Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 2:08 PM
Given that I’m currently in the throes of all things comedic during the 32nd annual Just For Laughs Festival, I was challenged with the question: “What’s the role of YouTube for the next generation of comedians?”
Right now, so many of the current generation of comedians—particularly the stand-ups—are using YouTube effectively and efficiently to drive their live business and overall image. Not only has this rendered the promo DVD or cassette (now I’m showing my age!) extinct, but seriously minimizes the amount of travel for any Festival talent scout. What I used to do in clubs, I can now do at home. And the drinks are cheaper.
But using YouTube exclusively as a promotional tool is like using Google Glass to magnify and read the printed word.
At its best, at its most promising, YouTube is the Garden of Eden; not only for the next generation of comedians, but actually for forming the next generation of comedians.
Right now, comedy is more than killing it on the platform. And what’s working best takes advantage of the YouTube platform:
- Democracy (anyone can do it)
- Speed (shoot in the morning, upload in the afternoon)
- Vast Audience Reach (every niche is huge)
- Quirkiness (impact over aesthetics)
I remember a sobering trip to Los Angeles a couple years back where I discovered the parallel universe being driven by unconventional YouTube-friendly digital comedians, NONE of whom I had ever heard of before. During my meetings in traditional Hollywood—along Santa Monica or Wilshire or Sunset—we talked about “digital comedians,” but they were merely savvy analog acts who had a grasp of digital tools like social media accounts.
Once I ventured “below Highway 10” so to speak, the homeland of pure video plays like Maker Studios, Fullscreen and their ilk, I was exposed to a whole new breed of off-beat creators who didn’t care about the old rules, and considered the intrusion of cameras a friend rather than a foe.
And today, that dividing line is blurring rapidly.
- Grace Helbig, namesake of YouTube hit Daily Grace, has been anointed one of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch, a list that in the past has brought initial attention to the likes of Jenny Slate, Amy Schumer, Lewis Black, Louis C.K., Zach Galifianakis and the aforementioned Patton Oswalt.
- The massively popular Epic Rap Battles of History is being featured in full-page ads on the backs of old-school magazines like Entertainment Weekly.
- Net content pioneer Chris “Nerdist” Hardwick is now the host of Comedy Central’s mega-hit, “@midnight.”
- One of my childhood heroes, Weird Al Yankovic, is using YouTube to launch eight new videos from his new album (they still make those?) over eight days.
- And if you think Orange is actually the new black, you should meet The Annoying Orange, a cloying crossover megastar of web, TV and merchandise.
That is why, at this year’s Just For Laughs, my number one priority is welcoming the new-breed YouTube comedy stars to the event, and ensuring that they don’t merely meet their more traditional brethren and sistren, but find a way to collaborate with them…and change the humor industry.
And perhaps while doing so, find a nice niche within it for a gutsy, outspoken, ostentatious veteran like me to occupy ;)
Posted by Andy Nulman , Co-Founder of Just for Laughs Festival, Businessman, Professor