By Justin Guillou / August 2nd, 2016
At ConnectiCon I was given the opportunity to speak with Doug Walker of Channel Awesome. Best known as the Nostalgia critic. He shares some insight on how he feels about the state of YouTube and what producing video content is like today.
OR: Thank you for coming out and speaking with me Doug. So the first question I have for you involves the origins of the critic SPECIFICALLY, what you wear in the episodes. Did you have any other outfits that you were considering for Nostalgia Critic, and why did you go with the one that you did choose?
DW: I like the idea that it was a guy who wanted to look professional but then gave up half way through. I always like suitcoats. I am a sucker for suitcoats and I think everybody looks good in a suitcoat. Men, Women, Kids. Everybody looks good in a suitcoat. So I know I wanted that. And at some point, I think I was doing the Harry Potter Event and my brother said: “it’s a big event, you should wear a tie” and just immediately the white shirt came to my head and the tie just hanging around, I loved it. It just sort of became that ever since. I like it because as soon as you see someone dressing like that you know what it is and who it is. It’s very simple as well and a lot of people can cosplay it so its pretty cheap. *laughs*
OR: That’s really cool and definitely very accessible for cosplays. So over the years, how has the character changed or rather stayed the same since you created it and how did you develop it?
DW: It’s always been an exaggeration of my real thoughts. I don’t legitimately get angry at movies. Like I’ll start to get angry for fun just to let off steam or stress, but I know there are bigger problems in the world as I think the internet forgets a lot. It is one of the reasons that the character over time has evolved over the years. He got a little bit smarter, a little bit sympathetic. He still not very smart all the time and still full of himself, but I like that he will give movies a little bit more of a chance and sort of analyze what works and what doesn’t. I think that opens people up to the idea that everything isn’t so black and white. I think in the early days, people saw Nostalgia Critic as this ‘Hero’, this person they looked up to and they were not supposed to! He is supposed to be a loser! It was supposed to be like the people in Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you were not supposed to be on his side. But people were and that kind of concerned me so I like the idea that he is full of himself. He’s still an egotist but he legitimately can talk intelligently about movies and what’s important and what you should be getting out of a film.
OR: Of course you’ve definitely had an impact on your fans and of course, plenty of memes have come from your videos. Were there any that you were really surprised of. Like you did a video and you said: ” Wow I’m surprised that became so popular”?
DW: Probably the ‘Taste the rainbow motherfucker’ one. Some of them you can tell we were trying to hammer it in or make it a thing like ‘Frozen today’ and ‘Bat Credit Card’ but that one we only said it once and everybody just loved it and kept quoting it in the comments and people still say it to me at conventions. I’m really glad because we thought that was a really funny line. I remember I played it back for my brother when we were watching it and he just fell out of his seat laughing. So that’s probably the one.
OR: You started making content on YouTube back in 2007, in your honest opinion. Do you think it is easier to create content today than it was back then? To expand on that, how has the changes in the YouTube “‘Climate’ so to speak, affected your ability to produce content?
DW: There’s pros and cons to all of it. Why I am where I am right now is because of a lot of hard work and skill, but a lot of luck was involved. I was there at the right time with the right product. I think it was like me, James Rolfe, maybe one of two other people that were really doing this kind of ‘funny’ reviews and especially negative reviews. I came in at the right time, so I think it is harder to do something like this now. You have to have something a little bit more unique, a little bit more of an identity and even I have had to change it. I can’t just be in front of a wall the whole time yelling. I had to find a different way of doing it because anyone can do it now. But I also think there is an advantage to that as it forces you to be more clever and do a review in a different way maybe using songs, using characters or using stories. Using your medium rather than being a visual written review. In terms of YouTube in general with the whole copyright thing, even though we have done a lot with Fair Use, we were pretty much kicked off of YouTube because they didn’t really have a plan set. Or the plans didn’t work very well and eventually it started to calm down and it[the channel] became an even bigger hit. Then the problems came back as well and we noticed that it would be like this ‘wave’ where it would suddenly be okay then a lot of takedowns would happen. I’m sure it’s from them changing stuff or things being stuck in the algorithm. We totally understand that YouTube is in a tight spot with it. It started not with the intention of making a profit. It was just a place for people to post videos. Now people are making their living on it. With that, there is going to come changes and there is going to be pros and cons with it. It’s hard to say whether or not its better or worse. I know that I always give credit that they are trying to make it better. We really believe that with YouTube. That they are legitimately trying to be as fair as they can. But we also know that they are in a really tight spot. They can’t snap their fingers and suddenly make everything better because they have a lot of tie-ins with other people, so we get that as well, but there’s got to be that compromise.
OR: So Obviously, your channel has been very successful. You have several thousands of fans all over the world, do you think that your channel helped to create a new and healthy community for people to discuss film and be able to criticize it in kind of an objective standpoint?
DW: I can say that’s definitely what we are trying to do. We were talking about this earlier with the new Ghostbusters movie coming out and the fanbase was just getting more and more extreme; like there is a right or wrong to it and there’s not. I think there very much should be this idea of sharing not forcing. Sort of putting an opinion out there and listening to it instead of shoving it down your throat and declaring that something is fact when it’s clearly not. And I think with the Critic now, that’s very much what we are trying to and enforce. Before we didn’t because he was the moron, he would say “My opinion is fact and there’s no way around it” but now we think it’s important because people are legitimately thinking that we can’t emphasize that anymore even as a joke. So I think it’s always good to show that it’s good to express opinions and different helpful points of view instead of just saying you have to agree with me or you’re wrong.
OR: That’s good, I really like that mindset that you have. It’s not something that you are writing reviews to try and sway people’s opinion you are making them say, “this is how we feel, you can go ahead and check it out yourself to formulate your own opinion. If you agree with us awesome, if not whatever!”
DW: I think that’s what helps with the critic being a character. If somebody likes a movie I don’t like, I don’t care. They can like it all they want. If anything, I like to hear why they have a difference in opinion or what it meant to them, especially if I really hate it because then you learn about the person. I think with the critic you can really do these exaggerations, you can have more fun, you can make the point a little stronger and the point of view stronger. There still has to be that understanding, it’s a cartoon, it’s a character it’s not a real person.
OR: I know your channel and Cinemassacre are very similar in that sense. I know a lot of video games that James has reviewed that now because of his review, people think are terrible. It’s cool that you have that mindset. It’s something that often comes up where people see a popular video and they kind of use that to make their decision for them as for whether or not they are going to enjoy the product or not. Speaking of AVGN, I noticed that you were in his new video game: The Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures II as a boss. So what was it like seeing a pixelated version of yourself just come up in this random video game.
DW: It’s great. I like that they sort of emphasized how pointless I am. I won’t give away what happens to the character in the game, but I was howling with laughter when I saw it what they finally did with him. I thought it was great building up to that. It really killed me*laughs*. People will get that joke more if you played the game.
OR: I know you switched over to Vessel recently. How has that changed your channel and the way you make content?
DW: Vessel has this thing where you pay $3 a month, you can see all the people’s content on Vessel that signed up to do it whenever they put it a week early or month early. We really like that we thought it was a cool idea to pay $3 a month to get this person’s videos early. I like that you pay once and you get ALL these people’s content really early. They have been really nice to us and everything we have been doing so far has been really great. So we’ve definitely been enjoying it.
OR: So where do you see your channel moving forward? Any plans you have to update the channel and expand on what you have already built?
DW: We just started Awesome comics, we are going to try and get that growing. We are throwing a bunch of other new shows. We have Tamara’s Never Seen, Awesome Build and we kind of just want to get more shows going. something beyond just what I do because what I do is just so much fun but a lot of work to do. So it’s nice to get all these other content creators on the channel doing their stuff while also having content creators on channelawesome.com doing all of their great stuff, great reviews and characters. So yeah, Its just trying to get more material out there.
OR: Finally to conclude, do you have any advice or any pointers to give to someone who is trying to start out in this new age of YouTube?
DW: What I always say is do it because you love it. There is a very strong chance you won’t make it. I don’t mean to be pessimistic but there really is. It’s just exploded and it’s so much bigger and even if Nostalgia Critic never took off I would have been glad that I did the videos that I did. So if you do it for that reason, then if it does take off and you make a living off it, you will be all the more grateful and it will be all the more incredible. But if it doesn’t take off, you will still want to look back and be all: “I’m glad I did that! I’m really glad I put the time in because that what fun”. I say be brutally honest with yourself, really listen to your gut. If you are listening to all the people in the comments that’s not a good idea. If they say something you think is right, go ahead and change it, but you are not going to be able to please everybody and just watch your video and say: Would I watch this? Would I click on this?Would I click on this idea? Would I keep watching this person past a few seconds? Be honest. You can love your work which is fine, but be honest. If you were not the person in the video, would you still watch this and how far would you watch, and what changes would you make?
OR: That is some great advice and great insight. Thank you very much for speaking with me Doug! It was a pleasure speaking with you and learning about your channel and yourself. Just thanks a lot
DW: Absolutely! Thank you man!
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