We live in an interesting time for media. Traditional networks, cable companies, and movie theaters are no longer the only players on the field, as numerous other platforms have given rise to mobile streaming and more. While Netflix has been the largest example of a new platform creating it’s own original content — like Marvel’s Daredevil, BoJack Horseman, and Beasts of No Nation — many other companies have taken a cue and released original projects of their own. Last year, Yahoo!Screen brought back the fan-favorite show Community, but made it only viewable through their website. Sony developed the superhero police procedural Powers — also exclusively found on their platform — in a bid to create another perk for becoming a member of the premium tier of the Playstation Network.. But now, original content is moving into the social media realm, including Snapchat.
Snapchat was originally created in 2011 as a social media messaging platform. Users can create videos or send pictures to one another, which are subsequently deleted after being viewed. While Snapchat has changed over the years, perhaps the biggest change has been the influx of outside corporations into the format. Comedy Central, for example, has transitioned almost entirely to creating content through Snapchat outside of its television network and website. Hoping to reach a new generation of viewers, the cable entity has employed some of the top talent in the comedy world to create new shows for them following this new format. Two of those talents are comedians Mike Lawrence and Brandon Wardell, who I had the opportunity to speak with about their shows with Comedy Central (You’re Wrong and Hot Takes respectively), their careers, and Snapchat as a whole.
Mike Lawrence describes himself as “a comedian of ten years who desperately needs your attention.” Hailing originally from Florida, Lawrence made the move to New York City, where he climbed the comedy ladder and eventually found himself on the writing staff of Inside Amy Schumer. Lawrence’s next project, aside from You’re Wrong, will be a project for A&E entitled Black and White that delves into uncomfortable race relations, but with a humorous spin. At the heart of all of this, though, Lawrence is a self-described nerd, using his upcoming Snapchat platform to share his rants on the latest Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice film, and about how nerd culture has taken over the world. “Each episode is around 3 to 5 minutes long,” Lawrence explains, “but Comedy Central has been great about giving me freedom to make the show whatever I want it to be. It’s carte blanche for sure, but I’m extremely proud of what we’ve done.”
Comedy Central obviously trusted Lawrence enough to make him a part of the writing staff of Schumer’s award-winning series, so allowing this show to revel in its independence is no surprise. His Snapchat series will rely more on his skills as a standup comedian rather than that of a writer’s room. “With Schumer, there’s heavy collaboration in creating that series, but with You’re Wrong, it’s just me. I’m taking an opportunity to reach out to the nerd community and tell them that they’re wrong. It can be a little bit scarier with the independence, as there’s no one else to save it if things go wrong.” Lawrence’s love of nerd culture will certainly be put on full display in the series, but there’s also a level of hilarity in breaking down the fanaticism as he stresses that “nerdom can sometimes be a terrible thing, as it’s originally born from shame, not pride. With the series, we hope to explore that idea.”
While Lawrence is on record that he hadn’t previously used Snapchat before being offered the show, 23-year-old comedian Brandon Wardell lived and breathed the communication tool. “It’s always been a fun platform that I used all the time, it allowed you to ‘tell the story of your day’ and now I get to do that for Comedy Central!” Wardell was originally a resident of Washington DC who started his comedy career in his teenage years, eventually moving up the ranks and finding himself in Los Angeles, having worked with Vice Media and now with Comedy Central. As opposed to Lawrence’s nerdy persona, Wardell plans to use his series to delve into the topics of the day while putting his “millennial spin” on things. Hot Takes, which has already premiered on Comedy Central’s Snapchat channel, sees Wardell tackling topics such as “Kanye for President in 2020,” and recounting the time when Justin Bieber blocked him on Twitter.
“Hot Takes is just an examination of Pop Culture, where I get to jump into topics like ‘Pizza not being a personality’ or ‘why Taylor Swift is better than Tupac’. Comedy Central gives me so much creative freedom with the newer medium and they trust me with it, so I’m never bombarded with corporate notes or anything like that.” Wardell made mention of the fact, along with his independence through Snapchat, how Comedy Central has transitioned almost entirely from Youtube to Snapchat in terms of trying to reach new audiences. “The platform is different from Youtube in that your material gets deleted rather than sticking around permanently, which definitely lets me be more ‘messy’.” Wardell also sees the Snapchat show as something of a “vetting program” for eventually getting his own series on the main Comedy Central television channel. Along with their Snapchat series, both he and Lawrence have also appeared on @Midnight, so that claim certainly holds weight. “With Hot Takes, I’m able to create something that gives you instant gratification through the medium. They’re essentially short-form stories, which definitely feed from my background in standup comedy.”
Snapchat has truly become a force, with nearly 7 billion videos created to date. These “stories” have propelled the platform into a meaningful extension of entertainment, so it’s no wonder that Comedy Central is putting their weight behind it with offerings like You’re Wrong and Hot Takes. The platform is a testament to the changes in our present, giving us entertainment through avenues which didn’t exist years ago. And as Wardell postulated, it’s also acting as a kind of “farm team” for the media big leagues, while offering up more freedom and creativity for its creators. These new mediums will continue to change the way we see entertainment, and will have a lasting effect on the landscape of television as a whole — until we reach the point where it too will be phased out of the equation entirely. Adapt or die.
For more from Brandon Wardell and Mike Lawrence, catch current episodes of Hot Takes on Snapchat now, and be sure to watch You’re Wrong on Comedy Central’s Snapchat channel. You can also catch Lawrence on the weekly podcast, Nerd of Mouth, along with a web series, Omnibus, for Geek and Sundry.