YouTube stars crossing over to TV (or at least trying)

Thursday, 21 February 2013 12:25 PM Written by 

joey meghanWhen CBS announced the contestants on this new season of "The Amazing Race" (8 p.m. Sunday), I went through the list as I normally do looking to see if there are any contestants with Pittsburgh ties (not that I could see this time). But I was stopped by the occupations of the members of one team: Both Joey Graceffa and Megan Camarena were listed as "YouTube hosts." Who knew this was a job?

As I watched some clips on their YouTube channels I fell down a deep rabbit hole of Internet celebrity culture.

Read more after the jump. ...

2a3a56cc763c11e284c322000a1fbca9 7When you follow one YouTube host you tend to find still more. Joey even tweeted a photo of himself with fellow YouTube star Sam Pepper (at left). Sam, in turn, tweeted his own photo with Joey. It's mutual admiration society writ large small viral.

I became curious about this whole phenomenon because, despite some TV-YouTube synergies, I'd heard of none of these people before stumbling into them through Graceffa. So a few weeks ago I started following some of them on Twitter just to get a sense of who they are and maybe why anyone would become their fan.

Many of them -- all attractive twentysomethings, many self-proclaimed nerds and fans of a facet of pop culture -- seem to be essentially doing lifecasting, just recording mundane daily observations, a rundown of their activities that they record for the benefit of those who watch them (often they take viewers along, like Graceffa's indoor skydiving video). This is not unlike lifecasting pioneer and former Pittsburgher Justin Ezarik. I can understand a few becoming popular but a whole army of lifecasters?

Some seem to have aspirations of getting into acting, like Lucas Cruikshank, who created a character online and then brought the character to Nickelodeon.

But most of the YouTubers I found were not playing a character but a version of themselves. Some are pretty funny, like Keep It Clean, Kyle (excellent comic timing) and others are popular for no discernible reason other than a certain charisma. But they must be doing something right.

Pepsi apparently paid to send YouTuber Tyler Oakley to the Super Bowl. Sam Pepper, who I later discovered appeared on a season of the British version of "Big Brother," got more than 204,000 hits for a prank video last week. He's evidently doing well enough to support a trip to Japan that he tweeted about this past weeked: "GUYS IN JAPAN! MAKE SURE YOU COME SAY HI i will be arriving in Narita, Tokyo Japan termainal 1 on the 19th at 4.10pm."

While many of these YouTubers don't have any obvious talent beyond self publicity "The Amazing Race's" Graceffa at least embarks on the occasional creative endeavor, including a parody of a One Direction song/video.

It's a brave, bizarre new media landscape and it will be interesting to watch and see if any of these YouTubers can manage to cross over and sustain a career in mainstream media or if these twentysomething mad scientists of the viral video age will eventually have to get real jobs.

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