For nearly as long as I have been writing about online digital media and especially independent and amateur productions, a constant source of great content and consistent laughs has been Channel 101. You know when you observe strangers obviously passionate about something and you wish you had somehow been with them from the start pursing the same passion because they seem like they are having so much damn fun? That is how I feel about all those people who submit content to Channel 101 (and Channel 101: NY).
These short 5-minute series compete against each other each month in local viewing venues to become one of five online “Prime Time Shows.” They are sometimes crude, sometimes rude, and almost always laugh-your-ass-off funny. There are some stinkers that become “Failed Pilots” or don’t last long before being “Cancelled This Month.” There are others that have become classics of the form. “Groove Fighters,” “Yacht Rock,” “Stop It,” and “Cautionary Tales of Swords” are a few of my favorites. That last one featured Michael Ashe, a somewhat older actor than the usual Channel 101 participants. For whatever reason, when an older actor uses explicit language it can be hysterical. When Ashe threw himself into the role of Trip Fisk, it was art.
It is hard for me to explain why learning of the actor’s recent death was so unexpectedly difficult. Vanity Fair has an article that offers some explanation: “Requiem for a Micro-celebrity.” There is a lot that is touching about this story, and contrasting that with the silly vulgarity results in that feeling where you want to cry and laugh at the same time. And then you do. The “Mike Ashe Memorial Video” also invokes that feeling, in spades.
Knowing more about Ashe really deepens my appreciation of him and digital media. I feel the need to thank him, if posthumously, and thank everyone at Channel 101, Channel 101: NY, and those who create content for them (except “2 Girls, 1 Cup: The Show.” I mean, honestly.)