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Stand-up comics took their best shot at the new environmental term "Shifting Baselines" and five walked away winners

LOS ANGELES (April 21, 2003) -- Shifting Baselines, an environmental campaign dedicated to bringing to light the declining health of our oceans, recently hosted a comedy contest with contestants riffing on the term "shifting baselines" to address how far the baselines in our everyday lives have shifted. More than 40 people participated, with their taped performances reviewed by a team of celebrity judges including Tom Arnold, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bill Maher, Peter Mehlman (co-creator of "Seinfeld"), and Mindy Sterling ("Austin Powers"). The winners, announced today, are Aron Kader, Larke Miller, Ifeanyi Njoku, Guy Stevenson and David Storrs.

"Shifting baselines essentially means 'lowered standards' and every stand-up comic has something to say on that subject," said the event organizer, filmmaker Randy Olson, who is also the director of the Shifting Baselines Campaign. 

Producer Gale Anne Hurd ("Terminator," "The Abyss," "The Hulk") is a veteran diver and one of the founding members of the Shifting Baselines project.  "The state of our oceans is in critical decline, but it's still a challenge to get the message out," she said.  "We're taking a different approach to this aspect of our project by using a little humor to help make the connection between everyday 'shifting baselines' and ocean decline."

-2- SB Comedy Contest

The winning material ranged from lowered standards in dating ("if you want old men to chase you, you have to walk slower") to shopping ("the 99 Cent Store is like the 'Island of Misfit Products'"), but also covered the environment and how we're forgetting what nature used to look like.

"As a committed environmentalist, I thought it was a great idea to use comedy to make the point about such a serious topic as ocean decline," said Julia Louis-Dreyfus. "Before getting involved with Shifting Baselines I thought it was a jazz term, but now I know it has something to do with women's tennis."

Tom Arnold remarked, "I particularly liked Ifeanyi Njoku's piece about the lack of understanding or interest in the environment in certain parts of L.A.  I think you could get the same quotes from people in Iowa where I'm from."

Said Bill Maher, "Environmental causes usually divide people, but I liked the fact that Shifting Baselines is trying something new, like using comedy to unite people and build awareness for the concept of diminished standards."

Director James Cameron ("Ghost of the Abyss," "Titanic") is also involved in the project and said "shifting baselines is one of the most important problems facing the oceans today.  How can we know what needs to be restored if we have lowered our standards so far that we can no longer remember how the oceans used to look?"

The contest was sponsored in part by The Ocean Conservancy, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Surfrider Foundation.  Together they are backing the Shifting Baselines Campaign, spearheaded by members of both the science community and Hollywood in a new approach to public awareness about slow-motion ocean decline.

The winning performances can be viewed at http://www.shiftingbaselines.org.

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Media Contact:
Kate DiRanna
mPRm Public Relations (323-933-3399)