Olde English, new-fangled medium
I post (increasingly) infrequently on Aspecialthing, which is “the premier comedy community on the internet” and a message board for what could fairly be described as passionate (alt-) comedy snobs. A while back I got into a bit of a posting pissing match over the merits of YouTube as a medium for comedy. The ASTers were up in arms because Brookers, who could fairly be described as a gap-toothed web-lebrity, had landed a deal of some sort with Carson Daly, thus snatching the burritos out of the mouths of starving alt-comedians the length of the land. Or something like that. Turns out that Brookers features as reviewer-in-residence at Carson’s Itsyourshowtv.com site. Which is something she’s pretty well qualified to do (compare to beloved alt-comics doing talking-head duty on assorted VH1 “I love the…” clip shows, which I’m pretty sure I’ve read Patton Oswalt say is often a case of “prompted by a producer to say something funny about a movie you’ve never seen” (not that I have a citation to back that up…)).
Anyway, my point, in as much as I have one, is that the ASTers seemed pretty entrenched in the opinion that nothing of any real merit could come out of the YouTube thing. And if, say, sketch comedy turned out to be a thriving online genre (which it couldn’t possibly because, you know, it’s all pet videos isn’t it?) it would almost certainly be the wrong kind of sketch comedy. And “serious” comedians would not put their work out there for free, especially if they’d already had a few development deals of the “nothing ever came of it” kind. And those development deals would almost certainly be for sitcoms and movies. I’m sort of extrapolating at this point because it’s possible I could go back and find that my posts and those of others said nothing of the sort. But I refuse to be tied down by a reality based paradigm. So there.
What prompted this post was seeing that a video by the sketch troupe Olde English got front-paged on YouTube. Olde English being the sketch group that I dimly recall were cited as the right kind of sketch – sort of the sketch comedy equivalent of backpack hiphop – as opposed to the kids-goofing-off variety of the Smosh.com kids, who were profiled in Time’s Person of the Year issue (read that profile here).
So heres that Olde English clip.
I suppose I could also post a Smosh clip for some sort of compare-and-contrast-athon. But my point, if I have one, is that the ASTers were so blinded by Brookers-loathing, that they couldn’t see the obvious potential for their very own favorite thing (one could almost say their special thing) to thrive on the YouTube.
In the long run, it may well be that work by people like Olde English blubbling up reflects Scott Kirsner of CinemaTech‘s thoughts (as covered in detail in this Mercury News piece) that “professional” content will win the most eyeballs as the online video space evolves (in this instance professional sketchers vs. the garagebands of the sketch world) but that… is not really my point (althought it’s an interesting one). I am, after all, a comedy snob myself and would love to see more Eugene Mirman, Todd Barry et al on the interwebs.
What interests me is that I’ve seen a similar sniffiness about YouTube on the Yahoo Videoblogging group (not from every single participant, but there is a definate streak of, “gosh, what is the rabble up to? I couldn’t possibly bring myself to take a look but if someone else could report back in…” in the mix). And part of my motivation for starting this blog was to offer a “format agnostic” perspective for the three or four people who might end up reading it. That’s not to say that this is going to be a “rah rah YouTube’s great!” pep rally. But that I hope you (oh hypothetical reader you…) might find yourself reading some thoughts on Vimeo one post, and some musings on Blip.tv the next.
In other words, it’s going to be all over the map, because that’s where I am. I’m going to stop writing now before I declare myself Columbus and claim to have discovered a new, yet already occupied, territory. Land ho!