A Closer Look at Gil Ozeri’s Very Surreal, Very Funny, Kind of Dangerous Snapchat


Last month, comedian and former Happy Endings and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Gil Ozeri joined Snapchat to create "content." As his friend and fellow writer-performer-actor Ben Schwartz said, appropriately via Snap, "There’s a time in every medium, where someone does something so ground-breaking they change that medium forever. In Snapchat, that person is Gil Ozeri. You will laugh — and then you’re gonna worry about his health." Vulture caught up with Ozeri to see how he's been using the app.

You joined Snapchat [user: gilozeri; or, select keepers at @gilozerisnap] about two or so weeks ago. What do you like about it so far?
I was at SXSW, and Ben [Schwartz] was showing me that he was doing it, and that it could be super fun and disposable. I feel like I have trouble putting stuff out [on social media]. I have to work it till it's perfect. I know people who can just send stuff out and that's still good, but they don't feel like it has to be perfect. On my Twitter and Instagram, it really feels like once you put it up it's there forever, so you have to put more thought into it. With Snapchat, Ben was just like, We can just be stupid and it doesn't have to be that good. The bits don't have to be that refined. And not that you don't care what you're sending out, you don't have to be that worried or insecure about what you're doing.

Is that because it's less visible than other platforms?
Yeah, it is smaller right now. It feels like not everyone's looking at you, so maybe you can do more. And the other thing is, on Twitter and all this other stuff, you feel like if you release more than one thing you're bothering people, whereas they sort of figured out on Snapchat — in the same way email comes in a thread — all your snaps are in one thread, and the viewer has to choose to click on your name to see all your snaps, as opposed to your feed being bombarded [like on Twitter or Instagram].

What have you found that you dislike about the app?
It's hard when you don't know how many followers you have — you can't really tell if you're shitting into a fucking vacuum or whatever. I'm also always nervous it's gonna feel very Vine-y. There’s a stereotype about Vine that Snapchat doesn’t have: the speed, the content, the fact that people are allowed to edit stuff. But Snapchat's a little better, because it's ten seconds and not six, so you don't feel like a person's rushing through a sketch.

On Vine, it’s just so quick, it ends up being corny a lot of the time. There’s something about the rawness of Snapchat that feels like it tends to be less corny when it’s like, Oh, I’m not overthinking things, I’m not really trying to produce a six-second tiny sketch. I try to do whatever's fun and stupid and silly and whatever sort of makes me laugh. I try to do stuff that doesn't feel expected, and I think most of my Snaps — a lot of them have to do with surprise.

Yeah, I've noticed you do a lot of physical comedy.
I just like physical stuff — and I've done it onstage [at UCB], so I gravitate toward that a little more.

How seriously should people take Snapchat "content"?
You can’t take it too seriously. You can’t get meaning in a ten-second video. I mean it’s possible, if you connected story after story after story, maybe, and you tried to link stuff, but you’re not really gonna get meaningful characters who grow a lot in Snapchat. [N.B.: Since the first interview, Ozeri has been experimenting with longer, more connected stories. He says they're "fun."]

Where are these ideas coming from, and can they lead to anything more serious or longform?
A lot of times when you work in TV or movies or whatever, it takes a long time to get stuff made. You can feel like your arms are tied. It will also feel like you have a project and sometimes it just doesn’t get made — it’s the reason I perform at UCB all the time, because you just need to get in front of an audience and get a reaction and test stuff out. So this feels like a way that you can express yourself in a quick, disposable way, where you don’t have to think too much. If people get some sort of enjoyment out of it and whatever, that’s all good. It can definitely be a minor league for characters and stuff I create. But I also like that it exists for its own sake, too. There are some things that I like. I like the wait for it stuff.

A lot of this stuff is fun to do, I just haven’t really figured out a way yet to turn it into longer content. Maybe it’s possible that I could figure out a way to say, This feels like one character, or, All these things connect in this one way. It does feel like there’s an underlying character I’m doing — the idea of someone hiding to read some shitty magazine feels like the same guy who’s sitting on the top of his car.

Who are some of your favorite people on Snapchat?
I follow Ben [Schwartz], Jake [Hurwitz] and Amir [Blumenfeld], D'Arcy Carden, Brett Gelman, and Jon Daly — they’re having a good time, too. Nick Thune.

No DJ Khaled?
I follow DJ Khaled because I know he’s so fucking popular. He gets like 5 million views. That’s the other thing: I was just talking to someone who runs a Discover channel, and they said they get, like, 27 million views per snap. That's double or triple [TV] network numbers, in terms of viewers. Yeah, they’re only tuning in for ten seconds, but DJ Khaled gets that day after day, and it just feels like this weird sort of paradigm shift. 

Well, I was asking because I was interested in the different ways people working in comedy are using the app. I know you and Ben have been using it to create "content," but Chelsea Handler, for example, gives her followers a much more low-key, behind-the-scenes look at her daily routine. Sometimes with jokes thrown in, but it feels much different.
You can do that, too. You want to get the feeling, and I think this is what the best part of it is, that you’re hanging out with the person. And sometimes people are more "on" than others. Some of my stuff can feel a little planned out, but if I were just hanging out with a friend, I would also be doing something stupid like that. [Adam] Pally texted me and was like, Yeah, it feels like we’re hanging out with you.

So we're getting a legit look at Gil Ozeri's personality.
I think so. I feel like being a silly Muppet is part of my personality, same with being stupid. When I went into the store and just tried to get people to say yes, it’s because I often think that pranks are kind of stupid. Just the idea that somebody would get excited over a yes [laughs].

I lost it when that guy just kept saying it over and over again.
[Laughs.] Aw, yeah, poor guy. I was like, Can you say yes a bunch of times for me? And he was like, Okay? Most of these people have no idea what’s going on. Yesterday, I went into this salon, because I was walking past a hair salon, and I was like, Oh, wouldn’t it be so funny if I just asked them if I could wash my hair with my face down in the sink?

Have you gotten into any trouble with these yet?
I don’t have a gym near me, so I went to work out at a gym in Mid-City. I was running and the windows look out on this fountain, and as soon as I got the idea, I was just like, Oh, I can’t not do it. I have to swim in this stupid thing. And so I was like, Okay, let me go just take a look, and everybody on the treadmill is just staring at me. You can’t see it in the video, but they’re there. So I went up to some random guy, and I was like, Hey man, listen, can you shoot a Snapchat video for me? And he’s like, Uh, okay? And I was like, I’m gonna jump in this thing, so I took off my shoes and everything, and I was like, We may have to run. And he’s like, I don’t know if I want to do this. I hop in and it’s fucking freezing in that water, and as soon as I came out, some guy was like, Excuse me! And I was like, Go! Go! Go! I ran out of there and into my car soaking wet and drove away.

Any injuries?
I almost got run over once, when I was sweeping with my shirt off. The safest man hasn't gotten hit yet — probably just because he’s so safe. But I have almost fallen a few times, because I was on my fridge lighting the burner and then the other day, I was sitting on top of my door.

Yeah, some of them feel like legitimate stunts.
I don’t want to get too stunt-y. I want it to also be okay if the thing is really small, too, as long as it’s funny or feels funny to me, because then I’m just gonna be like, Oh, Gil’s gonna have to fuckin’ swim in a volcano to make it good, which I’m willing to do, completely. But it hasn’t gotten to that point yet.

Who's filming these for you?
Usually I’m forcing my wife to do this, and she’s just like, Pleeease, enough with the fucking Snapchat. Especially when we were in the supermarket, and I had to crawl in the bottom shelf. And she was like, They’re gonna kick us out. We come to get groceries here. I don’t want to be that person who’s like climbing in the cereal aisle, like, please don’t embarrass me. But there’s a lot of room back there, man. You can have a small apartment back there.

Which ones have been your most popular?
The most popular one was the shaving one — it was the most [screengrabbed one]. And it's also my favorite. I don’t know why. The look on my face is really stupid. There’s something about how stupid it is that just pleases me. The swimming one was another one, and my head in the toilet — those three have been the most popular, it feels like. The second toilet one was in a public bathroom, and it was not my wife taking it. That was the coffee guy, I was like, Listen this is gonna be really weird, but I want to put my head in your toilet.

I really liked the Nose Day one, too. Especially when you tried to open the door, and the people on the other side are waiting there like, What the hell?
They’re like, Oh my god, what the fuck is this guy doing? Meanwhile, an employee was shooting that one, too.

Has there been anything you haven't been able to do or that you'd like to do?
I wanted to hide in a mail truck, and the guy wouldn’t let me [Editor's Note: FedEx was nicer]. There have been some other trees that I could have had sex with, but there were just too many people around.

What about anything that hasn't been worth the effort — because it seems like you're willing to go to pretty extreme extremes?
I’ve always said, Of course it’s worth it, in my head, when it probably truly has not been any of the times.

Is this something you're going to try to keep up with, or is this just a passing fad for you?
Snapchat has seemed to survive — but on the strength of, like, 13-year-olds wanting to send naked pictures to their friends, without their parents knowing and finding out about it. That is keeping us alive. I don’t know — maybe. Every app is sort of a passing fad, eventually. Facebook’s gonna go, man. It’s gonna be around for 100 years, and then it’s gonna fade. And I’ll be like, I toldja so!

This interview has been edited and condensed.