Noah J Nelson on Thursday, Feb. 10th
You never know when lightning is going to strike. Early on Wednesday the comedy duo of Diani and Devine posted a Kickstarter project that’s one part parody to two parts awesome: a proposed “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Robot Edition”. Created as a satiric response to publisher New South Inc.’s announcement that they were creating a version that would replace the “n-word” with the word “slave”, Gabriel Diani and Etta Divine thought they could do better.
Replacing the character of Jim with a robot.
Late that evening fantasy author Neil Gaiman tweeted his 1.5 million followers about the project, and on Thursday the super influential BoingBoing had a post up. As of this writing Diani & Devine have raised over $5000 of their $6000 goal in just over 24 hours. [Update: by the time we went "to print" the goal had been surpassed.]
We talked to Gabe Diani via email about the sudden success.
TurnStyle: When you guys decided to start a Kickstarter for this, did you ever expect this fast of a reaction?
Gabe Diani: No, absolutely not. We were worried we’d missed the boat with the story having already filtered through the news cycle. We decided we wanted to do the Kickstarter campaign the same night we came up with the idea which was when the story about the New South edition hit. As we’ve been prepping the project we’ve been biting our nails because it was taking so long and we thought for sure someone else would beat us to the punch.
TS: How does this feel? Are you obsessively refreshing the KS page?
Gabe: It’s very exciting of course and yes, we do check the KS page a lot, but Etta’s working at the moment and I’m trying to get publicity materials together for a feature film we did for various reasons. I’ve also been trying to thank all the backers with a personal email but I’ve fallen woefully behind!
TS: Do you know how Neil Gaiman found out about it?
Gabe: That’s all because of our wonderful friend Abby Wilde. She watched the video and with no prompting from us starting tweeting to people asking them to retweet. One of them was Mr. Gaiman. When I saw that he had donated I wasn’t sure if it was him or someone using that as their user name. Obviously, it was pretty exciting to find out it was him.
TS: The pitch video is hilarious, so which came first the video mocking New South Inc., or the actual book idea?
Gabe: Well, first, thank you for the compliment. The whole thing started as a tweet. I’m a late-mid adapter when it comes to the internet and was making a conscious effort to think of something to tweet. I tweeted something about how I was doing my own version of Huck Finn and it was taking me a long time to fix all of Huck’s grammar and syntax. Then I tweeted I was replacing the “n-word” with “robot.” We were prepping a show for the SF Sketchfest in San Francisco and thought it would be funny to actually pitch to the audience that we were actually doing this and then read a passage heavy with the “n-word” replaced with “robot” as a comedy piece. We then very quickly removed the original tweet because we thought it was a good idea and didn’t want to launch it yet.
TS: What made you run with a Kickstarter project on this?
Gabe: Our friend, Jocelyn Towne, raised over $100,000 on Kickstarter for her fantastic feature film “I Am I.” That opened our eyes to the idea that this could be more than just a comedy piece onstage.
TS: There’s an element to all this of trying to teach people about irony and satire… what do you think it is about modern Americans that they can’t seem to process those ideas?
This is a great question. We were actually accused by someone of being insensitive Nazis because of the Holocaust comment made in the video on Youtube earlier today. We can understand someone not thinking that was an appropriate comment to make even as a joke but not understand it was joke seems a little weird to us. Almost to the point where we can’t be sure the comment wasn’t actually a well-executed piece of satire in and of itself and we’re the ones not getting the joke. Maybe it was.
We’re not sure what the answer to the question is. Satire and irony requires a certain amount of sophistication to actually get the joke and it’s inevitably going to be lost on some people. Humor is also not only subjective but cultural too. That movie we managed to work into the conversation [The Selling] is a comedy and we’re learning that comedy is a hard sell around the world because some things literally don’t translate. Speaking about Americans specifically, we’re a large country with huge cultural differences from state to state and city to city. I’m sure if most people look in their emails they’ll find several instances of miscommunication between friends and business associates. And those are people they share a common experience of some kind with.