Tag Archives: Oprah

Zach Anner announces new show: Riding Shotgun

Just got a great Facebook update from Zach Anner of Austin, my favorite wheelchair travel show host/comedian. He is about to start a new travel show that looks very promising.

You may remember that Zach won a national contest by Oprah Winfrey and got to make a travel show for OWN, her new cable network. I fell in love with him back then and was rooting for him the whole time. I posted about him and even went to see him at the Alamo Drafthouse.

I got to see most of the episodes of Rollin’ with Zach. I liked them, and I think it was a great launching pad for his career, but I didn’t think it demonstrated his real potential.

I got the feeling the show’s producers didn’t know quite what to do with him and were calling too many of the shots. He was funny and he had some interesting and adventurous experiences, but he didn’t get to be as spontaneous and funny as he can be.

The new show could be just what the doctor ordered. It will be “by the Internet, for the Internet.” He’s teaming up with Reddit and will make his travel choices in the U.S. and Canada based on input from Redditors. That’s an audience that can appreciate some adult humor, believe me. He’ll be able to be himself, and I bet it will be a lot of fun.

Here’s his announcement:

You can keep up with what Zach is doing by following his Facebook page.

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The ‘Washington Wives’ of the 1980s: The last time the censors almost won

Americans who depend on the Internet are worried about censorship lately, and with good reason – SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House and Protect IP in the Senate will likely be serious threats to freedom of speech on the Internet if they pass. But these threats are nothing new.

Right now, the boogeyman the folks in charge and the companies that lobby them use to try to restrict the free flow of information is Internet piracy – It’s a real problem with real consequences, but the proposed solution is akin to curing the disease by killing the patient.

In the past, the boogeyman was obscenity. America has always had a tug of war between cultural conservatives and people who like to push boundaries through art and music.

In the 1960s, all it took was a few bad words to get you in trouble. Censorship wrecked the career of stand-up comedian/spoken word artist Lenny Bruce, who was arrested a number of times on obscenity charges. Most of the charges were defeated in court, but fighting them ruined him financially. TV and radio were heavily censored and musicians had to be careful to disguise themes such as sex and drugs in metaphor. There were others who paid a price as well.

After a period in the ‘70s when the culture lightened up about topics like sexuality and drugs, there was another crackdown in the ’80s as evangelical Christians and clergy suddenly found themselves with some serious political power and decided to throw their weight around. Tipper Gore and the PMRC went after heavy metal, punk rock and rap. In 1985, representatives of the PMRC, musicians Frank Zappa, John Denver and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, and Senators Paula Hawkins and Al Gore testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the subject of record labeling and obscenity. (Check out the Wikipedia page. It’s a pretty good read.)  Snider in particular shocked a lot of people by not being the dummy they expected and putting the moralizers on the defensive.

The push to censor and control the sale of music with explicit lyrics continued into the ’90s. Store clerks got arrested for selling the rap record “As Nasty As They Wanna Be.” A record store owner in Florida was put on trial and convicted (overturned on appeal) and the rappers themselves were put on trial for obscenity (acquitted). I bought a copy of 2 Live Crew’s album after I heard about the arrests – I wasn’t even into rap at the time, but I couldn’t abide that kind of censorship and I wanted to know what the fuss was about. Turned out to be nasty as you would expect and also damn funny.

It’s hard to even remember what the mindset was back then. Check out this excerpt from the TV show Quincy (which incidentally featured a performance from bona fide punk group Mayhem). It’s funny today, but it was dead serious at the time.


America has changed since then. Rap has become mainstream. Formerly scary rappers Ice Cube and Ice T have acting careers (Ice Cube has been in a kids’ movie and Ice T played a cop on TV). The country lost its fear of heavy metal, thanks in part to the parody “This is Spinal Tap.” Punk rockers grew up and went mainstream. Henry Rollins of Black Flag is working on a show for National Geographic. How mainstream is that? History tells us that sooner or later we’ll get another moral crusade, however.

Check out Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys taking on Tipper Gore on the Oprah Winfrey show in the ’80s. I think the PMRC folks thought they were getting a punk rock moron like Sid Vicious when they took on Jello, but he turned out to be anything but. He gives Tipper a pretty good shellacking in this clip.

Fear is a powerful tool, one that politicians can’t resist. Whenever anything new pops up in the culture that they find threatening (the Occupy Movement for example), the folks in power will appeal to our moral sensibilities to try and stop it. And it might actually work, for a while… But sooner or later change will come, whether they like it or not. Americans are very adaptable and I think the country will evolve into something better than what we have now — but that doesn’t mean the process will be painless.

I am just wrapping up a post about goth pop artist Jonathan Scott of the Doleful Lions, who was personally affected by the PMRC and is working on a fascinating musical project to remind people of that era.


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Zach Anner’s show, ‘Rollin’ with Zach’ will premier on Monday, Dec. 12

Just an update in case you haven’t kept up. A while back I wrote about Zach Anner, a comedian in a wheelchair who won a show on Oprah Winfrey’s new cable network with huge support from fans on the Internet. I got to meet him during a screening at Alamo Theater in Austin, the night of the official announcement. Well… The time has come. The first episode of the travel show ‘Rollin’ with Zach’ will air on the OWN Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. Central. Watch it if you can. I think this young man is going to be huge. He’s funny as hell, not to mention inspiring. (I don’t get OWN, but someone is going to record it for me.)

Edit: Here’s a five minute sneak preview.

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Zach Anner wins show from Oprah’s network. Go Zach!

Normally I don’t give a crap about celebrity and I’m not a big fan of reality shows, but I am thrilled that Austin’s own Zach Anner will get the travel show he’s always wanted to make after winning the Your OWN Show contest on Oprah’s new network. (Buffalo, NY wants to claim him just because he grew up there, but they can’t have him.) In fact, it was a tie. Kristina Kuzmic-Crocco gets her cooking show as well.

I didn’t see it coming, but I think Oprah made the right decision. She wound up with two people who were too talented to let go. They would probably just get picked up by some other network at this point.

I got a chance to see Zach in person last night at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar at a viewing party put on by his friends from Lark the Beard Production Company (the guys from the Wingmen series on Youtube). For a while I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. My pickup overheated in the traffic on Lamar and I had to pull over a couple of times and let it cool off. But I did make it and had a great time watching the show. They started off showing some of Zach’s videos and he made wisecracks and told how they came about. He also gave some great commentary during the commercials as we waited to see who was going to win.

“I want you guys to root for Kristina too,” he said. “We’ve gotten to be really close. Plus, she’s really cute and looks like Sandra Bullock.” I didn’t think about it till he said that, but she does, kinda.

I had a feeling in the beginning that Zach had it in the bag, but I was still on pins and needles as they showed Kristina’s cooking show pilot and it was really good. Of course Zach’s was also excellent. Then the surprise ending came and got a standing ovation.

Zach said he’s known that he and Kristina won since October. “I had to come back and lie my pants off and hope everybody still liked me once they found out,” he said. His mother also knew, but “nobody goes outside in Buffalo in the winter” so it was easier for her to keep the secret.

Zach said the travel show will begin sometime in summer and he will start out visiting places in the States at least for a while before venturing out of the country.

I appreciated that he took time to meet with everyone and pose for pictures after the show. I felt a bit awkward at first, since I was with a bunch of people who knew him personally and I was just an “Internet person,” but he seemed genuinely happy to see me. I didn’t have a Reddit T-shirt to wear, but I told him I was part of the “Reddit wave” that helped him win the online voting. (That wave for Zach is also what got me to quit lurking and join that frustratingly addictive site.)

I loved the way he dealt with the question about the online voting controversy last summer that turned out to be a tempest in a teapot (People noticed Zach’s total was dropping for a time — most likely it was just the tech guys working for Oprah trying to combat mass voting by mischief-makers from 4-chan, God love ’em).

“I didn’t really think about it,” he said. “There was so much positive news to think about. I don’t have any idea how the Internet works. As far as I know I still have Compuserve.” Funny and graceful as always. In fact though, I believe he does know quite a bit about how Internet culture works, a perspective that might prove valuable to people on Oprah’s network who are probably somewhat baffled by it.

Can’t wait to see Zach’s show. I know it’ll be great. I don’t have the premium cable channels, but I might have to sign up by summer.


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Austin’s Zach Anner seeks his own TV show

This is totally not about music at all, but I couldn’t resist. I figured I’d have to do this occasionally, which is why I made a “but I digress” category.

I just discovered a really funny guy named Zach Anner who’s in a contest, trying to get his own TV show courtesy of Oprah. He’s got cerebral palsy (the sexiest of palsies, he says) and wants to do a travel show. And by the way, he’s from Austin, which in no way influences my opinion of him (yeah right). His audition video recently went viral and had over 3 million votes last time I checked.  John Mayer has offered to write and perform the theme song if Zach gets a show. (See, there’s my music tie-in. Now I don’t want to hear any bitching.) If Zach gets the most votes, he will then go to LA for an in person audition along with some other candidates. I think this man needs his own show, whether it comes through Oprah or not, and I bet you anything he’s gonna get one.

Check out his audition video:

Give him a vote on Oprah’s site if you feel so inclined…

And while I was poking around on Youtube, I found out Zach has a ton of videos up. He had a show while he was a student at UT, where he interviewed such notables as Dennis Quaid and Bill Clinton. He’s also got a Youtube series going with friends, called The Wingmen.

The videos I’ve seen so far were quite funny. He really has a talent.

Here are a couple I really liked:

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