someone has a dick drawn on his face and [MTV is] like, 'Okay, you can have the dick on the face, but it has to be drawn in a very particular way.’ So we had to draw four different dicks and fax them over. And their response was, 'Okay, dick number one looks a little too good, it can’t look that good.’”

With his career in hyperdrive and his focus honed in on Human Giant, Ansari still finds the time to perform at music festivals like South By Southwest and Coachella, but soon he may not have a moment to spare. With Human Giant poised to wrest MTV from the manicured grips of aspiring Paris Hiltons, Aziz Ansari is set to become the network’s latest unreality star.

The Changes in the Air
Chicago’s Next Big Thing
By Laura E. Marcus

If Detroit is the birthplace of blues and, more recently, moody garage rock, Chicago’s musical legacy rests in a very different place. “The Chicago sound is upbeat and friendly,” The Changes lead singer Darren Spitzer explains. Hailing from the Windy City, Spitzer, Dave Rothblatt, Rob Kallick and Jonny Basofin are a bunch of good Jewish boys with a whole lot of rhythm. The Changes aren’t trying to bring down the man or kick capitalism to the curb; they just want to take you along for a ride.

The band formed in 2002, and in 2005 they were the only unsigned band on the Lollapalooza tour. They’ve now played with Stephen Malkmus, Ted Leo and The Walkmen, but this kind of success hasn’t spoiled the band’s fresh attitude. When asked about the best thing that has happened to them on tour, Spitzer jumps to answer, “I signed my first boob! It was so awesome and so big, and she even wrote me to say thank you! Sooo cool!”

Relentless touring has garnered The Changes a devoted fan base both nationally and abroad. “It’s been real slow and stead,” says Spitzer, “so hopefully that keeps going because we’re having a lot of fun.” Well, credit that Midwestern hardworking optimism, because The Changes are here to stay.

You Can’t Do That On Television
By Laura Marcus

With old-school standbys like The Real World and Road Rules and next generation iterations like The Hills and Engaged & Underaged, reality television has always been MTV’s bread and butter. But maybe the network is realizing that its audience is tired of watching rich kids party and swap spit. They want fart jokes, they want balls-to-the-wall sketch comedy, and they want it now.

The three-man collective Human Giant is here to help. The brainchild of New York City comedians Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer, Human Giant is more than just a bunch of dudes with fake blood, unruly chest hair and big ideas. Their show, which premiered in April, is made up of the short films they have been creating for the past few years and test-screening in small clubs and bars. With guest stars like comedian Patton Oswalt, rapper Ghostface Killah and surfer Kelly Slater, each sketch is loosely based on a script but leans heavily on improvisation.

Aziz Ansari is the short, bearded South Asian member of the collective. A standout writer and performer, his wide-eyed, childlike demeanor often triggers the punchline for the group’s absurdist sketches (for example, he’s the bait for a child molestation sting operation). The comedian moved to New York City in 2000 to go to college. (“Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, I always wanted to go live in the 'big city.’”) Having excelled academically in high school, his parents were not surprised when he enrolled in NYU’s Stern School of Business. But they were shocked when he decided to pursue comedy, performing stand-up throughout the city. He was dedicated to the discipline while at school (his website details the number of entertainment internships he won and lost during his college years) and by the time he left NYU, he had enough credentials to commit to comedy full time. A year after he graduated, Ansari met Huebel and Scheer, and one month later, they started working together. By the end of 2005, the same year Ansari won the Emerging Comics of New York Best Male Stand-Up award, they had joined up with director Jason Woliner and decided on a name.

But just because Human Giant is now going corporate, it doesn’t mean they’re going PG. “They pretty much let us do what we want,” says Ansari. “The only thing they won’t let us have is handguns. We can have crossbows, hatchets and Uzis, just no handguns. Oh, and we can’t start fires because of the whole Beavis and Butt-Head thing.” He laughs and continues, “We have a sketch where someone has a dick drawn on his face and [MTV is] like, 'Okay, you can have the dick on the face, but it has to be drawn in a very particular way.’ So we had to draw four different dicks and fax them over. And their response was, 'Okay, dick number one looks a little too good, it can’t look that good.’”

With his career in hyperdrive and his focus honed in on Human Giant, Ansari still finds the time to perform at music festivals like South By Southwest and Coachella, but soon he may not have a moment to spare. With Human Giant poised to wrest MTV from the manicured grips of aspiring Paris Hiltons, Aziz Ansari is set to become the network’s latest unreality star.

The Changes in the Air
Chicago’s Next Big Thing
By Laura E. Marcus

If Detroit is the birthplace of blues and, more recently, moody garage rock, Chicago’s musical legacy rests in a very different place. “The Chicago sound is upbeat and friendly,” The Changes lead singer Darren Spitzer explains. Hailing from the Windy City, Spitzer, Dave Rothblatt, Rob Kallick and Jonny Basofin are a bunch of good Jewish boys with a whole lot of rhythm. The Changes aren’t trying to bring down the man or kick capitalism to the curb; they just want to take you along for a ride.

The band formed in 2002, and in 2005 they were the only unsigned band on the Lollapalooza tour. They’ve now played with Stephen Malkmus, Ted Leo and The Walkmen, but this kind of success hasn’t spoiled the band’s fresh attitude. When asked about the best thing that has happened to them on tour, Spitzer jumps to answer, “I signed my first boob! It was so awesome and so big, and she even wrote me to say thank you! Sooo cool!”

Relentless touring has garnered The Changes a devoted fan base both nationally and abroad. “It’s been real slow and stead,” says Spitzer, “so hopefully that keeps going because we’re having a lot of fun.” Well, credit that Midwestern hardworking optimism, because The Changes are here to stay.