It’s access all areas when you’re the guv’nor – stats galore behind the scenes here at Winegum Towers; a recent glance at the viewing figures for one random day included not just the UK and Ireland, but the US, Canada, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Russia, Iceland, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Nigeria. A league of nations indeed! Sifting through stats is actually a good way of measuring how far one’s meanderings are journeying and gives the author a real sense of having a global reach; the daily graph of how many views one receives is another handy yardstick. Some days without a new post have higher viewing figures than those with one, but it’s understandable that it can take a day or two for a post to attract attention beyond hardcore regulars. Example: The last post appeared on the 24th – 58 views on the day, 64 the following day, and 68 the day after that. Moreover, the amount of ‘likes’ a post receives can often be disproportionate both to the views it amasses and the number of comments accompanying it. I’ve long since given up trying to second-guess what kind of story will generate the most feedback, which is why I usually just put out whatever I feel like writing about and see how it goes. You can hardly ever predict these things.
Sometimes, an old post can accrue a remarkable – and, to me, inexplicable – amount of views. This week there’s been an upsurge of interest in a quite early (2015) post called ‘Video Killed the Video Star’ – 24 views in total. Mind you, I took a look at it and I thought the theme was quite relevant to the here and now; it was an embryonic critique of big tech policy on YouTube and seemed highly prescient in its predictions. The closing statement – published on 17.12.15 – reads: ‘The way things are going, YT could end up as bland and predictable as MTV within five years, completely negating its initial intent. It wasn’t supposed to be one more promotional juggernaut for record companies or movie studios, but that’s what it’s on the road to becoming.’ Interesting that I was able to foresee at least one technological and cultural development before it became the norm, probably because YT was the platform I had the most online experience with at the time and therefore could sense which way the wind was blowing. Wish I’d been wrong, mind.
Perhaps that particular post attracted unexpected attention due to something that happened this week to my YT channel that has caught me genuinely by surprise. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason over the past seven days, a platform I walked away from almost two years ago has suddenly ‘gone viral’, and I’m not being liberal with hyperbole there either – the stats speak for themselves. On one day last week, one specific video received a staggering 49,568 views in the space of 48 hours; in just one sixty minute period the day after, my channel received 6,060 views – in just a single hour! Believe me, these kinds of figures are unprecedented for me, and they’re the last thing one expects when the most recent video posted on there appeared in July 2019 – and even then, that had been the first one I’d uploaded to YT since the previous October. Therefore, it’s pretty accurate to say this isn’t a medium I’ve devoted much time to of late, and it’s somewhat disarming to be showered in euphoric praise for something I can barely relate to anymore.
At the moment, I feel like someone who was in a band that never made it, a band that split after releasing a couple of universally ignored albums, with its individual members moving on and putting the past behind them. And then one of their old numbers is used on an ad or in a movie and it suddenly starts to sell, ending up a massive hit. From getting no more than a dozen comments on videos a week, this past few days has seen me receiving upwards of 40-50 comments a day, so many that I haven’t actually got time to reply to them all and thank people for their kind words. And, it has to be said, 99% of them are kind. Sure, there are one or two compelled to express their distaste/disgust with either too-close-for-comfort satire or bawdy ‘Derek & Clive’-style humour, and these tend to divide into two camps: the ‘analytical critic’ who spends several paragraphs emphasising how much more cleverer he is than you, and the blunt grunter who keeps his opinion to a minimum of words, one of which is usually ‘shit’. I’ve been called a lefty communist and a Daily Mail reader, which is quite an impressive combination. But these are very much the exception to the rule, however.
‘OMG. This has made my stomach hurt. Absolutely brilliant’; ‘My face is hurting’; ‘Funniest things I’ve watched in a long time, possibly ever’; ‘This is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen’; ‘This is quality material the likes of which we have not seen in a very, very long time. Absolutely magic’; ‘Did want to comment, but can’t stop laughing; ‘What a find’; ‘I think you may well be a comic genius’; ‘First time I’ve ever watched these. Never laughed so much’– yes, I know that sounds reminiscent of Eric Idle’s door-to-door salesman with his range of joke-shop goods – ‘Denmark never laughed so much’ etc. – but these are merely a tiny snippet of the kinds of comments I’ve been getting and am still getting. Several have put their appreciation in the context of the zeitgeist. The majority of these videos may be old, but it would appear they’re serving as some sort of contemporary panacea when people are approaching lockdown breaking point, desperately searching online for something to take their mind off 2021 and cheer them up in a way the sterile excuse for TV comedy is incapable of in this oversensitive age. Why so many have stumbled upon my channel simultaneously is a mystery to me, but I can only put it down to communal cabin fever.
The video that seems to have become the introduction to the oeuvre for most is one called ‘Dumpton’, a pastiche of the Gordon Murray trilogy that I put together and posted three years ago, placing the characters and setting in present-day Britain. Judging by the comments of those who’ve just discovered it, my take on the series appears to be more relevant in 2021 than it was in 2018. Hot on the heels of ‘Dumpton’ is our old friend ‘Buggernation Street’. The durability of this 28-part saga never fails to stagger me, considering it ended six years ago. These days, I can often watch an isolated episode simply as a viewer, completely detached from wherever I was when I produced it in the early 2010s – and whatever I was on (WTF was I on, I often ask myself). I can laugh along with everyone else who finds it funny and I also find it amusing that many new viewers are so thrown by the multitude of potty mouths on these instalments that they assume a team of experienced comedy writers and voice artists put them together; it almost feels like too much of an ego trip to let them in on the secret that I’ve always been a one-man band.
It’s fair to say I’ve been more than a bit taken aback by this overnight interest and enthusiasm for creative projects I was most productive in between, roughly, 2012 and 2017. I may have migrated from mainstream YT to the obscure wilderness that is Vimeo, but I still produce videos of this nature every few months, generally if a funny idea comes to me – only if a funny idea comes to me, however; trying to be funny on demand would result in below-par entries in the series – besides, there aren’t enough hours in the day, lockdown or no. There’s the Telegram to attend to, I’m currently writing my first novel in two years, the odd poem is coming to me every few days that will eventually form part of a fresh collection, and it’s nice to have a little leisure time as well. I’m stuck as to how I can capitalise on this unanticipated flurry of interest when I’m not really operating in that specific creative field much these days, but it’s still gratifying to be drenched in gushing appreciation, I can’t deny it. Yet again, the consequence of shutting down society and isolating the population behind closed doors has prompted some strange and surprising developments. As Albert Tatlock might have said, ye can shove yer sea shanties up yer arse.
© The Editor