Very Mary-Kate just entered its fourth season. A new episode is released every Thursday on CollegeHumor.com
Humor — like everything else is seems — has evolved with the advent of the Internet and the mobile phone.
The days of the two-hour comedy flick holding a monopoly on humor are gone, and the new, quick and snappy webseries format is quickly becoming part of the funny conversation.
For a culture with a long to-do list and a shrinking attention span, the new format has found a home on various websites, from the free-for-all sandbox of YouTube to more curated websites like Funny or Die, Cracked and CollegeHumor.
CollegeHumor — which first started making original videos in 2006 — reports nearly 100 million video views per month and their popular online sketches and webseries have generated more than 2.5 billion views to date.
So what’s behind the rise of these comedic webseries?
Comedian Elaine Carroll, best known for her webseries Very Mary-Kate, which parodies the life of child-star turned business woman Mary-Kate Olsen, credits brevity.
“The Internet has sort of brought to light this ADD culture where we don’t have the time to sit down and watch a two hour punch line,” said Carroll.
College students agree.
Danielle Remigio is a graduate student at Northeastern University studying college student development and counseling, and she admits to indulging in a couple of funny webseries.
“I think [the appeal of a webseries] comes down to reliability and the fact that it is so quick,” Remigio said, “It isn’t like a television show where you have to tune in at a certain time and sit there and watch it.
“It is convenient, and just having it readily available on your phone or your laptop… and not having to pay for it makes it really easy.”
For Carroll, the convenience to viewers, the quick humor and the subject matter of Kate has certainly played a part.
“We make fun of [Mary-Kate Olsen] in good humor. … Everybody knows the Olsen twins, or at least about them even if they don’t know them personally,” Carroll said.
With the Mary-Kate character, Carroll has explored several situations, including the college classroom. A venue where the sometimes sleep-deprived and drug addled character torments someone she calls “Fat Professor” with near-constant questioning, nagging and general lack of knowledge that extends as far as confusing a potato with an ear of corn.
“One of the only things I knew about Mary-Kate Olsen was that she attended NYU briefly,” Carroll said. “I thought to myself ‘What was her experience like there?’ and so I put her in a classroom and had her torment her teacher.”
The original CollegeHumor series has just entered its fourth season.
For a website like CollegeHumor, a large amount of funny content is necessary to keep visitors entertained and coming back, and that requires constantly being in touch with what’s funny, according to the website’s editor-in-chief, Streeter Seidell.
For Seidell, a workday “never really starts because it never really ends. When you work online you’re always on call.”
And though his quest to provide content that makes viewers laugh out loud is never-ending, he finds time to sit down with his staff just to talk about what’s funny.
“We try to talk every morning about things we’ve seen … trends and traits,” Seidell says.
One of those trends is shorter, easier-to-digest content as viewership typically drops off when a video is over five minutes long, according to Seidell.
While short webseries and clips are in vogue now, Seidell looks to a time when the format can expand.
“I think as bandwidth increases and phones become faster we’ll see content changing,” said Seidell.
CollegeHumor has already experimented with pushing past the five-minute timeframe. In 2011, the site released a half-hour episode of an original series titled Jake and Amir: Fired, and last year they finished production on their first full-length feature film Coffee Town, slated to be released in the coming months.
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