You love to laugh. We love to help. So NTV is kicking off an irregular series that points you to the best of the funniest bits the web has to offer. First up: sketch comedy troupe Olde English.
Based in New York, Olde English consists of five college friends who’ve been putting their comedy vids online since 2003. You’ve probably seen their work. They did the viral hit Ben Takes a Photo of Himself Every Day, a play on the titular micro-trend from last year that’s been seen nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube and helped land the guys a gig with Super Deluxe. “That was our breakout hit,” said Olde English player Adam Conover.
But they’re no one-hit wonder.
There was iPhone Day, about a poor Mac-addict who can’t get his hands on the coveted gadget the day it’s released and is forced to consume all his media through corded, analog devices (which aren’t that portable).
And there was the group’s art-protest rap, Free NYC, which Karina wrote about this summer.
As you can see from the above examples, one of the main reasons to dig Olde English is that they don’t just do one style of comedy. “We’ve run the gamut from being anti-parody to doing parody,” said Olde Englishman David Segal. “It just kinda changes. Because we’re working in something where there are no set rules, you don’t have to worry about being on TV and your audience freaking out. When you’re online, you can change your voice and you capture a different audience.”
Or capture multiple audiences at once, the way they do with Michel Gondry, which combines the somewhat obscure eccentricities of acclaimed director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) with the mainstream appeal of MTV Cribs.
While the group is best known for its online videos, it also does live performances at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in New York, as well as comedy festivals. “In a live setting, the audience is trapped and can’t leave,” said Conover. “That really makes the audience be with you and laugh more because you’re there. It also means that you can do a slow play set-up and make them wait.”
Online audiences, he noted, are a different breed altogether. “I mean, there’s a sense of wanting to hit people as quickly and tightly as possible — smack ’em over the head with a joke,” said Conover.
You can see them blending the slow buildup of live shows in some of their online work, like in their sketch The Wine Guy. It takes a minute to build up, but once it gets rolling, it’s a clever play on the world of wine snobs.
But Olde English’s Internet (and meta) understandings are in full force with their take on web celebrity in Internet Sensation, which charts, in real time, the rise, precipitous fall and all the snarky details in between of an online phenom.
Right now, the group is in the enviable position of making a living off of its work on Super Deluxe, where they just finished their first “cycle” of 36 contractually-obligated videos. “I can’t think of another place other than TV where a five-person sketch comedy group could make a living,” said Conover.
“It’s enough to get by, and that’s all we need to be doing,” said Segal. “I know plenty of comedians who aren’t lucky enough to be in that same position.”