: Andrew George
Before Al Gore invented the internet, the only ways for comedians to get their names out there was from touring, getting on television, and by appearing on this thing called a radio that people used to listen to, for some reason. Now a days, comedians are able to create a strong online presence and establish a following without ever leaving their beds.
Comedy specific sites like College Humor and Funny Or Die opened the gateway for comedians to put out material, standup videos, articles, and sketches into a forum with a high level of traffic that also appeals directly to their targeted demographics. This new system of content delivery and accessibility was further expanded in 2005 with the introduction of YouTube, which was named the most significant invention of the decade by Time Magazine (suck it, hybrid cars). By allowing the average person to create and share content, literally anyone was able to promote themselves online through new methods of exposure.
Numerous comedians took advantage of this new technology when it was still new and fresh, which has significantly helped them along with their careers. One perfect example is Donald Glover, who was discovered by most people after his sketch comedy group Derrick Comedy released numerous sketches on YouTube, including “Bro Rape” and “Blowjob Girl”, which collectively have over 100 million views. After these videos went viral, he was hired as a writer for 30 Rock, which lead him to pursue standup comedy. He is now quickly becoming a household name from his role on NBC’s Community, his hour standup special Weirdo, and his rapping alter ego Childish Gambino.
Another online breakthrough for comedy came along with the introduction of Twitter, which provided comedians with an outlet to share tour dates, links to their merch, and an unlimted supply of one liners. Plus it allows them to interact with their fans in a way that seems way less stalkerish than a hand written letter. The obvious Twitter break though comedian is Rob Delaney, who has gained a tremendous online following by tweeting such gems as “Divorce is very stressful/confusing for kids. Make sure to CLEARLY explain what they did to make you & your spouse split.” and “Guns don’t kill people. People who say “Guns don’t kill people” kill people. With guns.” With over half a million followers, which is a lot for people who aren’t Ashton Kutcher, Rob was named the “Funniest Person on Twitter” during the 2012 Comedy Awards. He has since appeared on numerous late night talk shows, toured the country, and has recently released an hour special entitled Live at The Bowery Ballroom.
Another online breakthrough for comedy came through the introduction of podcasting. Even though there are more than 30 genre’s of available podcasts, the comedy section on iTunes has been dominating the download charts ever since the beginning. Whether comedians have taken the solo path and independently released their own podcasts, or joined forces with networks like Nerdist, Earwolf, Death Squad, and ACE, podcasts have given comedians full creative control of their own content and allowed them to get it directly to their fans, usually for free.
Thanks to Louis C.K. for popularizing direct downloading by releasing his special Live at the Beacon Theater online for $5, numerous other comedians have turned to the internet to allow consumers to purchase full standup specials online. For a fraction of the price that distribution companies would sell a special for, comedy fans are now able instantly download standup directly from the comedians. The main issue that has arisen from this new distribution method is that it has become much easier for consumers to torrent and pirate the specials. Aziz Ansari combated this issue after releasing his special Dangerously Delicious, by saying, “Please don’t.”
The newest way that comedians are getting exposure online is through a new trend that was made popular a few weeks ago on Reddit called Standup Shots. These Standup Shots are simply pictures of a comedian with embedded text of one of their jokes next to them. Since the site was created less than a month ago, countless comedians have gotten a great deal of exposure after creating and sharing their own pictures. After the craze was started on Reddit, they have since spread to other sites and gone viral.
If you are a comedian and are not fully taking advantage of all of these opportunities that are so redily available online, then it’s time to get your act together. And if you are a comedy fan and are not taking advantage of all of the free content that is available online, then it’s time to get your act together, unless you’re a work, then you should probably go back to doing that before you get fired.