LAWeekly — August 29, 2013
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2013 L.A. Weekly Web Awards


The Internet just won’t stand still. A few years ago it was all about Facebook and Twitter. Then Pinterest, then GIFs. Now we’re all taking a crash course in something called Vine. Oh, and did you hear MySpace is back — and Yahoo is beating Google? But as online life continues to evolve, the medium is increasingly less important than the message. Smart, funny and creative, our 2013 Web Award winners would succeed in any platform, and whether they’re posting photos on Instagram, uploading videos on YouTube or putting good old-fashioned words on a blog, you’d be wise to stop snapchatting already and check out their awesomeness. —Sarah Fenske

L. A. Taco

Based on its name and tagline — “celebrating the taco lifestyle in Los Angeles” — it would be easy to mistake L.A. Taco for yet another of this city’s countless food blogs. But while there are food-centric regular features like “Bang for Your Burger Buck,” this blog’s meatier offerings celebrate the art painted and plastered on public walls from Boyle Heights to Venice Beach. Founded in 2005 by an anonymous collective of bloggers whose love for street art is as great as their love for street food, L.A. Taco not only covers local news — such as the city’s ban on murals and the subsequent protests — but also promotes underground art shows and documents L.A.’s constantly changing graffiti landscape.

Brian Redban

Our judge writes, “Brian Redban definitely knows how to use the web and social media to push his DeathSquad brand, but when I heard him on the Muff Said podcast talking about accidentally massaging a dolphin’s vagina after eating a dose of psychedelic mushrooms I about laughed myself into unconsciousness. That’s when I knew I had a winner.” You read it here first.

The Laker Bros

Ah, the Laker Bros. A pair of good-looking SoCal dudes in matching Dwight Howard jerseys attend a Lakers game last November. And when Kobe Bryant scores, the left bro whips off his sunglasses in dramatic fashion while the right bro applauds, with perfectly brotastic expressions. In the year 2000, this would mean nothing. In the year 2013, this is a meme. It gets turned into a GIF, written up in Deadspin and the Daily Mail and endlessly dissected on Reddit. weighs in with “The 15 Best Things About That Lakers Bro GIF.” Someone even puts the whole sequence in reverse. Now, you could argue that the moment lasted a few seconds, tops, and that neither of these guys should be famous, much less given an L.A. Weekly Web Award. But it’s 2013. And that reverse sunglass whip is priceless.

B-Side Blog

Ben Mandelker’s B-Side Blog covers “TV, food, drink and everything in between” — which just about covers all of our hobbies, thankyouverymuch. Our judge writes, “B-Side has been the undisputed king of TV blogging for years. Mandelker practically invented TV photocapping.” Funny, perceptive and spectacularly good with the screen grab, B-Side will suck you in for hours on end.


Writer-director Shilpi Roy’s delightfully angst-filled series knows exactly how much heart and humor to pack into each episode. Says our judge, “We stick around for the laughs, but we return for the story.”

Where My Dogs At

If you’re looking for love, there’s OK Cupid. If you’re looking for sex, there’s Grindr (or Tinder). But what if you’re just a dog lover looking for other pups (and their people) to play with — or a nice pet-friendly patio? Where My Dogs At fills that important niche, allowing you to search for “dog people” or “dog places” in the vicinity with just a few clicks of your smartphone. And, of course, you can create a profile for your dog — because if there’s one thing dog people like to do, it’s share furry baby photos.

Put This On

The comprehensive approach taken by Jesse Thorn and Adam Lisagor’s fashion blog, Put This On, just might blow your mind. One judge writes, “Both newsy (a recent post alerted readers to the possible going-out-of-business sale by a beloved thrift shop) and thoughtful (‘reviewing’ takes on new meaning here). Men should bookmark this site yesterday.”

Crazy Days and Nights

For six years, Crazy Days and Nights brought the goods, dropping tasty blind items with a knowing, had-to-bean- insider tone. Readers ate it up. And then something so deliciously juicy went down that even the mainstream media was forced to pay attention: Some readers became convinced last year that Robert Downey Jr. Was leaving comments on the site.

Downey’s spokesperson took the rare step of issuing a denial, but the resulting furor only seems to have emboldened CdaN (as fans call it). Run by an L.A.-area man who goes by “Enty,” the site remains a fascinating peek into the darker side of Hollywood. Is any of it true? A New York Post story published in the wake of the Downey imbroglio suggests not (it revealed Entry to be a probate attorney, not a connected entertainment lawyer, as he’s suggested). But the site is such a good read, you can hardly blame readers for wishing it was.

PAGE Heal the Bay

Do-gooder Facebook pages can be boring, static places — “like” them and you’ll be subjected to a slow but steady entreaty of requests to give money. Not Heal the Bay. The venerable Santa Monica nonprofit shares gorgeous photos, links to relevant news stories and even posts a quiz or two. Once you’ve liked the page, it’s impossible not to feel a kinship to the organization — and more committed to its cause.


Author, screenwriter and blogger Kelly Oxford has earned 543,000-plus Twitter followers for her nastily hilarious musings. Writes our judge, “I love cerebralfunny and sunny, adorkable-funny, but I also appreciate the kind of funny that sucker punches you in the gut and takes names. And for that, I chose Kelly Oxford.”


KCET’s food blog doesn’t have a catchy name (it goes, simply, by “food”). But it makes up for the lack of clever branding with a reader-friendly mix of recipes, lists and essays. Videos show how to make various dishes, while reported pieces (often by the site’s Living editor, Katherine Spiers) explain L.A.’s food scene. A consistently enjoyable read.

L. A. Observed

The site founded, published and edited by veteran journalist Kevin Roderick consistently wins honors in this category, and not by any failure of imagination on the part of our judges. It’s simply the best. If there’s something the city’s power brokers will find interesting, Roderick is on it — aggregating, providing generous links or simply breaking the news himself. It’s a cliché to call any publication a must-read, but there’s simply no better way to describe L.A. Observed.

Time Out Los Angeles

In a city as happening as L. A., it’s hard to keep track of all the … well, happenings. Enter Time Out Los Angeles. Its app lets you peruse the coolest events and hot spots in truly useful ways: It uses geolocation to find fun stuff nearby, has ever-updating Top 10 lists steering you toward the best comedy, shopping, nightlife and more, and lets you favorite all the stuff you love so you can go back for more good times. It even has an “Inspire Me” button with curated suggestions for those moments you’re feeling extra adventurous. For a calendar app, that’s inspired, indeed.

Alie Ward

Alie Ward takes beautiful photos. The self-described “redheaded half of the Cooking Channel’s Tripping Out With Alie and Georgia” (BFF Georgia Hardstark is the brunette), Ward travels around the country looking for cool places — with an emphasis on the ones that serve awesome cocktails. (Tough job, but someone’s got to do it.) The pictures she posts along the way are breathtaking glimpses of an America far more glorious than any burned-out cube dweller’s wildest imaginings.

Thrilling Adventure Hour

The Thrilling Adventure Hour has one of the best retro conceits going: quirky podcasts done in the style of old-school radio serials. Co-creators Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (seriously) attract top voice talent — Paul F. Tompkins, John DiMaggio and James Urbaniak among them — with scripts that are snappy, retro fun.


The brains behind the nation’s best gay blog,, no longer lives in Los Angeles, having departed for New York City a few years ago. But since Andy Towle started Towleroad here, what the hell: We’re going to claim it. Besides, this 10-year-old website really is the best — a mix of serious news, goofy stuff and arts coverage, brought together with an editor’s eye. One judge admits, “I’ve been reading Towleroad for years. I always appreciate his point of view and timely news.”

George Takei

How does an older character actor who hasn’t had a hit movie in years rack up 4.4 million Facebook likes? By being funnier than everyone else, of course. Star Trek veteran George Takei has proven himself remarkably adept at social media even in his 70s. His fans on Facebook don’t just “like” the page — they comment and share, to the point that his memes dominate your news feed whether you like it or not. Lately Takei has been using his star power to blast Russia’s civil rights abuses, ginning up outrage among his followers. We can’t conceive of a better use of an army of 4. 4 million.

Garrett Watts and Colleen Evanson

Garrett Watts is a filmmaker, and wife Colleen Evanson is a writer. As a team, they’re goofy good fun — and experts in the art of Vine, the newish, Twitterowned mobile app that allows users to create short video clips (six seconds or less). One judge writes, “I think all the nominees are fantastic, but Garrett and Colleen are underfollowed. They make some pretty clever Vines.” They’re also community builders: The pair organized an L.A. Vine picnic — a meetup at the Griffith Park Observatory.

BLOG The Eastsider L.A.

The Eastsider L.A. aggregates everything happening from Atwater Village to Lincoln Heights — and when something’s afoot that no one else is properly covering, it jumps right in there and breaks news. Witness its reporting on the Silver Lake fight between neighbors and a would-be hotelier, which drew 103 passionate comments, or the ongoing controversy over an Echo Park swap meet. The tone is professional, the photography excellent and the connection to the community organic. The Eastsider L. A. is the smart, intensely local website that AOL only wishes it could duplicate.

Passion of the Weiss

We tried — oh so terribly hard! — not to give ourselves at the L.A. Weekly any Web Awards. Still, we had to make an exception when it comes to Best Music Blog. And while Passion of the Weiss is written by Weekly music columnist Jeff Weiss, it features great writing outside the stuff we publish. It’s also the clear favorite of our judges and readers. One writes, “What sets Passion of the Weiss apart is that it offers both sharp analyses and quick, funny bites delivered in a variety of voices. There’s very little filler of show announcements and promo that bogs down many music blogs.” How could anyone argue with that?

Grimy Goods

Our judges call music/lifestyle website Grimy Goods “terrific” and “informed.” Editor-in-chief Sandra Burciaga and her team of writers/photographers expertly capture the coolest Angelenos enjoying the city’s hottest shows. They’re everywhere you wish you could be, capturing the fun being had by people much more stylish than you. Jealous? Don’t be. Just like a photo or two and be inspired.

Smut for Smarties

This was the hands-down favorite among voters, and the judges could see why, noting, “Some of the other nominees straddled categories and wandered off the beaten path into dating-blog territory. Visit Smut for Smarties and you’ll get a unadulterated dose of anything you could possibly want: erotica, sex ed, sex tips, toy reviews, etc. This choice was clear.”

Land O’ Lakers

Our judge writes, “This is still a Laker town, even if the Clippers have taken over in the win column. Land O’ Lakers never lets us forget, and keeps the team honest with real breakdowns and analysis.” The site’s founders, Andy and Brian Kamenetzky, also do a popular podcast.


The Twitter arm of Southern California Public Radio breaks news all day long, and expertly engages with its followers. “Nobody understands the Southland better, or has more of a sense of what matters to Angelenos,” one judge concludes.

Downtown Muse

“Great artists have flocked to Tumblr to share their work for the digital world to see,” our judge writes. “Unfortunately, those creative minds usually forget about Tumblr within a few weeks after creating it. That’s why Melissa Richardson Banks’ online anthology of downtown Los Angeles’ Art District, Downtown Muse, is such a treat. Banks shares her fly-on-thewall view of street scenes and local stories a couple times a day. Every day. And if you want to get the offline experience of her Tumblr, she offers free neighborhood tours weekly.”

WeHo Confidential

If you need the skinny on the beating gay heart of L.A., look no farther than WeHo Confidential. Gleefully NSFW, the site isn’t afraid to show some skin while simultaneously slinging the hottest gossip about the hottest sports in West Hollywood. Run by an assortment of gay men who value their anonymity, WeHo Confidential will tell you Where 2 Be in the gayborhood on a given night, reveal the leaked cast list for RuPaul’s Drag Race, and even throw horny gays a bone with some free porn. Yet just two posts away, readers will find an impassioned post about boycotting the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But what really separates WeHo Confidential from its competitors is the administrators’ fearlessness. The guys aren’t afraid to name names, call out the worst in the community and talk about what happens underneath WeHo’s shiny surface. Yes, some of it is unsubstantiated rumor, and some of it is pure shade-throwing. But on a nightlife site about West Hollywood, what else could you expect?

Tyler, the Creator

The leader of rap collective Odd Future has been described by the group’s manager as “one of the most creative kids alive,” and his Instagram bears out the boast. Tyler has posted more than 1,300 photos in the persona of “feliciathegoat” — supposedly “Tyler’s auntie” — giving his 800,000-plus followers a glimpse into the life of Los Angeles’ irreverent, goofy Next Big Thing.


The 23,000-plus people who follow this police-scanner Twitter would tell you it isn’t just informative — it’s also laughout- loud funny. To wit: When @ABC7 recently tweeted, “Plans to move as many as 5 tigers into Malibu prompt concern/ protests from neighbors,” @LAScanner added, “Who’ll notice 5 tigers amidst all the cougars?” Or there’s this tweet from last week: “BEVERLY HILLS: Blue Mustang & white taxi racing w/b Sunset Bl from Rexford. Doesn’t sound like much of a race.” The man behind @LAScanner prefers not to be identified, although Los Angeles magazine has reported that he lives in the Miracle Mile and that, reportedly, only three people in his life know about his online alter ego. We’re not among them, but you can definitely count us as fans.


Comedian Patton Oswalt was a clear winner in this category. Writes one judge, “I like to celebrate intelligence, I like to celebrate earnestness and I like to celebrate a little ballsy audacity. Patton Oswalt nails all three categories. Plus, it’s refreshing to see an intensely nerdy persona with a little street cred.” Hear, hear.

Stories From the Street

Our judge writes, “In an honest, effective three minutes, filmmaker Justin Baldoni’s Stories From the Street will change the way you walk around L.A. and the emotions and actions you take toward those who call its streets home. This beautifully crafted micro-documentary series gives its audience the gift of the conversations we never stop to have and the courage and knowledge to change that.”


RICO GAGLIANO, co-creator/co-host, American Public Media’s The Dinner Party Download;

WILL MELTON, social media manager for Ignition Creative and digital strategy consultant for Transmedia L.A.;

JEN YAMATO, weekend editor/reporter, Deadline Hollywood;

REBECCA HAITHCOAT, staff writer, MySpace;

RICHARD RUSHFIELD, features editor, Yahoo! Entertainment;

STEPHANIE CARRIE, actress, writer, comedian and L.A. Weekly columnist; ADAM POPESCU, writer and #muckedup host;

BOBBY FEINGOLD, digital content manager at Heal the Bay;

ALICE SHIN, brand developer and curator for Kogi BBQ and other restaurants; contributing editor of;

NICK WALSH, social media guru. For complete bios and a word about our judging process, please go to



A chef puts his art on the plate, the white expanse of porcelain standing in for the blank field of the stretched canvas. In this era of social media, the logical extension of the chef’s tabula rasa is Instagram. In the hands of a creative chef, an Instagram feed can operate like a combination interactive menu/visual diary. It can be — should be — a far cry from a catalog of what he had for breakfast.

Chef Evan Funke, who recently opened his first restaurant, Bucato, in Culver City, after years helming the stoves at Rustic Canyon, has such an Instagram feed. His posts function as a mosaic rather than a random list of pictures: an assemblage of beautiful plates, yes, but also of artwork, of food not always his own, of colleagues, of tattoos, of old Italian restaurant signage and of the red pig — the one painted on his Porchetta Truck — that wanders through the pictures, a recurrent motif.

In short, it is curated, as any good photography collection should be.

“I’m a photographer’s son,” Funke says. He’s at Bucato, pausing in his task of expediting plates of gnocchetti bathed in rich uni butter. “I’m very selective about what I put on it.”

Funke’s father, it should be noted, is not some amateur shooter but a cinematographer who won two Oscars for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Alex Funke’s son shares his talents as a visual storyteller. There are gorgeous shots of Evan Funke’s dishes but also of their history: pigs on a farm, his restaurant under construction, a pen-and-ink diagram of a dish, the cross section of a rolled porchetta, a road sign featuring another red pig.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Funke’s Instagram feed is that it exists at all. After all, Funke has famously banned photography in his restaurant. This is called irony, or — if we channel Dario Cecchini, the most famous butcher in Italy, another pig fetishist and a lover of Dante — contrapasso, the trope of having the punishment fit the crime. Funke’s dishes are gorgeous, as photo-worthy as any out there, but the chef wants you to eat them, not document them. You can look at Funke’s pictures instead — after your dinner, or maybe before it, but not while your plate of tagliatelle with rabbit sugo is getting cold.

Something to consider: Funke, business partner Ed Keebler and chef de cuisine Russell Victorioso are all young, heavily tattooed guys who look as if they could kick your ass in the alley behind the Helms Bakery complex if they needed to. In other words, this Don’t-Facebook- Your-Dinner policy has not been handed down by a 70-year-old maître d’ who thinks Tumblr is a plastic kid’s toy.

“We want real hospitality, not gastro ADD,” Funke says. The food at Bucato is thoughtful, sometimes old-school cuisine, meant to be enjoyed as dinner, consumed with friends and wine and conversation. Certainly it’s art but in the same way that Marcella Hazan’s dishes are art: You do not spend all day making Hazan’s Bolognese sauce, then take pictures of it while it cools to leftovers in the pot.

The further irony of this Instagramming chef’s policy is the furor it has generated among the new school of L.A. diners, exactly the crowd who trailed Funke’s Porchetta Truck, blogging and tweeting every sandwich. When Bucato opened, one frustrated blogger gave the restaurant a decidedly lukewarm review, adding photographs of unicorns and puppies in the pig-shaped hole where photos of each dish would normally be.

It was a hilarious piece but also somewhat troubling, since the reviewer seemed incapable of considering — or enjoying — his food absent photographs of it. Which is, of course, exactly Funke’s point. Of both his policy and of his own beautiful pictures. Think about it.

—Amy Scattergood



What’s the secret to turning a low-budget commercial into a YouTube phenomenon? Full-time YouTube producers and self-proclaimed “Internetainers” Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, better known as comedy duo Rhett & Link, have the formula down. Friends since first grade and YouTube collaborators since 2006, the North Carolina natives made their first low-budget commercial in 2009 for the Red House, a furniture store in High Point, N.C. With its campy aesthetics, catchy jingle and tongue-in-cheek tagline — “where black people and white people buy furniture” — it has 4.5 million views on YouTube.

“We’ve always been a fan of those horribly awesome local commercials that you see all across the country,” Rhett tells the Weekly. “It’s kind of an American staple of late-night television, and we started realizing, if we can go and offer them for free to a business and they get millions of viewers, it’s a win-win” — not just for the local business but also for Rhett & Link, who write, direct, score and make cameos in every commercial they produce.

In fact, what started as a goofy side project eventually led to an IFC show, Commercial Kings, which ran for a season in 2011. It documented Rhett & Link’s process of working with small businesses to produce YouTube commercials that often are as bizarre and schlocky as they are endearing and memorable.

But it wasn’t until the pair of musical comedians moved to Los Angeles for their IFC show that they stumbled upon their most celebrated local business to date: Arlen’s Transmission, a Burbank auto shop whose owner, Gorgen Zargarian, is a pop star who records in Farsi and is well-known among L.A.’s Armenian and Persian communities. After noticing Zargarian’s flamboyant signage while taking a walk near their namesake production studio, the duo “just walked right in, introduced [themselves] and immediately figured out that this guy was a huge personality,” Rhett says.

Made for less than $500 and released on YouTube in April, their “Shift It” ad for Arlen’s is a remake of one of Zargarian’s Farsi-language songs, with its lyrics rewritten in English with the promotional refrain: “Shift it, shift it in forward/ Shift it, Shift it in reverse/Domestic or foreign/How could you beat my service?”

With nearly 4 million YouTube views and appearances on The Ellen Show, Chelsea Lately and TMZ, “Shift It” has become both a household catchphrase and a national dance craze. It has catapulted the auto shop’s reputation far beyond Burbank Boulevard, thanks to the video’s poorly executed green-screen, amateur dance moves by Craigslist-enlisted models in jean shorts, and expertly comedic — if not painfully awkward — editing by Rhett & Link.

Videos like “Shift It” are so convincing as stand-alone low-budget spots that Rhett & Link often don’t receive credit for strategically designing them. “You want to believe that this guy had a crazy idea and made some phone calls and made this commercial,” Rhett says of the ads’ appeal. “You don’t want to pull back the curtain and learn that two comedians made this commercial.”

But if anyone’s having the last laugh, it’s Rhett & Link. Their myriad commercials, web series, musical-parody albums and other viral songs and videos have allowed the duo to make a living, thanks to the corporate sponsorship and ad revenue generated by their two YouTube channels. How could you beat their service?

—Jennifer Swann



Kit Williamson is the ultimate 21st-century L. A. success story.

He moved to Hollywood with fame in his eyes and spent a few years trying to make it big as an actor while canvassing, phonebanking and telling cheesy jokes as a waiter at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. On the side. Nothing stuck.

Tired of what he calls “the audition rigmarole” and longing to work on something he had a creative stake in, he enrolled in the graduate playwriting program at UCLA. He wanted to be honest about his friends’ lives, without studio heads or focus groups dumbing down the complexity of gay characters and glossing over their flaws. So late last fall, he wrote, directed, financed and starred in the first two episodes of web series EastSiders, a soap opera about a same-sex couple living in Silver Lake.

Williamson wracked his brain for ways to make the series stand out among the YouTube jetsam.

“We put my cat in the first episode because we were, like, ‘It’s an Internet video, so we can try to get the screen grab to be the five seconds when Albee is on screen,’ ” he recalls.

(Yes, his cat is named after famed playwright Edward Albee.)

Such gimmickry soon proved unnecessary, however, as the series garnered buzz from LGBT blogs and soon had more than 100,000 views on YouTube. Williamson quickly raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter and set to work on the rest of the first season.

It found a home in the spring on Logo TV, which is owned by MTV, a division of Viacom.

“You don’t expect a company like Viacom to reach out to you, so I was beyond thrilled,” Williamson says.

He did his best to work in the culture of his titular neighborhood, shooting scenes at Silver Lake gay club MJ’s, as well as at the Cha Cha Lounge and Mohawk Bend.

Living in Silver Lake, he says, is “maybe the first time I’ve felt at home in L.A. The Westside is just an amazing hub of gay culture, but I’ve never really felt at home there.”

Williamson, 27, also stars in another web series about what Money recently dubbed the “Best Big-City Neighborhood” in America: Hipsterhood, our judges’ pick for best Comedy Web Series. Appropriately, Williamson met Hipsterhood writer-director Shilpi Roy at a vegan barbecue, where the host served rosemary craft beer he had bottled and brewed himself.

Williamson is putting on a play this fall at Los Feliz’s Skylight Books. He’s optioned a screenplay about a heroin addict who turns into a vampire — and even has a Gosling-esque Tumblr devoted to him: “Fuck Yeah Kit Williamson.”

Not to mention his guest spot on this past season of Mad Men as ad executive Ed Gifford, which he actually booked before EastSiders blew up. Williamson shot his episodes this spring for the acclaimed AMC drama while simultaneously working on his web series, finishing his graduate coursework and teaching acting classes at UCLA.

With all this success, it’s getting harder to maintain a low profile on campus. One of his undergrads this quarter informed Williamson that he happened to have contributed to the Kickstarter of a movie Williamson acted in, a postapocalyptic road trip comedy called Best Friends Forever.

And no, Williamson says, that does not guarantee the student an A. —Amanda Lewis



The sideburns on Mad Men got a lot bushier last season as Don Draper and his cohorts began meandering out of the midcentury and into the disco era, but comedian John Mc- Namee is one step ahead: He’s already got the show’s antihero rockin’ a Miami Vice look and hawking acid-wash jeans as the Twitter persona @80sDonDraper. It’s a totally tubular mash-up between dark-and-twisty Draper and stereotypes from the “decade of indulgence.”

McNamee, a 27-year-old Silver Lake resident, created the cartooning site Pie Comic. He’s also done stand-up comedy and contributed to The Onion. But he nearly wasted his brilliant Draper meme on a simple hashtag. Poised to tweet “People are asking where’s our childhood? Where’s our America? Where’s the beef? #80sDonDraper” just days before Mad Men’s season-six premiere, suddenly he paused. As if by divine intervention, McNamee says, “I stopped over the ‘Tweet’ button and thought, ‘I should probably make this its own account.’ ” He dredged up an old farce Twitter handle he’d once manned, @DalaiLamasHypeMan, and decided to rebrand it. “It had about 12 followers,” he says, “and I thought, ‘Well, that’s a good start.’ ”

Today, that number has ballooned to nearly 55,000, fans who retweet the musings of a Don Draper who’s gone back to the future.

“There’s cab fare on the dresser. Don’t wake me up before you go-go,” quips @80sDon- Draper. Faux-poignantly he writes, “One Duran is never enough.”

But the tweets McNamee focuses on are the ones in which ’80s Don Draper displays his skills as an ad man. “There’s this particular way that Don Draper on the show always pitches a product,” McNamee says. “He always tries to connect it to some deep, deep, psychological problem he has. Then he’s, like, ‘That’s why people drink Coca-Cola.’ I’m always trying to find that dark place … and then trying to move some Rubik’s Cubes with it.” Such is the case with the heavily favorited tweet, “People wander through life just hoping to make any kind of connection. We’re giving them the chance to Connect Four.”

Mocking the stuff of the ’80s comes pretty easily to McNamee. “All ’80s products are pretty silly already,” he says. “They’re easy punch lines to use to sell some Flava Flav to people.”

Still, he never dreamed @80sDonDraper would become so popular. “I guess I might have imagined it in the way you imagine becoming a dragon or something, but no, I did not think it would become this big.”

Despite not being on Twitter, Mad Men’s creator counts himself a fan, telling TheWrap in an interview that @80sDonDraper “is totally Matthew Weiner–approved.” McNamee says he’s grateful for the seal of approval but can’t help asking, “Hey Matt, how about the seal of a job?” —Ali Trachta



The protagonist of “You Can Touch My Boobies” is one Jeffrey Goldstein, a Hebrewschool student studying for his bar mitzvah. Focused on his teacher’s bosom, he drifts off to sleep, only to confront his instructor in a dream, clad in her negligee. “You’re about to have a dream,” she tells him. “And not just any dream — a sexy dream.”

What follows is perhaps not quite as sexy as, say, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” This is You- Tube, after all, so trust that the Hebrew-school teacher, played by Rachel Bloom, leaves something to poor Jeffrey’s imagination.

But it is hilarious, cleverly poking fun at adolescent ignorance of the opposite sex. “I’ll show you my vagina, which is located on my stomach somewhere,” Bloom teases. She adds: “No need to check the lock, ’cause your parents are at Benihana. Throw away the sock.”

With more than 1.5 million views, “You Can Touch My Boobies” is the second most popular video on Bloom’s YouTube channel. (“Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury” has 2 million-plus views.) The L. A.-based writer-singer-actress-comedian, who hails from Manhattan Beach, has written for Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken, Fox’s short-lived cartoon Allen Gregory and Lucasfilm’s upcoming animated series Star Wars Detours.

Her greatest passion, though, is for her of traunchy brand of short musical theater. In May she released Please Love Me, a musical-comedy album featuring “You Can Touch My Boobies” and other songs from her channel, such as “Pictures of Your Dick” and “Historically Accurate Disney Princesses.”

Bloom’s humor is reminiscent of the Lonely Island, and also reflects influence by South Park and Upright Citizens Brigade. She seems to have a special place in her heart for the socially inept; “I Steal Pets,” for example, focuses on a kid who takes pets from the popular kids, dresses them up and hangs out with them on the weekends.

Her online fan base is quickly accumulating, but there has been a bit of a backlash, specifically to “Boobies.” “Many people have attacked me, saying that I’m a pedophile, because the video is talking about trying to seduce a boy, but those people are completely missing the point,” she says.

The joke, she adds, concerns young boys’ ignorance of the female anatomy. She says she empathizes with them: The “erotic fiction” she wrote in her high school diary had, she says with a laugh, a very juvenile point of view. Thankfully a bit of that mentality stays with her today.

—Juan Gutierrez



As an undergrad at DePaul University, Ben Welsh had a work-study job answering phones at the school’s College of Communication. He was bored. But because he was charged with posting new internship opportunities for the department, he was the first student to learn that a pair of veteran TV reporters was seeking an assistant. “That sounded much cooler than answering the phones,” he recalls. He applied, and the rest was history — the self-described “aimless” student found himself hooked on journalism.

Unlike many an undergrad, Welsh wasn’t lured by the glamour of television, nor did he find himself longing to tell dramatic stories of love and loss. The reporters he worked with, Carol Marin and Don Moseley, were into public records. Soon Welsh was, too.

The work made good use of his love of computers. As a kid in rural Iowa, Welsh loved noodling around online; in class, he’d learned HTML and Excel. So when Marin and Moseley got a giant stack of records, Welsh would turn it into a spreadsheet, transforming a data dump into the beginnings of a story.

In an industry rife with English majors and wannabe Hemingways with no aptitude for numbers, that made him a hot commodity. After getting his master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, where his work focused on computer-assisted reporting, Welsh quickly landed a job with the Washington, D. C.–based Center for Public Integrity, “a nonprofit news organization before that was cool,” he says. After that, he promptly landed a job working for the L.A. Times’ data desk — a huge coup for a guy still in his mid-20s.

For the last five years, Welsh, 31, has worked closely with the desk’s team of reporters, helping to translate their shoe-leather reporting into something that works on a website. The interactive map he created last year showing the Los Angeles Fire Department’s response times had the whole city talking — and residents looking up their addresses to determine how they personally were affected. It also did something LAFD itself had been unable to do: pinpoint flaws in the system and determine causes for deadly delays.

Before that story, Welsh’s biggest triumph was the newspaper’s “Mapping L.A.” project, which somehow managed to turn a sprawling city into a coherent map searchable by neighborhood down to the street address — something that had never been done, or at least not well. It has generated millions of pageviews for the Times.

And it was drawn, in part, through new-media crowdsourcing. Trying to determine precisely where one neighborhood began and another ended was, suffice it to say, a challenge. “We knew because there was no right or wrong answer, anything we put out there would be debated,” Welsh says. “So we released the first version and basically said, ‘World, tell us what’s right or wrong about this.’ ” Given the chance to draw their own online maps, readers seized the opportunity — and Welsh and his colleagues used that feedback to create “Mapping L.A.” 2. 0. They later modified the map to create a third version, and are contemplating a fourth.

The power of the hive mind is one reason Welsh embraces social media in all its forms. He loves Twitter and credits GitHub, the social network for programmers, for helping him through many a project. “I wake up in the morning, and someone from Ukraine has fixed a bug from my coding,” he marvels. —Sarah Fenske



In the middle of Cinefamily’s monthlong Kickstarter campaign last December, Robert Downey Jr. Made the oddball movie theater an offer it couldn’t refuse — and one that could have cost it everything. In front of an audience, Downey pledged to buy the nonprofit art house one of the biggest-ticket items on its fundraising wish list: a $60,000 digital projector. “It’s not like I can’t swing it,” the superhero shrugged.

The problem? Cinefamily had already earned $100,000 of its $144,000 goal and, under the rules of Kickstarter, if it didn’t convince people to keep donating until it reached the total, it risked losing every cent — money still desperately needed for new seating ($65,000), livestreaming equipment ($35,000) and a handyman to patch the roof ($10,000). Downey’s much-publicized gift wouldn’t count toward the total, and it risked discouraging other potential donors.

“We didn’t want to make it seem like, ‘Oh, party’s over, let’s just kick back and relax,’ ” director of programming Bret Berg says. “It’s like the Jerry Lewis telethon: Just because they get a big check doesn’t mean they stop tap dancing.” A 10-year veteran of noncommercial KXLU 88. 9 FM, Berg is used to begging. “On the radio, you can’t hear if the DJ is literally on their knees, but here, whether it’s done metaphorically or for real, getting on my knees is no problem.”

The year before, Cinefamily hosted a wacky 24-hour telethon to boost membership. It was such a solid publicity boost that the theater did it again, enlisting friends like Iron Man to drop by. Kickstarter, however, was a first-time challenge — and chance to fail publicly.

So before the launch, members of the Cinefamily team did their favorite kind of homework: They watched videos.

“We looked at a lot of Kickstarters — successful and not successful, profitable and not profitable — and it seemed like a running theme for successful campaigns was a great video,” Berg says. “And not just one that was an ‘ask.’ One that entertained, was emotional and had a pizzazz to it.” He spent more than a month on Cinefamily’s 4½-minute pitch, and even hired Shadoe Stevens, Craig Ferguson’s announcer, for the baritone voice-over.

Cinefamily’s triumphant campaign ad was a flag-waving ode to cinema. Over images of fireworks and apple pie, Werner Herzog and Tom Cruise, it promised that a donation would guarantee everything from karmic rewards leading to heaven, to cats and dogs living together in peace and harmony.

“Together we will fight the Kardashian death machine and create a public space of decent, nutritious culture!” it pledged. With a bribe like that, no wonder the theater didn’t just meet its fundraising goal — it topped it by more than $14,000.

—Amy Nicholson