This series, DCH Alumni: Where Are They Now?, explores the lives of former Dallas Comedy House (DCH) students and graduates, showcasing their creativity and how they’ve used lessons from DCH classes in their artistic pursuits.
Joe Scott is the host of the popular, science-based YouTube channel Answers With Joe, which currently has more than 180,000 subscribers. He’s also a DCH alum, attending improv and stand-up classes in 2012-2013.
I recently sat down with Joe in his home studio to learn more about his channel, the production process, and how DCH classes helped prepare him for his YouTube career.
Jason Hensel: What is your channel’s origin story?
Joe: In the beginning, it was just a comedy thing, and it was called Ask Joe. I would take questions on Facebook and make funny videos out of them. Then I did one video on a science-related topic, the Fermi Paradox. It was the first hit I had.
When you’re on YouTube, on the sidebar there’s a recommended video, so it started showing up there. There were a couple of different videos that were getting millions of views, and YouTube was sharing it on that. It got 50,000 views. That was huge at the time. I got a bunch of subscribers off of it, and I was like, “Hey, do you have questions?”
I got a whole bunch of questions from these new people who were excited. There was something about that — it’s like holy crap, there’s somebody out there who wants to see this. I said, every Monday I’m going to upload a video, even if it’s just me on my phone saying, “Sorry, I got nothing today.” I’m going to upload something every Monday, and I’ve kept that up with only a couple of exceptions since fall 2014.
It takes a long time. There are probably some things I could have been doing that would have helped. But it was only when I got consistent about it that 50 to 70 became 100 subscribers, then 200, 500, 1,000 — the next thing you know, it just started growing.
That’s the whole thing on YouTube, when you do something that works, keep doing it.
JH: What did you learn in your DCH classes that helps you produce your show?
Joe: I learned so much from the classes, just from improv in general, that applies everywhere. Every conversation is an improvisation, and there are all kinds of jokes that I put in my videos, which I probably got more from stand-up.
Actually, I stole something from Dean Lewis [his former teacher]. At the end of every class, he said goodbye and “love you guys.” It’s just a little thing, but it always made me feel good, and at some point in the channel, I started saying that at the end of the videos. It’s a standard thing I do now. I just say, “Love you guys, take care.” That’s how I end every video.
I get comments from people who write, “I love when you say that.” I think it’s just people don’t say that very much. We’re always so coy about that word, but when you just say it, it has a power. That’s something I learned from Dean. So all the jokey type stuff came more from the stand-up classes than improv classes. But I do interviews now. I do podcasts, and that’s more just making it up as you go.
JH: The episodes seem very loose. Do you memorize what you write?
Joe: I basically do it one line at a time.
One of the nicest comments that I get about my channel from people is that it sounds very off the cuff, it sounds very real. People say it’s like they’re having a drink with me or something, and I really want to maintain that.
Some days it’s just a good day, and then some days it’s just — it’s a beating. I just cannot get the lines out, and then I’m like, “Who wrote this shit?” Oh, yes. I did.
JH: How many hours do you spend on something you’re working on?
Joe: I try to give myself two days to write, and one day to outline and research. The downside of being a YouTuber is if you’re not uploading stuff, you’re not making any money. You have to plan ahead. You have to record videos ahead of time.
JH: How long does it take you to edit, and how long are the typical episodes?
Joe: They’re getting way too long. I need to keep between 10 and 15 minutes, that’s a sweet spot.
JH: Is that normally a sweet spot for YouTube videos?
Joe: That changes over time. When I first started doing it, it was more around five minutes, maybe five to 10.
I think once upon a time, the shorter videos did better. Now, YouTube is trying to be more like Hulu and Netflix. They have their original content. They’re trying to be a bit more upscale. Now, it seems to reward longer videos.
In terms of how long it takes to edit, the rough cut I can do in a couple of hours.
The final edit is where I have to go find videos and pictures that I want to include. That’s what takes most of the time. I throw music underneath, which I’ve got this set of music now that I use all the time, and I just copy and paste from the old timelines in last week’s video. Then I just put all that stuff together. The final edit takes longer. It could take the better part of the day.
To be continued in Part 2.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Jason Hensel likes books, bacon, and performing in his troupes .f.a.c.e., The 1995 Chicago Bulls, Ye Olde Comedie Guilde, and Don't Broken, Not Fixin.