Standing on the balcony of Dormtainment’s brand new Hollywood apartment, six stories up from the traffic and noise of L.A., I could fully understand the excitement these six best friends were feeling having just moved to the city from Atlanta. Dormtainment is made up of entertainers and best friends Cam, Chaz, Rome, Amanuel, Mike and Tay, who started making YouTube videos together back in 2009. The guys first made a name for themselves with their popular videos “a55 On the Internet” — a favorite of my grandma and me — and “Straight Outta Dunwoody,” which was featured on NBC’s “Today Show,” Fox and HuffingtonPost.com.
After pursuing every opportunity that they could in Atlanta, the Dormtainment team just recently moved to Los Angeles to better pursue writing, producing and starring in their own television show. When asked to describe themselves, Chaz, Cam, Rome, Mike, Amanuel and Tay all agree that they are not “YouTubers” but rather entertainers using their YouTube channel as a stepping stone to pursue other entertainment opportunities. Sitting down in their new Hollywood apartment, the six comedians poked fun and joked with one another as they talked about their first impressions of one another, their biggest filming regret, why YouTube groupies are the lowest and their plans to take the Los Angeles entertainment by storm.
For the interview in video format, please go to the last page.
How did you all originally come together to form this group?
Cam: Originally I met Mike in sixth grade, and we’ve been best friends ever since — which is horrible. This guy right here [points to Chaz] is my brother and then I moved to Atlanta after high school and met these three in college, so we all came to college and joined the group Dormtainment. And now we’re taking over L.A.
Mike: We haven’t gotten into any clubs yet [group laughs].
Rome: We’re 0 for 2. We’ve been denied. That’s okay.
What was your first impression of each other?
Chaz: Well, when I first see my brother [Cam] come out of the womb …
Rome: No, no, not that early.
Mike: No, I think that she means that early.
Chaz: When he came out the womb I was like, “Why is he here?” ‘Cause they had me already, I was like, there was no need for him.
Tay: How did he look?
Cam: I was very light skinned.
Chaz: No, he was like a shriveled up raisin.
Tay: A light skin raisin?
Amanuel: I think that was the placenta [group laughs].
Mike: When I met Cam in sixth grade the only reason I was friends with him was because he was the only black kid I knew who had a father. I never saw that before [Tay laughs]; had to know what that was like.
Tay: When I first met Rome I was walking past my apartment and he was sitting on the couch, he said, “Oh what, you ain’t gonna speak?” and his voice is heavy and he had gold grills and a big t-shirt. I was like, “This thug is going to kill me.”
Amanuel: It was a different time [laughs].
Tay: It’s cool; he’s a friend now.
Rome: It was at that moment I knew I could get him to do anything and we continued to be friends from there.
Amanuel: When I first met Cam he had — I just remember this sun walking towards me [laughs]. He wore this super, like the most brightest colors, the brightest colors I ever seen, so I instantly said, “Hey, you must be from Miami,” and he was. And yeah, we’ve been friends since unfortunately.
That’s hard to believe because you’re wearing black today.
Cam: Yeah, that’s ‘cause when I don’t have a haircut I only have one color hat [group laughs]. So I have to wear black.
Tay: So you start at the hat and you dress yourself down.
Cam: Yeah, it has to be black. I have only one hat.
Chaz: Problems of a black man.
How did the name “Dormtainment” come about?
Cam: Well, I was just trying to be cool fusing two things together, because entertainment and dorm that was our target market at the time so I was like, “How about ‘Dormtainment’?”
Amanuel: Well, what did we start off with?
Cam: They didn’t like it!
Chaz: Dorm Sweepstakes.
Cam: Dorm Sweepstakes.
Chaz: Can you imagine that?
Amanuel: When we first started we definitely said that we wanted to do something, we wanted to start some kind of business, something, and we definitely wanted to try to do something online, so we’re like, hey, we know about the Facebooks of the world, the CollegeHumors, all these businesses that started from college, so we were like, “Alright, let’s do something to play off that.” So we came up with the idea for “Dorm Sweepstakes,” and how that would work, it was supposed to be an amalgamation of entertainment.
Mike: A what?
Tay: And sweepstakes [laughs].
Amanuel: An amalgamation.
Rome: You just wanted to say that word.
Cam: But the funny thing we almost named the site “No Curfew.” Now how stupid would that have been? [group laughs]
Amanuel: So it was between “Dorm Sweepstakes” and “No Curfew.” He came up with “No Curfew” [points at Mike] and that is why he’s sitting in the back with me [group laughs]. Cam came and saved the day and he said “Dormtainment.” Everybody hated “Dormtainment” at first I think, and then we’re like, “You know what? f*ck it. We’ll ride this until we all fail.”
Mike: And now I have it tattooed on my neck.
Do you all have a matching tattoo of it?
Group unison: No.
Mike: I’m the only one.
I feel like that would really bring your group together though.
Mike: I thought so too. That’s why I did it first, and they didn’t follow.
They were actually in line behind you and you turned around and they weren’t down.
Tay: I think if we got matching tattoos that would mean that we all have to like guys, so I don’t know if that would work out.
Amanuel: Hold on — what?
Tay: ‘Cause I don’t feel like you can be … you can’t like girls and get a …
Mike: You can’t like girls and have a tattoo?
Tay: No, no, no, you can’t have matching tattoos with five other guys.
Mike: Yes you can! There’s nothing wrong with that!
Tay: Unless you’re branded, if you get branded, yeah.
Cam: Let’s ask the camera guy. Is there something wrong with that? [Eddie nods]
Tay: You see! The camera knows! [group laughs] I just couldn’t get a matching tattoo.
Who do you think in the group would be the best wingman?
Mike: Let’s say who would be the worst wingman, and that would be Rome. Rome would be the worst wingman [group laughs].
Tay: We changed the question!
Cam: I just want to hear why.
Mike: Most the time when Rome is around and there’s girls he’s going to try and get them, so he’s not going to want to assist you, he’s going to want to take the points. So Rome would probably be the worst.
Amanuel: Is there an example to go with this?
Rome: In my defense what did I come to you and tell you yesterday? [gestures to Chaz] Didn’t I say I had a little female set up for you? See, that’s in my defense.
Amanuel: Did it go down? Did it happen?
Rome: We got to leave. We got to go on tour.
Is she a real person? [group laughs]
Rome: That’s a good one.
Tay: That’s going to be a catfish.
Mike: Chaz knows, Chaz knows. What do you always say when we meet girls? “I got to get her before Rome does.” [laughs]
Chaz: That’s true. I mean you know, you got to know your competition, right? Obviously my brother’s not my competition as you can see obviously, so the next person obviously would be Mike, so I got to get her before Mike gets her [laughs].
So best wingman not happening?
Cam: I guess it’s no one.
Amanuel: We all hate each other [group laughs].
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Which one of you would be most likely to go skinny dipping?
Cam: That would probably be me and Rome.
Rome: Yeah probably.
Mike: Probably me too. I wouldn’t mind. Depends on how low I’m hanging that day.
Amanuel: Everyone except for Ta. [laughs].
Not a fan?
Tay: Of skinny dipping? No.
Cam: It took us two years to see his legs, so …
Mike: And I haven’t seen them since then [group laughs].
Rome: I haven’t seen his shoulder area at all.
Tay: Why do you want to see my shoulders?
Rome: I’m just saying, you know, just open up!
Mike: You don’t want to get matching tattoos, you don’t want to show your shoulders, I mean …
Amanuel: You should get matching tattoos on your shoulders [group laughs].
Tay: Nobody will ever know.
You know you’re going to have to wear shorts because you’re in California now.
Tay: Have to?
You’re going to want to.
Mike: The other day I told him he still dresses like he’s in Detroit.
Chaz: His shoes though. He has on socks, he had on some colorful shoes.
Mike: And jeans and jackets. You know you got to wear some tank tops, man.
Which one of you would be most likely to giggle during a skit?
Cam: Oh lord, Rome.
Tay: He can’t control. We’ve had sketches where he laughs and it’s so funny we just left it in there. He breaks character totally, and we edit and we just don’t edit around.
Rome: Today I was working on a character earlier where I didn’t laugh and it lasted for a good 10,15 minutes, so I’m getting there. Soon I’ll have it down pat.
Amanuel: There was literally a skit where I think we broke the style of the skit in three places just to have him laugh. You’re playing a specific character; he wasn’t supposed to laugh, and I just left those laughs.
Rome: But in my defense also, what you don’t see is them smile and it makes me laugh.
Did you all originally want to pursue comedy?
Cam: We didn’t plan none of this. It just happened; it’s organically.
Tay: I do think that even though, you know, we are comedians, this is a comedy group, that we have two music producers, all of us do music, all of us write music. We do comedy but we also want to extend outside of comedy, you know. I know everything will kind of have a comedic sensibility about it. We definitely want to be able to write drama or do…
Amanuel: Action or different genres.
Cam: Overall entertainers.
Tay: Entertainers as opposed to, “Oh, that’s the comedy guy. Make me laugh.” Like ‘cause it’s a little bit more of respect when you can switch roles with certain things. That will grow when we come out and do more things in L.A.
Do you always want to be acting or are you all interested in focusing on directing and producing?
Cam: That’s what we do now. we do everything in-house.
Tay: Write, direct.
Mike: We just finished wrapping up a shoot with Alright TV, and it’s a cooking show that we wrote and produced starring Chef Brian.
Tay: And also acted in it.
Mike: We acted in it, we wrote it, we produced it, we somewhat directed it with another director.
Cam: And editor.
Mike: And we’re editing it right now.
Cam: When we say “we” we mean “he.”
You’re the chosen one.
Mike: We’re in an interesting position right now where we can really learn a lot from the different areas because everything we’re doing now — we direct, we write, we edit — everything entertainment or film has to offer, we try to learn to do and we’ve done. It’s just a matter of now taking it to the next level and learning how Hollywood does it so we can kind of cater it more to find that medium so when we get there we can be like, “Listen, we know how to do it your way. We’ve done it our way. Let’s come to somewhere in the middle and make the best sh*t possible.” Can I say “sh*t”?
Yes, you can. You already said it, so …
Amanuel: Well, f*ck.
Does everyone in the group have a specific role or do you switch around?
Cam: Switch them around.
Mike: Everyday is different.
Amanuel: Basically whoever has the idea that week takes the head of the project so if he writes, he may say I want you to edit and him to direct and kind of just go from there.
How do you choose an idea for each week, and do you guys ever have creative differences that cause problems?
Group: Oh yeah.
Mike: Most ideas we have come out of just us being us, talking about things or someone might just be watching something, they bring it to us and we’ll say, “Okay, we can do it even better or funnier.” It’s really no template to how you come up with ideas, but we’re just blessed to be able to come up with different ideas all the time ‘cause we drop a video every Sunday, so that’s cool.
Because you guys live together and work together full-time…
Chaz: Hold on real quick. Don’t you ever — she’s doing an interview, okay?
Rome: That’s enough.
Cam: That’s just rude.
Chaz: Say “sorry.”
Amanuel: I apologize.
Chaz: Do you accept his apology?
Amanuel: Obviously really serious about coughing in this group.
Chaz: I’m so sorry, he’s so rude. Don’t laugh.
We’re actually going to have to stop the interview now ‘cause that was offensive [group laughs].
Because you’re so involved in each others’ professional and personal lives, does that ever complicate working together, or do you think this involvement is what makes this group work so well?
Cam: I think it makes it work well because a lot of groups you see, especially in music, they are put together, and that’s why they usually break up. But we came together organically, so we had a friendship before a business, so that’s never going to break. We have arguments of course, but we get over that within minutes. Strong-knit group.
Amanuel: There are really no egos in this group, so it kind of works well. We definitely have different opinions on things, but it kind of just helps out if anything ‘cause we get to see different perspectives and kind of meet in the middle and be like, “What would work best this way?”
Why did you guys decide to move to L.A.?
Mike: Get out of that dump into another dump.
Tay: Into this dump. This hellhole.
Chaz: We just felt that in the field we’re in, L.A. was the spot we needed to be to take Dormtainment to the next level, so it was just how in “The Matrix” Mr. Smith says “inevitable.” It was inevitable.
Tay: What is the word? “Inevitable”?
Chaz: Listen, I’m doing an interview, okay?
Rome: And we feel like we exhausted all our avenues in Atlanta. It was kind of time to move, and our manager and agency is here so it just made sense.
Cam: And NewMediaRockstars was here.
The real reason you guys came was for this interview. Thanks, guys.
Cam: Exactly. We’re moving out after this. We only have this for two hours.
You don’t actually live here.
Amanuel: We broke into this place; that cereal is not ours but we will have some.
What were some challenges working in the YouTube community outside of L.A.?
Mike: I guess just meeting the different people to work with. It’s not a lot of YouTube networks or people that do YouTube videos in Atlanta, maybe like one or two in our immediate area. Here we have so many people who are big on YouTube that we can just collaborate with.
Tay: Also, there are companies that are trying to figure out YouTube and companies that specialize in YouTube that are out here that we can meet up with and see how we can collaborate with them for them to use our numbers and use their numbers and just talk back and forth.
Amanuel: And I think the talent is a little higher up here; it’s a little better out here. We’ve worked with what we’ve got for so long, I mean we were literally just pulling people off the streets sometimes, “Hey you want to be in a skit?” and just directing them to what to do. And, you know, it’s cool to a certain point but eventually if you want to grow you need the talent to bounce off you to be just as high or better than you.
Did pulling people off the street always go well, or did you ever get pepper sprayed?
Tay: Can we tell the cop story?
Yes you can.
Mike: The movie theater? What was the incident in the Batman movie theatre that happened?
The Colorado shootings?
Mike: We forgot all about that, and two days after, we went out in front of the movie theater to shoot a skit with a gun and a robber involved and next thing we know, a couple cops pulled up. And yeah, we pretty much almost got shot ‘cause everyone in the movie theater called the police.
Chaz: And I had the gun.
Tay: It was a fake gun but it was a big RoboCop-looking gun.
Chaz: I was dressed in all black.
Cam and Mike: And he’s black.
Rome: You were born dressed in black.
Tay: And that was your first mistake [laughs].
I can’t lie. The more you describe the situation the worse it does sound.
Chaz: We’re lucky to be here.
I just did an interview with a YouTuber who recently moved back to Atlanta after being in L.A.
I will let him know that. But he was saying that in L.A. there may be more opportunities but there are also so many more people vying for those spots whereas being in Atlanta there may be few opportunities but there aren’t many people competing for those spots either. Have you found this to be your experience, and were you concerned moving here?
Tay: That was one of my biggest worries of moving out here. I felt like, oh in Atlanta we can take over, and in L.A. we’ll just get lost in the sauce.
Cam: There was nothing to take over in Atlanta.
Tay: You can’t say there is nothing.
Chaz: Well, he just said it.
Tay: But Atlanta does have opportunities and some good studios, and there is also some good movies being shot there, but for what we want to do with our YouTube and expand outside of YouTube we do need to be here ‘cause we’re looking to not just live on — even if you look at our skits and stuff they are eight minutes long. YouTube is 30-second cat videos, so we want to expand to be — we’re not really YouTubers, so we want to expand outside of necessarily just living on YouTube, and this is a good place to be for that.
Amanuel: I think for your average YouTuber it doesn’t really matter where you are. It might help a little bit to be in L.A. but just because of resources. But I mean as long as you’re making interesting stuff that people like on YouTube, it doesn’t matter — you could be anywhere.
Chaz: It depends on the end goal, I feel. I feel for us, Tay stated, we don’t consider ourselves YouTubers. We’re not saying anything bad about people who consider themselves YouTubers but for us we always wanted our own T.V. show. We always want to direct, produce, write, so for us L.A. is where we need to be. For some other people depending on what their end goal was or is, you know, it doesn’t matter where they are.
Tay: ‘Cause there are people who are twice as big as us who just do a video in their room and just talk to the camera, and their end goal is definitely much different than ours so just different types of things for different creators.
How are you pursuing that goal of branching out of YouTube?
Chaz: Well, I’m starting to strip now.
Rome: Chaz, Chaz, that’s enough.
Just on the corner down there? Nice. Across from Carl’s Jr.
Tay: He has to practice before he gets in the club.
Cam: There are a lot of dance clubs around here.
Rome: I think one of the number one things first off is our content and what we write, and just like we said, coming up with those skits that are holding people’s attention so they can see that it’s not just a two or three minute video; it’s a story with characters and things like that. Definitely networking with networks outside of YouTube and things like that.
Chaz: We’re doing?
Rome: No. I mean sometimes. Not you.
They just all leave while you’re sleeping.
Rome: It starts with our content, what we write and produce.
You guys are heading out to tour in two days.
Amanuel: Going to the East Coast.
Tay: A little south too.
Amanuel: A little bit to the south as well.
Chaz: We were just starting to get used to this time zone. Now we got to fly back.
Amanuel: We’re going to be over there for almost a month, so it’s going to be crazy getting used to these times, waking up and going to sleep.
Cam: And he just dropped some big news of some things that’s waiting for us when we get back to the East Coast?
Amanuel: Oh cicadas are going to be waiting for us! Yeah, you know what a cicada is? West Coast people don’t know.
Those little bugs right?
Rome: Little isn’t the word.
Cam: [Carly] looks so concerned [laughs].
Amanuel: Cicadas they come out every 17 years. They are like these big a55 flies.
And do what?
Rome: Make noise.
Amanuel: They don’t do anything but they make a lot of noise and just bother people.
Rome: They feel like bats when they hit you.
Amanuel: They have this horrible thump and they just make a lot of noise, and they just happen to be coming out when we’re coming on tour.
Cam: We’re going to be there for a month with them.
Tay: Chillin’ with the cicadas [group laughs].
Amanuel: We should just call this the cicada tour.
What will the tour be like?
Cam: We’re going to Auburn, Virginia Tech, Pace University, City College in New York and University of Maryland.
Mike: Some of it is hosting and some of it is our full shows that we do which has live acts, improv games, music.
Chaz: Lot of people fainting.
Rome: Screaming “Ahhhhhh.”
Chaz: “Can I touch you?” Yes, go ahead.
Mike: Lot of panty throwing.
Tay: Sometimes boxer throwing, but you got to dodge that. We got some boxers on our balcony.
Chaz: You got to take the good with the bad.
Amanuel: Are my boxers still drying out there? It’s like a true variety show. We just try to make all our show music, our comedy music, our live acts. We still show skits on the screen.
Mike: I don’t want to be rude, I don’t want to stop the interview, but could you possibly turn off the stove for me? It’s like my turkey burger. Thank you. Don’t want to burn my burger.
Tay: NewMediaRockstars here to cook for you.
What has been your craziest groupie story?
Chaz: Well, me and Halle Berry one time we went …
Tay: No, she meant like the real not the dream.
Chaz: Well, y’all should have said the real.
Mike: We’re just not going to tell that story, any of those stories.
Tay: But we do have the groupies and the stalkers. You know there are YouTube groupies. You know how there is specific YouTube groupies and rock groupies, there are YouTuber groupies. Don’t put no names out there!
Mike: But to me I feel like that’s the lowest of the low is being on a YouTuber. I feel like if you have to come all the way down to YouTube and be a groupie your life really needs to …
Tay: Oh damn, how many subscribers you got? [laughs]
Amanuel: Is it the fact that groupies are stepping down or YouTube is stepping up?
Cam: It’s probably a little bit of both.
Mike: It’s a little bit of both but still sad in the end.
Amanuel: Being a groupie is a sad thing though, period.
Tay: But people are making money off of YouTube!
Cam: If she’s a smart groupie, she sees the potential for this to blow up, so you want to be first.
Tay: So you want to make your investments early.
Amanuel: Drug dealers have groupies, right?
Tay: Drug dealers, yeah?
Amanuel: So isn’t this better than that at least?
I think those are just users. Drug junkies would be drug groupies.
Tay: Drug groupies, I love you so much, I love your work! [laughs]
Rome: At the end of the day we don’t really entertain it actually, you keep it moving. “Hey, thanks for watching.”
Tay: It’s one of the things that is weird, ‘cause YouTubers can see their audience. You can see the different types of people who are watching your stuff and you look at one of our videos and you see, “Oh my god, this member is so sexy, this member is so sexy, you guys are so sexy,” you can see, “Okay, we got a lot of girls commenting on this — maybe you might want to write something that will be for the girls,” so you can see your audience. Not saying all our girls who like us are writing that kind of stuff but you can see might have majority girls and want to write something to cater towards them and just interesting to see the audience you’re creating for.
Have you guys ever dated a fan or gotten a date from a video you’ve made?
Mike: My current girlfriend is actually a fan and we’ve been together almost three years now, so it can work out.
Chaz: It has its pros and cons.
Tay: What’s a pro?
Mike: You can meet your next stalker.
Cam: You can meet your ex-wife [laughs].
Chaz: Me personally, I just think now 99 percent of our fans are female and so …
Tay: Not 99 percent. Like 50 percent.
Cam: I looked at analytics this morning. It was like 52.
Tay: That’s so off he said 99 percent.
Chaz: [pointing at Tay] His fans are the male fans, that’s why his is off. Majority of our fans are female so I feel like it’s kind of hard to trust some girls because you don’t know if they genuinely like you for you or is it just be of Dormtainment and where we’re going.
Tay: And it’s also — especially with YouTube, even people who just do vlogs and stuff — you up your personality, and sometimes they want to date the person they see in the video, and not necessarily you, ‘cause you’re still playing a character even though you’re being yourself. You’re still a character no matter how you put it.
Mike: It does make it easier to talk to girls.
Chaz: It’s the icebreaker.
Tay: Girl, I got 500 thousand subscribers.
Mike: They feel comfortable enough to talk to you because they know you already, so it has its benefits to meeting people.
Cam: DMs get interesting.
Amanuel: Cam told me the funniest thing the other day. I said I was with my girl one day and I was walking, and we were taking a walk somewhere, and this guy was jogging with his shirt off, pretty boy, whatever.
Chaz: That’s when I was going to the gym?
Amanuel: No. So he’s coming down, and I see my girl and I tell her. My girl looked and I said, “Go ahead. Look. It’s fine, go ahead,” and he has his shirt off, fine, fine. And what did Cam tell me?
Cam: Tell her he ain’t got more subscribers than you.
Amanuel: He doesn’t have more subscribers than me.
Tay: He got muscles but ain’t got subscribers.
Amanuel: He has muscles but he doesn’t have more subscribers.
Rome: He has no creative content.
Amanuel: So that’s the benefit to being on YouTube. [group laughs]
Are you guys all dating someone?
Mike: Just me and this guy [points to Amanuel]. That is why we’re in the back.
Rome: You can also use it sometimes. Let’s say I’m with a girl, and another girl says, “Hey, it’s Rome,” and they’re like, “How do you know her?” “She watches my videos on Sundays.”
Amanuel: Little-r perks.
What are you guys currently working on?
Chaz: This interview.
Amanuel: We have the tour coming up right now, so we got to get ready for that. Other than that we’ve been doing meetings for the past two weeks and we wrapped up shooting Tracy Edmonds’ cooking show that we produced.
Mike: “No Budget Gourmet.” That’s dropping when?
Cam: Our weekly skits.
Amanuel: Right now we are working on two scripts for a feature film as well as a TV show, and we’re going to do our rounds of pitching when we get back.
Photography by Robin Roemer