Inspiration for Live Social Comedy WITH BBC FOR SXSW The power of Newsjacking and real-time creativity
Building Social Influence On and Off-Line Funny is not enough - is it funny and shareable? Who are the influential communities online in the UK and what do they share? In the States, the networks are imbedding social from script stage. Actually, this community building effort must start before script stage at concept generation and crucially, the selection of the host.
BBC Comedy is the UK’s 22 nd most influential comedy Twitter feed. Look to your Top 100 peers for help. It is important for BBC Comedy to use their influence online and tap into the approachable talent from this list to play a part in the show. Charlie Baker can make it onto this list with time and a lot of hard work. Or you have 99 other people with built-in audiences. Of course, some of these people are too established or not right for the target market. But not all of them. The full list: http://bit.ly/nQYaiZ
A Live Social Comedy Needs An Engaging Hyper Social Host Of the Top 100 people on Twitter in the UK, Josie Long (#55) and Graham Linehan (#11) rank much higher than their number of followers would suggest. Why? They engage with fans more regularly. This is crucial for a live social comedy. It took Josie 9K tweets to get to 38K followers but she is prone to respond to people she doesn’t know at any time. This engagement is crucial and we must not underestimate the importance of bringing comedians like Josie on board. Graham Linehan has 10x fewer fans than Alan Carr’s 1.1 million followers but he’s ranked 11 and not 55 like Carr due to his engagement with fans. Note: The not so engaging Carr and his million followers are ranked 55 along with uber-engaging Josie Long and her 18K followers
Guests Will Extend A Show’s Reach Into Several Influential Online Communities Tapping into different communities online is crucial to build an army that travels from online to TV. The following celebs are in the Top 100 on Twitter in the UK ( http://ind.pn/n1WSiz ) and they represent a huge network of new fans from music (Heap), sport (Ferdinand), tech (Krotoski), comedy/TV (Cotton, Brigstocke, Minchin). A social TV show should use these people as an advisory board as well as guests so it can tap into their online audiences. A few tweets from these people will bring in loads of new fans for the show.
Guests Will Extend A Show’s Reach Into Several Influential Online Communities If the host isn’t already influential online, then the second and crucial option would be to have regular guests and/or an advisory board who appear individually on regular segments. Like Aleks Krotoski could have a recurring segment where she runs a gadget porn hotline – phone sex but talking about gadgets. An Imogen Heap could have a segment where she asks for sound clips around a theme and she makes a song with them by the end of the show that goes on iTunes immediately in hopes of getting to Number On by next week. These are rough ideas to prove the point that we must tap into the most influential people in the UK to really see a massive spike in traffic.
New Formats and Platforms The host, guest hosts and surprise guests must be prepared to work with a team of social media content creators and comedians
The Host Must Test Formats Online Months Before TX Jimmy Fallon does a superb job of developing and honing formats and building off their successes. Every Friday night, in his Thank You Notes segment, he thanks all kinds of people and ideas and things for humorous ways they have benefitted him He thanks microbreweries for making his alcoholism seem like a neat hobby. He thanks the name ‘Lloyd’ for having two L’s. Otherwise it would just sound like ‘Loyd.’ He thanks the slow-moving family walking in front of him on the sidewalk. Without this ‘barricade of idiots,’ he might never have been forced to walk in the street and risk getting hit by a car in order to get around them. Takeaway: We don’t have a nightly show to test formats. We must develop the host’s formats online well in advance of the show’s air date. Fallon was able to market his Thank You Notes as a book on Amazon and even make it number 1 on Amazon by encouraging fans to buy it at the same time every day. We should be thinking about merchandising opportunities in a similar way.
Innovate within audience participation Jimmy Fallon’s use of Twitter hashtags- creating a new theme for discussion every weekday night- is an endless source of fan-generated comedy material while also creating a dialogue and a sense of community between the show and its fans. A show for early 2012 must be experimenting with new tools regularly right now. That’s why every show needs a Social Media Lab , a team experimenting with new techniques to interact with people every day. Hollywood and Late Night TV in the US are doing this. We can’t let them be the first to every new social media innovation.
Innovate within Twitter and other tools Back in 2009, comedian Tiernan Douieb hosted the Tweet Comedy Club, with a line-up of acts given ten minutes apiece to bombard Twitter with one-liners. The competitive nature of the ‘club’-whose tweets would get heckled, which would be drowned out?-added interest, as did the possibility of a show with potentially 175 million hecklers. The comedy troupe (and podcast-makers) Pappy’s Fun Club brought along their own fake-heckler account, called Terry Witter (a friend of Frank Acebook) to add to the experience, who criticized them for being ‘too entertaining’. Result : The show has 7547 followers and featured on Comedy blogs worldwide. However, problems occurred when several of the acts reached the hourly Twitter limit and had to create emergency Twitter accounts. Value: This format, outside of straight stand-up and used in a pop TV context, could be used to create off-screen ‘events’ to compliment the show, which could subsequently review it. It’s a highly visible way to create comedy, with the potential to instantly link the central show to followers of each comedian taking part.
Innovate to promote live events for host/guest hosts A similar idea, albeit not so much ‘remote’ comedy as ‘nowhere comedy’, saw comedian Tony Cowards hold his own ‘No Ticket Show’ every weekday from 2 o’clock during the Edinburgh Fringe. Though the project was short-lived, the idea caught on and provided distractions for people getting to and from the festival performances at night, or standing in queues for the shows. A similar ‘Twitter Show’ or event could be staged before and after festivals or even TV shows- organised, themed discussion hosted by a ‘panel’ known from the TV show.
Innovate with old tools in new places ‘ Remote Comedy’ shows held in odd, guerilla-style locations can work as a buzz-builder on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. ‘Comedy Comedy’, a night held last July at the Roisin Dubh in Galway, earned international attention by featuring international comedians (such as the Tim & Eric Show’s Neil Hamburger!) over Skype. The Guardian writes ‘ perhaps the most exciting development in remote comedy is currently happening in Galway, Ireland, where Kiwi comic Danny Dowling and Irishman John Donnellan's monthly Comedy Comedy gigs in the Roisin Dubh Laughter Lounge feature standups from the UK, US and Australia "appearing" live via Skype and projected onto a screen alongside their Irish counterparts. ’ Result: the shows were a sell-out, forged unlikely links and gave smaller acts in odd locations a platform. Value of Social TV takeaway: Skype is a familiar, accessible way for celebrities to mess around for viewers amusement. Twitter, also, allows celebrities to gatecrash a show and have a presence there with minimal effort.
Innovate with location-based tools Another means of ‘remote comedy’ is to use Twitter and Foursquare to allow fans to control and track the host/celebrity’s movements around a foreign (or local) place. Scottish comedian Bruce Fummey publicized himself by allowing Twitter followers to pick a new Ryanair destination for him to travel to every week. He posted videos of himself tracking down fellow Scots abroad on Youtube, his own blog and via Twitter.
Innovate with music and Twitter There’s endless comedy to be wrung from taking the personal, frequently egomaniacal thoughts of celebrities on Twitter and translating them into performance. Kanye West’s ALL-CAPS pronouncements have been mined several times- first by a group of children on comedy site BabelGum (sample line: ‘“I specifically ordered persian rugs with cherub imagery!!! What do I have to do to get a simple persian rug with cherub imagery uuuuugh”’), later by Josh Groban who used them to compose a small-time musical epic on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Clips from the act have remained popular on Youtube, and more recently spawned the video ‘Grandma Read Kanye West’s Tweets’ too. * Kimmel also recently performed a rap with Drake, composed from tweets from Justin Bieber, Britney and Larry King. It could be a useful way to review ‘This Week in Tweets’? Value : Content found on social networks, whether from a celebrity source or some anonymous hyperbolic YouTube troll, are never quite as ephemeral as their authors might think. They can be recycled; social media becomes social comedy.
Innovate with music and what’s next There’s endless comedy to be wrung from taking the personal, frequently egomaniacal thoughts of celebrities on Twitter and translating them into performance. Kanye West’s ALL-CAPS pronouncements have been mined several times- first by a group of children on comedy site BabelGum (sample line: ‘“I specifically ordered persian rugs with cherub imagery!!! What do I have to do to get a simple persian rug with cherub imagery uuuuugh”’), later by Josh Groban who used them to compose a small-time musical epic on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Clips from the act have remained popular on Youtube, and more recently spawned the video ‘Grandma Read Kanye West’s Tweets’ too. * Kimmel also recently performed a rap with Drake, composed from tweets from Justin Bieber, Britney and Larry King. It could be a useful way to review ‘This Week in Tweets’? Value : Content found on social networks, whether from a celebrity source or some anonymous hyperbolic YouTube troll, are never quite as ephemeral as their authors might think. They can be recycled; social media becomes social comedy.
Build armies for fake causes The traditionally-earnest mediums of online petitions and Facebook ‘rally’ groups are ideal for projecting comedy onto. Act.ly is full of petitions for cult celebrities to host Saturday Night Live- it’s not clear whether these are the creations of a grassroots fan community, the celebrities themselves or possibly even the show as a marketing stunt. Regardless how they come about, they give the show a three-dimensional identity and turn a show into a ‘cause’. In 2010 Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report and the Daily Show took this ‘political’ angle even further with The March to Keep Fear Alive vs The Rally to Restore Sanity. The websites for both causes mimicked the Obama campaign, both visually and in its heavy use of social media. Each of the shows had their own profiles and official sites selling merchandise. There was also the Keep Fear Alive app and the Restore Sanity app, viral videos of the hosts singing their ‘campaign songs’, and a foursquare check-in for the main event, a real-life rally in Washington that served generated major publicity for Comedy Central. Value: Politics is always ripe for satire, politics online even more so. This is as relevant to the UK as anywhere, and riffs on the actual commitment involved in ‘following’ a celebrity through social media. In the process, ironically, it makes that following far more strong and instantly engineers a ‘cult following’.
Create multiple characters to interact with the show Kenny Powers provides a recent example of social media comedy being turned to promotional purposes. Based on the character of Kenny Powers from HBO comedy ‘Eastbound and Down’, a fake twitter survived for more than a year delivering updates from the foulmouthed former baseball player. Eventually the actor who’d portrayed him, Danny McBride, distanced himself in public from the Twitter, but it’s followers included HBO’s official account. ‘ KFUCKINGUP’ turned out to be a 20-something fan and aspiring comedian in New York, and the twitter was shut down, but it provided a platform for a later viral campaign which sees Powers (this time portrayed by the actor himself) taking over KSwiss shoes. A new Twitter account launched, and a Facebook promotion offering exclusive content. Result: The original hoaxer has 190,000 followers. The KSwiss videos have roughly 300,000 each. Value: A blatantly fictional Twitter can be as valuable in creating a following as the Twitter that offers a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look. In fact it expands the humour into territory normally reserved for real life.
Tell stories across a variety of media ‘ Slabovia’ is an immersive online community and comedy project by Channel 4, which lands visitors in fictional comedy world where little is explained. It takes about ten minutes of exploring the site (there’s ‘The Potato’, a newsletter, a set of vaguely militaristic games with a communist theme, and profiles of various national leaders) before you realize that this is secretly an educational website, seemingly aimed at sex-ed classes in schools. This is rather a sideways approach to the traditional ‘reaching the youth through social media’, and is compelling enough in its oddness to keep viewers clicking. Value: The site confuses people into clicking. This could work particularly well in creating a buzz around a comedy show. Similarly the newsletter and direct voices of characters has a lot of novelty value..
Just do what Conan does Conan O’Brien is king of chat show social media. His cult status happened by accident, with the odd coincidence of his suspension from his NBC show and the creation of a presidential-style ‘I’m With Coco’ poster by Mike Mitchell. The months out of work led to him staying in the public consciousness through a barrage of ‘bored out-of-work’ tweets and a campaign to get him a new talkshow. Since his return he’s used social media to strengthen and build his following; the first show featured a guest voted on by fan poll, the show’s ‘Team Coco’ YouTube channel features best bits and behind-the-scenes, and the Facebook page featured ‘F-cards’ recorded by Conan. Value: Data from Trendrr shows that Conan’s show inspired 223,968 tweets, status updates and Check-ins on Twitter, Facebook, Miso and GetGlue, more than rivals Jimmy Fallon, George Lopez and Jay Leno combined. Meaning that if you create a strong online presence for a show from the start, maybe also a sense of the host as underdog, it can create a lasting fan community. Conan already had a major profile, but with a show starting from scratch this approach could also be of use.