The UK is home to people with many different talents. Some are artists, some games developers and some are comedians. I recently had the opportunity to interview Stuart Ashens, one of the most subscribed comedians on YouTube UK, who will be having a stall at the London MCM Expo on Saturday May 26th.
Laura: For those who don’t know, could you tell us a little about yourself
Stuart: I’m a comedian from Norwich who makes YouTube videos, usually based around low quality items. Sometimes I make things for other people like the BBC. And I may even act if offered a particularly sticky bun!
Laura: How did you get into creating YouTube videos? Where did the ideas that you started with come from?
Stuart: Someone on a forum I used to frequent spotted a fake PSP on Ebay. I bought it and ad-libbed a quick video to show it to other forum members who were interested. One of them presumably sent the link to creative site b3ta, who put it in their newsletter the following week leading it to get around 70,000 views (or downloads as it was then – I hadn’t discovered YouTube back in 2005!)
As I only expected about 20 people to watch it I didn’t actually brand it in any way or even say who I was. One of the main reasons I produced a second review was to prove I’d made the first!
Laura: Can you tell us a little about how your recurring characters like Chef Excellence came about? Also, where on earth did you find a Chef Excellence Puppet?
Stuart: Chef Excellence was a bizarre character used to sell a range of plastic bags that keep food fresh. He was just a stock photo they’d attached a silly name to, and judging by the quality they hadn’t even paid for it and just copied the preview…
They soon tired of his bulgy face and replaced him with Max Hoffman, a fake cookery celebrity also composed from stock photos. But Chef Excellence somehow captured the imagination of my audience, so I adopted him before he slipped into mascot oblivion.
The puppet is just a generic off-the-shelf item – you can see identical ones in various places on the internet. Bill Bailey had one on the TV show QI once.
Laura: What is The Proxy? How did you get involved in it?
Stuart: The Proxy is a ten-part episodic drama on my YouTube channel. The setup: Through my own greed and stupidity I accidentally gatecrash a perfectly normal sci-fi thriller, and as a result I have to fight alongside the characters despite not really belonging in the narrative.
I’d always wanted to do something where a review video inexplicably continues on into something bizarre. The production company had an existing idea for a sci-fi drama, and Alienware UK wanted to sponsor something nifty on the web. In one of those rare moments of synchronicity it all came together, a bit like when those kids with magic jewellery summoned Captain Planet.
Laura: What do you think of the people who initially criticised you for being in a series that featured product placement and heavier sponsorship? What would you say to them?
Stuart: I would say “Hello!”
Laura: What can we expect to see from you at the MCM Expo in May?
Stuart: A table with some sub-standard merchandise on. And probably a tablecloth.
Laura: Can you tell us anything about your future plans?
Stuart: No. That would compromise our agents in the field.
Laura: Lastly, do you have any final words?
Stuart: BUY LOW, SELL HIGH.
You can see Stuart’s product reviews as well as his ten part series The Proxy on his YouTube page.