As I mentioned last week, I’ve been writing an essay about online and mobile TV for the print TIME magazine, and somewhere in there I reiterate the point I’ve made here before about Saturday Night Live: that it’s essentially become an online-video platform, since having other people find and embed the best bits eliminates the need to sit through an hour and a half waiting for the funny.
Last night, CollegeHumor.com made the reverse trip, debuting The CollegeHumor Show on MTV. And it truly—perhaps surprisingly, for a viral-video site—is a reverse trip, reimagining the site’s humor in a format that works as TV rather than as individual video clips. The show builds a workplace sitcom around the real-life employees of the site. (This being a web-comedy company, of course, there is only one woman.) In the first episode, CollegeHumor loses an employee to an evil rival humor site and has to win him back through a game of beer pong; along the way, there are running gags involving Internet-company perks, an in-office taco truck, and the fact that no one in the office can remember one another’s names.
And surprise, surprise—it’s funny. Really funny. Much funnier, in fact, than the original CollegeHumor.com short videos that also run during the show. On the one hand, The CollegeHumor Show demonstrates the importance of knowing the medium: doing comedy that specifically works on television as opposed to simply porting over viral videos to a slightly bigger screen. (Just as SNL has gotten a boost from figuring out the elements of its show that can be blown up online.)
On the other hand, the ability of CollegeHumor to cross over this way—and to wave hello to shows like SNL crossing over in the other direction—may just point to a time when there isn’t “online TV” and “real TV.” Just funny and not funny.
[To answer the obvious question, I'd embed a sample video if our blogging platform made it possible. And yes, I am aware of the irony.]