I just found this presentation Ze did at TED … in 2004. This is two years before the show began and it demonstrates how coherently zefrank conceived of himself and his mission as an online personality from a long time back. There is a segment in the presentation where he does a powerpoint associative bit that resembles Stephen Colbert’s ‘the Word’. But this is two years before the Colbert Report’s first broadcast.
I only recently became fascinated with zefrank through the show. Part of his genius in that video blog was to make the viewer feel like the production is something anyone could do–to draw viewers into his world as participants rather than passive recipient of the content. The show was conspicuously low-tech: Ze usually had not showered, appeared in a t-shirt or sweatshirt and almost always with his computer monitor in the background. Viewers are fascinated by what makes ze ze and how he does what he does. They also feel a certain intimacy with him and his production. I think this is, in part, what motivates people to participate in the collaborative projects proposed. I suppose it’s also what would prompt someone to think that it was a good idea to create a music video of them recycling.
Zefrank describes himself as creating online social spaces with a low threshold of involvement in order to utilize our latent social capital. He does this to great effect; and it seems to me that his vision exploits the essence of the medium.