An oral history of A Special Thing, the world's most important comedy message board

For an art scene to exist, for artists within it to make the leap into greatness, hubs need to exist. Like-minded people need a space where their ideas can commingle and become better, where they can borrow, hook up, network, steal, and stab each other in the back. In the past, this meant a physical locale. New York’s advertising scene had Madison Avenue, the hippies had the intersection of Haight and Ashbury, punk rock had CBGB, glam metal had the Sunset Strip, grunge had Seattle. With the Internet, people no longer needed to share the same physical space within the same hours of the day. If their computer was plugged in, they were there.

One such incubator for one such scene was

Search the Internet Wayback Machine, and AST’s posters are among the biggest names in comedy. There’s Patton Oswalt and Louis C.K., holding extensive Q&As. There’s young upstarts Aziz Ansari and Anthony Jeselnik, trying to convince people to see their shows. There’s Marc Maron and Jimmy Pardo, uploading first attempts of this new thing called “podcasting.” There’s Scott Aukerman, hyping the earliest incarnation of Comedy Bang! Bang!. There’s Tom Scharpling, lurking in the chat. And there are the dozens of prospective comedians, writers, and directors virtually participating in this Comedy Master class.

This is the story of a message board, sure. But more than that, it’s the story of a scene incubator that happened to be online.
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