Hi-Tech Comedy: Zach Selwyn

Today I’m interviewing Zach Selwyn. Zach will be appearing in a recurring role on the new season of “Greek“ on ABC Family, and is currently the TV host of Atom TV on Comedy Central. He is best known as the host of Discovery Science Channel‘s hit shows “Catch it Keep it“ and “Punkin Chunkin.“ Zach has a new album coming out “Pluck Your Twanger.”

zach selwyn photo

1. How are you using the internet and social media to promote your career?

I’m on Twitter, Facebook and occasionally go on MySpace to see if anything is going on there. I have a YouTube channel and a Funny or Die channel, all that stuff. I just try to get as much stuff out there as possible without people getting mad at me for sending them too much!

Anyone who isn’t using the internet to promote their career is either really famous and doesn’t need to – or is missing out on the opportunity. I got online with my music around ’02 when I was aware that CDs were beginning to go away. I started selling my stuff on iTunes somewhat early. Back then it was harder to get listed and even more expensive. But now it’s like, why wouldn’t you put it on iTunes? Rhapsody? Everywhere? I’ve made physical CDs in the past and they’re just all stuck, sitting in my basement. Nobody wants to buy them anymore! I do miss album art and track sequencing and stuff like that but I understand that most people in the world don’t want a jewel case and a bunch of CDs alphabetized on a bookshelf. I’d love to start selling my albums on USB drives when I’m on tour. That could be the future. I find in California and New York nobody buys CDs at the show. You gotta offer it for three bucks or trade them for a beer or something.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

On a few videos, certainly. With a viral video, you never know what’ll hit. I put out a lot of videos that I think I really funny and they get 500 hits, then I put out another one and it gets 300,000. Once you get something going and get the YouTube followers or start selling mp3s, it’s a great thing when it works.

3. You have ZachSelwyn.com and ZachariahMusic.com, why’d you decide to do that?

ZachSelwyn.com is much more of my current comedic website. ZachariahMusic.com was based on my band for many years. One problem I had is my brother was a great web designer and he was up keeping it but I wasn’t paying him, and it’s really hard to get a busy guy to do something for free. So I had to start a new site. It’s simpler but it gets the job done.

For me, the best promotional device is making entertaining videos rather than writing a little thought for the day. It’s hard to get people to read your stuff, there’s so many people with blogs and websites. I know lots of artists and I’m guilty of not going to their pages.

4. How do you think the internet is different for musical comedy versus straight stand up?

I have a musical comedy video deal at Atom.com and those videos get a bunch of hits. Same thing with YouTube. And then I post my stand up stuff and people are like “oh great, another standup comic. Why would I watch this?”

I think music is an effective way to get viewers because the videos work well visually on computers. Some stand-up stuff does not translate over. BUT – I think a lot of people are putting out music videos that aren’t very good. There’s lots of rap parodies that are great out there – and some that aren’t so great. Hopefully most of my stuff is great! Some of my stuff I re-watch and cringe at it and think, “I can’t believe I put that up,” but I like to throw it all out there.

Stand up comedy is good online for a 2-3 minute clip. You have a better appreciation for stand up in person, no matter who the performer is. I think the music videos are more visual and can be better received on a home computer.

5. What do you think about posting videos of your full performances online?

I’d love to do that, I just don’t who would watch it! They say the internet attention span is 3-4 minutes? Right?  We’re all there at one point. You get excited about something and then 2 minutes in, you’re not paying attention anymore. I’ve sat around and watched 30 minutes of stuff but it’s been on an airplane when I’m not distracted. I don’t know if the internet is ready for that length of performance, television is still the place for that.

6. How do you think digital tools will change comedy?

Anyone can put out an album now. You can record a set and go to TuneCore and sell your album online bit by bit or song by song. I think there’s gonna be a mass saturation of the market if there isn’t already. I really think the best comics end up rising to the top. You know, the comics who’ve been doing it for 20 years. Although, I have funny friends who put out records that don’t do well and I have guys who should put out a record but haven’t. Making a record is definitely time consuming and you don’t necessarily have a label working for you anymore. You gotta take time to record and sell and promote, promote, promote! In the 80s, when there were 15 stand up albums released a year, it was probably easier to make stars of people. There’s plenty of comics from the 80s who never put out records who were geniuses and I was unfortunately never able to hear their material. For instance, I couldn’t go see Robert Schimel in Tucson, Arizona. But I got to hear Andrew Dice Clay and Dennis Leary. Hopefully an aspiring comic out there is listening to newer performers online or to their podcasts.

7. How much information do you tend to share on the social networks?

I kinda keep my personal life out of it. I posted a couple of pictures of my kids at one point, that was enough. I’m not really interested if someone checked into some Greek diner on Ventura Boulevard today. I try to make it what I want people to follow: clips, videos and funny things. I probably post on twitter a few times a day and on Facebook once every few days but just to say, “I’m playing at the Improv on Wednesday” or “Check out my new album” or “Pluck Yer Twanger was just released”. I hope one day to be able to pay someone to do this for me cause it is Time consuming! I tweet from my iPhone sometimes while I’m driving,and I’m thinkng  “This is unsafe and time consuming but hopefully worth it…”

8. What’s your weirdest online experience involving your comedy career?

I used to be on show on G4 called “Attack of the Show.” It was an interesting experience because I wasn’t prepared for the amount of geek fans I would get. So I got a lot of fat guys and teenagers sending me their artwork and pictures. I never got any naked pictures though, thank god, or maybe too bad. It was a lot of, “Hey man, any chance you can mention my name on the show?” The first couple of times you do it, it’s cool, but if you don’t mention it, you get hate mails like, “You’re an a-hole and you suck.” And it’s easy to pay attention to the web when you’re on TV because there’s lots of haters. I learned I can’t listen or read anything on the web because it would upset me for days. You talk to people like Dane Cook and he’s like “I have half the people online who love me and half who hate me.” You can really get brought down if you spend your time listening to the haters. They definitely know how to take you down. They know how to kick you in the balls, mentally. My advice? Avoid reading it!

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