Next in this series of interviews with content creators, YouTubers and Web stars, I spoke to Brock Baker - the Man of a Kajillion Voices - about his brush with viral fame, Vine and trying to "graduate" from YouTube.
Warning: some of the language in the videos featured may not be entirely safe for work.
Brock Baker is the "Man of a Kajillion Voices", which might be an underestimate. His eight year tenure on YouTube doing impressions, sketches and parodies has netted half a million subscribers and over 97 million views on his main channel. He's also the eponymous creator of 'Brock's Dubs', where he takes a vocally irreverent look at music videos, television shows and film trailers.
Brock started on YouTube under the username 'McGoiter' in 2006. "My channel just started as a dumping ground for stuff I made in college. Soon after, I started doing impression videos and it just kind of took off from there. In middle school, I used to draw a lot...I made up a character named Steve McGoiter. This name became my internet alias."
As McGoiter, many of the videos Brock uploaded were based around his skills as a voice actor and impressionist, including a trilogy of videos doing 101 different voices against the clock. Soon he also began making parodies, vlogs, sketches and even some early dubs.
"I think I'm most proud of my 'The Twisted Fate of Chappy LaStrange' series, it's definitely the hardest to do...There's a huge story arc there too. It used to be a yearly series, but I haven't done one since 2012, I think I over complicated myself. I'm a one man team. I do have bigger plans for it though, I really want to get back to it soon."
When 13 year old singer Rebecca Black shot to viral infamy in 2011 with 'Friday', a song and music video lambasted as the 'worst ever' by critics, it was ripe for lampooning. "I had seen a few other dubs and parodies of it and I honestly thought I would be too late with mine since the video had been popular for over a week. In Internet terms, that's ancient."
"I had really wanted to get into dubs even before YouTube and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I started dubbing this 'Friday' video, made her sound like Christopher Walken and finished about two hours later. I was originally going to dub the whole thing but got bored with it so I added them driving off a cliff. I don't think it would have been as popular had I dubbed the whole thing."
The video accumulated over 30 million views in the days following its release and has been watched more than 43 million times as of July 2014. "I was honestly shocked at the positive response of this stupid video I pooped out in two hours, really overwhelming."
The popularity of Brock's first dub even extended to Rebecca Black herself. "Surprisingly, she's a fan," said Brock. "There's an interview she did where she was asked what her favorite 'Friday' parody was and, without skipping a beat, she says 'Brock's dub'. That really blew my mind. Good on her for having a sense of humor."
The Friday parody kicked off the 'Brock's Dub' channel which satirises pop culture as well as other work from Ark Music Factory, the label that produced Black's original video. In the three years since, Brock admits disappointment at how successful his work since has been. "I had a slight taste of internet fame. None of my stuff has gotten even a fraction of that viralness since then."
"Yes, viralness is a word," he adds.
Despite having almost 300,000 subscribers on his dubs channel, Brock doesn't see much of a future for it. "I'm kind of bored with dubs. As I'm sure other people are too based on the views of my latest ones. So I'm taking a bit of a break. If something comes along that I absolutely have to dub, then I will. I think I'll keep up the yearly Halloween dub, those are fun. I just can't do a regular one if I can't be proud of it. I get bored with something if I do it too much, which is why I like to do a wide variety of videos."
Above: Brock's most recent dub, from March 2014.
As one of the earliest YouTubers, having signed up when the site was little over a year old and yet to be acquired by Google, Brock has seen the community around the site change first-hand. "What's popular today won't be popular tomorrow. I think the audience has gotten younger, there isn't a single person in the top 100 most subscribed that doesn't have a 'cute haircut'. I'm only half kidding. YouTube is a popularity contest, not a talent contest."
"YouTube has also launched some successful careers. Bo Burnham started on YouTube and he graduated from that pretty early in the game. I've been on there 8 years and still trying to graduate," said Brock, miming uncontrollable sobbing.
"I'm passionate about what I do, and I work my hardest to avoid working a day job. Not to discredit those who do work day jobs, it's just not for me. Without sounding like an asshole, I'm destined for bigger things."
"Honestly, I'm trying to ween off doing YouTube full time. I don't see myself being on there forever, at least not full time, that's just depressing. I'd rather be writing and voice acting full time. I want to create a cartoon show. I have many things I want to do with my life. YouTube's a great place to just really be creative without network heads telling you what you can't do, it's just that the money really isn't there anymore."
Recently, Brock has become prolific on the Twitter-owned video platform Vine, where clips are limited to six seconds in length and the only effects are whatever users can achieve with on-the-fly cuts. "Vine is great, because it shows how funny someone can be in six seconds. There's really a lot you can cram in six seconds," said Brock.
"A lot of people are terrible at it, and they're always on the 'popular now' page. I never really wanted to be popular on Vine, I just use it as an outlet for dumb six second jokes and ideas. Some catch on, most don't, but it's fun. The term 'Vine famous' is really dumb to me, the arrogance of some of these people astounds me."
"I'm content with forever being just 'kind of known'."