gil ozeri

Screengrabs via Gil Ozeri/Twitter Remix via Max Fleishman

'I’ve been trying to get into an oven for a long time.'

Gil Ozeri’s Snapchat rewards you if you wait for it. 

Ozeri—a performer and writer on Children’s Hospital, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Happy Endings—has created something special with his Snapchat, an array of 10-second meditations on space and physical comedy. He says he got turned on to Snapchat by his pal Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation), who advised him it was a place to “be stupid and silly.” 

“It was a way to put out videos without overthinking them,” he tells the Daily Dot.

How much thought goes into his clips might not be quantifiable. Ozeri is fond of hiding in his snaps, or fitting himself into ridiculous spaces as the big reveal. Sometimes the camera slowly pans to Ozeri as he’s straddling a light post, or laying in the meat case of a grocery store. His face is often expressionless. 

He says he gets by with a little help from friends, as well as his very patient wife. “I’ve tried to get people to push me and squeeze me into places,” he says. “I just did a snap where I was in a dishwasher and my friend John Gemberling [of Broad City] shoved me inside. ... Sometimes I can’t always fit where I want to fit. I’ve been trying to get into an oven for a long time.”

Not every space is ripe for his comedy. He relates that he got stuck, butt-first, in a garbage can while trying to film one bit. “It was basically like a clam opening inside a garbage can, and it was impossible for me to get out, and I was like screaming laughing,” he says.

Ozeri says that roughly 30-40 percent of the time, he’s relying on the kindness of strangers for help with his setups. Often, he’s enlisting two strangers: one to shoot and one to star or assist. There’s a foundational trust that must be in place, and Ozeri says most of the time people are happy to be roped into some random act, like fitting him into a suitcase. 

“They’re like, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll hide you,’” he says.

The majority of Ozeri’s snaps are connected bits, like his Safest Man series or a Steven Spielberg lookalike who stalks him. He hopes that narrative format might translate outside Snapchat—like maybe his own show. But Snapchat has become a platform for original programming (and out-of-the-blue revivals) as well. 

“Snapchat is modeling after the early days of TV," Ozeri says, "because there’s a limited number of channels."  

While some snaps are impromptu, others obviously take more planning. Ozeri relates that waterskiing through an intersection was frightening. 
There’s little to no dialogue in his snaps; the focus is on the physicality and absurdity of the situation. That absurdity is heightened in clips where wordlessly he puts a toilet bowl brush in his mouth, or does a headstand in a mop bucket.

“When you’re doing comedy, you’re a clown essentially,” he says. “You’re performing for an audience for validation and for money. I sort of have this connective narrative in the snaps… where I’m playing this sort of clone. 

"At some point in the snaps, I had killed myself and came back as this sort of version of Gil Ozeri. This character was sort of built to be this clown for everyone who’s watching. A lot of comedy, and especially physical comedy, you’re punishing your body for someone to laugh.”

Ozeri’s snaps are the antithesis to a lot of the YouTube prank-bro videos, which often lack an element of comedy or humanity and go straight for the reaction. Ozeri says he likes that there's often no reaction in his bits.  
“I’d rather people just treat me as someone who is part of the world," he says. "That person might be weird or different, because they’re hiding in a dishwasher or they’re swimming in a fountain or pouring a latte in my hand, but I usually don’t want the person to go, ‘Whoa, look at him!’ I‘d rather them just be like, ‘This person is just going about their business doing their own thing in their weird way.’” 
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