KassemG | YouTube Comedian

Since 2008, YouTube comedian KassemG has been entertaining millions of viewers, with his hilarious videos under various categories like “Ask Kassem,” “California On” and “Going Deep.” His ability to effortlessly make others laugh is perhaps one of the reasons he has 1,891,781 subscribers to his channel. Check out our interview with the YouTube sensation, where he talks about how he started out doing comedy at restaurants, his goals with Maker Studios and what he feels is the secret to succeeding as an artist online.

Fun Facts

  • What takes up most of your time right now? Researching “Going Deep” guests. That could take 10-12 hours of my time a day.
  • Guilty pleasure: I’m a big pooper. Is that gross if I say that? I really value my poop time. I feel like it’s one of the few places where I can have some ‘me’ time. Then, I can download iPhone apps and play games. It’s a place where I can be myself. I really enjoy watching “Ancient Aliens,” that TV show. I watch a lot of terrible History Channel shows that have nothing to do with history, they’re just fake and about aliens. I’ve been watching that show for a long time. I feel like bad TV is a guilty pleasure. Sometimes when a reality show comes on, like the Real Housewives series or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” I will just watch to see how angry I can get.  I used to watch a lot of Blind Date with Roger Lodge, reality shows like “Hoarders” and a lot of “Intervention” — you’re catching real moments. They’re not set up. They’re not fake. You’re watching people at their lowest. Where else can you see that? You can’t just watch outside, maybe depending on where you live, but you usually can’t walk outside and see the lowest point in someone’s life happen right in front of you. That’s good TV to me. Sometimes you’re trying to recreate those moments but it’s fun to see it happen in real life. I think it’s good acting research but it’s also good time spent watching TV.
  • What would you consider your weakness? I get in my own way a lot. I second-guess and question everything and I do, even when I probably don’t need to. It gets in the way of me doing things that I want to do. I’m super neurotic.
  • What are your pet peeves? I hate people that are extreme with certain things — like people who are extreme when it comes to religion and politics or super vegans who cry when you drink a glass of milk. If you hang out in Venice long enough, you’ll run into somebody like that. People that just want to force their opinion on you, it just makes me want to back away.
  • Your ideal girl: I guess my ideal girl would be somebody who’s attractive, but not on the radar attractive. Somebody you have to, like, think, “Oh, you’re actually really beautiful.” Not somebody who stops traffic, making guys check out your girl all the time. I don’t think I would want to be in a relationship with a famous actress, but I would love to have sex with beautiful women. As far as an ideal girl, somebody who’s  a step down from smoking hot — maybe she was a dork growing up, someone who had the ugly duckling syndrome or someone who developed a personality out of necessity.
  • Favorite song to sing in the shower? Today it was Psyche’s cover of “Goodbye Horses.” It’s the song from “Silence of the Lambs,” where he’s got his penis tucked in and he’s doing a little dance. I was listening to that today and singing along. It’s really easy in the shower because you’re already naked and you can do that move.
  • The longest you’ve gone without sleep: It was in high school, while I was waiting for PlayStation 2 to go on sale. I waited outside of a Best Buy for 18 hours. From there, I went to school and then work, which was also at Best Buy, so I stayed up for a total of 30 hours. I was just so tired that every time I sat down I felt like I was going to fall asleep. It was sad because all I wanted to do was play my Playstation 2 and I couldn’t even play it for a full day after I got it. It sucks, but I got one! I also missed my senior panoramic photo because I was in line — that’s how much video games meant to me. I don’t think I’d reach the stab someone for the console, but I’d probably punch somebody in the gut for one or kick them in the shin.
  • What’s your favorite movie staring Daniel Day-Lewis? That would be “There Will Be Blood.” I think it’s his best work. The movie is good but I don’t think it’s amazing. I think his performance alone was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen anyone capture on screen. He was intense and there were so many things that character was going through, it was crazy to see how he showed it. I thought it was amazing. He was also great in “The Boxer.” He’s great in just about everything that he does, but “There Will Be Blood” was a standout performance for me.
  • Fun fact: I like trucks. Growing up in Southern California, there is a truck culture that a lot of people don’t know about and don’t understand. I’m really into off-road vehicles and desert racing. I have a truck that’s also built up a little bit. It was my dream truck when I was 16. I finally got my dream truck when I was 20. I’m 28 now and I still have it, but I’m embarrassed to drive it around town. I don’t look like a person who’d be into that scene because we call most of the people who are “bros.” They’re a different breed all together, which we tend to make fun of. I was in a video, called “Inside SoCal,” where we essentially made fun of the people who are into that culture.
  • Funner fact: Oh that wasn’t fun, huh? I don’t do a lot of fun things I guess. What is a thing of mine that is fun? I have a soft spot for birds. After I got beat up in sixth grade, my mom wanted to get me a dog, but my dad didn’t allow it, saying he was allergic — he’s not. We ended up getting a bird instead and I put all this love into the bird, which is why I still have a soft spot for birds today. I do want to get a dog. I’ve never had a dog, or any sort of pet, really. I think I’m ready for that. Time to step out from under my father’s shadow. I have a whole plan. If I bring a dog into my life it’s a big deal. It’s like having a baby, you need to take time and train it properly. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with a lifetime of companionship. I really want to be pulled out of a well by my animal. I want a big dog. I don’t want a tiny neurotic Chihuahua. I want a dog that has some meat, that can save me from perils and that I can cuddle with at night.

Walk us through a typical day for you.

KassemG: I get up, go to my office and then have my coffee — you know, the important stuff. Then I usually cruise to Maker Studios and shoot something for either “California On,” “Ask Kassem” or “Going Deep.” Sometimes I’ll have a meeting with somebody who wants to join the company. There’s a lot of meetings that happen, maybe too many meetings. I stop by other people’s shoots and then develop more content to shoot the next day. It’s a constant grind but it’s fun because I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do, which is be myself.

We know that during the beginning of your career you were doing stand-up at a Chinese restaurant. What’s your story on landing that gig?

I grew up in Ventura County, which is outside LA County, and there’s not a lot of stand-up clubs. There was a show that a guy named Daryl Rummins put together. It was at this Chinese restaurant that had a back room. It was like a bar, a restaurant and a back room and, when 9 o’clock rolled around, they would do stand-up shows. I did a few of these shows. Nobody would come. It was just my friends or people eating, who were there for the Chinese food, not the comedy.

I did a Chinese restaurant and an Italian restaurant — there’s a lot of places you have to cut your teeth on that aren’t as glamorous as places like the Laugh Factory. I’ve performed at the Laugh Factory and it was a completely different experience. More stand-up happens in these off-beat places when you’re starting out. There’s places all over where you can work out your material. You don’t necessarily get a ton of traffic, but you’re still on stage and you’re still honing that craft. It’s just funny that it had to start out at restaurants, but it didn’t matter where I was. It was just about having that opportunity to be on stage.

Hypothetically speaking, if the comedian thing didn’t work out, what would you have decided to do?

I would have probably gone into a deep depression because I was working retail for 10 years and I was in a funk. I was depressed and pissed off at myself for not working toward something that I wanted to do. I probably would have just been in a depressed state of mind and still working at retail — maybe doing management. I think I have that type of attitude that’s just like, f*ck it, I don’t want to do this if I’m not happy. I’d rather be poor, alone and doing what I want to do than working a dead end job, trying to pretend like I’m working toward something when I’m not.

In a previous interview, you said you looked up to comedian Louis C.K. How do you describe your style of comedy?

Obviously self-deprecating. I don’t even really know if I have developed the voice that I think I’ll have in a few years. It comes from a place of deep insecurity. It comes from a place of self-doubt and self-criticism. It’s very much downer stuff. Some of the funniest things come from those depressing places and that’s why I like Louis C.K. He got divorced and he used all of his experiences to make comedy, which is great. The funniest stuff comes from the saddest stuff, that’s my personal belief. I don’t know if I’m being sad on purpose to be funnier, but it’s definitely self-deprecating, don’t take me too seriously. Right now, it’s kind of like, “I can’t believe he said that!” — more shocked, awkward, alternative comedy. It’s changed and it’s always going to keep changing because my sensibilities are always going to be changing.

Has there ever been any crazy mishaps during the production of your videos?

Sometimes when you’re on the beach with people, especially in Venice Beach, every other person is out of their mind. They’re either on drugs or they’re drunk. A couple of times people have gotten in my face about it. Nothing that bad, nothing was stolen and no one was beaten up.

On the post side, there’s post problems all the time. On a “Going Deep” episode, we had three cameras and either one of our cameras just didn’t record or we lost the file. I couldn’t put it up, I had to put it in a “best of” thing. It happens all the time, but people don’t realize how often technical problems happen. People always ask me if I’ve ever been beaten up. I haven’t because I’ve usually been pretty good about staying slippery and not having people get too mad at me. I’ll say something and people won’t necessarily hear or get it because I’ll slip it in. Sometimes I have to smooth things over after. In a “Going Deep” episode, I’m in character the whole time until after because, for me, to be in those types of videos, I have to have the upper hand. If I don’t let that person in, or let them know who I am, before the interview starts, it’s easier for me to dig into them. Then, after, I’m like, “No, I’m not really like that. I’m just really glad you did it.”

What are some things you’ve done to hone your craft as a comedian?

After doing stand-up, I spent 2 years taking acting classes. It was another muscle I wanted to exercise. Besides that, I did improv, stand-up and other related things. You have to work on it. A lot of it, for me, just had to do with performing and being in front of people. I’ve always felt pretty comfortable being in front of people, but that didn’t come right away. You have to work at it a little bit. Some people can naturally do things like that, but you also have to have material to go with it and that takes time to develop.

Tell us a little bit about Maker Studios. What are your personal goals with the company?

Maker Studios is a company started by Lisa Nova, Danny Diamond, Ben Donovan, Shay Carl, myself and a few others, in an attempt to leverage every one’s popularity — to get some sort of sustainability in a place where we knew things were going to take off. Everyone that was in it, at the time, knew there was something viable there.

As time went on, it became harder and harder for individuals to break out and succeed on YouTube. We used a team effort to help support each other and help be in each other’s work.

When you’re just getting started on YouTube, the hardest thing is figuring out who’s going to shoot this stuff for you and who’s going to be in the sketch for you. You just don’t have any support.

Our goal was to help support each other and, at the same time, find people that were struggling and needed that kind of help. It ended up growing and while we were doing that, we realized we could help manage these people’s careers, give them advice, and help them with sales and brand deals.

All of us want to make feature films, so we made that our goal. We have a whole music and lifestyle vertical. The goal is to become a place that is still for the struggling artist as well as a place that can help those with a lot of support behind them. We want to be a part of the next wave, which is where we’re all caught up in. My personal goals are to make this company succeed and to continue growing as an entertainer and performer. I just want to keep getting better.

You’re one of the few YouTubers who has been able to build a brand for yourself and create a stable revenue stream. What are your thoughts regarding the new media movement and do you think there’s a special formula for succeeding as an artist online?

There are certain things that you need online. One of the biggest things that I always tell people, and it’s something that I struggle with, is consistency.

Generally, people that do well on the Internet keep a schedule, where they release a video once or twice a week. Consistency, I believe, right now on YouTube — and hopefully it will change — is almost as important, or more important, than talent. I think it’s a talent all on its own to produce content every week. You need consistency and you need to have a fresh voice or opinion — something that makes you stand out and different than every other person that’s doing this now. Everyone has a webcam and can upload a video on their Macbook. What are your internal motivations to do this? Is it because you’re getting a creative fulfillment out of this or do you just want to become famous because that’s what you think is cool?

It’s consistency, having a voice, and you have to be there for the right reasons. There’s a lot of people that think, “Oh, I have a webcam. I’ll just make videos” or “I have a cat. I’ll put my cat in videos and I’ll be fine.” They don’t realize that there’s a multitude of other things. I feel talent should be the most important thing, but right now it’s not. But that’s OK because it’s something that’s still evolving and changing.

You’re all like pioneers.

We all are. We’re all like a bunch of Christopher Columbus’s. Uncharted territory.

So you mentioned on your fun facts that you spend a lot of time researching your ‘Going Deep’ people. How long does this take and what goes on during this process?

In all seriousness, choosing “Going Deeps” is a really weird process. Sometimes we’ll be at the studio when there’s a whole bunch of people and we’ll all be talking and someone will ask, “How about this girl?” Then we’ll start watching her videos. It’s like 5 dudes watching porn, that’s kind of how it is. It’s very weird but it’s one of the funny things, where I know when the crew goes home at night they’re at least like, “Wow, today was an interesting day.” That’s cool to me to be able to do that — and to be able to look at porn and have it be for a project. I think I’ve found the key to life. I think I win at life.

Is there another place of solitude that you’ve found, aside from the shower? Has your creative process become more structured as you’ve developed?

It’s bad to rely on a shower to pop out ideas. The best part about a shower is that it’s on your own terms. If you have a job to do, then you don’t get the same feeling. As far as the process goes, we have two developing a week, where we work on ideas and writing scripts. I’d rather keep the shower more fun, you know? I also have to wash my balls. You have to get some work done.

Do you have any exciting projects that you can share?

I’m working a new big project, which should hopefully see the light of day next year. Everyone is always wondering what the f*ck I’m doing with my time. People are like, “You only upload one ‘California On’ a month, what the f*ck?” A lot of my energy is going toward other areas but I’ll still go out on the beach and shoot “California On.” I don’t forget what made me who I am. It’s a cool project. I think people will like it. It’s a big thing — a bunch of pieces to it. I’m just trying to figure out exactly how to bring it up — when, and all that. We’re still in pre-production.

According to an article on Mashable, YouTube announced that they are launching 100 new channels for A class celebrities. Do you have any thoughts or comments about that?

I think it’s the first step in legitimizing online content, which is great. It’s kind of a thing where they’re like, “We’ll just give out all this cash to people, who we think will be able to make this into great original online content.” Only they will have higher production quality and the traditional Hollywood following to back it up.

I think that’s great for everyone. I know that Maker Studios has received money for a music vertical, a bilingual vertical and a moms vertical. It was very helpful to us. We were in the process of making these verticals anyway, but YouTube helps facilitate that and push it forward. I think there’s just going to be a lot of that to come.  

It’s kind of like YouTube saying, “Look at all the money we have! Don’t you just want to come make YouTube videos?” A lot of people, especially in Hollywood, are like, “Uh, yeah we want some of that! Of course!” That’s where most of the money went. It’s also been distributed to companies and individuals that have been creating content on YouTube for a long time.

Now, they can take that content to the next level because they have the funds to produce higher quality content. That’s what it is. YouTube wants to see higher quality content. They want to be a destination for user generated content. Right now, for Shane Dawson or Ryan Higa’s fans, going to the Internet is their first stop, then they go to the TV. They want to take content from TV and say, hey, we got stuff too. You can watch it anytime, it’s portable, you can watch it on your iPad and on your TV. It’s the first step of a very big movement.

Here’s a scenario: Your son just turned 16 and he tells you that he’s decided to not go to college and pursue a career in entertainment full time. What do you tell him?

I tell him, “If that’s what makes you happy.” I can’t sit there and not let him do something that I did. Hopefully my parenting skills will be good enough to be able to help him realize that he might not want to do entertainment.

Everyone wants to get into the entertainment world, and sometimes when they get in, they hate it. It sucks your soul out. It’d be nice to see my children go off and do bigger things, but if that’s what they want to do, and they are sure, I’ll support them and let them figure out if that’s what they want to do or not. You have to let people figure it out on their own. That’s the biggest thing.

My parents always told me I could do anything I wanted except become president because I wasn’t born here. It always made me hate the idea of politics because there’s no way I would be let in. I know that anything a kid wants to do, you should at least let him toy around with it and let them figure out if it’s what they want — as long as they don’t want to be strippers because if they do, then you’ve screwed up. Hopefully when I have kids I won’t be making “Going Deeps” anymore, but who knows.

How do we stalk you?

Website: http://thekassemg.com/ (but I don’t really update it)
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/KassemG and http://www.youtube.com/user/KassemGtwo
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KassemgFans
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/kassemg
Google+: https://plus.google.com/110067835153954222370/posts
Tumblr: http://kassemg.tumblr.com/

I feel like there are so many places [you can stalk me] right now. My last entry on my website pretty much said I’d just be using my Tumblr. A lot of my updates are on Tumblr and Twitter, and I don’t feel like I need to drive traffic to an old site. I’d rather just follow them and bring it to them.

Photography By: Melly Lee

Header By: Sabrina Park

Interview By: Benny Luo

*Special Thanks to Maker Studios*

Maker Studios is a next-generation media company and home to many of online video’s top digital stars and content including the all-time most-subscribed personality Ray William Johnson, KassemG, The Game Station, Nice Peter’s “Epic Rap Battles of History,” the Shaytards and celebrity actress/comedian Lisa Nova, among others. Maker has 500 million views online per month with over 200 channels with 40 million subscribers, and more than 300 original videos produced per month. Maker Studios is the only network to offer partners development, production, promotion, distribution, sales, and marketing services. Maker Studios is headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. To learn more, visit www.makerstudios.com and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.