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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:

Malkof

  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.

Rubin

  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!

Wilson

  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

Cockerham

  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.

Random:

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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I write what I know (and love). Mostly higher education, writing and public relations.