YouTube has a strange track record when it comes to working with mainstream celebrities. Digital video as a whole, or at least the tastemakers within digital video, are consumed by this idea that mainstream personalities will somehow bring a new level of validity to the fledgling industry. Time and time again, we’ve seen YouTube-oriented jobs handed to television or movie stars when a perfectly talented, perfectly capable YouTuber could have used the work.
Digital video award shows, convention panels and industry exhibitions have all seen some version of a mainstream celebrity headliner with the thin explanation that they work somewhere among the fringes of digital video, so it must be okay, right?
This line of fuck-the-mainstream logic while arguably valid is also very flawed. Without a certain amount of media crossover, television and cinema could never successfully coexist. Hell, George Clooney would have never left “ER” and given us gems like “Michael Clayton.” Sometimes, sharing personalities becomes less about competition and more about enriching multiple platforms.
And in digital video, some people are already adopting this very important concept. It’s why “=3” has been guest hosted by celebrities like T.J. Miller and Bobby Lee. Even the third annual Streamy Awards brought out YouTubers to backup for Vanilla Ice and Soulja Boy; maybe it wasn’t the limelight those YouTubers deserved, but at least it’s a start.
This is all to say that there needs to be a balance that is struck between not only YouTube and television, but YouTube and film, music and art. Each platform can’t compete with one another because everyone will probably lose. TV needs YouTube’s audience while YouTube needs TV’s production value and mainstream appeal.
YouTube, much to their credit, are striking out into previously forbidden territory with the upcoming Comedy Week. While the count down to Comedy Week has been starstudded, YouTube has done a terrific job of balancing screen time between mega stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and YouTubers the likes of Grace Helbig and Ryan Higa.
It seems like YouTube has done something very deliberate with Comedy Week, which is to make it all about “comedy coming together.” YouTube is using comedy as the great unifier in this case. Bringing all of these stars together under one digital roof and not putting one platform above the other is a very conscious decision on the site’s part. Hopefully it’s a decision that will make YouTube purists more willing to accept mainstream celebs in their digital video feeds.