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Thursday
Dec042008

Inside With: Odd Todd, Animator, Online PersonalityBy: Andrew Singer

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YOOOU SUCK ASS FUNY FUK~! "Mainly, I sit around and wait for stuff to happen or lightning to strike" --Todd Rosenberg (at Flash Forward 2008 in San Francisco) | Photo: Brian Reynolds

Todd "Odd Todd" Rosenberg has been entertaining web surfers for years with his winsome adventures in unemployment. His quirky tales and pronunciations ("Fudge-striped coo-KAYS") resonate quite well not only with the unemployed, but also with anyone who's ever plopped down in front of their TV set for hours simply because it was on. The Apiary recently spoke to Rosenberg about the genesis of Odd Todd, the many projects it has spawned and what else the online animator likes to do -- besides wear a bathrobe.

Tell us how "Odd Todd" began. With so many people creating websites about themselves, what was your spin to make it different?
Oddtodd.com started in 1996. After years of trying to be the next Gary Larson -- and not -- I started a line of greeting cards called Odd Todd Greetings. They were goofy Hallmarky cards. I printed up thousands and tried to make a go of it, but it was too hard to maintain while working full time. It went out of business. But that's when I bought the domain name oddtodd.com.

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By 2001, I was leaning toward giving up on being a career cartoonist and started to make peace with the fact that I was just going to have to settle for being a friggin dot-com millionaire instead. Then I got laid-off from my Business Development job at AtomFilms. While unemployed I had tons of free time, so I taught myself flash animation. The first full cartoon I made was "Laid-Off: A Day in the Life." I guess the initial appeal, besides the fact that it was apparently timely, was that it was blatantly homegrown and totally amateur hour.

If you could hook up with a group of Internet cult sensations and make a super video, who would you team up with and what would it be about?
I'm a fan of a bunch of different websites and online animators, but I don't know if it would be a good idea for me to team up with anyone because I'm lazy and most of them are far more productive than me. If we all got together, I'd be the one dragging my feet around on the project, distracting everyone and talking about how we should all like go to the movies or make a pact to seriously seriously start work tomorrow. Or first thing Monday morning.

What are some major differences between doing 5-minute video shorts and 30-minute episodes?
I've never had a full half-hour of animation produced, but I've written a bunch of episodes in half-hour format. I gotta assume that writing them is much easier than producing them -- mainly because I've written a bunch of them -- and produced none of them. But most of the cartoons I do usually end up too long and I have to edit them down. Which is sometimes the hardest part. Once you go over five minutes on the net, I think you're going long. Maybe it's four now...

How were you so good at predicting the real estate crumble that would occur years later?
I'd love to be that smart but my partner on the ABC News cartoons, Robert Krulwich, is the news guy. We've been working together for years but he's the one who tells the stories and structures it up. I just paint over them with animation and try to funny em up where I can. Fortunately, he's like all sorts of smart and knows a lot of stuff and stuff.

Recently, Jon Stewart made fun of one of the ABC toons on the Daily Show (awesome) because it was like a dopey "cartoon" on the news. The truth is the cartoons are a simple way to get complex issues across in a fresh way. The information soaks in rather than it being all jammed down. Ay! If I was educated in cartoon form back in the day -- I'd be all super smart now!

Have you ever performed comedy on stage as yourself? If so, what did you do and how did you find that experience? If not, then why not?
I've never done stand-up, but I've been up on stage for stuff, doing this and that trying to be funny. I'm not sure I'm built for standup because I'm really at my best when I'm just winging it and when I'm winging it I'm usually not that funny. So that's that. Plus I have stagefright and I sweat a lot. Also, I would obsess over why a joke worked one night and didn't the next.

Do you -- or could you -- make any money from your website?
I don't really make money off my website. I sell some coffee cups and t-shirts and stuff, but for some reason having ads all over my site always struck me as tacky or something (Meanwhile, why am I broke again?). I can't sell DVDs because I don't own the music I use, and I don't want some lawyer to come punch me in the nuts.

My main source of income is the freelance cartoon work I do for television. I'm fortunate enough to not have to rely on my website for dollars because if that was the case I'd be sleeping on someone's couch. Besides ABC News, I do science segments for a show called America's Test Kitchen, and I'm producing a bunch of shorts that will run on a new show called The IFC Media Project.

I also do some writing sometimes when people pay me. An Odd Todd movie was sold a few years ago, but so far I haven't been umm... called to the set. Eventually, I'd like to sort of open an animation studio I guess, but I'd rather someone just give me like $5 million and just skip the hassle.

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What are the main distractions that keep you from completing more product?
The voices in my head telling me things I don't need to hear. Or suggesting I do things I just shouldn't do. Mainly, I sit around and wait for stuff to happen or lightning to strike. Probably an unhealthy approach to productivity but it leaves a lot of room for TV research.

What types of emails stand the greatest chance of appearing on your website?
My favorites are from people who let me know that they really appreciated my site when they were down or unemployed and now things are better and they just want to say thanks. I'm always happy to hear that. Unfortunately, I do get a lot from people who are unemployed and are still waiting to turn a corner.

I guess I also get a kick out of it when I really piss someone off for a left-field reason. Or some teenage kid just writes 'YOOOU SUCK ASS FUNY FUK~!BAYOURE WEBSIGHT IZ SHIT! ' And I have to decipher whether it's a compliment or not.

What project(s) do you do that make absolutely no money, but you do them anyway because they're a lot of fun?
My website.

RELATED
Odd Todd on The Today Show | On MSNBC | On ABC News
The Rejection Show's Jon Friedman 'One Grunt' Voiceover Reel

--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard." He recently wrote about comedian Maria Shehata.

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