A few years ago, the Internet seemed like the true beacon of hope for any young sketch comedian with a camera and a dream. Video-makers like The Lonely Island made it look easy for the next generation to simply post their funny, original videos to the vast servers of YouTube and suddenly find themselves gracing the airwaves at "Saturday Night Live."
However, the over-abundance of online videos in recent years has made it harder for original content to stand out; the edge has gone to the real-life cats and rock n' roll kids and adorable Russian bear cubs of our time. Viral original content is much rarer, and the algorithm for success has grown hazy.
Still, pioneers exist, and one man has been steadily putting together brilliant content since before you could say "Funny or Die" (though he now works for Funny or Die).
Scott Gairdner, who has been uploading videos to his personal YouTube account for over five years, has maintained his smart, irreverent style ever since posting his very first video -- a fake trailer for a movie based on Pac Man -- and hasn't let up since. Racking up millions of views and just as many fans, Gairdner is probably responsible for at least one of your favorite videos of the past few years. (He's responsible for mine, as a matter of fact.) And if, like most of America, you've never heard of him ... let us introduce you.
HuffPost spoke to Gairdner about his favorite projects, his journey to the creative team at Funny or Die, and how he nailed a killer Jesse Eisenberg impression.
Did you always want to work in sketch video content, or did you always consider it a path to something else?
Sketch comedy has always been my main fashion -- it's what I've always gravitated to, probably even more so than movies. And I like that there's a quick turnaround, so if you're kind of ADD, it's great. You can have so many irons in the fire.
You've been working at Funny or Die as a writer/performer/director/editor for a little over a year now. How did that job come about?
I've been there since May 2010. Before that, I'd never had any real presence on the site; I didn't even post videos there. But people who worked at the site started to see my videos -- actually a couple of them were posted in The Huffington Post -- and they said, "Start putting your stuff on the site and we'll feature it." So my videos made the rounds through people in the building, to the creative people, then people up top, and then the thing that really broke it was "Juggalo News," the Insane Clown Posse news parody. Adam McKay [who runs Funny or Die with Will Ferrell] tweeted about it, made it one of his favorites. Off of that I got to do more episodes for their HBO show, and then started working there [full time].
What's the process for making videos over there? Do you base an idea around a celebrity or is it the other way around?
I guess it's both. I'd say the typical thing is: a celebrity comes in and everyone pitches them ideas around the table and then they sort of pick the one that fits them the best, makes most sense to them. But then a lot of stuff gets done where you have the idea and then we sort of ask, "Who can we attach to this to give it more viral potential?" I think I'm better at coming up with some crazy idea and building a new piece about it.
You do a pretty spot-on Jesse Eisenberg impression. But usually with Funny or Die videos, they try to get the actual celebrity, instead of using an impersonator. How did you get that gig?
I think everyone on staff is trying to be better at not being precious with ideas. Like, if you have an idea somewhat formed, just go do it. I'd always thought it'd be awesome if somebody cracked that [Eisenberg] impression, he has such a specific cadence. I tried it for one of my friends who works here and he was like, "That wasn't too bad," so then we really quickly came up with the premise for that "127 Hours" audition thing, and then we filmed it the day we thought of it. And then there's the "Staying Positive" video which I actually like a lot more.
It seems like a pretty ideal situation for a comedic video-maker, having all those resources at your fingertips.
It's amazing. You can just go to a producer and say, "I need seven 13-year-old girls. Bring them to me and I'll figure out the rest." That was actually a very uncomfortable thing. I think the girls liked me when I was myself, but then the longer I was Jesse they started to really turn on me. There's an outtake where I'll start to talk, and they start playing this horrible jinx game. They started to get aggressively mean and ganging up on me. I might be more scared of middle school girls than I am of a celebrity.
Your most recent project, "Tiny Fuppets," is a fake Portuguese knock-off of "Muppet Babies" and has taken the internet by storm. You made it independently of Funny or Die and released it on its own. Where did that idea come from?
Somebody showed me "Ratatoing," a Brazilian ripoff of "Ratatouille." It's made by this company called Video Brinquedo, which actually translates to "Toyland Video." So through that I found this YouTube rabbit hole of crazy Brazilian rip-offs of American cartoons. My favorite is "The Little Cars," a rip-off of "Cars." Theres one called "The Little Panda Fighter," which is a "Kung Fu Panda" rip-off. I guess they just really like smaller versions of things. So I just wanted to make a tribute to those, just as a kind of in-joke for anyone who had seen them. I'd never done any animation, so I basically just taught myself how to do that, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to make all of them, like over a year.
Do you think it's better or worse for comedians that so many people have been "discovered" through their YouTube videos?
There's definitely a lot more people doing this now. But I think it's dangerous, because a lot of stuff can feel sort of forced or insincere, like if you're doing it to get on "Saturday Night Live" and not having a genuine love for making videos. There's probably a lot of people who might see it as a ticket to fame, like it's some kind of shortcut, so they don't have to pay for Groundlings classes or something.
Do you want to pursue TV projects, too?
I think I do, yeah. Longer-term stuff and TV. One issue with online projects now, is I feel like every sketch you put online has to be this ironclad, viral machine, where the title and the thumbnail all relate, and it's tied to something going on right now in the world. And that can be sort of exhausting. It prevents you from having quieter ideas, or at least having a lot of people see those. So I think, yeah, there's the drive to get to TV, to have a captive audience watching your show, where something doesn't have to go always viral and compete with the pop up ads.
We asked Scott his favorite video that he's made. Hint: It involves celebrated crooner, Michael McDonald.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more