From Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to the 'zine ''Modern Humorist,'' what's up and coming on the web

By EW Staff
June 30, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

It Netter: Doug Textor
AGE 43
WHY HIM? He’s the go-to guy for designing websites and interactive DVDs. His Canned Interactive company works out of a Hollywood storefront office that resembles the Batcave and has racked up a number of firsts — first website for a band (Megadeth), first viral marketing campaign for a film (Austin Powers), and, yes, first Elvis sighting on the Web (The Elvis Presley Commemorative Site). Most recently, his interactive DVD-ROM for The Matrix broke ground by allowing viewers to watch the movie while chatting with the Wachowski brothers live.
WORK RITUAL ”I start with lots of coffee and then I go on impulse.”
BIGGEST INFLUENCES ”Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and everything from Ghostbusters to Taxi Driver.”
BEST SET SOUVENIR The Swedish-made penis enlarger from Austin Powers. ”I’d be lost without it.”
NEXT A special boxed set DVD-ROM for the Scream movies.

It Presidential Aide: Michael Maronna
AGE 22
WHY HIM? By playing Stuart, the Xerox-happy e-trader in Ameritrade’s TV ads, and in that knee-slapping Bill Clinton press corps video, Maronna’s become dot-com’s answer to Mr. Whipple.
KNEW HE’D MADE IT WHEN ”People started getting indignant when I wouldn’t give them an autograph.”
FUN FACT Before heading off to college at SUNY Purchase (he’ll graduate with a BFA in documentary film next May), Maronna played Big Pete in Nickelodeon’s quirky award-winning series The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
WHO’D PLAY HIM IN THE BIOPIC ”Winona Ryder with a dye job and breast reduction.”
WHAT HE LIKED ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE ”Scoping out all the Secret Service guys and trying to figure out which one of them I could take down.”
BEST SET SOUVENIR ”I stole a copy of the U.S. budget and a cocktail napkin with the White House seal on it for my friends.”
WHO’S NOT IT? ”Ron Howard’s gotta not be It. He’s my archrival. We both started acting as kids, we’re both red-headed, baldness is a gene in both of our families. I refuse to emulate his career.”
NEXT Costarring opposite Jason Schwartzman in Slackers, the debut feature by Dewey Nicks, director of the Ameritrade spots.

It Cyberchick: Katrina Barillova
AGE 27
WHY HER? Because her life story is right out of a 007 movie: As a teenage runway model in Czechoslovakia, Barillova was recruited by the government for spy training. Two years after the collapse of communism, she moved to the U.S. and worked her way from bagging groceries back into spying — this time for a private firm specializing in executive protection and intelligence (read: industrial espionage). After realizing that her surveillance know-how could be used by anyone with the right wiring, she helped found Charmed Technology last year. Based on research developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the company makes wearable communications devices like lapel badges that electronically swap business cards and gauge what interests the two people have in common. Adding to the come-on is ”Brave New Unwired World,” Charmed’s highly lucrative wearable computer fashion shows, which, Barillova says, ”show people that technology is not evil. It can make you look sexy.”
WORK RITUAL Traveling. ”It allows me to learn about new places, people, and habits…that in turn spurs ideas for new applications for our technology.”
DREAM PROJECT To star in a Bond movie with Pierce Brosnan. ”I would make a good actress because I had to develop acting skills for my undercover work. The difference between movie acting and acting in a sting operation is simple: If you don’t perform correctly as an undercover agent, you die.”
NEXT Taking Charmed public and getting the world online. ”Our vision is to make computers that resemble everyday objects,” says Barillova. ”Only then will people stop fearing technology.”

It Fanatic: Paul Ens
AGE 29
WHY HIM? Cocreator of, a Star Wars fan site so rich in its presentation of the inside dope on George Lucas’ new movies, that a much-impressed Lucasfilm hired the Canadian to run its own
WORK RITUAL Night-owl hours, TV, and Coke Slurpees.
INFLUENTIAL MOVIES ”Obviously, Star Wars. I saw it at age 6 in 1977 and knew my life would never be the same. Interests in moviemaking, technology, storytelling, computers… it all started in that theater at the moment the Star Destroyer filled the screen.”
NEXT Marketing Episode II online.

It Gadgeteer: Donald Wisniewski
AGE 39
WHY HIM? For founding — together with David Yang — Cybiko Inc., creator of the translucent wireless organizer that includes email capabilities, an MP3 player expansion slot, and a feature that allows you to zero in on other users for chats or a game of billiards. It makes the Gameboy look childish and Handspring’s Visor seem uptight.
WORK RITUAL Staying up all night surfing the Web. ”Sleep is overrated,” says Wisniewski.
WHAT MADE HIM ”GET” THE NET The day his babysitter used the Web to find out more about a company than his $100-per-hour research group had. ”I fired them and gave her a raise.”
NEXT A new application for the $129 Cybiko, due out this fall, lets kids create their own games and post them online for others to download.

The IT spot IT Party Site: The Playboy Mansion
Hef’s digs have gone from kitsch to cool now that it’s host to some of Hollywood’s most fabulous soirées. Dr. Dre, Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst, Madonna’s Maverick Records, and V.I.P. cast members have all partied with the flamingos, monkeys, and surgically enhanced guests. Bathrobe and slippers optional.

It Mockers:
AGES David Carson, 30, Simon Assaad, 29
WHY THEM? Mike Simpson of the Dust Brothers emailed their animated Suckograms to everyone in his address book; their VH1 spoof Behind the Music That Sucks is a hit online and will soon appear on USA’s Jimmy and Doug’s Farmclub; and their commercial portfolio includes the official Whoopi Goldberg website (
THEIR BIG BREAK Carson (who’s won three Clios for his broadband commercials for IBM) and the Australian-born Assaad (who now has a film in development with Joel Silver and Warner Bros. based on the Ken Follett novel Under the Streets of Nice) couldn’t get a meeting on their first trip to L.A. — until they lied to PolyGram by saying they already had an appointment with Disney.
UNLIKELY SOURCES OF INSPIRATION Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O. ”They were regular guys who were total studs,” says Assaad.
NEXT A redesign of the sumo-inspired;, a site devoted to Japanimation; and a line of sick, tasteless games for handhelds, including Bitch Slap a Rock Star and The John Denver Flight Simulator.

It ‘Zine: Modern Humorist AGES Coeditors Michael Colton, 24 and John Aboud, 27.
WHY THEM? After generating buzz with a hilarious parody site of Talk magazine last year, these Harvard Lampoon grads and their staff of 10 launched a daily comedy webzine ( showcasing beautifully designed media spoofs like J: The Jerry Springer Magazine (”On a Budget: How to Make Him Pay for the Paternity Test”). Operational less than two months, the site boasts a board whose members include Jon Stewart and Sixth Sense producer Frank Marshall.
WORK RITUAL Aboud: ”Kissing my wife and wading through the pigeon droppings underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.” Colton: ”Kissing John’s wife.”
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION Aboud: ”The design collection upstairs at the MoMA.” Colton: ”Children’s literature.” So that’s where ”Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Pirated MP3s” came from.
WHO’S IT? Communists, Mandy Moore, Handspring Visors, whoever’s tagged last.
WHO’S NOT IT? Fascists, ELO, former President Jimmy Carter, and everyone else in the game.
NEXT Modern Humorist radio, television, and book deals.

Crafting It: How’d They Do That? Poster Boys
After clicking through the National Archives’ Web exhibit on WWII posters (”There was a great one asking women to save kitchen fat for bombs,” says Aboud), the MH staff decided to launch Propaganda in the Internet Age. Consulting history books, art director Pat Broderick sketched out designs for three posters in that patriotic ’40s style. After he touched up the drawings in Adobe Illustrator, the posters were put online. ”The best comedy takes something recognizable and reinterprets it,” says Aboud.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog: It Profane Pup
AGE ”Younger than that wrinkly Shar-Pei Jackie Mason,” he says. ”That’s all you need to know.”
WHY HIM? The ribald Conan O’Brien cohort has established himself as the industry’s leading insult comic dog/hand puppet. Created and performed by writer-actor Robert Smigel (an It List alum, though Triumph insists, ”I made that guy. Now it’s your job to scoop him up and toss him in the trash”), the bow-tied bowwow broadcaster has also created more of a commotion than Puffy at a New York disco: He’s been twice ejected from the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (for, among other things, harassing a French poodle), engaged in a public pissing contest with the wholesome spokespuppet, and tormented numerous Late Night With Conan O’Brien celebs with his patented pooch put-down.
WORST CAREER MOMENT Banned from the Ed Sullivan Show in 1968. ”Look at the videotape. I did not poop on stage.”
DREAM COLLABORATOR ”Gloria Estefan’s right leg. Very closely. Also, Sam Donaldson has very hot shins.”
KNEW HE’D MADE IT WHEN ”I dropped all my old friends. ‘Hey, Triumph, it’s Whiskers calling, know you’re busy but…’ Hello, erase button.”
WOULDN’T BE HERE WITHOUT ”The love and support of my 380 illegitimate kids.”
WHO’D PLAY HIM IN THE BIOPIC ”Only Hilary Swank could pull it off.”
UNLIKELY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION ”Susan Sontag’s latest work. Her examination of a woman’s self-transformation left quite a mark… for me to poop on!”
NEXT More Conan appearances, plus maybe ”a filthy comedy album. The public is whining for it. I’m a sucker when they beg, with those sad public eyes.”