After attending a remarkably bad comedy open mic this weekend, I have realized that the future of comedy is not stand-up, instead it’s online, which is a good and a bad thing. Unlike an open mic, there are fewer uncomfortable moments. If you hate the video you can press pause, if you dislike the live comedy, you can get heckled by the stand-up, knock over a few chairs, and run out of Chuckle Hut stifling a scream. The downside to Youtube is that the comedy is not bright. This is not meant in a bad way, but if you grew up on Mel Brooks or Danny Kaye, like I did, you are in for a disappointment. The comedy I looked at for this blog article was roundly some of the worst of my life. Who are the new web 2.0 comedy entrepreneurs and what do they stand for? I scoured the internet for the profiles of some of the brightest lights out there in internet-land and found, well, not much.
First, there’s Fred nee Lucas Cruikshank, who is the second-most subscribed person on Youtube. He is sixteen years old, according to Wikipedia, and has already eclipsed Miley Cyrus in terms of an online profile. In fact, according to online gossip, soon he will be appearing in an episode of Hannah Montana. His shtick is to edit the pitch of his voice to headache high. Already he has made the leap from famous to rich, through merchandising, profit-sharing with Youtube and other means.
Full honesty, I could not get through an entire episode of Fred. The voice was just too high for me. On the positive side, I think it is quite incredible that a sixteen year old can be this motivated to market his “act.” Sure, every teenager dreams of being a star, but few spend this much time making that happen. I just wonder what pushy mother or father is behind this quest for uncharted Youtube fame, and cannot help but feel a little sorry for the guy. C’mon, you think this is all accidental? Have you watched a video of his? Explain to me how millions of people could find this entertaining.
Kevjumba is a bit older and a lot brighter than Fred. In fact, watching him spar with his more traditional Taiwanese dad in a recent interview led to many genuine LOL moments. Kevjumba may not have the capabilities of a Hollywood studio, but he has been able to mine the humor of his suburban environs with nothing more than a Handicam with ease. I have watched a couple of his videos and over time they are improving in quality, making me wonder what the future of this enterprise could be. His comedy at its best is very personal, and rightly so. A little more viral than the vlog, it exists in a realm of comedy not unlike stand-up, except, well, a bit less distant. Kevjumba is not content to talk about something that happened in his life, he will reenact it too and then invite you to be his “friend” and “rate” the quality of this experience.
Youtube comics generally live in an “anonymous by choice” environment, a comfortable home in a suburb or an apartment in Anytown, U.S.A. While it used to be comedy came from Hollywood or Burbank, now comedy is broadcast from anywhere. This is freeing but also a little depressing. There was nothing like the dream of Los Angeles. When the next comics come out of Auburn, Michigan or San Anita, Texas, will it be half as fun?
The Youtubers’ camera work is frustratingly amateur; constant jump cuts jar the viewer. The sound quality is always spotty. The acting, well, none are trained, and I have never said this before, but it shows. But who cares? The very nature of Youtube is to share lives with others, until the gap between the viewer and the viewed has shrunk enough that your fifteen minutes are their fifteen minutes of fame—reviewable for all time on small simulcast screens or iPhones. No one will die in the future, they will just lose web presence. The medium is very much the message here, and it needs constant reloading.
Most of these comics are young men, usually in their teens. Their fan base, as far as I can tell, are not other young men but, who else, teenage girls. Like any great popular phenomenon, a pack of screaming tweens is not far behind. Who is to blame them for making videos and posting them online, though? If I were sixteen in 2009 I probably would have done the same thing. Me, I did things the old fashioned way: daydreaming.
Commenters, please let me know there is intelligent life out there! Who do you subscribe to? Why?