Waiting on the Bus

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Archive for the ‘YouTube videos’ Category

Why fast talking YouTubers are killing comedy

Posted by Steven on December 10, 2010

When i got my Dell Studio XPS a year ago I was keen to include a monitor with a built in webcam on the off chance that I wanted to create a couple videos and place them on YouTube as a way of testing partially developed comedic material in front of a worldwide audience. My mom was intrigued by the idea because theoretically we could talk to my brother from his college dorm room and would allow her and my dad to keep an eye on him. Even if he gave only short evasive answers to every question they could at least determine if he was drunk or high. He has yet to talk to us via webcam even once. however, and with my parents now having renewed confidence that my brother will be able to remain motivated and focused enough to ignore outside distractions and graduate in high standing without the threat of a monthly interrogation looming over his head, the webcam’s potential has gone largely untapped, having been forgotten by everyone except for me. I did post a couple of videos, which you can see here and here, but I quickly discovered that my stuttering kept me from talking in the rapid fire setup punchline style used by the comedic video bloggers, supposedly because of viewer’s short attention spans.

By the time I had figured out what I was going to say and overcome any sudden disfluencies brought on by the pressure of having to talk as fast as possible, forty seconds would have already elapsed in the video and the camera’s unwavering, uncompromising eye had already captured my embarrassing stuttering episode in all its gristly detail. This forced me to start over again with no idea how many takes it was going to take to record the video, and given that I was able to do a fluent take, whether it would have the proper amount of energy and emphasis on certain lines to be funny. After a few unsuccessful attempts I’d get discouraged and wonder if I wasn’t just better off writing it down where nothing could get lost in translation. I wasn’t about to truncate something that worked better in long form just so I could get it on YouTube. Unfortunately most of the popular comedic video bloggers, whose content is assumed to be of the highest quality on the site, ignore this fact when creating videos. They’re so busy trying to adhere to the number one rule when trying to attract viewers to their channel, namely, no video must be longer than 3-5 min and other conventions imposed by other hit videos, that many annoying symptoms appear during the humor’s presentation which keep it from leaving a lasting impression.

Perhaps the most annoying habit adopted by today’s successful comedic video bloggers, including Phil Defranco and Natalie Tran, is they all talk as though someone is holding a gun to their head and can’t help but barrage the viewer with, “Like this video if you were stunned by the opening sequence” annotation balloons at the beginning of the video, followed by a flurry of quick jokes and onscreen graphics that correlate with whatever topic is being discussed, all being delivered in a series of quick cut segments that are edited together to form one coherent video. The majority of the time these visuals add little to the presentation and are just another thing trying to compete for your attention and prove to you how funny this person is supposed to be.

How funny these videos actually are is something that’s never really considered by most people beyond liking particular videos and writing the occasional comment on ones they thought were really funny, but the next time you watch the latest video from one of your favorite self made video blogging comedy gods on YouTube, try and count how many jokes actually register with you at first watch, regardless if you laugh at them or not. Since the jokes are being delivered so fast I’m willing to bet it’s a relatively small number and you’ll feel like you just watched a robot recite programmed punch lines. You’ll also likely need to watch it at least twice to get an accurate joke count. This suggests that the fast talking comedy phenomenon isn’t undertaken solely to compensate for viewers short attention spans but also so viewers are forced to watch the video multiple times to fully comprehend everything, thereby driving up the video’s hit count.

If asked what exactly motivates them to make videos, the video bloggers on YouTube upon whom fortune has smiled would go the politically correct route, saying at the most basic level, they’re just trying to convey a message to their audience and entertain them, and that they’d still make videos even if there were no guarantee of hits and receipt of a certain percentage of the overall ad revenue generated by their videos. However you can bet it goes a long way towards inflating their egos and making them hesitant to change an otherwise stale formula, even when users may call for it through a comment mutiny of negative feedback.

Giving the audience time to react to a joke has been a fundamental part of comedy for years, either in the form of dead silence when somebody bombs on open mic nights at their local comedy club, laugh tracks on sitcoms, or the awkward pause used to accentuate the uncomfortable nature of some jokes. This technique was first popularized by The Office in the US and serves a nearly identical purpose as a laugh track without being as obtrusive. When a performer doesn’t give the audience this necessary time to react to a joke they come off as a mix of insecure, arrogant, and disinterested. By laughing at a comedian , the audience is in effect neutralizing the anger that often fuels comedy and showing the comic that they empathize with them, thus validating his or her beliefs and keeping them from feeling as though he is nothing more than a rambling, spiteful idiot. The sketch comedy videos do a better job of respecting the audience by limiting any potential quick one liners to one character and giving other jokes time to develop before a “please subscribe” balloon appears to remind you that they’re ultimately just after subscribers like the video bloggers, but at least they’ve created something that has some staying power and won’t become outdated the day after it’s released, which is the main reason I would hesitate to create a YouTube personality for myself even if I didn’t stutter.

I don’t need that constant pressure of having to come up with something quality nearly every day when the average user doesn’t really care about quality, and YouTube only furthers this notion by promoting every video that has one or more of the following elements: dancing, old ladies, pets doing something out of the ordinary, young children with a five octave vocal range, kids playing instruments, auto tuned mash ups of already popular videos, parodies of pop culture icons that have been ripped to death, among other things. Why should I even try to achieve some level of online fame when it is tenuous at best and I’d have to deal with an ever-present fear that I’d be trumped in popularity by a video of a cat nosing a ball of yarn through an obstacle course in a matter of weeks?

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Sometimes you have to make a fool of yourself for the sake of your fraternity.

Posted by Steven on April 18, 2010

Check out this video to watch my brother (he’s the guy with the white hat) do an elaborate dance routine with the rest of his fraternity. They ended up winning first place, because as we all know my brother kicks ass academically without even giving a maximum effort and every group he’s involved in is destined to come in first.

For some unknown reason they call the paths that separate the various dorms at Marietta College “malls”, hence the school’s blog title “Writing on the Mall.” If I went there I’d call them sidewalks to stress accuracy, and to piss people off.

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As a substitute teacher, it is my duty to push this video into the VCR. Yes—this how I make a living

Posted by Steven on September 13, 2006

A few weeks ago I found this Reading Rainbow parody video on You Tube and I thought it was very funny. It inspired me to do more research about this once proud kids show that has been surpassed by the likes of Dragon Tales, Arthur, and Cailou. Turns out it’s now been relegated to the 6:30 timeslot on Sunday mornings. That’s just what kids need, a 6:30 wakeup call from LeVar Burton. I sent this video to a lot of my friends, including Chris but I’m not sure if they watched it. Now that it’s here in my journal—I know they won’t watch it.

DISCLAIMER:
For some reason the kids in this video think that you can never have too many “death by sword, lance, telescope” gags. If you don’t laugh, you may be decapitated.

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