The Internet Changes Comedy: The Next Wave
By Jake Kroeger on June 28, 2012
The idea that videos on the Internet could be anything beyond that, such as being adapted into movies or series for television, used to seem preposterous. Well, in 2012, having a web series adapted for the big screen, or the slightly-bigger-than-your-laptop screen, is not such a foreign idea. In fact, it may be too regular of an occurrence, if a video of a dog talking can get adapted into a larger project.
However, this does not mean that the Internet is done altering the art form of comedy. If anything, the Internet affects how humor is conceptualized and executed now more than ever into a more complex, diverse, and self-aware era of comedy.
Who saw podcasts ever being adapted into movies or TV shows several generations of iPods ago? It’s not such a radical idea, since blogs have gotten such deals, but, considering the fact that a podcast is only audio, it is amazing that there has been a growing trend in giving popular podcast a shot at being physically seen. Comedy Bang Bang, WTF with Marc Maron, You Had To Be There with Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer, and, of course, The Nerdist all have gotten onto TV or are in the development process for TV. Talk radio hardly ever got such attention, but then again, there wasn’t as much room to be creative and innovative on talk radio as there is now with a comedy podcast, due to network and sponsor interference.
Does it need to be on TV? Exclusive web content has been growing more and more everyday, and comedy has been and is instrumental to that happening. Not only are web series growing as fast as the trends they often try to address, but many of them are looking to brand themselves exclusively online.
Look at the web series Dirty Work, which could easily be adapted to be on TV and, given its funny take on the procedural with Mary Lynn Rajskub co-starring, would fit in perfectly at, let’s say, TBS. Yet, it’s all online, complete with interactive features more fit to watching on your laptop with a keyboard than fiddling with your remote control. Online network My Damn Channel has even sought to make themselves more of a network by broadcasting live M-F at 4PM EST at its YouTube channel.
Can you do without an HBO or Comedy Central special? Thanks to Louis CK taking the big leap for comedians everywhere by releasing his special Live at the Beacon Theater through his website, self-distribution for stand-up is no longer a pipe dream of the future. Since then, Jim Gaffigan, Aziz Ansari, and other comedians with big enough followings and resources to follow suit with CK in producing and releasing their specials did so. Even comedians that aren’t that famous are taking their stand-up specials to the web. Specifically, Chad Daniels released his special free of charge through Laughspin.com. You can watch As Is commercial free in its entirety on YouTube. It’s a perfect example of circumventing the system that can edit your comedy purely because it won’t fit within commercial breaks.
Speaking of Louis CK, who recently announced that he will be selling tickets exclusively through buy.louisck.net, the importance of an online following seems to never be stressed enough. Any post, tweet, move that Louis CK makes is instantly echoed throughout the endless hallways of the web, which has only exponentially increased his fan base. The same can be said of Rob Delaney, Paul F. Tompkins, and, without a doubt, Chris Hardwick. Even Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon have surpassed many of their late night contemporaries online because they’ve really taken the time to strategize/bother to post content online right after it airs. Fallon’s even done a YouTube Presents.
Why do it beyond the Internet? Content is king, but the kingdom still doesn’t necessarily have a currency. As great as it is that CK makes a good living and podcasts keep evolving and provide a new source of material from which networks and studios can draw, the financial model is still developing. YouTube has its official partners and there are a handful of podcasts that are self-sustaining from donations, but a reliable business model for comedy online that doesn’t defy the burst of creativity surging through millions of URLs remains a work in progress.
That will all change when the Internet and TV can be easily watched together. And it’s coming.