Fahey's requests rule on Web-based comedy show


These days, any kid with a YouTube account and a digital camera can fashion himself a media star.

In the prebroadband era, though, it took a little more determination and technical know-how. Just ask Damien Fahey, host of MTV's "TRL," who didn't let the fact that he grew up before the Internet's ascendance deter his childhood multimedia dreams.

"I built a radio station on the third floor in my room and locked myself in there for months and never left," Fahey, 27, said over coffee at a Midtown cafe. "But it was like a real-deal radio station with microphones, reel-to-reel machine, CD player, tape decks, mixing board, the whole thing."

From his parents' house to radio stations in Springfield and Boston, to MTV to stints on network TV trying out for CBS' "The Late Late Show" and filling in for Regis Philbin on "Live With Regis and Kelly," it makes sense that Fahey is now looking to the Web as his latest creative outlet.

Launched last month on the MTV Shorts Web site Andrew Wallenstein 4/22/08 link: http://www.mtv.com/ontv/shorts/ and mobile platforms, "Damien's Other Show" presents a different side of the affable VJ. Combining humorous and random man-on-the-street interviews with the "desk chat" feel of late night shows, the biweekly shortform series finds Fahey straying from his daytime gig. While it might be a stretch to call the comedy too dark or challenging for the "TRL" demographic, Fahey probably couldn't get away with asking a 16-year-old Hannah Montana fan if she had more recently ate a donut or "done it."

" 'TRL' is like the tip of the iceberg," Fahey says. "That's part of my personality, but it's not 100% who I am. I don't go home and listen to Mylie Cyrus records, and I am not sleeping overnight for Jonas Brothers tickets."

Some of the shortform bits were born from Fahey's weeklong stint auditioning for "Late Late Show" after Craig Kilborn left in 2004, a time Fahey calls "the greatest week of my life." Fahey works with production group Phear Creative to film and edit the shorts, with MTV only giving final approval of the segments.

Because he spends a good portion of the day online himself, Fahey has no trouble keeping the Web audience in mind.

"You definitely have to think differently," Fahey says of creating online content. "You can't go for complicated."

Fahey points out that, with the quick-edit format MTV took to in the '90s, the Viacom-owned network was an early adopter of this style of content. YouTube has further reduced the average young viewer's attention span to the point where anything online that is more than three or four minutes will have a tough time finding an audience.

Fahey combines these dynamics with his show. A recent episode centered on him showing iPhone photos of ambiguous hipsters in skinny jeans to people on the street and asking if they thought it was a man or a woman. This bit was intercut with shots of Fahey -- in a "moment for the ladies" -- lying in a bed with a book open saying, "In bed, I'm an open book," and then running back into his apartment to turn a light on in a scene titled "Al Gore hates this."

"Everything has to be very simple and easy to digest and easy to get," Fahey says. "Otherwise you'll leave the viewer. It's like making mini-commercials, almost."

With radio, TV and now online video on his resume, Fahey has set his sights on learning HTML and Final Cut Pro and maybe, ultimately, understanding the underlying magic of transmitted media. Although the stage is bigger, not much has changed from the days when Fahey studied schematic manuals to figure out how to wire his at-home radio station.

"I've always been fascinated by how things work," Fahey says. "The fact that you can look into a camera and broadcast all over is, to me, puzzling."