News and culture through the lens of Southern California.
Hosted by A Martínez
Airs Weekdays 9 to 10 a.m.
Arts & Entertainment

The art of the 6 second comedy

Listen to story

Download this story 0.0MB

Vine — the social media app that only allows six second videos — has exploded in popularity. The number of users has ballooned to more than 40 million in less than a year with one of its biggest draws being comedy. Previously unknown comedians have built huge fan bases using vine.

But is six seconds enough time do something truly funny?

If I only had six seconds to tell a joke it would probably be...

Q: Why didn't the skeleton go to the dance? 

A: Because it had no body to go with.

I might not be very good at this… but Vine superstar Brittany Furlan is.

Brittany’s one of the most popular comedians on vine. She’s been using the service for 7 months and she already has over two million followers. She’s Vine famous.

“When I first became popular one vine was the biggest question is who are you.  She hasn’t done anything that big. She isn’t a famous actress. She isn’t a famous comedian. Who the hell are you?” Furlan said, describing peoples initial impressions of her videos.

Brittany’s part of a group of young - rising comedians who’ve found a home on vine. People who are being followed by millions of users because they make really funny six second comedies, but until recently she was your average - non vine famous - actress struggling in LA. She couldn’t get an agent, she had an ebay business on the side, just to pay the bills - and this went on for about ten years.

RELATED: #kpccFUNNY — 9 great social media moments 

That is until vine came along.

“It was just so fun for me because all I wanted to do was perform and it allows you to do that. I didn’t have to audition. I just got to do my thing. And I just got addicted to it,” said Furlan.

She started making six second videos that featured a cast of regular characters.

Like The Beekeeper:

Martha the crazy house wife:

Natalie Nature:

And Wrestlin' Rachel:

As you can see - it’s not the production quality that makes Vines funny - YouTube videos usually look better. Everything's shot on a smartphone - usually without any special effects. 

So, how can an unedited six seconds be enough time do anything great? To find out I turned to Peter Mehlman - formerly a writer on Seinfeld who wrote classic episodes like The Yada Yada and The Sponge.

What does a man who’s an expert at writing comedy about nothing for 22 minutes think about the six second bites?

"To actually get your point across and get your joke out in six seconds is very legitimate.” 

On a show like Seinfeld you of course have a plot line... tensions build, characters get in and out of trouble, and then there’s a  resolution

With vine it’s not like that at all.

Let’s check out a Vine from another superstar - Rudy Mancuso. 

“That’s the great thing, there’s no structure, you just have to find the quickest way to get at your joke. And you’re relying on the camera and the actors to pull it off,” said Mehlman.

Vine is just punchline, punchline, punchline and as it turns out scenes from Seinfeld translate really well into Vine videos.

Like this clip - started about 16 seconds in.

But why has Vine flourished as a place for comedy?

William J Ward a social media professor from Syracuse University has some ideas, "We used to read 1000 word blogs and then it went to 140 character tweets - so short form video is the next phase of that."

Basically - our attention spans are now so short YouTube videos are too long.

And like what happens with many other platforms - the talented, early adopters rise to the top says Ward. And for this group of talented young comedians it’s a legitimate chance at stardom.

“I think the one thing that’ll be interesting is to see if the novelty of these short form videos will be sustained," says Ward.

That might matter for people who are just getting into the Vine comedy game eight months late, but it doesn't matter for Brittany.

She was was one of the early ones and now she's got an agent at ICM, she's developing a television show and people are approaching her with ideas.

And she never even had to do standup - which is what it normally takes to get this far.

“You have to build yourself before anyone wants anything to do with you. You’re literally performing for thousands and thousands of people every day without ever having to leave your house if you don’t want to," said Brittany.

Bottom line? Whether it's 30 minutes or six seconds, you have to be able to make people laugh... and the punchline better be good.

Are you an aspiring Vine star? Tweet us your best stuff @KPCC.