CollegeHumor Helped Shape Online Comedy. What Went Wrong?
February 7, 2020 7:55 AM   Subscribe

The company grew from a scrappy startup to a digital media player. Now it’s clinging to life after mass layoffs.

Spoiler: Facebook killed it, intentionally, by lying about viewing numbers.
posted by Etrigan (13 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Facebook’s lying has damaged or destroyed many websites from sizable companies to hobbyists with creative passion. It’s sickening.
posted by Servo5678 at 8:18 AM on February 7 [21 favorites]

Maybe the content? So much less acceptable than it was in the earlier days of the web.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:19 AM on February 7

CollegeHumor became profitable almost immediately, since most of its content was either user-submitted or created by writers who weren’t paid.


That's... certainly a creative euphemism for "ripped all of their content off of other producers with smaller distribution channels because cheap video hosting was still a pipe dream and they were betting on no one wanting to sue a company with deep pockets."

I don't like the death of indie media outlets either, but glossing over CH's early years to paint them as little upstart Davids to later media Goliaths is pretty goddamn disingenuous. They and ebaumsworld were early success stories in what eventually became an interesting corner of the web, because they were the most willing to just openly pirate shit and dare you to stop them.
posted by Mayor West at 8:24 AM on February 7 [35 favorites]

The content is basically unrecognizable when compared to CH’s early days: progressive, lgbt friendly, feminist, etc. Not perfect, I’m sure, but a world away from the frat house sensibilities of its early days.
posted by col_pogo at 8:25 AM on February 7 [12 favorites]

The fb culpability is suggested in the article, but not strongly supported. I guess the $40m payout is the smoking gun, given fb opacity. Anyway, always shitty to see a homegrown biz get eaten by the machine.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:31 AM on February 7

The Drawfee channel on youtube cranks out some delightful dumb fun content and I had no idea they were part of the College Humor thing until they put up a whoops we're all fired video a few weeks ago. There's almost no similarity between what CH has been the last couple years to what they were when I was, well, in college.
posted by phunniemee at 8:35 AM on February 7 [9 favorites]

Some jobs don't actually need doing. "Scrappy," is not the adjective I'd choose. (Which isn't b to say their competition is any less dumb and mean.)
posted by eotvos at 9:33 AM on February 7

What went wrong?

The economics of comedy sucks.
posted by storybored at 11:41 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

It is a weird framing to have. A media company? Going under is just what they do. But I didn’t truly realize how much I don’t care about them until I clicked through to the article and was greeted with the photo of their all white person team.
posted by snofoam at 11:54 AM on February 7

The first comment gets it right: as someone who's worked in the online comedy biz, there's really no way to generate income when gags, jokes, and stories are shared on Facebook in a way that precludes driving traffic to a site for advertising crumbs. It's really that simple.

It happened to the site I ran, which was doing great Facebook engagement numbers but not able to turn that into enough traffic to justify ad revenue over the long term.

It's not like this in every online creative vertical - I earn a huge chunk of my livelihood writing online - but it's certainly become true in comedy.

After posting: yes, the economics of comedy DOES suck. It's not impossible - nothing is - but it sucks.
posted by jordantwodelta at 12:56 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]

This thread from Adam (ruins everything) Conover goes over the Facebook switch.
posted by MattWPBS at 1:53 PM on February 7 [2 favorites]

But I didn’t truly realize how much I don’t care about them until I clicked through to the article and was greeted with the photo of their all white person team.

Not that CollegeHumor is really the thing by any means most in need of defense in 2020, but I, a non-white and also gay American man, will speak up in favor of them, as I will admit to being one of the few Mefites it seems who likes their content -- at least their mid/late-2010s sketches (I can't speak to before that, and from the FP it does sound like their early 2000s stuff was rather heinous).

This is in part because they have in fact had/have non-white cast (Cynthia Kao, Raphael Chestang, Rekha Shankar, Lily Du, Tao Yang, Zac Oyama, Paul Robalino on occasion among the ones that I know) as well as LGBT cast (Grant O'Brien, Ally Beardsley).

In particular with the last two, I've really liked that they get to have a variety of skits with LGBT content, ranging from:
- skits where being LGBT is central to the skit, but is not being made fun of (like 'I Need More Intel: Is That Hot Guy Gay?' or Hinting That You're Queer Too, which are both life situations I have literally lived)
- skits where being LGBT is part of the skit but is unremarked on (like 'Sleeping Over for the First Time' or 'Running into Your Ex', where the skits are about awkward situations with romantic/sexual partners, who happen to be two men or two women, but the fact that they are LGBT just goes unremarked upon, because this is normal!)
- skits where there are stray LGBT references made (like Ally will mention a 'girlfriend') and it's just taken for granted as a part of daily life

I guess, upon writing this comment, that I feel stronger than I thought I did, but I am actually sad to see them go. They weren't perfect, but compared to a lot of the other crap that's online, I really liked them, and as a gay man, it was great to see LGBT themes treated as just normal.

(Disclaimer: I do not work for College Humor, nor do I even work in the entertainment industry! Just someone who actually does like their stuff and is sad to see them go.)
posted by andrewesque at 4:01 PM on February 7 [22 favorites]

As an RPG geek, Brennan Lee Mulligan's stuff of the past couple of years has been amazingly high quality for ttrpg streaming. He's very talented, his groups has great chemistry, and had, for RPG streamers, very high production values. They had a whole model shop behind their minis and a full post-production edit, tightening the whole thing up and even adding sound effects. Really amazing level of effort, even compared to the designer-supported "official" streams or the big name ones like TAZ or CritRole.

They're continuing post-layoff, but everything still looks pretty uncertain to me. Hope they can find a new equilibrium again.
posted by bonehead at 5:55 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]

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