this week in web videos

Cool Ass Dank Ass Shit and Our Growing Appetite for Watching People Watch

Five years ago, Bobby McCoy’s Cool Ass Dank Ass Shit would’ve been unwatchable. Not because the alt-comedy climate has changed since then, but because the idea of a three-paned display anchored by a cell-phone screen wouldn’t have been created in the first place.

Back in 2013, we still consumed most traditional media away from our phones, and … we still do today. Despite bets from execs at Verizon’s go90 or Comcast’s Watchable, which counted on the viewing public abandoning laptops and TVs for iPhones and Galaxies, we’ve seen a splintering of content rather than a switch. We go to larger screens for Netflix, Amazon, and HBO Go and tap smaller screens for Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook. Shorts like Cool Ass Dank Ass Shit introduce a third content stream — a blending of what we expect to watch on our phones with what we watch on larger screens, resulting in narratives informed by the familiar interface of technology.

Think about it: TXT Stories has 2.2 million subscribers and it’s a Facebook page people visit to watch filmed SMS conversations play out on phone screens. That’s it. Still need convincing? Hey, I’m not here to change any minds, but consider how many times in the past few years we’ve seen a TV show or movie’s plot center on texts or Instagram posts that populate the screen instead of being shown to audiences as an insert shot on a phone, the way filmmakers did it back when Razrs were all the rage. Is all this representative of a changing paradigm in our content landscape, a shift in the interplay of traditional and new media? Who knows.

All I can say is McCoy has released a fever dream of an eight-minute short with a fucking phone screen in the center of it, and it felt really natural.

Luke is executive producer at Big Breakfast and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.

Our Growing Appetite for Watching People Watch