December 12, 2008
Eric Fensler, the G.I. Joe PSA guy (sorry, Eric)
You probably remember those funny G.I. Joe PSA parodies from around 2003--they were an early internet video phenomenon that probably helped inspire the creation of YouTube. Here's a collection of a bunch of them so you can reminisce.
Anyway, the guys over at Spout's FilmCouch podcast decided to track down the creator of the videos, Eric Fensler, and interview him over the phone. Fensler is a video artist who's gone on to do lots of music videos and other parodies using found footage, including some stuff that looks just like 80's cable access video and some writing for Adult Swim's Tim and Eric Awesome Show. He's had his stuff in galleries and film festivals and everything. But, as you would probably guess, he's still usually referred to as the G.I. Joe PSA guy, which it seems he isn't crazy about.
Anyway, the Spout interview starts about 10:00 into the podcast, and it's one of the stranger interviews with a filmmaker I've ever heard. It starts with Fensler apologizing for being so out of it because he had recently eaten a roast beef sandwich that wasn't sitting well, and he says some things in the interview that make the interviewer start to wonder if in Fensler is pulling one over on him.
Throughout the interview, the guys at Spout stop the tape and provide some commentary about how they couldn't figure out what was going on, if Fensler was for real or if he was turning the interview into one of his parody projects. In the interview, he claims the following: he made videos of the girls' softball team in high school that were really popular when played at assemblies, and he thinks they're some of his best work; he doesn't own a video camera; he didn't own a computer until 2004; in high school he weighed 300 pounds and had bad acne. The interviewer actually knew Fensler in high school and says he was skinny and fairly good looking, which is when he starts really getting confused about what's going on.
Then Fensler calls people who like the G.I. Joe videos "losers", then calls himself a loser and quotes Micky's death scene from Rocky 3. He also notes that his best work is the stuff that throws people off and confuses them. He says, "Isn't that the best kind of stuff? It's like you're asking questions, people are left to guess what the hell's going on. I don't like to be told everything. I like to be, like, what was that?"
And then the bad roast beef sandwich gets the better of him, and it's all right there on the interview tape.
So the FilmCouch guys were either made to be part of a performance art parody of an interview, or they recorded a filmmaker having some terrible digestive problems and broadcast it over the internet. Hard to say which.
Anyway, here's Fensler's website, with links to his music videos, Flickr, YouTube (including 23 videos of the kickoff of the 2007 Super Bowl), Vimeo, and live streaming video and slideshows of his dogs.
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