Fake comedy news show accused of fooling PSU class

Fake comedy news show accused of fooling PSU class

DOJ requests Comedy Central show Dog Bites Man not use footage



Under the guise of a Spokane, Wash.-based news crew, a team of Comedy Central actors infiltrated a Portland State media studies classroom in mid-May after convincing PSU communications instructor Jil Freeman to allow the crew to film her class for a documentary.

The show, Dog Bites Man, aired its first two episodes in June, neither carrying any footage shot at Portland State. The show is based around a fake news team that puts unwitting individuals in a reality-based television show, where the actors re-enact scripted and unscripted situations.

After the identity of the false news crew was revealed, the Oregon Department of Justice mailed two letters to Comedy Central, requesting that the show use none of the footage shot at PSU.

Department of Justice spokesperson Stephanie Soden said the university is concerned because the film crew introduced themselves through and planned to produce the show by misrepresentation. Soden said the Dog Bites Man crew had the students and Freeman sign releases, but the releases were misleading and said nothing about the show being a part of Comedy Central.

“They misled the professor and the students,” Soden said. “They lied to them throughout the situation. [The university] was uncomfortable with that.”

Dee Wendler, associate vice president for Finance and Controller, said the university is not currently commenting on the situation. Freeman also declined to comment. Both Wendler and Freeman referred all questions to the Oregon Department of Justice.

Soden said the Department of Justice has received a response to the first letter it sent to Comedy Central. In the response, Tony Fox, vice president of corporate communications at Comedy Central, said that the company does not find the university’s or Department of Justice’s concerns reason enough not to air the footage shot at PSU. Soden said the Department of Justice is still waiting to hear back from Comedy Central on whether they plan to actually air the PSU footage, after which the university will decide how far to push the issue.

“The university will think about what they want to do next,” Soden said. “How far they want to push the network to not air it.”

Fox did not respond to e-mails and multiple phone calls by press time.

Fox said Freeman and Fred Smoller, a Chapman University professor involved in a similar situation with Dog Bites Man, had a right to be upset, but in a May 24 Chronicle of Higher Education article he said that the production crew did not violate any laws.

In the article Fox said that Comedy Central will not air any of the content with Smoller, and that he believes Comedy Central will be able to reach an agreement with Freeman. In a Los Angeles Times article, Fox said Dog Bites Man creates “ridiculous situations to get reactions that are the basis of humor.”

Freeman said in an e-mail to Smoller that one of the students in the media class recognized actor Matt Walsh, who plays KHBX-TV anchor Kevin Beekin, from the Will Ferrell movie Old School.

“The crew denied it and said that ‘he gets that a lot,'” Freeman wrote, according to the Times.

In the article, students in the class said that the fake news crew told them the way to break into the news business was to remember that “blindfolds are for the bedroom, not an interview session,” and “you need to get someone in a turban if you are going to do a story on gas prices.”

Students in the class were paid $20 for the filming and Freeman was given $100, but said she tried to decline the money, the Chronicle reported. Soden said the Department of Justice is now waiting for Comedy Central to respond to their second letter, which asked for the waivers that students in the class and Freeman signed.