It’s no secret that many comedians have been turning to YouTube to share their comic voice and build their fan base – whether it’s through sketches, Vlogs, web series, spoofs and parodies, or simply posting videos of their stand-up sets. I wanted to get some tips for you about starting your own comedy web channel, so I reached out to YouTube celeb comedian, actor and filmmaker Shane Dawson for some pointers.
So here we go…
Hey Shane! If a friend of yours comes up to you and asks for advice on starting a YouTube channel, what would be the first three tips that come to your mind?
SHANE: Do what you know. Don’t try to make content about what you think is going to get you an audience. Make content that you love and that you connect with and an audience will come. Be consistent. The audience likes to know that there will be new content on a weekly or at least a monthly basis. If you don’t stay consistent they will find another creator who does. Collaborate. The best way to grow an audience is to make content with other creators and cross promote on each others channels. No matter how small your audience is (or vice versa) there will still be new eyes that will find you because of the collab video.
You do this for a living, so you invest tons of time into your channels. It’s a full time job for you. If someone is trying to make their living doing something else and wants to use YouTube as just one of their many marketing tactics to build more fans — and yet they can only dedicate one day a week toward the channel – do you think that it would still be possible for them to be build fans or is that just simply not enough time to truly grow an audience?
SHANE: Yes but you will never be able to keep the audience interested and engaged for that long. They expect a certain level of quality and quantity that wasn’t expected in the beginning of YouTube. But now that YouTube has television quality programming it’s hard to get anyone to watch a fast low quality comedy video anymore.
SHANE: For Sketches–Panasonic GH1. Short films–Canon 5D. Music Videos–RED. Vlog–iPhone.
What do you use to record sound?
SHANE: Sketches–RODE shotgun mic that attaches to camera. Only a hundred bucks at any camera store and worth EVERY penny. For bigger projects–old school boom mic. Worst case scenario–you can use the “voice memo” on your iPhone and record sound that way. The iPhone mic is almost RODE quality.
What software do you use to edit your videos?
SHANE: Final Cut 7
Do you have a crew? Or do you do all of your lighting, sound and video yourself?
SHANE: Depends on the project. Because I pay for production out of my pocket I try and only hire crew when needed. Usually on short films and music videos I have the standard 20 person crew. But for everything else it’s just me and my camera.
Are you hyper aware of making sure you don’t show product or brand names and logos in your videos? I see a lot of stuff online where there are well known products in the shot or popular music being used…and I always wonder…do they have the rights to use that?
SHANE: Dear Lord. I’m terrified of getting sued so I don’t use anything. But the other side of that is I don’t want to give a brand free promotion either. With the money brands are dishing out for product placement on YouTube I know my value and I’m definitely not going to give them love for free.
Has your YouTube success helped you get an agent or auditions or other career opportunities?
SHANE: YouTube has changed my life and given me every opportunity I have. Without them I never would have gotten agents, managers, directing gigs, or sold TV show pilots. It has opened every door and I’m so grateful for them.
Your home seems to be your studio. You even painted some of the walls in your home various colors to use as backgrounds and green screens for your videos. That’s such a great idea. What would you suggest for people who aren’t allowed to paint their walls?
SHANE: Make content tailored to your environment. If you only can shoot in a bedroom, then make your web show a bedroom talk show! If you can only shoot in your car then do an “on the road” series. The location means little on YouTube, it’s all about the personality and the camera quality.
Have you ever considered doing stand-up comedy or sketch comedy on a live stage? I would imagine you could book shows all over the country and pull in a pretty big audience.
SHANE: I’ve thought about it but the amount of time it would take to perfect a set wouldn’t financially make sense with the amount of time it would take away from my YouTube channel. And I don’t want to half ass it.
I read somewhere that you are pitching a talk/variety/sketch show? Is that something you see being broadcast on a network or cable? Or would it be an online thing (on Hulu, for example)?
SHANE: I pitch a couple shows every year and it’s always to cable since my comedy is slightly edgy. Surprisingly I just sold my first major network show which is super exciting! I can’t talk specifics yet but it’s super fun and very different from my online stuff.
Do you ever put out casting notices for your music videos or sketches? Or do you always cast people you already know?
Half and half. I love throwing in familiar faces but I also love working with new actors so I tend to use my contact list as well as LA Casting.
Thank you so much Shane for sharing your thoughts with Ms. In The Biz! Shane has over nine million subscribers on his YouTube channels including Shane Dawson TV so he’s definitely one to learn from!
Here is one of my favorites of Shane’s recent videos where he “draws his life”. Check it out and be inspired!