Behind the Scenes of Tosh.0 With Executive Producer Charlie Siskel

Tosh.0 — the weekly Comedy Central show that applies The Soup’s format to random Internet videos, with Daniel Tosh playing Joel McHale — is enjoying a breakout second season. In July, its ratings surged ahead of both Comedy Central mainstays The Daily Show and The Colbert Report; last week, the show set its highest ratings total to date, with 2.7 million viewers for Wednesday’s episode. How do you go from YouTube to hit show? Ahead of tonight’s brand-new episode, Vulture got executive producer Charlie Siskel to walk us through the Tosh.0 process.

Compiling the Clips
We have a staff of writers and a handful of researchers, and we all contribute to searching for clips. We have just a giant database of clips that we have identified as, “Hey there’s something here and maybe we’ll figure out what to do with it.” A lot of that work is happening on an ongoing basis. Some of that stuff is timely, in that it suddenly becomes a viral hit and we might want to respond to it in a topical way. But a lot of it is just stuff that has been out there and is obscure. The number of clips in each show is fewer than ten, but we must watch thousands, thousands to get to that number. Fortunately, the good stuff keeps on coming.

Figuring Out Which Clips Are Right for the Show
I think it’s hard to say what the exact formula is. It might be something that not a lot of people have noticed and then through the show it gains in popularity. Or, we’ll do something with a popular video that no one else does. “The worst D.J. in the world” — that’s one that started to get passed around and even got featured in some places, but we just knew that our take would be different. The joke was, “That guy played bongos on that woman’s breasts, but I know for a fact that Tommy Lee has a whole set.” Then we cut to Tommy Lee playing drums on a human drum kit and it’s all girls in bikinis, and then Daniel is the flat-chested high hat. That was one where we didn’t have to be right on top of it in order to get our take on it.

Doing Clip-Free Internet Humor
The Bros Icing Bros thing, we just thought this mini-phenomenon was funny but we didn’t have a specific clip. We came up with the idea of Daniel putting an end to Bros Icing Bros, and so we shot a little video where someone comes up to Daniel and hands him a bottle of Smirnoff while he’s rehearsing the show, and he breaks the bottle and cuts the guy’s throat.

Convincing Shamed Internet Personalities to Take Part in the Tosh.0 “Web Redemption”

People get that we’re poking fun at the larger phenomenon of Internet stardom. If they want to do anything to follow up on their notoriety from their clip, doing a tongue-in-cheek “redemption” seems about right to most people. It’s not taking it as seriously as when Nightline and Good Morning America decide to do segments. It’s always done with a sense of humor; it’s not mean-spirited. And I think people like the fact that Daniel is willing to poke fun at himself. Coming up we have the angry black preacher — that one might be a little more obscure. We have the American Idol girls who freaked out when David Archuleta lost. All different stripes.

There are some “Web Redemptions” that we would love to do that we haven’t been able to. It’d be great to do Michael Richards. The Star Wars kid. We did find him, but apparently he doesn’t want to be Star Wars kid anymore. I think he’s a lawyer now. Or maybe in law school.

Making Internet Humor Work on TV
The way that we’re involving fans in the show [helps]. We live-tweet during the show. We have people submit videos. The Surra de Bunda, that’s a really good example. It starts with videos of these crazy dances, then we show Daniel doing the Surra de Bunda around the writers’ room, or the Dick Slang outside of someone’s office. Then we’ll ask if you’ve got examples of you doing these dances in unlikely places, like, say, a Bar Mitzvah. Sure enough, that week tons and tons of videos come in, and sure enough one of the videos is someone doing the Surra de Bunda at a Bar Mitzvah. And we put it on the show. It seems hokey to say, but it’s not a passive experience. It sort of is like sitting around and watching clips with your friends.

Behind the Scenes of Tosh.0 With Executive Producer Charlie Siskel