How do you get young people to watch your content? It’s a question becoming increasingly more relevant and difficult to answer. Networks have tried many things to various levels of effectiveness. They’ve tried putting their content online for free, with the catch that it’s posted a week after the show originally airs. They’ve tried making it available on streaming services like Hulu a few days later. Some content creators have bypassed traditional networks and produced via Netflix, where their show will likely end up anyways. But one traditional-style network is diving headfirst into new media, and it’s Comedy Central.
Comedy Central was already somewhat ahead of the curve of its TV network companions. Its sketch comedies like Key and Peele and Inside Amy Schumer found a successful home in Youtube, where their 3-5 minute sketch lengths were accessible and convenient. While these videos don’t always garner hugely impressive TV ratings (http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/9/9252615/key-and-peele-finale-internet-television-youtube-ratings, http://headlineplanet.com/home/2015/04/22/ratings-inside-amy-schumer-sinks-to-premiere-low-out-of-deflated-tosh-0/) they do get millions of views and generate an interest in the programs, as well as internet ad money. Recently, Comedy Central has gone deeper into new media, creating original content for Snapchat. In fact, just last week Comedy Central renewed four Snapchat shows and ordered nine more (http://deadline.com/2016/03/comedy-central-Snapchat-nine-new-series-upfronts-1201728453/).
Now original Snapchat content is not necessarily new. Popular website Funny Or Die has been taking advantage of this for a while, but while Funny or Die releases weekly shows via snapstories, Comedy Central releases theirs through the somewhat new Discover feature. And while it might make sense for Funny or Die, a website, to venture onto Snapchat, Comedy Central has been primarily a network television stations for twenty years. Comedy Central is one of only a few other major networks to use the Discover feature, and it uses it very well.
The difference between a normal Snapstory, a collection of up to ten second videos submitted by a user and played in succession, and Discover is that Discover allows the user to interact with the video. Comedy Central, for example, will often have a few seconds of video preview play on screen and the Discover feature will allow a user to scroll down and watch that video in its entirety. Videos include sketches from past and current Comedy Central shows, videos of standup comedians that have aired on the network, and original content.
This ability to watch entire standup bits, sketches, or quick original shows gives users an immersive experience with Comedy Central and their content. Whether it be on Snapchat, Youtube, the Comedy Central app, or traditional TV, the constant presence of the network in people’s lives on a trusted and frequently used app is far from a bad thing. But Comedy Central is not the only entity using Snapchat for comedy.
Snapchat has 100 million active users every day and it is used by 30% of millennial internet users (http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/Snapchat-statistics/). This is the same equation Comedy Central saw, and it adds up to the fact that if you want to reach young people, and people in general, Snapchat is a damn good way to do it. While Snapchat started as a pretty straightforward send and receive system, the inclusion of stories, Discover, and live events have made it much greater than that. It is a window into the world of other people, and many of these people are famous.
Snapchat offers users that rare gift that has been elusive for so long, a real view into the world of celebrities. Many celebrities will share their Snapchat name with fans, and fans will get to see them in their daily routine, sharing what they choose. And some of these celebrities are comedians, choosing to share comedy.
Snapchat actually has a page of comedians’ usernames (http://www.Snapchat.codes/comedians-3), and while some may be unknown or known specifically to Snapchat, many big names like Chris D’Elia, Jim Gaffigan and Jimmy Fallon appear on the list. On their Snapchat comedians will post short skits, humorous observations, notes to fans about upcoming projects, or whatever they think is funny. In Snapchat, comedians have a constant audience, people to see what they find funny in an instant. It’s a great opportunity for exposure, and a low risk for wasting precious material. Comedians find funny things in the world around them all the time, not just on stage or in front of a camera, so Snapchat allows comedians to share that daily life funniness with their fans while still working on their creative endeavors that get released in more traditional forms like standup and TV shows. After all, comedians are people just like us, and just as we share funny things with our friends and followers, they do too.
Which brings us to the biggest realm of Snapchat comedy: us, the average users. We are the biggest producers and consumers of Snapchat comedy, and we always have been. Just look at the beginning of Snapchat and you’ll see that this is true. In the beginning, Snapchat was a simple photo sharing app that would delete your pictures after a few seconds. It sounds simple, but I remember the buzz it created in high school. It would delete the picture you sent… automatically!! No seriously it would!!
And while the first thing many of us high schoolers thought of was “BOOBS!”, that was not what was to become the core of Snapchat. No, the big draw was that it would delete that ugly face you sent to your friend, your best friend, and no one else. The big draw was sending some inside joke to one or two friends, without the risk of permanent online storage. It was about being silly and having fun with friends.
And as Snapchat has grown it has only created larger avenues to be silly and creative with people. I’ve seen friends build a continuing narrative on their snapstory, or build running jokes to their friends and followers. The new face-swap feature has created an unspoken competition in creativity that is hard not to enjoy.
Recently at an urban outfitters my girlfriend narrowly beat me in taking a picture of a $69 dollar sign. I remember looking at her caption and thinking I could have done better. I would’ve put a different spin on it, made a different creative choice, in the same way that millions of Snapchat users get to decide what combination of words or filters bring out the humor in their picture. My brother’s Snapchat is almost entirely pictures of water telling people to stay hydrated. It’s weird, silly, and probably annoying to a lot of people, but he’s using the app to do what he thinks is funny.
Last night, in the midst of celebrating the UConn women’s 4th straight national championship, I took a picture of vomit on the ground, and decided to add the “Go Huskies!” filter to it. The juxtaposition of the school’s idea of spirit and its actual practice is the source of humor in the picture. And while I love and study comedy and would like to think that I am a genius for this feat of humor, anyone could have taken that Snapchat, and whether they would know it or not, they would be thinking about what is funny about that situation and how to make it as funny as possible.
Because the unspoken goal of Snapchat is to have fun and share interesting things. Of course some people use it to brag about how good they look, or how cool their spring break is, but always at the heart of there seems to be a shared sense of good natured humor. Snapchat still has that “Look at this weird face!” element at its core. Its new video functions allow users to film narratives in an instant and share them with friends, something that in the past might have taken weeks. Its new filters allow you to show your friends what you would look like as a dog. It allows each user to share their own quirkiness and sense of humor at a level that was impossible before. Whether we know it or not, to some extent Snapchat has made use all comedians. And to the delight of all of us, Snapchat, which counts views instead of likes, allows the user to live in a comedian’s dream land where their content is unveiled to roars of laughter by all of their followers. Every joke is our own, and every joke kills.