This Week In Web Videos: ‘Being a Better You’
Creative feedback is paramount, especially in comedy. That’s because very few people have the comedic equivalent of perfect pitch — that special ability to pinpoint what will work from a funny POV without actually working on it with anyone else. Most of us need partners to brainstorm, to write, to revise, and once a script is set, most of us need help producing, directing, lighting, and editing it. Most of us are not Being a Better You creator Zach Broussard. As a matter of fact, none of us are. Just Zach. And he really knows what he’s doing.
How’d you get started in comedy?
Zach: Well I’m from Louisiana and went to LSU for college and I did some video stuff with friends, but I feel like that’s kind of something everyone just casually does in college. And as I got towards the end, I found I was the only person left who wanted to keep doing videos, so I started plotting my escape to New York and then when I got here I didn’t know anyone, so I did stand up just as an alternative. Slowly through that I started meeting new people, I did a two-man sketch thing with Zachary Simms called Zach and Zach and we did a little web series and had a sketch show once a month in Williamsburg. So I did that for a while and also did some guest performances with the group Meatsteak, I don’t know if you remember that group. I was buddies with a lot of those guys from stand up so I just started doing a lot of different bit parts in their shows. I think my biggest part was in a show they did called “Meatsteak Goes to Hell.” And from there I got on a UCB sketch team, a Maude team. I was on Fambly for 3 years and now I’m on Ripley. Those Fambly years were pretty pivotal and everybody on that team was doing a lot. Just being on a team with Marnie Hart and watching her kill it every week was pretty awesome.
What was your inspiration for this series?
Zach: I wrote it out as a web series with more of a narrative idea. The original idea was a self-help guru and then I realized I have absolutely no money and I didn’t want to do a Kickstarter because I kind of hate that, so I started thinking about a way to get that same idea across with a super low budget. I thought I can really just parody eHow videos because those are just so bad and unintentionally comedic. A few of the first ones that I put out were still some of the scripted ideas that I had just wedged into it, but now I feel like they’re more in tune with eHow videos, following that format a little harder.
How many more do you have planned?
Zach: What I love about this series is: I’ve been able to use general sketch ideas that I’ve had and don’t have a means to produce in another format. Usually it’s just jokes, like if I have a joke that I can’t use from stand up I will try and see if I can use it in this. Like I’m currently writing one on magic and it’s going to be a lot of mean jokes about magic and magicians. What I love is, when I do stand up I can’t get away with being too mean for some reason, but in video, I can get away with it. The main plan is to have a channel made. I shoot four of these at a time and then put them out over the month. My goal has been having 40-50 videos on a channel that people can just stumble into; I think that’d be fun.
Stumble into a pot of video gold.
Zach: Yeah I think I’m a real fan of populating a world and then letting someone just stumble into it.
How have you gone about marketing these?
Zach: I guess the first few I just showed them to my friends and people I know just to see if they liked it. I think also the Audiophile one got successful independently and people were sharing that and I think after that I just started emailing out to people. Someone from Huffington Post saw it and wrote about it. I try to get the word out as best I can, but it’s hard to do in a world where there’s a 1000 new videos every day.
There’s just so much information being posted every day that it’s so hard to also get the word out on your project.
Zach: I was talking to my friend David Hill about it. I wouldn’t write anything just to promote it, I’m not going to write a topical video, but I think the Viral Video one was broad enough to appeal to people. Really if it fits into anything that someone [with a blog] could justify writing a thing about then you can just tell them, because people need content. Hopefully it will get to a point where people will know me and are coming just to see you and then you can do more nuanced stuff, which are the kind that are my favorites.
What other projects are you working on right now? What’s next?
Zach: Well I just did a short film and I’ve been doing a lot of different acting things, I don’t know if you saw my big 4/20 goof tweet last week.
I did not see it, what was it?
Zach: Basically over the course of 4 days I created a hashtag and paid to have it promoted. I made a t-shirt and put up a promotional post on facebook telling people about how it was a free tweet that you didn’t have to spend any money to enjoy. The hashtag if you want to look it up is “ZachsEaster420Tweet” and the greatest thing that happened was that we ended up getting 420 retweets and then when we got over 420 I would yell at people and tell them to undo their retweets. I’ve been really trying to focus on broader Internet goofs, so I’m glad the tweet did well because I have other ideas. I’m working on something big for this summer.
There’s a whole other layer of weird, meta comedy like that that only lives on social networks and it’s so so fantastic.
Zach: People are just up for dumb antics like that on the Internet. It was great because it started as a semi earnest promotional thing for myself and then people thought it was silly and I just had a really good time with it.
As much as there are Vine celebrities right now, there are so many weird, sort of trolling ways to use Twitter and Instagram to your comedic advantage and get noticed that way.
Zach: I think that’s what people want. I know a lot of people, especially other stand ups, only post to tell people that they have shows coming up. But just having meetings with people and telling them what I was working on last year, I ended up in a spot where I could only say “stand up” and they had not seen it other than a video online, so all of my hard work wasn’t really there. That’s kind of why I started working on web series. It’s a lot of work at once, but then once I’m done I can go work on another thing. I’m trying to work on a Kickstarter that would just rally around as something stupid. Like the Twitter 420 Hashtag thing I did I think people really rallied behind it because it was attached to a pretty normal tweet but I was just acting like I was so confident in it. It’s sort of like an alternate way to show off your comedy, I don’t need to prove my comedy anymore, I’m just gonna do it.
I’m just gonna put my weird, alienating, kind of off-putting brand out there.
Zach: Truthfully though, stuff like that really does work so much better on the Internet than on stage. The odds of getting a room full of people who all like that kind of stuff is pretty slim unless you’re in a few pockets of the country so it’s a great way to be goofy on a larger scale. The people, who latch on, latch on. Like with the 420 tweet, everyone got on board. People would even undo their retweets for like almost 4 days afterwards to keep it at 420 retweets. I made a decision that I needed to either promote it for the rest of my life, or I needed to just walk away. The next 420 that falls on Easter is in 2025 so maybe in like 6 years I’ll start promoting it again.
What advice do you have for people looking to break into the digital comedy space?
Zach: Find the level of production that you can do well. I know how to edit a little bit and I know how to shoot a little bit and I use those in my videos, I shoot all of them myself. Whatever skill you have, use that one thing and then don’t worry about the other things. Breaking in is like a giant wall and you have to find that one spot that you can hit and get through. This is coming from a guy whose tried everything and failed at a lot of things.
Your three reasons to watch are…
Episode #1: How to Make a Viral Video
One of the most daunting aspects of creating any content is assembling a crew to help you bring it to life. It takes a rare talented person with a rare, simple yet strong idea to do it all by himself. It takes an even rarer person to do it this well.
Episode #2: How to be an Actor
Being a Better You perfectly straddles the line between absurdly silly and unflinchingly serious.
Episode #4: How to be an Audiophile
Zach can do as many of these as he wants for essentially no money and they’ve all got the potential to be funny. That’s a good web series.