Roundtable Interview with Jake and Amir from College Humor
A couple of weeks ago, HackCollege was given the opportunity to interview Jake and Amir of College Humor. Chances are, you’ve seen these two in a variety of extraordinarily amusing College Humor videos (and if you haven’t, check them out here). This interview was sponsored by the Adobe Imagination Challenge, which Jake and Amir helped judge. The periods for entering the Challenge are over, but student voting opens this Sunday, November 6th. Head over to their site to vote on your favorite piece.
Several other college blogs participated in this roundtable interview, which happened online through Google+ hangout video chat. During the interview, writers for the blogs asked Jake and Amir questions about their experiences working in an online space. While the video recording of the interview didn’t turn out, I have the transcription of the interview here to post for y’all to read. It was a really great and fun experience and Jake and Amir had both fun and enlightening answers for us. Check out the transcribed interview below to see what they had to say.
Thomas: Today I have the opportunity to interview Jake and Amir from CollegeHumor.com. This interview is sponsored by The Adobe Imagination Challenge. With us, we’ve got some other awesome college bloggers.
Jessica: I’m Jess Errera. I’m a sophomore at The University of North Caroline in Chapel Hill and I’m a double major in English and drama. I’m representing the TalkNerdy2Me blog, which is a college life blog from The National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Joe: I’m Joe Masterman. I’m at Harvard University, and today I am speaking on behalf of Her Campus, which is a college life blog geared towards college girls. I write the Real Life College Guy column.
Laura: I’m Laura Schluckebier. I’m a senior at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX and I’m a double major in communication and classical studies. I’m here talking to y’all from Hack College.
Stephany: I’m Stephany. I’m from Los Angeles, California, but I just moved to Washington, DC. I recently graduated from UCLA and I’m here from College Gloss.
Thomas: I’m Thomas Frank. I’m a Junior at Iowa State University majoring in Management Information Systems and I’m from College Info Geek.
My first question for Jake and Amir has to deal with the origins of College Humor. Were you guys around when College Humor started and, if so, how were you instrumental in getting it off the ground?
Amir: Jake and I started the website when we were freshmen in 1999.
Thomas: So it was actually just you two?
Jake: Nope. That’s not true…Our bosses Josh and Ricky founded the website in 1999.
Amir: …With Jake and me in mind
Jake: Um, no…that’s not how. They didn’t know we existed back then. I started working with them in 2005, and Amir started working with them in 2004.
Thomas: And you guys immediately started doing the web series, or were you working in different areas of the website?
Jake: We started out just being writers, so College Humor would have these articles, and Amir and I were basically writing those. After a year, we started making videos in our spare time, just for fun, for us. We posted some on College Humor and that sort of snowballed into us making lots of videos all the time.
Jess: On the subject of social media, do you feel that had you been in college with this big influx in social media, that it would have changed your learning experience in any way?
Jake: I feel like I learned a lot from working at College Humor; just learning by hands-on experience. I’m not sure I missed out or got a better education. But, I guess I feel like it was as good, at least.
Joe: From the looks of your guys’ Tumblr page, you guys seem to have an extremely fanatic fan base. People compete to be the first comment on your videos. A choice comment I found on your last video says: “Is it just me, or has Jake gotten a lot more sculpted? Been working out, eh, Jakey. Be careful not to get body dismorphic disorder.”…To what extent is your guys’ content affected by this kind of teaming hoard of teenage internet commenters? And do they affect your content at all?
Amir: I think Jake is working out more a lot because of that comment.
Jake: We do read all the comments. Sometimes we’ll cater something to the commenters. If we can tell they like something, we’ll do that again. But the commenters are a small portion of the people that watch the videos. Our videos get a couple hundred thousand views, and there are maybe fifty to a hundred comments. So we can’t really shape our videos around that really small minority of people. Even though when you read about how much you suck, you sort of still feel bad.
Laura: What do y’all think are the most important things to keep in mind while building your personal brand through social media?
Amir: We try not to think about personal branding and all these bigger business terms when Tweeting and Facebooking.
Jake: We just keep it really real…ya know what I’m sayin?
Stephany: Do you guys write all of your video shorts, and how much of it happens on the spot versus scripted?
Jake: We do write every episode. We script them all out. Then we usually shoot it three times. We’ll shoot it the first time. That’s sort of when we learn our lines, we stumble through it, we’ll pause and have to look at the script. The second time we’ll do it as close to verbatim as possible. The third time we’ll just have fun and we don’t look at anything. We usually use a combination of the second and third take. If something makes us laugh extra hard, we’ll try to get it into the video.
Thomas: How much of the actual editing of the videos do you guys do?
Jake: We still do all of the editing. Amir does most of it. In the very beginning, Amir edited everything on iMovie and Windows Movie Maker. We gradually started editing on Final Cut, and Amir learned Final Cut then. I started helping and Amir taught me how to use the software. Now I live in LA so I don’t have an editing station. Amir’s over in New York, so he’s editing all the videos.
Jess: Do you guys have any advice for people looking to get involved with writing, producing their own videos, trying to make a name for themselves in the social media scene?
Jake: The thing that worked for us was just being consistent. Looking back, even four years ago, we were producing 2 videos a week. I think the fact that people could count on constant updates from us kept them coming back. If we don’t post anything for a month, then people forget to check our website, and then forget about us entirely.
Amir: …Which would be the worst thing in the world.
Joe: So, you guys sort of fill specific roles in this show. There’s an extent to which you’re kind of straight man, crazy man in your humor. If you were on TV, you might worry about typecasting. Does the internet as a medium give you more freedom, or do you have to stick to a role?
Jake: I guess I’m not worried about being typecasted, because I’m not good at being the crazy person. The roles sort of build themselves naturally. And I’m not worried about, in my future, people being like “Jake Hurwitz is a straight man” because I don’t think enough people have seen my videos to be typecasted. But, with that said, we do have characters in the series that we don’t want to veer too far away from.
Amir: Jake is really modest.
Laura: What do y’all think is the best way to stand out from others who have the same skills or education background? How do you make yourselves stand out?
Jake: Get one really defining feature about yourself. Amir’s got the glasses.
Thomas: This question is from our readers: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever observed in the College Humor office, and were you the cause of it?
Jake: The office is sort of crazy on its own. One time, somebody’s mother sent in a ton of jelly beans. We bet our coworker, Streeter, that he couldn’t finish a pound of yellow, popcorn-flavored jelly beans by the end of the day. As he was eating them, he just kept on spitting into a cup because he was getting sick.
So, that bet transformed into this other bet where we were trying to pay somebody to drink the cup of Streeter’s spit. We got this intern to say he would do it for $300. I think he was banking on the fact that nobody would pay him the $300. But the office came together really quickly and we got the money together. And then he was thinking of backing down, but then we started counting down…and we got to one, and he chugged the entire thing…Yellow butter popcorn flavored spit.
Jess: I want to know what other social media sites you guys follow. I know you guys do Twitter and Tumblr, but are there any blogs you follow a lot or any recommendations you have that we should check out? What are your bookmarks?
Jake: I will look over my bookmarks right now: I have 2 emails, College Humor, Tumblr, Facebook, Jake and Amir, and Pandora. That’s it. I think I spend so much time thinking about internet comedy and internet videos, that when I have free time, that’s the last thing I want to look at.
Jess: Are there any that inspired you to start making your own videos?
Jake: I wasn’t watching internet videos and saying I want to make internet videos. I was watching shows like Arrested Development, The Office and The Simpsons, and thinking that I wanted to make comedy, but I couldn’t just start making TV shows. I had a tiny little video camera and I had Amir. So that’s what I did.
Joe: What is your favorite YouTube video?
Amir: Alexander Hamilton Mixtape at the White House
Joe: Do you guys ever worry about dumb internet videos that get more views than yours? Do you compete with dancing cats at all?
Amir: You can’t compete with cats.
Jake: I don’t think we worry about it. There are different things for everybody. On TV, there’s American Idol and there’s CSI. There’s so much, I don’t mind that a dancing gets so many views. I’m probably ten of those views myself.
Laura: This is a question from our social media mediator at Hack College. She asked: What is the best way to help promote yourself on Twitter or other social media sites?
Amir: I think it helps to be self-deprecating.
Jake: Yeah, that’s right. You have to completely mask that you’re promoting yourself as much as possible. But now people even see through self-deprecation. There’s a difficult line to walk.
Amir: I think that if you use your Twitter account to promote yourself, you also have to use it for other stuff. It’s eighty percent jokes and twenty percent self-promotion. Also, if people are following you, then they don’t have a right to complain about you promoting yourself. “You’re the one following me, I can talk about whatever I want, and if you don’t like it, you can un-follow me” …but I only have nine followers, so I’m not a good person to ask.
Thomas: Since you guys have a college-centric website, what does your traffic and engagement look like during the summer when nobody is in school? Does it take a big dive or does it stay consistent?
Jake: It doesn’t drop off too much. People used to spend more time on the internet at school because it had better connectivity, and then they would go home and see their friends. But now there is not much of a drop off at all.
Jess: What would you say to people who have misconceptions about social media? Many parents think we spend too much time on the internet.
Amir: I agree with the parents (laughs). We do spend too much time on social media. DISCONNECT PEOPLE!!! (Then re-connect at jakeandamir.com, of course).
Joe: Since I blog for a college web-based love column, I have to ask, what has your internet presence done for your love life? Aside from your presence on eharmony?
Jake: I met my girlfriend at work, so that sort of helps. I didn’t meet her on the internet, but the existence of our internet company brought two employees together.
Amir: I met my girlfriend on a jakeandamir message board, and we’re getting married tomorrow!
Jake: Yeah, Amir goes out with his 16 year-old commenter. He is going to meet her for the first time tomorrow… He doesn’t really know what she looks like because her avatar is a cartoon, Simpsonized version of herself.
Laura: Do you have any tips for people who want to start make their own video content?
Jake: It’s so easy now. There are such cheap HD cameras that are really great.
Amir: JUST DO IT.
Jake: I agree, just do it. Videotape something. Watch a YouTube tutorial about how to edit, or ask a friend that knows. If it’s bad, don’t stop doing it. Our videos sucked at first. It’s like anything else: you get better as you keep on doing it.
Thomas: I have one more question from a reader. What is your most embarrassing moment?
Jake: While we were filming one of our videos, there was something I was covered in blood for, so afterward I had to take my shirt off, and everyone was wiping me down to get all of the blood off. After they had got it all off, I was just lying on the ground without my shirt, and they had gone to get more paper towels. Just then, the CEO of our company walked by. All the video cameras were gone… all the people who were helping were gone… and it was just me, alone on the floor, without my shirt on. And he just shook his head and walked away.
Jess: What was your favorite video to film looking back?
Amir: Rick Fox
Jake: I agree with Amir. Rick Fox is really awesome to work with. Amir is one of his biggest fans, and I think it’s cool that he comes and does these really insanely goofy videos with us. He really gets to the jokes and improvises.
Amir: Ben Schwartz, too.
Jake: Same with Ben Schwartz. I think our favorite videos are the ones we have the most fun making, and that’s definitely the case for these two guest stars. Rick and Ben are just really fun to work with.