TV

Michael Cera, Sarah Silverman Redefining Online Comedy With Jash YouTube Network

06/12/2013 11:44 EDT | Updated 06/12/2013 11:44 EDT
Joshua Ostroff

Everyone's abuzz about the new season of "Arrested Development," which was recently released en masse onto Netflix, but that's not the only unorthodox avenue that star Michael Cera has been using to get his comedy out into the world.

Last month, Cera posted his first short film, "Gregory Go Boom," in advance of the "AD" onslaught, and has already garnered over 700,000 views for the 17-minute piece of dark comedy in which Cera plays a paraplegic looking for love. Needless to say, it's not your typical viral YouTube comedy clip, which is kind of the whole point of Jash, a YouTube-funded and staffed online comedy "network" headed by Cera alongside fellow cult comics Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts and Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job."

"Well, I made ["Gregory Go Boom"] with two friends of mine. They wrote it, she directed it and he was in it -- actually Bret Gellman and his girlfriend [Janicza Bravo] -- and that was like a 20-minute little film," Cera tells HuffPost Canada. "And it really feels like a movie, and has this cinematic quality to it, but I don't think you really find people doing specifically [things like that]."

"That's where we're trying to break the mold of YouTube a bit," interrupts Tim Heidecker. "Forget what you think about what a YouTube video should be. This is just content we've created, and the way we're delivering it is through this service. So it's a movie or a TV show or a 10-second video, whatever the idea is. YouTube wants to shake up that paradigm, they don't want to just be the place where you look at people falling down stairs."

"I don't think YouTube's about that quick viral video anymore," agrees Eric Wareheim. "Beach House releases a 30-minute concert film in HD, and blew it up on my screen, and I was basically watching the Blu-ray with beautiful sound. That's what we want to try to capture in this. Some will be little comedy bits, but some will be beautiful films."

Like the rest of the Jash crew, Sarah Silverman has made a career onstage, television and online. She went mainstream with the viral "I F---ed Matt Damon" music video for her then-boyfriend Jimmy Kimmel, but also starred in her own cult favourite "The Sarah Silverman Show."

"I loved doing my show on Comedy Central, that was very free compared to network -- there were so many less hoops. But [Jash] is no hoops, literally zero hoops. I did a network pilot and every shit we took had to be OK'd by 17 people. It was a slow annoying process that was mostly because of egos, money, fear and second-guessing.

"At least three of those four things don't work in comedy."

Oh, and if you were wondering about the name, well, Silverman admits it makes as little sense as you might expect.

"We just wanted to pick something random, because what does it matter once people associate it with you? Think about "Friends." If you think about it, it's like, you're going to call a show "Friends"? Then we were at a restaurant and retroactively said it should stand for something. Tim goes, 'Just attitude,' which is so Tim, and then Michael goes, 'So hey.' We're like, OK, 'Just Attitude So Hey.'

And if the five comedians seem equally random, you're not that far off. You may not have considered these five comics to be a comedy troupe -- and there's no reason to start now. They're still each running their own channels, it's just that they want their "shows" to be on the same "network."

"It's such an eclectic mix but we're also like-minded," says Silverman. "Michael Cera's doing short films and I made a video that's 25-seconds long. The common thread is this is stuff we think is cool. We just want to do stuff that is funny and far out and we respect each other. It gives the site variety and we'll curate our own pages with all the comedians we love, too."

Story continues after video interview with Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts

"It's nice to be able to tell friends that they'll be able to make whatever they want, however they want to, and have resources to do it," adds Cera. "It's really not an opportunity that a lot of my friends have often, and a lot of them have stuff that they want to make, and it's exciting in that way."

Cera is actually a pioneer in the online comedy world, having starred in the 2007's ten-part mockumentary "Clark and Michael," which helped establish that his awkward comedy voice could work outside the dynamics of "Arrested Development." But past success doesn't guarantee anything.

"It might be a strange moment in time where there was this experiment that failed," Cera pipes in, "and we had an opportunity to make things, in which case it will be an interesting little collection of work." If anyone knows this, it's Cera, who saw the feverishly anticipated "Scott Pilgrim" film bomb financially.

"'The Expendables' beat the s--t out of us. That was what I took from it. People wanted to see that more than they wanted to see 'Scott Pilgrim.' I don't know, maybe it wasn't marketed well? A lot of people I know saw the posters, saw the trailer, and were like, 'I don't really get it.' I don't know how else they could have marketed it."

"I think if you think you have any control over how anything's going to be received, you're fooling yourself," says Wareheim. "You can make something and you're like, 'I feel really good about this' and then nobody gives a s--t."

"It's like trying to create a viral video or something," Cera admits. "There's no science to a meme. That's like trying to control the weather. It's kind of its own force."

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