A Comedian's Youtube Success
BY: BRITTANY WOOLSEY
With YouTube's growing popularity, more and more comedians are getting exposure. Kassem G is one of them. The Jordan-native funnyman has more than 17 million views on his main channel (www.YouTube.com/KassemG), with segments such as "California On" and "Going Deep," in which he interviews porn stars. His characters may be rude, but in real life, Kassem is a humble guy who enjoys "making a few people chuckle."
Dig: The tables have turned, you are now the interviewee. How does it feel to be on the other side of the microphone for once? Kassem: It's good to listen to other people and not sit there and make fun of them. If you know anything about me, I love to hear people talk, but for whatever reason it's hard for that stuff to come across in my videos. This is a nice and welcome change of pace.
Dig: You moved to the United States from Jordan when you were two-years-old. Do you still practice your culture here? Kassem: My parents weren't really practicing Muslims to start with, so religion was never a big thing for myself. It allows me to stand in the middle when I'm interviewing people and the topic of religion comes up. I don't feel like I have to take a side or anything like that. At the same time, I feel like if I were to grow up under more religious circumstances, that's a whole other angle of comedy that can come from there. I grew up speaking English. I lived in Saudi Arabia for a time and moved to Florida when I was four. At the same time, I'm not ashamed of my background. I'm very proud of my Middle Eastern background and would love to go back and visit and see family that I haven't seen.
Dig: Have you been back since you moved here? Kassem: No, I haven't. I've been here in the United States and it's tough because when you go back, it's not a week or two vacation. You have to go back for a while because there's so many family members that you need to visit. To really do it justice, you should spend a month or so there. I definitely will go back, I just don't know when exactly.
Dig: What made you decide to pursue comedy? Kassem: I always grew up as being a clown and smart ass. During school, it just seemed to be more of a problem than anything else. I felt like when I decided to do stand-up, I felt like I was made to do that and pursue that sort of living. I always thought I'd fall into some sort of comedy or entertainment. I'm not saying don't go to school, just do what makes you happy. I worked retail for 10 years and hated almost every second of it. The second I got to do what I wanted to do for a living was great. It's not something that everything gets to do and it shouldn't be taken for granted. It's great to think that I'm making a few people laugh every time I post a video.
Dig: You've opened for comedy heavyweights, such as Dane Cook. How does it feel to share the stage with big-name comedians? Kassem: It was cool. I was only doing stand-up for a couple of years by that point and an opportunity came up where I got to open for him at the Laugh Factory and it was sold out. The set went well ? thank God. I got a standing ovation and it was really nice. That opened some other doors for me too. I was definitely nervous because Dane Cook was, at the time, one of the biggest comedians around.
Dig: You've referred to yourself as an unfunny comedian. Is there a certain reason why you describe yourself this way? Kassem: I'm super self-deprecating. To me, there is a sort of humbleness that I like about that kind of comedy and lowering people's expectations. I've always liked that angle. Woody Allen is one of my biggest influences and I feel like [that type of comedy] works for me.
Dig: What made you decide to start a YouTube channel? Kassem: I was working at Best Buy at the time and doing comedy part-time on the weekends. A friend of mine named Cory Williams came in looking for a job and he had a video that just went viral called 'The Mean Kitty Song.' I had no idea people could make money on YouTube, let alone become original content creators. I thought it was just a place with weird, stupid videos of people falling on their faces. I realized that there was a whole community of people making videos and engaging with their audience, which I really liked.
Dig: Do you think getting paid affects the way viewers see you since they'll know it's your job? Kassem: I feel like there is no reason why you should not tell people things or lie. If that's the case, then you're not being truly honest with your fan base. I feel like when people ask if I make money on the internet and I say, 'Yeah,' that's it. At this point, with all the press that's been around it, I think people are realizing that there's a lot of money to be made online. I've never been someone who pretends I'm this person that I'm not. I'm not going to say how much I make, but this is what I do and it's my full-time gig.
Dig: How do you deal with the negative attitudes toward your videos? Kassem: That's never really bothered me. I was told a long time ago that you'll never have everyone love everything you do all the time. You're always going to have haters. You can't worry about trying to please everyone. You just have to do what you think is funny. A lot of times, I'm playing a character, so I don't get too much of that. A lot of people realize that it's just a persona and I don't really feel that way about some of the things that I say.
Dig: What inspired you to begin the 'California On' series? Kassem: I always liked the man on the street format. I called a friend of mine, Philip DeFranco, who has a channel on YouTube, and pitched the idea to him. I did it and instantly it was received pretty well. People kept asking for more.
Dig: What made you decide the 'Going Deep' series? Kassem: I really wanted to try something different and more formal. I wanted to play a character that was just totally outrageous and rude. I thought it would be funny to do an 'Inside the Actors' Studio' kind of show but with porn stars. They're such a unique group of people that have such a different view of things in general. As awkward as it looks in those videos, when we're filming it, it's much more awkward. I don't talk to them or prep them before about how the interview is going to go. I like to keep it as awkward as possible. I like doing those more than 'California On,' but they're hard to keep doing because it's more of a process to set-up, shoot and edit. I'm pretty happy with them.
Dig: Currently, your main YouTube channel has over 17 million views total and over 1,000,000 subscribers. Did you ever think this would happen when you started YouTube? Kassem: Not that anyone is counting but the channel itself has 17 million views but the total upload views are over 120 million. I think that puts me at fifteenth or sixteenth most subscribed user. The goal for me was just to find an outlet for my sketch comedy but it slowly evolved and I became more immersed into the community. It's really nice and it makes you feel like some people appreciate what you do. It keeps you motivated.
Dig: What is your ultimate goal from all of this? Kassem: I studied acting and I've always been super interested in it. Ultimately, I would love to just make movies and internet videos. I feel like everything is going toward the internet and I wouldn't change anything for it. I want to try to get so far ahead and I don't want Hollywood to offer me a cameo role in a shitty movie. I would rather make my own movie, which will happen, it's just a matter of time.
Dig: What does the future hold for you? Kassem: 'Going Deep' is coming back, but I just want to make it as strong as the first season. There will be more 'Street Music' and a lot of guests that I wouldn't have been necessarily been able to meet a year ago. If you're enjoying the videos now, they're only going to get better and bigger.
Dig: What do you have to say to your one million subscribers? Kassem: I don't know why you guys watch, but I appreciate it. I'm just happy to have made a couple people chuckle here and there. Thank you so much.