Infectious Comedy

Infectious Comedy

By Carrie Cummings Posted on Jun 20, 2013

Josh Ruben and Vincent Peone have been inseparable for the past 15 years. As teenagers, both met in upstate New York when Vince was a member of a band playing Josh's birthday party. After college, they found themselves in New York wanting to make hilarious short videos. Armed with an inheritance left by a grandmother, they bought nice cameras, started a sketch comedy troupe called Dutch West and began creating videos.

Now that they're all grown up (sort of), the duo still create, direct and star in their own short films. The difference between now and then? Today they are signed with mega-site College Humor, reaching millions of viewers online, and marketing group Click 3X recently hired them to create video ads for brands.

We spent some time getting to know Josh and Vince, who participated in Creative Week May 6-9, first with a panel on making videos go viral and then with a presentation at the Creative unConference.

Just how deep does their bromance go? They share an email account where we caught up with them after Creative Week to talk about viral succeess and their new gig.

How was your experience at Creative Week and the Creative unConference?

Josh: Creative Week was a lot of fun. Our presentation was well attended, people were laughing with our stuff and at it, which is good! Our unConference presentation was on one of the busiest days of the year for us, so we were kicking ourselves at how much we had to miss out, but the whole experience was great. That kind of informal, participation-based presentation is really progressive. Very anti-yawning.

Vincent: Speaking at Creative Week felt a lot like being at the "cool party." You know when you get a laugh that it's coming from industry professionals, which is the ultimate compliment. The unConference is inspired. Such a unique format—essentially putting the power in the hands of the participants. It's like the Internet of presentations.

You guys are good at making videos go viral. Explain why in one sentence. Then elaborate.

J: We're good at making viral videos because they're fast, fun, and nice to look at. Vin, you elaborate—I'm getting sick of typing next to my angry girlfriend.

V: Over at College Humor, we've had the benefit of creating content since the early days of the internet being a destination. We'd like to think we grew up with it. Along the way, we came to understand the science of what works and what doesn't. It's like learning how to talk to women, as Josh just demonstrated.

Who are your mentors? What kind of guidance have they provided?

J: Sam Reich is one of my mentors. Sam is the President of Original Content at College Humor and is also 2 years younger than me, which really upsets me so I try not to think about it.

Just kidding. We've been friends since we were teens. Sam knows anything and everything about the "viral space" because he never tires of it. One time when I was feeling particularly frustrated about not knowing how to do something he goes, "Pick up a book and read about it." Such simple advice but it sums Sam up. I never forgot that.

V: Back in film school, I made a friend in a professor, Gerry Wenner. For some reason, he laughed at and believed in the horribly-produced comedy sketches myself, Josh, and Sam Reich were putting up on the Internet. He owned his own production company and started putting me up to direct commercial gigs with companies like IBM and Time Warner Cable before I even finished school. It felt great to have someone believe in me right out of the gate—the chance he took on me still sticks with me.

What elements of your creative shorts do you bring to making advertisements?

J: It depends. The spirit and sensibility is always there. We want everything to look great ­—that's huge. It has to be nice on the eyes. Not Transformers 4 flashy-nice, but pretty or dynamic in its aesthetic. Beyond that, it's whatever we can bring to a project within reason that makes us laugh.

V: We've been really fortunate in that we've met some phenomenal performers along the way. People who we've laughed with and sweat with in basements with no air conditioning to get a shot are people who have followed us into the commercial world. The Upright Citizen's Brigade community has been integral to bridging the gap between Internet sketch and commercials.

Can you briefly explain your relationship with Click 3X. How did it come about?

J: We are on-staff comedy directors at Click 3X. We were brought aboard Click by Mary Crosse, the best EP around, who before Click worked at the coolest place around, Lucky Branded Entertainment.

V: Also, we heard Click 3x has happy hours every few Thursdays. Craft beer? I mean, c'mon!

You both have been with College Humor for seven years and Click 3X for one?

J: Yup. We started as a sketch group called "Dutch West." Way back when, College Humor took a liking to us and asked us to make some videos on a freelance basis the first year. This was shortly after the birth of YouTube. I've been a full-time, on-staff director/writer/cast-member for five years.

V: A true testament to a good job is how long you stick around. College Humor is very much a family and we wouldn't trade our time there for anything in the world. It's just one of those gigs that continues to give and evolve. It's only been a year with Click, but the folks over there have turned us on to some really exciting opportunities.



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