Man, the Internet is huge. There is so much content out there, and not nearly enough time to check out every context-devoid recommendation link you see in your Twitter feed, or Tumblr Roll, or whatever it’s called. “I favorited a YouTube video!” “OMG CLICK THIS SO FUNNY,” or even just a naked link in complete gibberish…is this really the best way to share the good stuff with your friends? The Irreverencia says no. We can do better! We can tell you what’s worth your precious Internet time…And Here’s Why.
For those of you who are not aware, I began my adventures in leaving a mark on the Internet in a small subculture online known as “Reviewing.” In particular, I learned and matured around ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com, and its environs. What lured me to this particular site was the Cult of Personality-driven video modus; it wasn’t so much WHAT a given personality was discussing, but rather WHO they were, and how I felt about their delivery/editing/opinions/what have you. The culture was fascinating to watch, as countless hopefuls would hone their skills in the forums and try to gain the attention of their favorite e-celebs. Some succeeded! Most failed.
I tell you this, because in order to fully understand today’s subject, you need to be in the frame of mind of one who is presented with many, MANY options of personalities, both well-known and undiscovered, on whom to spend your leisure hours. Watching online videos takes time, and it would be unreasonable to expect that any given viewer will have seen something by any given producer. Someone (many someones, really) is always going to be overlooked, once you’ve got your few favorite shows all lined up. Today’s subject is one of those video makers I had always overlooked, despite his astounding amount of content and his recognized position as an official contributor.
You should go watch some of Teh Smarty’s videos. And here’s why.
There’s this buzzword that’s been floating about some sectors of the reviewing sphere lately – “New Sincerity.” It’s not actually a new concept, as you can plainly see from a quick wikipedia search. It’s particularly poignent in the context of internet reviewing; early powerhouses such as the Angry Video Game Nerd and the Nostalgia Critic set the bar for success behind a gate of bile. If you wanted to play in the playground, you had to bring your A-Game. “A,” in this context, being short for “Asshole.” Go mean, or go home. You Tropers out there may recall the page for Caustic Critic. There’s a reason that the “Web Original” section is so long.
New Sincerity, in this context, bucks that trend in favor of a more emphatic celebration of the subject matter…or at least, a more honest and upfront approach. Perhaps even some enthusiasm. This is not to say that there’s no place for an angry review here and there, but rather that there is a difference between a manufactured response, and a genuine one. From what I’ve seen, I’d classify Smarty as a practitioner of New Sincerity, albiet accidentally. Allow me to explain:
Smarty has a readily apparent geekiness about him. It is plain to see when he loves what he is talking about, and this REALLY shines through in his unscripted work. I get the impression that his sense of humor works best when coupled with spontenaity, though I haven’t managed to catch any of his streams as of yet. Regardless, his well-edited stream digest videos (Let’s Derp, Derps Against Humanity) show the quickness of wit necessary for reactive humor.
In my experience, Smarty has always been a personality I was aware of, but never really watched. In preparation for this article, I asked him to provide me with the four videos of which he was most proud. I’ll link them near the end of the article, so you can see what he considers to be the cream of his crop. While these vids did not impress me to the point where I would call myself a fan, I WAS entertained enough to watch a great deal more than I was provided. If you give me four videos and I watch nineteen, you’re probably doing something right.
His technical work is fairly solid, with some clever use of imagery. I rarely detected any moments where the pacing felt off. The most heartfelt accolade I can give him for his technicals is that the audio between his on-camera work and his voiceover is nearly indistinguishable. The vocal quality is astounding, and enviable. (This goes straight out the window when it comes to his skit content, but that’s another paragraph.) If only he managed to blend the game audio into his on-camera as well as he blends his voiceover into the game footage, he’d be a shining example of audio done right in online video.
Smarty is an excellent networker. The cast of personalities he brings to his live work is fairly varied, and the interplay between them is fantastic. Furthermore, and this may or may not be a good thing, he is heavily invested in the Channel Awesome community, to the point where a degree of knowledge of the Personalities is almost necessary to understand a lot of the jokes…especially in crossovers. That being said, I would not consider Smarty to be a “Gateway” reviewer; if you haven’t been exposed to much of the culture, take a look at some of the more well-known personalities before giving Smarty a shot. If you’re already well-versed with the culture, however, you may find the in-jokes to be a welcome nod to the collective fanbase. Consider a Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house, where someone keeps talking about their old college friend, and the stunts he used to pull. Hilarious if you went to college with them! Confusing if you have no idea what’s going on.
Skit-wise, on the other hand, Smarty is…unpracticed. When scripted, he loses a lot of the spontenaity-based exuberance that makes up the cornerstone of his comedic style. The most unfortunate part of Smarty’s skits are the people he chooses to act as a supporting cast. I will give him credit for not overusing the “Interrupted by static / Video of someone else / Banter / Resolution”-style cameos, but his local crew are detrimental to the work as a whole. Smarty himself usually holds his own, but the lack of training for on-camera acting does show. His hand movements become stilted, as though he’s planned and practiced the same movement so many times that it has lost the original emotion, and I continually caught him unable to keep a straight face in scripted dialogue. This is totally a hit-or-miss situation, as the barely-contained laughter can sometimes convey situational absurdism, but I personally found it mildly jarring, and it took me out of the illusion. I crave verisimilitude, dammit!
His tech also suffers when he isn’t filming in front of his desk, which I find highly puzzling…I would think it would be the other way around. This further hampers his skit-based comedy. It is odd to note how different his interactions with others are, depending on whether or not there is a script sitting off-camera. Thankfully, his recent series have been filmed at his desk, with stellar audio. It seems to be a place of strength for him, and he seems less aware of the camera as a foreign entity there, which is a VERY good thing. It allows him to fake the energy he would normally have if he were simply talking, which I have claimed to be his strongest suit.
Hopefully, you’re intrigued enough by now to give Smarty a shot. Overall, I found my exploration of his work to be worthwhile enough to Subscribe to him on YouTube, though I don’t expect I will keep up with every single vid he ever does. I found the most appeal in his Let’s Derp series, which is a collection of one-shot Let’s Plays that focus on him failing at video games, and the hilarity that his reactions bring. Last on the Bandwagon is a retro game review show (if you can count the PS2 as retrogaming these days) wherein he tries games that he missed back in the day. Derps Against Humanity is an easily discernable title: Cards Against Humanity + Let’s Derp. Smarty LOVES Cards Against Humanity. Finally, The Machinimist is a review series focusing on Machinima, which is basically making movies out of video game engines.
You might love Teh Smarty’s videos if:
-You enjoy watching someone fail at video games
-You like energy and exuberance from a livestream performer
-You appreciate his sincere approach to reviewing and his humor style
-You love Machinima and want to watch a Review show about it
-You are a fan of Reviewing and you like in-jokes
Last on the Bandwagon: Shadow of the Colossus
Last on the Bandwagon: Aladdin (SNES)
The Machinimist: Top 5 Favorite Classic Red vs. Blue Moments (SPOILERS)
Derps Against Humanity: Episode 1
I recommend you watch some of Smarty’s work, and forge your own opinion on him. I found some good stuff in there, and I’m glad I spent the time to check him out. If you agree with me, or have a contrasting opinion, tell me why in the comments below. Every comment gives both me AND Smarty more exposure, and more wisdom. Feel free to link your favorite episodes, as well!