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Jordan Shanks Transcript: 23rd February 2015

(Warning: Explicit language.... seriously, there is a lot)

NW: Comedy is a really difficult ability to master. How did you first get into comedy, and more particularly, the political and social satire that you do now on YouTube?

JS: (0:00) How did I get into the political satire? That was during the election in 2013, and it was because it suddenly dawned on me that there is no real biting satire in Australia. There are television shows that have it, but it’s not the same as cable satire or political satire that you get in the US, because we don’t have the avenues for it. Our media is controlled either by the government, which won’t allow criticism that’s too biting of itself obviously; and then on top of that you’ve got a bunch of media moguls (probably two or three media moguls) who own most of the media in Australia; and if you’re staying things that are against their interest, they are not going to put you on television. So everything you get in Australia is very watered down, very mild, very careful. So basically I just realised there was a massive niche in the market, and then I got more into it and realised that satire is an extremely important tenet of democracy, and if you weed that out of it, it kind of gets away the message that…. Satire is something that is able to breach something that most people think is a very difficult political message, and puts it into terms that make people realise it’s not difficult at all: just the same bullshit over and over again. So that’s how I started into it; after the 2013 election.

NW: (1:44) Fair enough, that’s a fair point. So was YouTube the first thing that popped into your mind when you wanted to talk about all these issues and kind of realising that ‘hey there’s something really up with things like the government’, so, you know, is that what got you into YouTube? And considering how successful you’ve been so far, why do you think that your particular brand of comedy that you do is just so successful?

JS: (2:16) I don’t think it is particularly successful. Look, really The key to massive success in life is to just go low, I reckon. Like, if you wanna hit mainstream and really explode, then you do some really base shit. That’s just proven in all the top YouTube comedy channels; I mean, Jesus Christ, Smosh? You ever fucking watched that shit? That’s the majority of it right? In terms of, when it comes to success with relaying a political message, yeah it’s purely because I’ve cobbled it comedically. So basically there’s a lot of papers and people that are saying exactly the same things that I’m saying, but they can’t get a wider audience because it’s just not accessible. I don’t think it is… particularly, yeah, it’s not a very successful comedic endeavour, but it’s a more successful political endeavour, as much successful comedic channels.

NW: (3:25) Yeah, fair enough. So, just out of curiosity, how much time does it actually take to prepare a video? I’ve been watching your lockout video on a loop and all my friends have been sharing it because we all just agree with; its just so correct in every single way, and I think its totally awesome. So for instance, with that one how much time does it take to prepare a video like that, what’s the method that you use?

JS: (3:56) So it’d take me two days of research, three to four days of writing, one day of filming and then usually three days of editing. But I’ve got editors to do all of that, then I look at it and then and change this and that, but yeah, they… like the amount of work that I would put into a script would be roughly a week, on the script I’d say.

NW: (4:26) So just as a last thing [[on YouTube itself]], what opportunities has YouTube itself opened your life up to? Have you had more success in like, the Australian Comedy scene now that people go, hey, that’s that guy from YouTube who talks about so much awesome stuff?

JS: (4:42) Yeah, yeah its like... YouTube is an incredible avenue; in a lot of ways it’s made it so that you can’t get that kind of wealth and status that used to come with television. There were only a few avenues, if you jumped through all the hoops and got enough sheer dumb luck to make it onto the television screen, you could become extremely wealthy. But now with YouTube, yeah there’s the outliers who have become extremely wealthy and famous and things, but most become extremely comfortable and recognisable [[laughter]], but again, that’s a good thing. That’s still a good thing for art, and basically, just like messaging in general, like… so, yes it has opened up a lot in terms of, I pull a big audience if I ever do a show or say I’m going to be somewhere or something like that. That’s great. In every respect actually, if it wasn’t for YouTube I would not be able to do what I’m doing right now. So, yeah its opened up… I owe my career to YouTube and Facebook. That’s remarkable. It wouldn’t have existed seven years ago, and its so weird to think about that. In the grand scheme of human, of humans being in a society of ten thousand years, just in that last seven years someone like me or someone like Bernie Sanders, or someone who is able to say something just outside of the mainstream narrative wasn’t able to attract a huge audience until 2008, you know?

NW: (6:41) that’s awesome, yeah. So I also kind of wanna talk about literally also, the actual material that you talk about. This is a pretty big question, so what really motivates you to do what you do in terms of satire? Comedy just to begin with is a really excellent way to engage people, but with the topics you cover being so diverse on your channel, the satire goes beyond just being ‘satire’. So what motivates you personally to do what you do?

JS: (7:11) Its kind of a thing of, there’s something about satire that when you start looking at it… a really good quote actually was from this book called ‘Satire and Democracy’ and how the satirist kind of sees the world, most people prefer to look at open meadows and flowing rivers, whereas satirists get real pleasure out of seeing something like a rat eating garbage or something like that, those kind of images… they like looking at the faults, its just like a way to train minds, its kind of sickly in that way. I’ve seen that happen to myself as well, where its just like being fed off unfairness, and sort of things that are extremely unfair. I suppose that is the biggest motivation, especially, considering all things political, just seeing how tired the system is, how it is so obvious that people are trying to push through damaging policies, and nobody in the media is able to speak about it. That is just startling to me, that there are thousands of journalists that are saying the same dot point shit that you hear from the Canberra Press Gallery, and they must know that this is regressive in terms of thought and stuff, particularly if your manager is Rupert Murdoch for instance. Its like a vegetarian in a steakhouse, they could be a vegetarian, but they can’t recommend a vegetarian meal because they work at a fucking steakhouse. So yeah, that’s basically what Murdoch is. Someone has got to fucking say something. Someone has got to say something else.

NW: (9:42) Yeah that’s so awesome, I completely agree with that, because my Dad actually works in journalism too and he is part of, he works for a Fairfax journal, and he goes, ‘yeah journalists these days are just so lazy’, so I really agree. He talks a lot.. he works for the financial review because he is a financial journalist and he talks a lot about how, for instance, how there was a period when Fairfax a few years ago was… there was shackups happening and journalists were losing their jobs; and now there are so many less people doing journalism, and its kind of gone, the number of people covering it has gone so much smaller, and he talks about, it just being ‘lazy journalism’. People aren’t researching anymore and people aren’t taking it serious, being investigative and really getting into the nooks and crannies of every issue; they’re just kinda reading things out, so I totally get that.

JS: (10:52) Yeah, I do actually sympathise with them, because like he actually was saying, like the internet has brought upon an age where the old print versions is dying, not that it wasn’t deserved, but at the same time, the fact that those journalists have to do twice, triple, the amount of work they are expected to do for the same amount of journalistic research they used to do with all those resources, is a huge ask.

NW: (11:26) What I really find interesting is just watching your channel; I really got into your channel before Regina, our editor, asked about doing an interview. When she mentioned that, ‘oh yeah we’re hoping to do something with FriendlyJordies, I was like hells yes. So what I always found really interesting is the contrast of many of your videos: you have a lot of comedy videos like the Yilmaz Videos, or videos where you parody politicans. The one you did about two or three weeks ago about Malcolm Turnbull, I just went, its so right! But for me, I really am drawn to the infotainment videos that you do, that take on a much more serious tone; like I love the one you did about ABC Bias, or the video about Australia repealing the carbon tax, or the lockout video, or any video where you rip apart Jacqui Lambie, I’m just totally a fan of. So do you feel like, when you have that change in tone, do you feel that it causes more people, particularly with our generation, to sit up and pay more attention to clear issues within our society?

JS: (12:45) Does it make them pay more attention?

NW: (12:47) If people are talking more about… you’re using entertainment as quite a powerful tool, does that help to make people sit up and pay more attention to it?

JS: (12:59) Well like this is the whole, this is actually a huge problem with the way the current media works, there’s thousands of problems, but by far the biggest is corporate media ownership, that’s the hugest, but then there’s another one on top of that: that information is constantly inundated into your life and you are drenched with it. Just heaps of factoids, not anything with any real substance is ever really delivered in the media, as a thing that is kind of over and over, like ‘Malcolm Turnbull says that GST hikes are fair’, and it doesn’t fucking go into whether that’s true or not, its just like, that’s what Malcolm Turnbull said, who gives a shit? Find facts about life! Whenever you watch the news, its just like five murders and prince Charles visiting a zoo, just these stupid stories that have no real impact on the direction of society or anything like that, its just a constant stream of titillation. I think that what happens is that in a lot of ways, the media tries to give off this impression (even though its not), but it tries to give this impression of impartiality, it becomes too scared to fucking say anything, so it’s either trying to push an obvious right-wing agenda, or its too scared to say anything on the subject, which then makes the story extremely boring, so I don’t think its necessarily a thing of just saying or putting on a serious turn of something like that, it’s actually separating what the actual facts are of interest, ‘you shouldn’t be paying any attention to that, this is the core of the issue’. It’s about separating the nonsense fluff pieces of information, and being open.

NW: (15:18) That’s awesome yeah. I have actually been chatting to a lot of people about a lot of the stuff that you talk about, and from a lot of the people I talk to, the clear majority of them are younger adults, who quite similar to us in terms of age. I feel like the way you present in your videos really kind of appeals to a younger audience I think, with the way you do it, like the quick jump cuts, the impersonations you do and everything like that. I wanna ask, considering that so many people find (particularly the infotainment) videos you do so enlightening that people these days are so awashed with information, are kind of, generally, a bit less apathetic towards many issues, or do you think that people just lack the right information about so many topics?

JS: (16:18) Well yeah, that’s another thing its just, a massive thing about apathy in Australia, or in the western world in general, is that it is a deliberate attempt to isolate individuals, and its sort of backfiring now; we can still be isolated but sit at our computers but there was a time, and this is a scary thought to me, is that in the nineties for instance, there probably would be a majority of Australians, when John Howard was like we’re introducing the GST, most Australians would have been like ‘this is bullshit’. Now what used to be able to get people together was strong unionism in Australia, which meant there was this kind of network of people who were saying like don’t believe what they say in the press, this is actually going to affect you in these matters, so there was a network of information. But there’s been big attempts in the media to demonise unions because it doesn’t benefit corporate owners to have unions, so they have been slowly dwindling in power. And there was this vacuum, around the Howard era, in the US I suppose with Thatcher and Regan before that, that their unions weakened quicker than ours were. But there was a period where you could sit down and watch them announce these things, and people were like, this is absolute bullshit, and there was nothing you could really fucking do about it; you were just one person, sitting in a room watching a TV of Regan saying ‘we’re gonna privatise the healthcare system’, and you can’t fucking do anything?! But now, because of social media, it doesn’t matter; like people may say oh its just clicktivism, so what? It’s a virtual process. You don’t need to be in the streets marching down with the hundreds of thousands of people, you just need hundreds of thousands of likes. It’s the same thing. Just means that person saw that, understands the situation and goes, I don’t agree with that and I want to vote for that.

NW: (18:20) Yeah that’s awesome, totally agree with that. Now just looking on to potentially what you could do in the future with this awesome channel that you’ve got started, like, what do you hope people will start to do after watching your videos? Do you hope people will be much more aware of whats going on and therefore, hopefully have the power to do something about it? What do you hope people will get from watching your videos?

JS: (18:52) Well, its kind of like… theres been a lot of research as to what’s happened as a result of Stewart and Colbert in the US. What they’ve found is that first of all, our generation is the most informed about their political system of any generation in history. People who would normally have never had an interest in politics, such as younger generations, college dropouts, all of a sudden know who politicians are, which is in contrast in the past. What is basically happening now is that information is… pretty much once you have seen something and laughed at it and realised it is ridiculous, that neoconservative argument loses all of its power; and everybody looks behind the veil, not matter what they say on top of it. Its like with Mike Baird, [[with the lockout laws]] saying, ‘this will protect lives’- bullshit, this will protect fucking lives; this is about protecting fucking lives?! There was a point in history where you could get away with saying that, but if people just know what the actual argument is, that’s enough to get these kind of guys out of power, especially in a system like ours. It would be a lot more difficult in a system like, I dunno, Egypt or some shit; but like here; really you have the power to say ‘no, I refuse to vote for the Liberal party’.

NW: (20:52) That’s awesome. So for you personally, where do you see yourself going in terms of being both an in-tune informer, as well as a comedian? Are you planning to expand beyond just YouTube? And what do you see for your YouTube channel in the future? Obviously it’s a bit difficult to say, ‘oh yes I’m thinking about the future’, but where do you see yourself going?

JS: (21:23) Pretty much if I could get a YouTuber channel that has the same viewership as the Channel 7 nightly news [[laughter]], and I’m almost there; like at the moment I’m on almost 200,000… well not quite there, but I’m on my way. I’m on 200,000 and channel 7 is on about 770,000 a night; give me a couple more years and I will be competing with Melissa Doyle [[laughter]]. That’s really my only goal, to get as many eyeballs as a national broadcaster can get.

NW: (22:11) Finally, as kind of a last thing to say; what would you say to all those who would want to get onto social media platforms like YouTube, or kind of want to get into the kind of stuff that you are getting into right now? Would you have any pearls of wisdom for them?

JS: (22:30) Um… the thing is, there’s a very easily trodden path in social media, which is that you can do a bunch of shit that you know is going to go viral, and once you are in the game for a year, you just sense; you know what the vast majority of people are going to do; ‘like yeah that is so good’ (!). Sure, you can do that, it’s not a sustainable career path I think, there’s ways to make it sustainable but there has to be something… there has to be a ‘why’ to what you’re doing, otherwise you can rise up but you may quickly simmer about because there is some other dickhead doing exactly the same thing as you, and you won’t get that exact same traction, there has to be this underlying purpose for what your content is trying to deliver, and when that happens, because you are conveying something that you actually believe in, other people start getting attracted that strongly believe that as well, and that’s when they start actually helping and start believing in you, will help to propagate your message, give you the funding that you need, give you the avenues, and on top of that, especially in this era, the era of the long tale, in the past everything was mass-marketed, all you used to do in the old days with, say advertising was to say ‘Kellogg’s spend $50 million on showing everyone Kellogg’s’ over and over again in every ad. That no longer works because everyone is using that strategy. What happens now is finding your niche and really being on it. And the real game changer these days is not to be really ‘liked’ by everyone, which is what a lot of huge reality shows and those kind of things do; like I’ve heard stories of YouTubers who have a million followers that put on a ‘come see me’ like that and there will be fucking fifteen people there. I know people that have 60,000 followers and they can go into any city in Australia, or like say the US, Canada, Australia, or any of those places, and they will have like 500, 600, 700, a thousand people there at their venues, because it is true to that niche. As long as you are true to the niche. That’s basically what I’m saying: there has to be a ‘why’ to your content.

NW: (25:27) Yeah that’s awesome, that’s very wise words of wisdom. And just one final thing that I always find hilarious: who is that guy who keeps saying “cam an” at the end of your videos? [[laughter]], I’ve been trying to look him up and I have no idea who he is, and I’m like ‘who is that guy?’, because no matter how serious the video is, that guy just… I can’t stop laughing. Who is that guy?

JS: (25:55) [[Laughter]] Hang on, I can’t remember his name, he was the Prime Minister who came before Margaret Thatcher in England and he was in for like ten months [[laughter]]; let me just see what his name was…

NW: (26:18) Gotta love Margaret Thatcher…

JS: (26:22) Yeah she was a right piece of work… here it is, it was a few prime ministers before Margaret Thatcher, Sir Alex Douglas Holmes. Oh no! He was almost in for a full year! Three days shy of a full year, in the 1964. So yeah, Sir Alex Douglas Holmes. I dunno, he’s got such a nice potato chip head [[laughter]].

NW: (26:46) Oh that’s gold, so great. Now I’ll know forever, it was the Prime Minister before Margaret Thatcher, I love that, that’s great.

JS: (26:57) Yeah thank you, sorry about that, people ask me that all the time and I can’t respond on YouTube cause of that whole Google+ bullshit, you ever been asked to sign up to that? Refuse to sign up to that. I wouldn’t mind it if they tried to ram it down our throat as long as it was user friendly, its fucking not! (27:31)

Sections for our random conversation afterwards:

JS: (29:58) (We were talking about how annoying it was that in the last few years how politicians have been removing prime ministers from office more often) Mostly, I would say that is mostly the fault of the Australian public; it’s a real damning indictment on them, that they think that a face changes the whole party, which it doesn’t. Its so dumb to me. I didn’t really give a fuck when labor changed faces or anything like that aside from the fact I felt sorry for them: dude, imagine being fired as prime minister, that would be some serious shaming shit. [[laughter]] I can see the political mindset of that, it makes perfect logical sense, because this guy has a massive approval rating and this guy doesn’t so well oust him, that makes total sense, but the fact the Australian public is now like ‘aww Malcolm Turnbull is in now; it’s a totally different party! We’re saved!’ Its shit! [[laughter]] I mean, no other country in the world does that do they? Its such an Australian thing.


JS: (33:30) (talking about how Julia Gillard was vilified after ousting Kevin Rudd, in comparison to Turnbull with his ‘bloodless’ coup) It’s just a narrative that the media puts in, that ‘she’s a backstabber!’ You know what this reminds me of? There was a dude in the 1700s that was saying that the print was the most frustrating thing to have ever happened, because before that there was a bunch of intellectuals with their own little ideas that they debate amongst each other while the vast majority of people didn’t have access to that shit, so they didn’t think that they had good opinions on those things, and then suddenly the papers came out, and one dude would be writing, this is what you should think about this, and everyone goes Yeah! And suddenly everyone has opinions; even on subjects which don’t even fucking matter to them. Like climate change is the perfect example of that ‘its been the same for seventeen years’; you don’t fucking know that! You read fucking Andrew Bolt! He’s no fucking climate scientist! Someone says have this opinion and you just take it.


(After talking about issues of Coal Seam Gas in the country and how no one seems to notice it) NW (39:36): I think maybe that’s the problem with why people are so unaware of it, because right now they are not dealing with it, people may only make it an issue, once it starts to affect them personally.

JS: (39:49) Its disgusting. I don’t understand how… that’s a very basic level of empathy there, right? It’s like some dude is getting his property invaded by coal seam gas wells, his whole property and way of life is destroy, and he is getting fined for protesting about it, while the Gas company is making billions off his land, and nobody… if you were to tell someone that, they’d say ‘yeah that sucks. Mike Baird looks more trustworthy though’, ‘again with this lockout law, the most minor offence that Mike Baird has done is that ‘you can’t drink at the 3 in the morning’ You can’t have a double black and people are going nuts. He’s poisoned our water. That man has poisoned our water systems and got no traction for it; he got away with that! Its super villain level evil, poisoning people’s water, that’s something that the Joker does!


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