Vuguru CEO Larry Tanz Talks Raunchy Puppets, Club 33 and His Boss, Michael Eisner [INTERVIEW]


Larry Tanz, CEO of Vuguru (pronounced “Voo-guru” and rhymes with “Boogaroo” [as if that’s even a word either]) is a smart guy. I decided that because he did his research on me before our phone interview — and researching the interviewer before the actual interview, and then dropping little hints about how you’ve researched them during the interview, seems both psychologically cunning and devious (i.e. smart). Of course, Michael Eisner hand-picked Larry to run his after-Disney pet project, so that probably makes him a pretty bright guy as well.

Coming out of a background where he helmed “LivePlanet,” a company co-founded by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Larry stepped into the leadership role at Vuguru and, since then, has helmed the development of some very exciting new web television projects and series. One, just announced, called “Flat Out,” partners Vuguru with NASCAR and AOL for an unscripted docu-series about up-and-coming racer Dylan Kwasniewski — so that sounds like they’ve got all of middle America pretty well sewed up. And because Larry Tanz has apparently stared inside my mind, he’s totally right when he surmises that the show I will most likely be excited about from the upcoming Vuguru slate involves raunchy crime-fighting puppets (God, yes!). They’re a company with a little something for everyone.

Take the time to get to know Vuguru and its shows — I sat down to watch one episode of “The Booth at the End” before the interview, and ended up watching the entire season. It was all I could do to not make the entire interview a fanboy gab session. The bottom line? Vuguru (once you learn how to say it) is a pretty cool company — and so is its head honcho.

My apologies that some of his answers run for miles — these CEO-types love to gab about “demographics” and “market profitability” — he’s used to dealing with soulless business types, I guess.

NMR: Where does “Vuguru” come from?

Larry: It’s a created name; it’s Vu-the-guru or the “guru of viewing.” It is some combination of those. It was one of those memorable names. I did not create it, so I can take neither credit nor blame, but it’s loosely derived from the whole “guru of viewing” experience.

It’s probably too late in the game to change the name?

You never know — Vuguru is a business-to-business brand at this point, in that we’re a studio, we’re a peer-placed studio just like Warner Brothers Television, or Lionsgate Television or Sony Television, so what’s important to us is that people in the business know the company … either people from the creative world or distributors or marketers, and we’ve built, at this point, a pretty good brand recognition for ourselves in that world at the point where, and I do see it happening at some moments, where we start doing our own distribution. I could see other brands coming up like more consumer-orientated brands or brands focused on particular audiences or something like that. That is a really long way to say: You never know, maybe, but right now, we’ve put a lot into it over the last few years, and it takes people like two go-arounds to get the name but then it becomes inevitably burned in your brain at some point [laughs]. We’re going to stick with it for a while.

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