Professor shocks the gossip world with new show

Explaining UMD professor Rob Wittig’s SpeidiShow is like trying to explain hip-hop to Mozart or genetically modified organisms to the American settlers — it’s an emerging, bizarre idea. Essentially, the SpeidiShow is a netprov — an online improv that uses Twitter as a forum for followers to make up stories about the adventures of the reality TV stars Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag from The Hills.

“It truly is an experiment,” Wittig said. “The amount of unknowns about it is really thrilling, because that’s the most exciting moment in art … when you’re really doing something new that nobody’s done before.”

Wittig and his friend Mark Marino teamed up with Montag and Pratt, Marino’s former student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, to create their most popular netprov yet. Since the first episode was released on Sept. 19, the show has received national attention in popular gossip magazines like In Touch Weekly and Us Magazine.

Every Thursday at 10 p.m., SpeidiShow followers from New Zealand to Canada and America log on to Twitter and improvise given a specific storyline for an hour at #SpeidiShow.

“It’s like jazz,” Wittig said. “You’re in the moment and you have a couple ideas about where things might go, but then if someone else takes you somewhere else, you go with them.”

At first, original Speidi reality TV fans were confused about the netprov, not sure if there was a televised show or not. Us Magazine dubbed it a prank.

“It kind of goes over some people’s heads, like they don’t get that it’s a game,” Wittig said. “But, what we want is we’re after those people who get that it’s this weird game that you can play.”

New followers have a short time left to play, however, as the show will end after its seventh episode this Thursday. Despite SpeidiShow's conclusion, it’s not too late to get into netproving; Wittig plans on creating more netprov programs in the future.

SpeidiShow is the second Wittig netprov UMD senior Jordyn Swenson has participated in.

“This one was fun because everything is packed into an hour, so you can like sit on your Twitter account and have this conversation with people all over the world in a short amount of time,” Swenson said. “It’s just very rapid Tweeting.”

Swenson joined in on the storytelling for the Oct. 10 episode in which the Speidi duo gave love advice to followers. During the episode, Montag retweeted one of Swenson’s tweets, in which she made one of the featured characters trip over himself.

“It’s kind of cool that you can have contact with people that have that much of a social ladder up on you,” Swenson said.

In the same episode, Jean Sramek, Wittig’s friend and Duluth resident, argued against herself using two made up Twitter characters: ex-lovers Evalynn Kanyo and Emil Crispinn.

For Sramek, the new netprov seems more real than Montag and Pratt’s reality TV show and its scripted actors. Although many of the SpeidiShow followers have fake identities, they are nevertheless real people sitting at their computers and creating on-the-spot original literature.  She said people’s identities — especially on the Internet — are self-created, anyway.

“In a way, everybody invents things on the Internet anyway — and certainly on Twitter because of the immediacy of the format,” Sramek said. “But, to some extent, people are allowed to invent themselves on the Internet.”

Cathy Podeszwa, another friend of Wittig’s, helps write the show from Duluth and created a fictitious Canadian geologist character named Jennette Up North. Podeszwa agreed with Sramek, calling SpeidiShow a “fun way to play with reality.”

She said that not only are the stories and follower identities made up, but even Montag and Pratt’s Twitter identities are partially an illusion. Wittig and Marino often use the stars’ accounts to run the show or speak with the media, making it hard to decipher who is really talking.

“You look around and see that everything online is kind of surrealist,” Podeszwa said. “It’s a whole surrealist world, and we’re all kind of floating in it, and we can all kind of work together to make it more interesting.”

During this Thursday’s final episode, followers will celebrate the Halloween season by writing about a celebrity haunted house featuring the ghost Chris Farley.



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