Waiting on the Bus

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Posts Tagged ‘sitcoms’

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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Remembering Peter Boyle

Posted by Steven on December 10, 2006



On Tuesday night Dec 12th, Peter Boyle died from heart disease and multiple myeloma. I didn’t find out about it until the next afternoon when I went to check my e-mail. I stared at the screen and reread the headline several times, still in shock. Inside I felt hollow and had to fight back the urge to cry.


Ordinarily an actor’s death wouldn’t mean that much to me, but Boyle played Frank Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond, one of my favorite sitcoms and TV characters of all time. Before Raymond, he was known for playing the monster in Young Frankenstein and Wizard in Taxi Driver.


I started watching the show during the fifth season when I was a freshman in high school and liked it immediately. All the characters were funny in a unique way, but I got the biggest laughs from Frank. He was the one character who I could really identify with on the show: a guy who wasn’t comfortable as the center of attention or outside of his home, never really seemed to get along with his family or other people due to the way he expressed his views, and he never got any credit for trying to fit in. I never grew tired of him on the show.



As Ray Romano’s dad, Boyle was the lynchpin that held the show together. Even people who hated the show still had respect for Boyle. If a series of jokes happened to fall flat, Boyle would always manage to rescue the scene with Frank’s trademark expression “Holy crap!” Unfortunately during the show’s final season Boyle looked old and tired. He was given the same type of lines as in earlier episodes, but his voice was noticeably weaker and had lost its sharp sarcastic edge. He still gave it his all, but the show just wasn’t the same without him at 100 percent. 


His talents on ELR were always underappreciated. He won an Emmy in 1996 for an appearance on the X Files as Clyde Bruckman, but never won one for his work on Raymond, despite being nominated seven times and the rest of the cast winning at least one Emmy. The only reason I can give to explain this is that Boyle played his character too well, but it wasn’t any fault of his. The writers of the show gave many heart to heart exchanges between the characters, but those involving Frank are hard to find. The voters must have seen him as a great actor who was unable to show the necessary lighter side of his character. What a load of bull.


That’s why I’m here: to present the lighter side of Frank Barone in the hopes that Boyle will get his ELR Emmy in the afterlife.


The best example of Frank’s compassionate side can been seen in the season five episode,

“The Canister”. An argument breaks out between Debra and Marie because she believes Debra has a special canister of hers. Debra denies this, only to have it turn up later. She quickly decides to dispose of the canister by throwing it in the garbage, but twins dig it out of there so she decides to sneak it back into Frank and Marie’s herself. Marie catches Debra with the canister, but Frank takes the blame for it, claiming he was hiding it from Marie. When Debra asks him why he covered for her, Frank replies “You’re like my daughter.”



The theme of Debra being equivalent to Frank’s daughter was used again in the season eight episode “Debra at The Lodge.” Here Debra takes a job at the lodge with Frank and all of his retired buddies, appearing to fit in. But Frank breaks lodge policy and tells Ray what is being said about Debra after she leaves, coming to her defense at the end of the episode.


Finally, in “Boys Therapy”, Frank tells Ray and Robert his father used to hit him as a form of discipline, but he refused to do this when raising them.


In my favorite episode of the series, “Meeting the Parents”, Boyle delivers some classic lines as Frank squares off with the conservative parents of Robert’s girlfriend, Hank and Pat McDougal. No doubt this episode pissed off conservative and religious voters, but I like its edginess. Here are some of Frank’s best lines in the episode:


(Referring to Hank McDougal) Who made you the prayer sheriff?

I bet all their stuff about church is a load of crap too. Probably spends his Sundays watching tv in a muffin shop.


Dear Lord please keep this in-law family the hell away from me!


Hank: And you can stay the heck away from us too.


Frank: You can say ‘heck’ all you want, He knows you mean Hell!


(After Hank leads a prayer asking that the two families get along)


I can beat that! 

Frank was best in ELR when he was just sitting in the recliner listening to a conversation and then out of the blue he would make great sarcastic comment, which is something I usually do at parties—but I’m not rewarded with a thunderous laugh track like Peter was.


Frank Barone was the first TV character who made wearing a cardigan cool. He proved it’s not how you wear it, it’s the attitude you have while wearing it. Before Frank wore the cardigan the only noteworthy people associated with it were Cliff Huxtable, who wore nothing but ugly sweaters on his show, and Mr. Rogers. If I get a cardigan this Christmas, I won’t comlain, because Frank Barone wouldn’t want me to complain. He’d say,


“You’re a pansy, just wear the damn thing with pride.”


Thanks for the laughs Peter.


This tribute video highlights his life and some of his best moments on Everybody Loves Raymond. Enjoy 




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Posted in comedy, humor, sitcoms | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »