In the New York Times magazine this weekend was a longish piece on comedians who are using the Web as a medium for their comedy, including the two guys who do Ask A Ninja — and way down at the end of the article is a section on one of my favourite online comics, the incomparable Ze Frank.
I forget how I came across The Show, as Ze (which is apparently short for Hosea) calls his daily vlog — in which he mostly just stares into the camera at close range and does a rapid-fire monologue on various things, much of it without blinking — but I have been devoted to it ever since, even though I can’t really explain the attraction. Sometimes it is hilarious, sometimes it is just plain weird.
What’s also fascinating is the community that has developed around The Show, with message boards (in which Ze regularly appears to respond to comments), and the micro-patronage campaign he recently started where viewers can buy small jewel icons or large plastic ducky icons to put on the site as a way of supporting the show. Ze also regularly asks viewers and forum members for suggestions.
In the article, Ze makes it clear that one of the reasons he doesn’t like YouTube is that it removes his pieces from that community:
For me, the show itself is far less interesting than everything around it. And if you stick it on YouTube, out of context, it loses all the inside jokes, all the responses, the history of what led up to that show. The framing gets lost.
Is he right to turn his back on the viral magic of YouTube? I can’t say. But he says he’s happy with what he makes from the post-roll ads and other things he sells — and perhaps he is right. Devotion to the community might be the best thing he has going for him.