The entertainment landscape has changed so much in the last five to ten years, thanks to the Internet and advancements in cell phone technology. With the advent of video-sharing sites such as Vimeo (2004 and YouTube (2005), virtually anyone can create content, upload, be seen and (hopefully) be discovered. It’s a critical component of a new performer’s career, and for the established actor, singer, or comedian, it keeps their fan base interested by sharing old clips of favorite material, and it keeps them up-to-date on what’s new. This process has become even easier thanks to today’s smartphone camera capabilities, and the apps we use with them. One of these apps is Snapchat. Launched in 2011, its current version is an incredible tool for socializing, but also for those who are a little more performance-minded to get their “brand” out into the world, and especially effective for those who consider themselves to be comedians.
First, how does this app work in the favor of comedy? The short answer is brevity (no pun intended). Videos and photos, or “snaps”, are tiny snippets only viewable for up to ten seconds, and then they’re gone. They can have graphic or text overlays to enhance or explain the visual story or joke. You can respond to a “snap” with another “snap”, creating a dialogue unique to the app. A “story” in Snapchat terms is a collection of “snaps” that can show the span of a day or a series of events, and is only viewable for 24 hours, though it has unlimited views. “Here” is a subcomponent of the “chat” feature that allows you to privately message another user. It gives a live stream of video and audio, like the app Periscope, but again in the context of dialogue. It is engaging, inviting, and elicits a somewhat creative response back from the viewer.
The reason why this app works for entertainers, and especially comedians, may have something to do with what Bob Odenkirk said in a 2014 interview with Salon.com, where he suggests that the future of comedy and entertainment is in storytelling. And Snapchat, essentially, is just sharing brief stories in pictures, art, minimal words, and tiny moments strung together to make a funny lapse of time. It is a unique format for telling a joke that cannot be told in a tweet or Facebook or blog post, or on a stage in front of a live audience. It is a free way to show people you know—and those you don’t—just how funny you are. Plus, there is an implied intimacy with Snapchat. It feels personal and vulnerable. Finally, the user is sort of in on the joke (and it’s usually at their expense), and so is the audience, which is the formula for successful comedy.