What’s The Deal With Internet Comedy? | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

What’s The Deal With Internet Comedy? | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

October 5, 2019 56 By Peter Engel


I think comedy on the internet has taken
off because most people are at work and it’s just a nice little escape. It’s so accessible. It’s right there. Why not laugh a little bit? It used to be there was this one way. You slog it through
the clubs, then you get on late night, and then hopefully you get a sitcom. That’s completely out the window now. There’s a different, twisted kind of thing that you find funny alone in the dark that you might find funny sitting in an audience. What podcasts have definitely done for comedy is it’s created a new type of fan of comedy. You’re taking something that used to be inaccesible and you’re
making it accessible. There’s just a more personal connection. Nerd of Mouth is a podcast where
lonely people get to be together by listening to us alone and reveling in
their nerd-dom. “Is being a nerd something you choose our does it choose you? This episode is just gonna be all of us striking
out at tee ball.” The inspiration was somewhat of a disdain towards most
portrayals of nerd culture. The Big Bang Theory is my Tyler Perry. It’s just non-nerdy people nerd-facing it up, “I know particle
physics and I’m lonely,” and it’s just insulting. And that’s kinda how it
came about. What I love about podcasts is that it’s allowed people to be niche-ier. It used to be
that you had to answer to the world as an artist. Now I get to be as alienating as I want. There’s no censorship. You can be as weird as you want. “No! My kingdom of fudge!” I just did morning radio for the first time and they said to me, “You can talk about this, this, and this, but you
can talk about that, that, and that.” You just want to be able to talk about what you
want ’cause there’s a difference between someone just seeing you do a five minute set
versus hearing you for two hours and getting to
know you as a person. “Let’s try to describe what our childhoods were like.” “Oh, in that case I’ll just cry.” I feel like all of my fans are just me with less
confidence and they see something in me that they
see in themselves and that’s a great thing. We’re bridging this gap now of all these
fans who kind of like comedy. Now they realize, “Oh, there’s comics for me,
in venues for me,” and you can really get to see somebody
as a person. Twitter has really strengthened
comedy in the comedy world. It’s a good training tool in writing jokes. My style
of humor and jokes are short, little, weird thoughts and it fits perfectly
into the twitter environment. Twitter has actually helped my joke
writing process ’cause you’re forced to fit in what you want to say into
those one hundred forty characters. You get rid of the waste and you just get to
the funny. On New Year’s Eve I tweeted, “It was one year
ago today that I also didn’t want to go out.” I tweeted, “I still can’t believe ‘the
Machine’ left ‘Rage Against’ to join ‘Florence and.'” I try to experiment within the medium itself. It’s only a hundred forty characters but
there are a lot of different style of tweets that you can do. I like to do quotes a lot and then
attribute it to a person. I quoted, “Foursquare and seven apps ago…” and that was Abraham Linkedin. There’s a quote that’s just “Ohhhhh.” and that was the first person to peel open a banana. Sometimes you’ll come up with an idea
instantly based on a news story that’s breaking. I remember when
caught Bin Laden, I tweeted out, “Oh great, now I’m terrified of zombie Bin Laden.” And then that was retweeted hundreds of times. Those
tend to get retweeted the most because it’s happening right then and there and
people want to hear and read about it right then and there. When you’re doing a show live, laughter or silence is an immediate
response. On twitter, it’s the same thing. If you tweet something out, people comment on it or
retweet. You’re getting that immediate satisfaction to know if what you did is connecting with people or not. The internet is amazing because it’s
experimental media for comedy. We’re not beholden to censorship. We can tackle
very controversial subjects online. Comedy is important to us because it’s cathartic. Jokes that seem a little inappropriate to four hundred
people might appeal to you when you’re alone and there’s no one to judge you for
your reaction. We did a sketch called “Stormtroopers’ 9/11.” It’s three
stormtroopers sitting around talking about the Death Star getting blown up in the tone that people who
talk about 9/11 talk about 9/11. “When you look at that part of the galaxy where the Death Star used to be and it’s just… nothing.” “The Jedis win.” “Jedis? I’ll tell you something. They hate our way of life.” It sounds so controversial, but to watch the
video it actually makes a lot of sense and is
relatively tame and very funny. But I don’t think we ever would’ve dared to do that live. Big, over the top content is what works,
is what gets the views. I’m really proud of a video that we did called “Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends.” “Keep marriage between a man and a woman and in response, we will marry your girlfriends.” I wanted College Humor to come out as pro-gay marriage which makes no sense because we’re
a comedy website. Who cares? So we came up with this idea which was,
of course you should let gay men marry each other because otherwise they’ll marry
your girlfriends, who they’re so much better suited to than you. “So don’t make us marry your girlfriends.
Support gay marriage.” The fact that we were able to see something, even a little
bit preachy, and get that message across in such
an effective way, as a comedy site, felt really rewarding. When something bad
happens in the world, you need to laugh. When nothing bad
happens in the world and you’re bored, you need to laugh. It’s good exercise. And the internet is
very available catharsis. It’s point and click catharsis. “You’re all a bunch of drones!” “Hey, keep your voice down.” “You’re drones. Especially the drones.” Embracing the internet and embracing these modern changes is the best way to go about it because, I mean, the reality is, you evolve or you die. I think to be successful as a comedian on twitter is just to trust your instincts, take risks, and go with what you think is funny. There’s something about doing it for
that person sitting alone in the dark, whose mouth is agape at first and then slowly warms up to us. That’s just hugely important to not take our important lives all too seriously.