5 Web Stars Making the Tricky Transition to TV: What to Expect

Emiah Gardner | Feb 28, 2014

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In recent years, entertainment executives have begun increasingly digging into the viral video market to find new talent. We’ve seen Internet comedians picked up by “Saturday Night Live,” others recruited as writers for top TV shows, and many others making waves in other parts of the industry. “Hollywood Reporter” recently named five of the top Internet comedians who are making the transition from viral video to television. Today we’ll take a more in-depth look at who these stars are and why their TV’s shows just might become your new favorite.

1. Ray William Johnson

With a fan base of over 10 million subscribers, Ray William Johnson is one of YouTube’s biggest stars. His show “Equals Three” (a “Tosh.O” style review of viral videos) proves he’s got serious comedic chops, but more recently, this comedian showed off his skills as a serious writer on the original web series “Riley Rewind.” This captivating dramedy’s success indicates that Johnson might not have much difficulty with the transition from Internet to TV. Of all the stars on this list Johnson has the most versatile background which gives us high hopes about his agreement with FX to script a comedy about his life.

2. Shane Dawson

This comic’s wildly successful YouTube channel features his impersonations, original characters, and a unique sarcastic brand of off-color humor. NBC recently decided to take a chance on Dawson’s success, leading to a deal to co-write and star in a weight-loss comedy titled “Losin’ It.” The show is based off the comedian’s own experiences working at Jenny Craig, but it’s a departure from his YouTube channel. We are excited to see Dawson trying something new and we’ll certainly be keeping an eye on him as he progresses in his career.

3. Issa Rae

Famous for her web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” Issa Rae recently teamed up with Larry Wilmore to write a comedy for HBO. Rae offers a unique comedic style, which should work well with the typical HBO audience. Hopefully she can get enough of her digital fans to follow her over to TV, or else this show may not gain traction.

4. Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey

The comedic duo behind viral videos “Sh*t Girls Say” have already tried the transition between mediums, with varying levels of success. They began with a Twitter account which led to the viral video (with over 20 million views), and eventually led to a successful book. The main difficulty these two will face as they work with Style Media this summer is maintaining viewer interest. With each new media transition it seems that they are less successful, so unless Sheppard and Humphrey branch out they may soon find TV too tough a crowd for a one-trick pony.

5. Heidi Niedermeyer and Elena Crevello

Rounding off the list is an act with plenty of potential. Niedermeyer and Crevello are the comediennes behind 2012 viral video “Sh*t People Say in L.A.,” and they have been picked up to write the forthcoming NBC comedy project “Fifth Wheel.” Their online videos brought the duo into the limelight, but they were doing a lot more before this happened. Both women studied theater in NYC, starred in off-Broadway productions, and did standup and improv comedy. This gives them both a solid foundation and ability to depart from a single punch line—assets which may bring them great success on network television.

In addition to their individual challenges, another hurdle each star will face is the demographic shift from web to TV. For instance, most of the featured talent use off-color language and themes for a laugh, appealing perfectly to the 20-somethings who most frequent YouTube. While this may draw a strong web audience, will it be enough to draw the much larger viewer pool television is expecting? And will the typically older TV audience appreciate this new style of quirky humor? What do you think?

Photo – screenshot from “How To Get Famous on Youtube

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