Reality TV comes to Craigslist

A promo image for Craigslist TV.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Kai Ryssdal: Chances are you've used or at least heard of Craigslist: 50 million people a month use it to find an apartment, or a couch, or a job or sometimes even a date -- basic online stuff. But there are some very weird things going on not too far beneath the surface.

Girl: Knock Knock.

Audience: Who's there?

Girl: Erma.

Audience: Erma who?

Man: 'Er mother loves salami!

That's a clip from the online video,"Accordion Idol." It launches season two of Craigslist TV. The video series behind the ads is the brain child of reality TV producer Drew Brown. Drew, it's good to have you here.

Drew Brown:Yeah, thanks for having us.

RYSSDAL: Did you go to Craig Newmark and say "Listen, I've got this idea?"

BROWN: I did. I was producer on "Project Runway" four or five years ago.

RYSSDAL: I love that show by the way.

BROWN: Yeah! And I felt like just empowered enough to like e-mail this guy I didn't know. I had always wanted to do a show about the classifieds. And he, being the guy he is, he just responded right away. I met Jim Buckmaster through the process--

RYSSDAL: The CEO.

BROWN: Of course, and built a long relationship. It took a long time to get their trust.

RYSSDAL: Well they are interesting individuals. We've had Jim Buckmaster on the program; I've talked to Greg. I mean they are not people who will jump into this kind of thing.

BROWN: No, and they didn't jump. Four years is the longest jump in history.

RYSSDAL: Here's the editorial question: do you have creative control?

BROWN: I mean we certainly share it, but unlike working with a network where I'm expected to sort of contractually display the clip like the couple times before it's finalized, I think they really trust us to tell the stories. But they're great partners in that sense because I think the clip ends up being entertaining.

RYSSDAL: I mean they're entertaining, but they're also nuts. I mean we played that "Accordion" clip -- that was just craziness.

BROWN: As a director, we walk into these situations. All I know is that Robin came in the day before and says she has a free accordion and she wants to have this "American Idol"-style competition, that's all we know.

RYSSDAL: There is though, as with the accordion lady, there is more to these stories than you think there is. There's one called, "Ninja for Hire."

Clip of voice: Dear Craigslist, who'd like to hire a ninja? Need a ninja massage? Do you need a cook? Then call upon Ninja Nick -- guaranteed to be entertaining. Hire me!

RYSSDAL: Tell us the story behind that one.

BROWN: I saw a Ninja for Hire, and said, "That sounds hilarious." Like something we should do. I didn't really expect it be anything more than hilarious. And when we get there, we parked the cars, we're going up, we're knocking on the door and we realize that Nick doesn't live in the house, he actually lives in this car that's parked at that's address. He eventually found a place to live, which is with his best friend that happened to have a room to rent on Craigslist. So it was sort of this weird serendipitous journey and that set the tone for this entire series.

RYSSDAL: There was another one I wanted to ask you about. It's the one with the superheroes.

BROWN: Well, for people that don't live in L.A., if you go on Hollywood Blvd., there's costumed characters everywhere that want you to take a picture with them and they hope for a tip. They got shut off the boulevard on Memorial Day of this year. Not long after, Chris Dennis, A.K.A. Superman, put an ad on Craigslist trying to unite all the ejected superheroes under the heading "Town Hall of Injustice." About two days later, we're sitting in front of a conference room table with Cat Woman, Batman, Darth Vader, the Incredible Hulk.

Clip of voice: Yes they have typecasted all of us because you've got bad apples over here. Michael Jackson coming out, Zorro, Donald Duck, Yoda, Goofy.

RYSSDAL: That's from "Superheroes Unite" of the new season of Craigslist TV, videos which together have gotten something like 2 and a half million page views, that's worth mentioning. But Drew I have to ask you this, having come from network television, it's gotta be in the back of your mind someplace that this could possibly turn into something bigger?

BROWN: I get this question, like "Wouldn't we want to be on network television?" It's like saying like "Wouldn't you love to be in shrinking industry?" I do think that we have our home and our audience and we're being seen and being loved and that's success for us for right now.

RYSSDAL: Drew Brown, he's the executive producer for Craigslist TV. You've gotta check it out, there's some crazy stuff there. Drew, thanks a lot.

BROWN: Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

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