Alaska Robotics is a label that Pat Race, Aaron Suring and Lou Logan have been using since 2007 for creative projects. That includes short films, comics and drawings that they put out on the web, film festivals and their retail shop in downtown Juneau.
One of their many creative projects began in 2002 when they founded the Juneau Underground Motion Picture Society. They’ve been holding popular local film festivals ever since.
They recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to take their humor and satirical political news up a level. They’ve committed to putting out six video news shorts on the web over the course of the 2014 Alaska Legislative session.
Alaska Robotics was in the studio on Wednesday talking about the project on Forum@360. They shared some of their past shorts, talked about using Kickstarter for the first time, using satire as way to fool people into learning something, running into Sen. Lisa Murkowksi after lampooning her father, and more.
Pat Race on why political satire is important:
“I think political satire is something that helps people digest complicated issues. I think that it — sometimes it oversimplifies them, but it gives you a thread to hang on to when you maybe don’t understand. There are so many big issues in Alaska, I mean, if you look into oil, say the oil tax, Senate Bill 21, and all that and everything it entails, I don’t think there’s any one person in Alaska that can understand every aspect of that. …
And so, I think political satire is a way of kind of lassoing people, and bringing people into a question. So maybe it’s something funny and absurd at first, but then they start asking, ‘OK, what’s the joke here?’ And to understand the joke, you have to understand the issue.”
Lou Logan on the prospect of getting rich off of satirical news:
“Our hands aren’t in the legislators’ pockets yet.”
Pat Race on why some people privately donated to their satirical news project:
“My favorite one was this guy came riding his bike down the street and handed me a brown paper bag when I was walking home from lunch. So yeah, we’ve got some people because of their like, political affiliations or they work for the government, or whatever it is, that they couldn’t participate in a public, become a public sponsor of the project, but they wanted to say, like, ‘Hey, I support what you’re doing, and I can’t have my name on it, but please, go do it and make it happen.'”
Aaron Suring on who supported their Kickstarter:
“I was really surprised by the number of people I didn’t know on the list. I was expecting that it was all going to people that I’ve met in one capacity or another, supported some other projects, or I’ve been introduced to along the way. But yeah, there’s actually a fair number of names I had never heard before.
Pat Race on using humor in a productive way:
“We don’t want to be, I don’t want to be a bully. Like a schoolyard (bully) like, ‘Uh, I’m making fun of you ‘cause your last name is hard to pronounce.’ Which I do – but I don’t want to just do that kind of humor. I want to do the type of humor that invites discussion.”
Pat Race on poor timing and poor taste:
“There’s been times when I’ve been kind of ashamed of what we’ve done. But at the time I was really happy with it. …
So I made an animated zombie Ted Stevens thing and then he died shortly after that. So I felt kind of bad about that. But then, what I felt really bad about, I used it again after he died. That was really awful. So yeah, I do feel sometimes I am critical of my own work.”
Pat Race on keeping the audience in on the joke:
“Everything we say should be taken with a grain of salt. Like, that’s the nice thing about our format. We are doing a satire news program. And so, please don’t run out and buy shotguns and canned foods because, ‘Oh no! The end is coming!’ And so, it’s very much in this safe area.
And actually, I have a huge problem with people that take it outside of that. Like, there’s the big, like, fake Shell Oil thing. Where they — like, Green Peace brought in a bunch of people that have this like, to act like they were Shell. And then like, had this horrible media mishap gone wrong, it turned into this big viral video. I don’t like that kind of thing. …Where you represent yourself as the truth in a context where people will misinterpret it as the truth and then go and make decisions based on that.”
Pat Race on how Alaska Robotics answered a question about their media diet:
“Man, we answered this question a lot better than Sarah Palin.”
Aaron Suring on his 2nd place world title for his Alaskan Whaler beard:
“So in 2009, the World Beard and Mustache Championships were in Anchorage. And we thought that was just too interesting and too near to like, miss. So we had to go up there and film it. And if we’re going to go up there, we can’t just go up there as clean-faced yahoos. Nobody’s gonna like, look at us and answer our questions. So we started growing beards. They didn’t take it very seriously, but I grew and ended up competing and I got second place in my category.”