Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Sketch Comedy Pros Panel hosted by Google with some of the most successful comedic sketch channels on YouTube: there was free pizza, an open bar and more. It was awesome. But one thing I learned from these really funny guys is that there was A LOT of work that got them to where they are today. We all have to pay the bills, but if you’re truly passionate about your craft and want to take it to the next level, you have to ask yourself, how bad do you really want it?
The 3 people behind Reckless Tortuga poured thousands of dollars of their own money into their YouTube channel for 2.5 years before turning a profit. Now they have 206,000,000+ video views. Anders from Workaholics stressed that sure you can meet with your team after your full-time job and work on your sketches till 10, but maybe working till 12 might give you that extra spark of inspiration. Again, how bad do you want it?
From left to right: Lloyd Ahlquist (Epic Rap Battles Through History), Anders Holm (Workaholics), Rafi Fine (The Fine Brothers), Benny Fine (The Fine Brothers), Jason Schnell (Reckless Tortuga), Eric Pumphrey (Reckless Tortuga).
Whether you’re an upcoming sketch comic or have another passion, these top 5 takeaways listed below should help you define your success.
Make stuff so that if people share it, they’ll look cool (think holistically): It’s not that it’s all about being cool, it’s about being able to take a step back from yourself and your work and looking at the big picture. Can you objectively critique your work? If not, maybe you need an honest opinion. If you think that the act of someone showing your work to their friend won’t have a profound effect, perhaps some tweaks need to be made.
Step your rhyme game up (own your niche): Epic Rap Battles of History features bizarre rap battles from Darth Vader VS Hitler to Einstein VS Stephen Hawking. This concept is interesting and stands out but as the creator pointed out: if you’re dealing in the over saturated world of hip-hop and you’re rhyming duck with truck and luck, you’re not going to be able to compete with the rappers out there. You must recognize the space you’re in and by honing your abilities, strive to own it.
Build a family: You may have a team you like to work with, but there’s a lot more to successfully working together than just meeting up with them at some designated hours. Look at it like you’re in a relationship: being able to understand and anticipate your partner’s next move in a variety of contexts: eating together, playing together, etc. allows for a better understanding of who you are and where you are going. Learn each others strengths and weaknesses and fill in the holes where your team falls short. Even for third party assistance, you should surround yourself with other passionate people who want to take their craft to the next level as well.
Create within your means and as much as possible: When you have an opportunity to make a piece of art, naturally you want it to be the best possible piece you can create. You may want to use the best equipment and props you can get your hands on but do you really need all of that? It’s important to remember your original mission. Is it to entertain? Maybe you don’t need all of those fancy peripherals. What’s important is to practice the art of going through the motions from start to finish. Also, limited resources can help create innovation.
Do it for the true fans:There are ups and downs for every industry as well as down right hard times. In such an instance, you may need a reminder as to why you got into your craft in the first place. Are you doing it for the views or are you passionate about the simple act of making somebody laugh? When your channel only has 200 subscribers, those positive comments and likes mean a lot. You’re doing it for them. You’re doing it for yourselves.
There are no guarantees to success so it’s never an easy decision to decide whether or not to quit your day job but if there’s one thing that successful creatives have is a vision and relentless passion. The great thing about today is you are much better off than someone trying to do the same thing 20 years ago: YouTube gives you an international audience and an opportunity to get immediate feedback and recognition. Now get out there and make something.