Epic Lulz: Creating Funny Content on the Web (SXSW Recap)

John Hargrave (Moderator), www.zug.com
Mark Malkof, www.markmalkoff.com – lived in IKEA for a week; went to all the Manhattan Starbucks in 24 hours
Jeff Rubin, editor of www.collegehumor.com
Rob Cockerham, www.cockeyed.com – specializes in pranks
Chris Wilson, cartoonist for web comic Cyanide & Happiness

I expected this panel to be kinda off the wall, but I was pleasantly surprised at how prepared and organized everybody was. Way to go, comedians! Hargarave asked each panelist to share their top 3 tips for successful online comedy:


  1. Put together a great team.
  2. It’s all about the idea: Be original!
    -Something that stands out
    -Something you love
    -Should be able to sum it up in one sentence (Think about it like a media pitch)
  3. Think big; have a long-term plan.


  1. Have a hook
    -The reason you’d want to send it to your friend, beyond just the fact that it’s funny
  2. Think Visually
    -Rubin showed this “Luigi Finally Snaps” bit to the room and noted afterwards that the biggest laughs came from the non-verbal jokes.
    -Even if something is text based, maybe you can make it visual – can you turn it into a chart?
  3. Feel free to ignore comments.
    -If even half of the comments on a piece are positive, that’s great!


  1. Consistency
    -Make something often
    -Give people a taste of your ideas
    -Get them in the habit of coming back
  2. Publicity
    -The Cyanide & Happiness team lets anyone put their stuff anywhere, and that has helped build their audience
  3. Passion
    -Cheesy, but true
    -This is fun content, but people are working really hard on it


  1. The title is by far the most importnat thing
    -Get a joke in the title
    -Anything with the word “prank” will rise in search rankings fast
    -Use “vs.” e.g. Shark vs. Octopus
  2. Make the audience feel smart and useful
    -Cockerham posted 2 different quizzes about book titles. The easy one got 4-5 times more traffic than the difficult one.
    -People like being surprised at how clever they are.
  3. Nurture relationships with link-keeping gatekeepers.

Other tips:

-When you run out of steam for fresh content — and that will happen — link to other people’s stuff.
-Regarding self-promotion – if your content is good, people will appreciate it.


An audience member asked the panel if they ever think about or are concerned about the lack of females in comedy. The panel – 5 males who had just finished showing a bunch of clips about video games and beer – cited Tina Fey as proof that there are plenty of female voices in comedy. Inspired by the Visual Note-Taking panel earlier, I drew a sketch to capture this part of the session:

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