Nathan Anderson Interview
In 2012, comedian Nathan Anderson had an idea. Standup memes were floating around the Internet, but without structure. With the popularity of the website reddit skyrocketing, Anderson decided to create a centralized location for undiscovered comics to post material. People could get a quick laugh, and unknown comics could get exposure.
/r/standupshots, a subset of reddit, was a success. Comics saw their jokes going viral; some were reposted by George Takei on Facebook (5,000,000+ followers and growing), and some (like yours truly, a big fan of the outlet) had some jokes go viral, and others make it to The Huffington Post.
Unfortunately, Anderson wasn’t happy.
Using the meme format he championed with his creation, Anderson delivered a scathing review of the very site hosting his handiwork, seen here.
With that post, something interesting happened: his post made it’s way to the front page of reddit, garnered tons of exposure, and /r/standupshots exploded in numbers, currently topping 100,000 subscribers.
Rooftop used same-named comedian Nathan Timmel to discuss all things meme with Nathan Anderson.
NT: When you left, it didn’t look like burning a bridge, it looked like a demolition. How long at the idea of walking away from your creation been growing in you?
NA: I always knew I wanted to get away from it somehow. It was never something I really cared about; just something I set up because I was the one who knew how. Regardless of the subreddit, mods burn out eventually. Doing it well turns reddit into a full-time job for no money, subject to constant criticism. It was cutting into my real passion – telling dick jokes to drunk bachelorette parties.
NT: /r/standupshots popularity and visibility really increased because of your post. Do you feel this is a situation that went from negative turned positive, or do you believe the same problems exist that made you leave?
NA: I knew it would get some visibility, and in the short term it was definitely positive. But reddit has a short attention span, and the larger problems with the site remain publicly unaddressed. If those don’t change, reddit won’t die and may even grow slowly. But in terms of cultural relevance, it’ll turn into another early-decade web fad like somethingawful or 4chan.
NT: Any thoughts of returning?
NA: Only as a lurker, and only to look up specific information. Reddit is a huge site, so the fact that /r/funny sucks doesn’t mean /r/malefashionadvice or /r/fitness can’t be useful. It’s my go-to site for information on shoes.
NT: What sort of feedback have you received?
NA: Comics understand and supports me, even if they don’t post to the site. Those are the people I care about. There’s a few career moderators on reddit who are pissed at me, but they’re dicks so fuck ‘em.
NT: You were worried that fewer submitters would kill the site, but with your post there are more submitters and subscribers than ever; how do you feel about that?
NA: I’m glad it worked out. It’ll be fine as long as it keeps expanding, but it’s like a shark. If it doesn’t constantly pull in more people, they’ll move on to something else.
NT: Steve Hofstetter described the group as “An open microphone with 100,000 people in the audience.” Even without posts making it to the front page, do you think there could have been value in comics posting for other comics; a place for peer feedback on jokes?
NA: It definitely has value for that, and long as comics are willing to sort the useful comments from the typical reddit jackassery. I just hope comics realize that a joke that does well on standupshots still has to do well onstage. The karma is nice, but it doesn’t mean anything if no one laughs in real life.
NT: You understood the power of the meme, and joked it was the future of comedy; do you feel it is the present of comedy now?
NA: It depends on when and where you are. If you’re a broke college kid, or living in a town without access to stagetime, it’s more useful than doing nothing. But I always felt the final goal was getting people to watch videos, or come to real shows. For comics, internet pictures shouldn’t be an end in themselves.