Inside Kurtis Conner's Self-Distributed Comedy Special 🎤

The creator’s "Keep Busy" comedy special drops today

Good morning. YouTube started testing a generative AI tool that categorizes video comments into major themes. For example, a video about baking muffins could consolidate tons of comments into the core theme of “viewers like chocolate chips in their muffins.” 

We can’t help but wonder what themes would appear under Colin and Samir’s videos…“viewers like Colin’s jumpsuit?”

Kurtis Conner Self-Releases His Debut Comedy Special

Kurtis Connor (left) self-releases his comedy special, “Keep Busy,” on his website / Colin and Samir, Kurtis Conner

Comedy creator Kurtis Conner released his first stand-up comedy special, Keep Busy, today. The unique part: Conner opted to finance and sell the special independently on his website instead of handing over distribution rights to a streaming service like Netflix.

“In a way, it’s like the most YouTuber thing to do…[to say] ‘I’ll just do it myself,’” Conner said on The Colin and Samir Show this week.

How’d he get here?

  • In 2013, Conner (then 19) began performing stand-up in Toronto clubs while studying comedy writing in college.

  • He started posting six-second skits on Vine and gained 350,000 followers over the next several years.

  • Conner took that audience to YouTube, where he’s been making commentary videos about online culture full-time since 2017.

Between the lines: By distributing Keep Busy independently, Conner can do whatever he wants with it—start with a live premiere, sell on-demand for a limited time, entertain offers from larger media distributors, or upload it for free on his YouTube channel.

“If I were to do it with some streaming service, they would own it…but at the end of the day, [this special] is mine, which is a super cool position to be in,” he told Colin and Samir.

Zoom out: Conner is following in the footsteps of veteran creators such as Andrew Schulz, whose success on YouTube translated to seven-figure sales on his self-distributed 2022 comedy special (and a sold out live show at Madison Square Garden).

How a Pokémon Creator Built a Sustainable Career on YouTube

Michael “MandJTV” Groth put a twist on classic “Let’s Play” content to build his library of Pokémon gameplay videos / Illustration by Moy Zhong with photography by MandJTV and MandJTV Plays

Gaming creator Michael “MandJTV” Groth has amassed over 2 million subscribers over 14 years of making YouTube videos about Pokémon gameplay. Today, he averages around 6 million views per month—so how did he build his creator business?

He gave us the rundown on carving a (successful) path through niche gaming content—no matter what’s on trend.

  • In 2016, Pokémon Go took over the internet, bringing a spike in views to MandJTV’s content. “Hype helps, but it doesn’t stay,” Groth told us.

  • Groth’s viewership dipped as the Pokémon Go hype shrank. “I wondered if I’d ever reach that again. Like did I peak? But then I really delved into research and changed my strategy,” Groth said.

  • So he pivoted: In 2019, Groth changed his content from unedited “Let’s Play” videos to scripted videos and briefly doubled his weekly output. His viewership grew “almost instantly,” he said, and set his channel on a steady incline.

Groth unlocked an evergreen strategy, one that’s worked well for him as he’s built a library of 1,000+ videos: “Actual passive income is when you can create evergreen videos,” Groth said. 70% of his income comes from AdSense and 30% from brand deals and merch.

“I’ve never hit crazy numbers. The most views my channel has gotten in a month (not including Shorts) is 15 million,” Groth said. “But creating a library that can get views forever is the secret to a longer career.”

Sponsored by Spotter

How This Comedy Creator Memed His Way to Success

As an actor, Steven He has experienced his fair share of emotional damage. He’s heard “no” more times than he’s heard “yes”.

So at a crossroads in his career, he decided to test a theory: Online audience = leverage.

After 300+ videos, Steven proved himself right. And he’s since gone on to reach billions through comedy sketches he’s written and filmed himself.

Today, Steven’s content is becoming even more ambitious, like his long-form series Ginormo, which earned him a Streamys nomination. But that kind of content requires some serious support.

Luckily, Steven has received help from Spotter. In exchange for licensing his back catalog, Steven’s been able to upgrade his film equipment and make key hires for the production company he’s building.

Spotter’s distributed over $850M to creators like Steven to build the next generation of media companies. Discover how they’re doubling down on creators by clicking here.

Creators Respond to End of the Actors Strike

The SAG-AFTRA labor union announces the end of its 118-day strike / SAG-AFTRA

The SAG-AFTRA actors’ union reached a tentative deal with major entertainment studios Wednesday, putting an end to the longest actors’ strike in Hollywood history.

The creator POV: During the 118-day strike, unionized actors asked creators to support them by avoiding the promotion of film and TV content. Some creators like Safiya Nygaard and Ryan Trahan were even inspired to join other creator unions.

But the end of the strike lifted those restrictions, and creators wasted no time getting back to business: For example, TikTok film creator Reece Feldman shared a video of him interviewing Barbie director Greta Gerwig about the movie. “Reese talking about movies is back!” one fan commented.

🔥 Press Worthy

  • Video chat app Omegle shuts down after 14 years, a move its founder attributes to rampant misuse and lawsuits.

  • Former pro athlete JJ Redick hosts NBA commissioner Adam Silver on his podcast.

  • Teleprompter’s user-friendly app shows your script while you record so you never have to do a second take—join the 1M+ creators using the app here.*

  • Instagram highlights creators driving “culture and community online” (including Keith Lee and Monica Mamudo) in its 2023 Creators of Tomorrow list. 

  • Summer camps that educate kids on how to create online content are gaining popularity, The Washington Post reports.

  • Spotify launches audiobooks for Premium subscribers, featuring titles from bestselling authors including Staci Robinson and Adam Grant.

*This is sponsored advertising content.

📚️ Thank You For Pressing Publish

The content we’re looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to this weekend.

  • Read: What’s the goal of a biopic these days—to tell a true (if convoluted) story, or to confirm the fame of its subject? Ringer contributor Vince Mancini investigates the film genre’s future.

  • Watch: All four original Yes Theory members return to their Montreal roots as the group gears up to release their new book, Talk to Strangers.

  • Listen: Comedian Chelsea Peretti reprises her advice podcast, Call Chelsea Peretti, with equal parts laughs, snacks, and existential dread.

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