From ‘Epic Rap Battles’ to Clown Elvis: How Sean Barrett Has Carved Out YouTube’s Oddest Career [INTERVIEW]


YouTube is like the ocean in that all the shit and trash of the world eventually ends up there. When you see an opening line like that, I bet you think some really negative stuff is going to follow, but you’re wrong. I love “Clownvis Time” — a new sort of online variety show hosted by an Elvis impersonator who is also a clown. It is so, so fantastically odd that I will randomly think of Clownvis and burst out chuckling (not full-on laughing — it’s not that funny — but goddamn if it isn’t pretty fucking good).

Clownvis first appeared on my horizon via his bizarre appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” where he heckled the shit out of the judges (good work, Clownvis). However, I cannot honestly recall watching an episode of “America’s Got Talent,” so I’ve got to believe that I watched the clip online after the fact. At the time, I remember thinking, “Well, that’s the last I’ll ever hear of this guy.” I am pleased to be mistaken, as his schtick fits perfectly in the online medium and its cavalcade of perverts, loners, misfits and, did I mention perverts?

But Clownvis can’t do it alone.

And that’s why he has people like Sean Barrett in his crew. Sean started out working with Maker Studios on such projects as “Epic Rap Battles,” where he became a valuable fixture in shoring up the production side of things. Now he is directing episodes of the Clownvis show. I can’t quite wrap my mind around his career trajectory, but I envy the hell out of it. Probably it’s best if I just let Sean explain how he went from Abe Lincoln rap-battling Chuck Norris to clown Elvis.

How did you get involved with the ERB crew in the first place?

I first got involved with ERB back in June of 2011. I got a call from Lloyd Ahlquist, aka EpicLloyd, who asked if I would be interested. I met Lloyd back in 2008 when we both worked at the same comedy theatre which he and his buddies now own — The Westside Comedy Theatre. I had seen the Chuck Norris vs. Abe Lincoln battle and loved it so I jumped at the chance to work on ERB and will always be grateful to Lloyd for bringing me on board.

You mentioned that you brought some innovation to the ERB series and gave it a more dynamic look. Explain.

When I came on they were mainly doing rotating backgrounds, which in my humble opinion did not seem all that epic. I came on for the Ben Franklin vs. Billy Mays Episode. I was asked to create a world for the Sham Wow dude in 3D space, which I did but then pushed to also do the same for Billy Mays. I gave him more of an “as seen on TV” look. I continued to push for creating expansive worlds for these characters to live in. They more or less handed over the keys for the visual components of the Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare episode. I ended up hand drawing the world Seuss lives in, and that is what we see today.

I was able to take some of their ideas, flesh them out and create worlds for the characters to live in, like the world Master Chief performed in, as well as Leonidas, Mr. Rogers, Doc Brown, The Doctor, and many others. I was really proud of recreating the Star Wars sequence at the beginning of Vader vs. Hitler 2.

If you could see an “Epic Rap Battle” between two figures not yet covered, who would it be?

I would love to see Hunter S. Thompson vs. Edgar Allen Poe. I think Pete would do an awesome Hunter. Or maybe Charles Bukowski vs. Raymond Chandler.

Why did you ultimately part ways with ERB?

I started out working as a full-time employee for Maker Studios, working mainly on ERB. I also directed a few videos for Lloyd on his channel, Pawn, Coming up Short, Ain’t Got No Watch and directed Obama Girl and Alphacat on the PoliPop Channel. The last episode I worked on for ERB was Santa Claus vs. Moses played by Snoop Dogg … sorry, Snoop Lion.

Ultimately, I decided to transition from full time to independent contractor so I could focus more on writing and directing content for other performers in the music and comedy arena.

How did you meet up with/get involved with Clownvis?

I started out as a fan going to some of his live shows at the Hollywood Improv. We met through a mutual friend, Jamie Flam, who is the creative director for the Hollywood Improv. He hooked us up, and we ended up making a video for Clownvis’ song, “Barack O’s Tacos” around the time of the election. He and I really got along as people and decided to keep doing them so we made “Jesus Christ Eating on a Chicken Wing” and then “The Cursive Song” featuring one of my favorite comedians, Neil Hamburger, and now, the weekly series, “Clownvis Time.”

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