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‘This is real social commentary we’re making about the role of these companies in the future of our society.’
CollegeHumor’s entry into YouTube Red takes the dark anthology trope and realizes it for the Internet age. From a dystopian future where everyone is sorted according to a Friends personality quiz, to a Hunger Games-style YouTube competition, these are the plotlines from Bad Internet.
“We’ve always had a soft spot for dark anthology series like Are You Afraid of the Dark? or a more recent great example is Black Mirror,” CollegeHumor’s Head of Video Sam Reich told the Daily Dot. He said his writer’s room started pitching these ideas right when CollegeHumor and YouTube began talks of a partnership.
“It was a natural extension of CollegeHumor’s voice,” Reich said. “This was always our favorite idea, and by far the most ambitious.”
In the first episode, the aforementioned Friends society that’s sorted via BuzzFeed quiz gets rocked by a young woman who inadvertently breaks the program and discovers a dark secret. It’s free to watch now; the rest will live behind the paywall as part of YouTube Red.
The series’ 10 sketches skewer modern conveniences with dark science-fiction.
“This doesn’t feel like 100 years in the future, it feels like five or 10 years in the future,” Reich said. “We’re also tackling specific brands. The nature of this kind of thing is so long as you’re making social commentary, you’re safe. For the most part this is real social commentary we’re making about the role of these companies in the future of our society.”
One forthcoming example is an episode that asks a couple enjoying Hulu to watch ads for an entire year, and then never again in their lives, sending them into a virtual reality ad experience with no escape.
“That seems like our life sometimes,” said Reich.
CollegeHumor brought in YouTube celebrities like iJustine and Rosanna Pansino for the YouTube-themed episode, but otherwise has worked mostly with people who are part of the extended CollegeHumor network of comics for casting.
“It really was [an] all-hands-on-deck kind of a project,” said Reich. “We wanted it to feel like CollegeHumor through and through.”
One notable exception is veteran actress Jean Smart, who plays the president in a future episode.
“We reached out to her on a whim to do this, and she was totally game,” he said. “I think maybe you just don’t turn down the opportunity to play the president. She even did her own stunts.”
Perhaps most impressive, CollegeHumor flexes storytelling muscles outside its bread-and-butter zone of slacker sketch comedy.
“These were longer, and we weren’t just telling jokes, we were telling story,” said Reich. “Story requires not just that you be funny, but that you’re building tension. None of these rules of storytelling are things we need to consider in our usual sketch comedy diet. I think we really liked stretching those muscles, too.”
A former YouTube reporter for the Daily Dot, Rae Votta has more than a decade of experience in the digital and entertainment industries. Her work has appeared on AOL, Huffington Post, Out Magazine, Logo, VH1, Current TV, Billboard, and NYMag. She joined Netflix in 2016.