Newhouse adjunct professor creates self-reflective web series
The question of who is Joe Blum is one with no easy answer. According to the adjunct S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications professor’s personal website, “no one knows, not even Joe Blum himself.”
This past weekend at Craft Chemistry on North Salina Street, Blum hosted the culmination of his most comprehensive pet project to date: the screening of his six-episode web comedy series, “Howard Rights His Wrongs.” More than 100 people attended Saturday’s screening. It will be on display until Nov. 3.
For starters, Blum is a storyteller. That’s what he teaches in his day job as an adjunct Newhouse professor in classes like COM 117: “Multimedia Storytelling.” It’s also what he does in his free time as an independent filmmaker and improvisational comedian with local troupe Syracuse Improv Collective.
“As a filmmaker I need to be constantly working on something to become a better storyteller,” Blum said. “The more things I create, the more I’m failing and learning and becoming stronger at telling stories.”
Blum’s Vimeo page features more than 30 short sketch videos he created, wrote, produced and starred in.
“Anyone who talks to Joe can feel his sense of quirky humor and sarcasm,” said Trevor Gill, a sophomore television, radio and film major. “That’s the only way I was able to stay awake when I had him at 8 a.m. for COM 117.”
Gill ran audio for two episodes of “Howard Rights His Wrongs” and made a cameo appearance at the end of its second episode.
In his series, Blum plays Howard, a “shy yet lovable” college student “who is trying to figure life out.” In the nine-minute pilot episode, a drunken Howard discovers a capacity for time travel after attending his first college party and getting rejected by Madison, his future flame, played by Blum’s frequent collaborator and local comedian Mandy Howard.
Throughout the series, he uses time travel to go back in time and fix mistakes, most of which are subtly important in his life, like his first encounter with Madison or his desire to push her to move to another city with him after graduation.
“I’ve always been fascinated with time travel, starting with loving ‘Back to the Future’ as a kid. It’s not the science of it, but more the idea of trying to change something about your life,” Blum said. “I was therefore drawn to the idea of using time travel to think about my own life and how I got to where I am.”
Blum didn’t make Howard a college student simply to satirize the prototypical college mindset and lifestyle. Instead, he said he did it because of college’s important proximity in the evolution from childhood to adulthood.
The way Blum sees it, college is the time where people become who they will be for the rest of their lives.
“It felt fitting to begin the story in college and see how those choices affect the characters of the series,” Blum said, “I want to be funny and make people laugh, but creating something that is true and reliable is first priority.”
Blum has also planned to launch a Kickstarter for the show’s second season. He said that he wants to be able to compensate the crew he has worked with for the hard work they have put in.
As for Howard, Blum doesn’t know exactly where he will take the title character in the second season. But he does know exactly where Howard came from, which gives Blum the creative freedom to take the homegrown character in any direction.
“Howard is based on myself. Creating this series has been a way for me to think about those things, accept the decisions I’ve made, be happy with where I am now and move on with the rest of my life,” Blum said.
As to deciphering who exactly Joe Blum is, “Howard” would be the easy answer for anyone who knows Blum and has seen the series.
Blum himself acknowledges the introspective aspect of the series and how it reflects his own learning progression.
Said Blum: “No matter where Howard goes, he will continue to try to fix things and end up learning about himself in the process.”
Contact Jarrad: email@example.com
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