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Comedians, Start Your App Engines

Must-play apps could be the new must-see TV, if only comics and actors would harness the power.

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Standup comics and comic actors have been dropping must-have CDs and writing bestselling books since forever, but rarely have they nailed the app challenge. This is a vast untapped marketing tool, if not a possible revenue source, for comics to enter the app market with something more interesting than dedicated apps to their podcasts.

According to Flurry and comScore, app viewership grew a staggering amount just in the past year, and in most cases, people look at their phones more than their TVs. So while the holy grail for comics may, in the past, have been a series, it’s time for a shift in expectations: An app could be the new Seinfeld. Everybody loves iPhones.

When smartphones were new, nerd heartthrob Simon Pegg released a read-aloud comic book and Sarah Silverman put out the ersatz-kid-app “Uncle Sarah.” Users gave them sort of lukewarm ratings on the iTunes and Google Play stores, with the highest ratings coming from avowed fans, and neither gained much traction. But the landscape has changed radically since 2012.

So here, in no particular order, are comedy apps Re/code dreams of downloading in 2015.

Jenny Slate’s Marcel the Shell in an App, Cuz It’s Worth It
Famously bounced from SNL for dropping an F-bomb and disarmingly R-rated in last summer’s “Obvious Child,” Jenny Slate has also made waves in the mommy world with her “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” books and videos. Marcel has an eight-dollar ebook app that is not worth even one dollar, as it’s basically a rewarmed version of the YouTube videos. Instead, he should have an interactive adventure in the style of Teletubbies’ My First App or Talking Pocoyo, apps that expand on existing characters with original content and simple games where a kid (or happily stunted adult) can interact with the character by shaking, tapping or talking. The sheer hilarity of the dog scaring Marcel off the couch? Recreated with a tap? Would have my kids laughing for (no, I mean it, literally) hours.

Mindy Kaling’s Razzle Dazzle
App stores abound with cheap-looking virtual salon, manicure and makeup apps. Completely mindless stuff. But. In the hands of Kaling, who has infused her TV character on “The Mindy Project” with her own combination of scalpel-sharp wit and Carrie Bradshaw-level obsession with zany fashion choices, this kind of app could be hilarious. She could give cockamamie style advice. I would even go so far as to advise her to make a spoof version of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, in which Kaling’s TV persona can be guided through a series of wacky rom-com adventures. Kardashian has made real money via micro transactions. With the right execution, Kaling could do the same.

Baratunde Thurston’s STEM-Prep Academy
Thurston is a standup comic, Internet-TV host and author of the New York Times bestseller “How to Be Black.” He is also the creator of Cultivated Wit, a creative-services and media company that runs Comedy Hack Day, so he knows how to make funny apps. His company also created this crazy animation to entice teachers to teach STEM subjects. So? Where are the apps? I want a branded suite of them, created with the same animator and designers, tied to different STEM skills, done in conjunction with top researchers to ensure reliability. Yes, it would actually interest students. No, I don’t know who would fund it.

The Roots’ Pocket Band
Jimmy Fallon’s house band. Wrapped around the Toca Band code. Boom. Innovated.

Please note: I want a cut if any of these are made. Barring that, I want to have lunch with Questlove.

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