How do you react when you see a dick pick? Laugh? Gag? Analyze the lighting? Comedian Janet Silverman decided to look at 89 dick picks for the first time and record her reactions, which include all of those and more. Her video now has over 600,000 views and has appeared on such sites as Buzzfeed, The Hairpin, and right here on The Huffington Post. I tracked down Silverman, which wasn't difficult because, full disclosure, she is a friend of mine, and talked to her about making funny web videos, being an Internet star, and dealing with the crazy and sometimes sexist reactions people have had to her looking at 89 dick picks.
Photo: David Bluvband
Your video went viral! How does it feel to be an Internet star?
Janet Silverman: It's thrilling to make a video that ends up reaching such a huge audience. That's the tricky thing about the Internet; your audience could end up being 600,000 people or 60 people. Being an Internet star feels exactly the same as not being an Internet star. It's incredible to be acknowledged and picked up by so many huge websites but it also feels intangible. It could be gone at any moment.
Is going viral always the goal when you set out to make a web video?
JS: I learned a while ago that you can't give an audience what you anticipate they will think is funny. All you can do is what you think is genuinely funny and see if it resonates. Going viral is never the goal, just a happy circumstance. It's deceiving because it's not necessarily a product of quality. So much stupid stuff inexplicably goes viral, and there's often no way to know why.
You've made a lot of funny videos. Why do you think this one took off the way it did?
JS: I guess the world was ready to talk about dick pics. We struck a chord and said the thing that people were thinking and made it palatable. The funny thing to [co-producer Jillian Pastori, co-producer and co-director Cristina Sanza, and me] about dick pics was that men will send a photo of their penises to women thinking it will entice and titillate, when really it is just a strange, unflattering picture. Do these men think that grainy, unlit, confusing, at times unsolicited photos of their disembodied members are sexy? The disconnect between what a man thinks is sexy and what a woman thinks is sexy is hilarious.
What does it do for a comedian's career when one of their videos goes viral? Do you think this has or will open more doors?
JS: I have no idea. This can get people's attention, but I'm going to have to keep doing my thing to keep it. Something like this has the potential to be everything and nothing all at the same time. I've got to prove I'm not just a flash in the pan.
Whose idea was it to look at dick pics and why 89?
JS: The idea for the video organically came out of a conversation Jillian, Cristina, and I were having when Jillian showed me a dick pic from her phone. Jillian and Cristina put together the slideshow. The dick pics were culled from a variety of sources, and I think 89 was just about all they could handle. I was really looking at all of the photos for the first time on camera.
What goes into putting together a video like this?
JS: The process on this video in particular was very, very easy. There was just a single set-up in [co-director] Dave Bluvband 's apartment and then we rolled tape for about 90 minutes. Within two days Cristina had cut the footage down to 10 minutes. We watched it about one billion times, trimming a little at each pass, and released the video less than a week after the shoot.
Have you been reading the comments on YouTube and on all the articles and were you surprised by any of the responses?
JS: I need to stop reading comments. You've heard people warn against it, but, especially the first time you're dealing with it, it's virtually impossible not to read them. There are so many positive comments, but the handful of negative ones definitely hit harder. On the one hand, it proves a certain level of success if I have haters. The truly upsetting comments are the ones that completely misconstrue what this video is trying to say. I've been accused of body shaming, sexism, and holding double standards, and that is just insane to me. I'm not a professor and I'm not a spokeswoman. I'm a comedian. This is a video making fun of dick pics. By proxy, yes, it pokes fun at the men who take them too. The truth of the matter is, in our society dick pics are a thing. Vag pics aren't a thing, and tit pics are an idea that men want to be a thing. Most women don't send these. Men measure their penises, men compare their penises, men take pictures of their penises, and some men worship their penises in a way that most women don't understand. By the very nature of a dick pic, the man is not present to see a woman's gut reaction to them. The idea at the core of this video is how men and women view dick pics differently.
Did you see Mic.com did a feminist commentary on your video?
JS: I loved the Mic.com article. We didn't make this video with the purpose of taking a feminist stance. We made it because we are three single women living in New York City in 2014 with this specific opinion in common. A feminist agenda became important, however, once comments turned alarmingly sexist, racist, misogynistic, and aggressive toward me and other commenters. Marcie Bianco articulated that agenda in a way that none of the articles had yet. She brought up the important issue of consent. When dick pics come to women's phones and emails unsolicited, they're presumptuous, disturbing, and blatant sexual harassment.
How did you develop your comedic talent and what's next for you?
JS: When I moved to New York I struggled to find a place where I fit in. At the end of 2007 I took my first improv class at UCB, and the rest has fallen into place from there. I'm going to continue to make videos, write sketches, do shows, and put this stuff out there. This video has resonated with a ton of women and a good deal of men. I want to continue to call out the things I think are weird and hope that people will continue to agree and disagree with me.