Monday, January 5, 2009
Great Cute With Chris Article- from Metro International by Ned Ehrbar
Is your pet cute or not? Let this guy decide
Leavins amps up the competition for cuddly creatures
PROFILE. The Internet is overrun with photos of adorable pets doing adorable things, like kittens wearing neckties and dogs attacking sprinklers. More industrious sites have even been able to take these images and create new content, like ICanHasCheezburger.com’s infamous LOLcats. But there was one key element missing: cutthroat competition.
Enter Chris Leavins, a Canadian actor and writer based out of Los Angeles. On his weekly Web show, “Cute with Chris,” Leavins presents photos sent in each week by viewers of their pets and asks the audience to vote on which is cuter. The losers hear Leavins’ popular refrain: “All your dreams are dead.” Because if you’re not cute, you’re nothing. It’s all buoyed by Leavins’ unique wit and deadpan style of comedy.
Leavins started “Cute with Chris” two years ago after realizing Internet video could be utilized to enhance and promote his theater work. “I had no way to reach the people who were interested in my work and let them know that I existed,” he says.
The viewers are as passionate about “Cute with Chris” as they are about their own pets, and their interactions with the host make up a good deal of the content — with some, like Carm the crazy cat lady from Buffalo, basically becoming recurring characters. “I’m documenting a unique culture,” Leavins explains.
For the “Cute with Chris” audience members, their involvement runs deep, from online voting and commenting to submitting T-shirt designs. “I make fun of lonely people who live on the Internet,” he says. “But in reality, I am one of those.”
Between the weekly production schedule, cataloguing viewer-submitted photos and handling T-shirt orders — the project is completely self-financed by merchandise sales — “Cute with Chris” is beyond a full-time job for Leavins. But he does have other interests, as evidenced by his recent “Chris Leavins Story Hour,” a staged reading of original, non-cute-related material. “I really think there are many opportunities available through this new technology for artists to promote their work,” Leavins says. Interesting, sure, but what would Carm say?