Viralcom: Not Funny, Because It’s True

Joey and David of joeyanddavid.com have, by way of original comedy pieces like 14 Days in a Civic and eHarmony’s Minor Matchmaker, already gotten Hollywood’s attention. But does making shorts for the Internet mean Joey and David know anything about making viral videos? Well, they managed to convince Warner Bros Studio 2.0 that it does. Their new web series Viralcom, professionally produced by the studio, brings audiences into a world where random YouTube sensations are actually professionally produced by major studios. As far as parodies of online video go, it’s a fresh approach, and when I first saw the trailer, I admit to laughing repeatedly.

But now that the show’s actually begun, I’m feeling a bit let down. The trailer’s fast pace did a great job of selling the premise while also delivering the best bits, but having seen the first two episodes, the series seems a bit too forced. When stretched out to their full length, scenes like a casting agent bitching about the difficulty of finding a farting baby are just one joke being told over and over again.

The casting session in Episode 2 is particularly painful, as it’s just an opportunity to throw a bunch of “look, just like in that YouTube video” references in our faces.

There’s some attempt to develop some original characters — attractive girls, mostly, who are all vying for the same role in lonelygirl15 knock-off “BritGirl16” (question: isn’t “lonelygirl with an accent” just KateModern?). The most compelling performers, though, are Joey and David, who have cast themselves as Viralcom’s studio house writers, forced to come up with new takes on “Boy drops Mentos into Sister’s Diet Coke” when Mentos pulls out. A lot of their scenes are pretty funny, as they specifically target the “writing” behind these videos. But when they also pitch their agent on the Citizen Kane of viral video, I sincerely hope that they don’t think this is it.

Viralcom is clever and well-produced, but it’s a shame to see these resources go towards making a parody that only serves to make the online video community feel more self-referential and exclusive. What’s especially unfortunate is that the premise of mainstream Hollywood pouring thousands of dollars into exploiting user-generated conflict for profit is clearly meant to be parody — but it’s parody that veers dangerously close to being the truth (especially since Viralcom is produced by Warner Bros Studio 2.0). Sometimes things are funnier because they’re true — but sometimes, they aren’t.