CHICAGO — Local weirdo Steve Gadlin — the creative brain who cornered the market on selling personalized stick figure cat drawings on the Internet — has embarked on a mission to keep late-night TV as ridiculous as possible … and he needs your cash to do it.
Gadlin made his mark with a silly song-and-dance sales pitch on “Shark Tank” that convinced billionaire Mark Cuban to invest $25,000 in his strange online business venture, IWantToDrawACatForYou.com.
Now, he’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce a second season of his bizarre talent showcase, “Steve Gadlin’s Star Makers,” which premiered in the wee hours on The U Too last year and earned a small but exuberant cult following.
Last season, which was partially funded with cat-drawing profits, “Star Makers” contestants ranged from a collection of volunteers mined from Craigslist and some of Gadlin’s strangest friends — including one radio guy whom I know pretty well.
“It’s a talent showcase and variety show that has all types of people on it,” Gadlin said. “A lot of music, dancing and comedians … like a guy slapping his belly to music while someone keeps it moist with a spray bottle. And a guy who really believes he can knock a person out without touching them. We got everything.”
Shot on vintage TV cameras, Gadlin’s show models itself after ridiculous cable-access variety shows filmed in public library basements in the 1980s.
“For those of us who grew up a little weird, to find a show like this on television was one of the only reminders that we weren’t totally alone in the world,” Gadlin says on his Kickstarter video pitch. “This project is the embodiment of my thanks to the weirdoes who came before me and my outreach of the closeted weirdoes of tomorrow.”
The Kickstarter campaign, which includes price points aimed to land commercial sponsors, has already raised about a quarter of its goal and created a buzz on local radio and social media.
“We’re already getting calls from people who are interested, like one guy who really likes buckets, knows a lot about buckets and wants to talk about buckets on the show,” Gadlin said. “Sure, this guy is crazy and weird, but there’s something fun about watching people do what they do without filters or the polish of network TV and without the judgment.”
If the project hits its funding goal, Gadlin said he hopes to take the show to the next level by following his cat-drawing business strategy: “Pretend that you are bigger than you are. Go to the place where stuff happens. And make stuff happen.”
Gadlin says he plans to take a shot at expanding “Star Makers” beyond the Chicago area market by pitching the show at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference this year.
“The goal isn’t just to be ridiculous. The idea is to do a show that you won’t find anywhere else on TV that offers a nonjudgmental stage for people to perform with sincerity,” Gadlin said. “If that’s something you believe in, we want you as supporters of the show.”
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