Users Want Tosh(ers)

August 28, 2010

I was recently interviewed by Time magazine about the phenomenon of Tosh.0. Once again, my YouTube studies lead me to pop-analysis of cultural phenomena I had otherwise studiously avoided. But I watched, and pontificated, and is the case in such situations, the journalist used what she needed but did not include what mattered most to me. So, I’ll share that here, that is, if you care about Tosh, and really, why would you?

Just like it is an obvious fabrication that YouTube (and most other) web 2.0 poster-children are the sacrosanct home of “user-generated” content (this belief relies upon casually disregarding the corporate architecture, advertisements, and mainstream product which organize the site, not to mention the data-mining of your carefully composed home videos), Tosh.0 is not really a half-hour of DIY video. Instead, Tosh.0 smartly frames its banal, naughty, rabid stuff within a (don’t mind that wizard behind the curtain) corporate-produced banal naughty studio-cum-basement where Daniel Tosh (unlike Mike Myers) plays it just a wee bit closer to type (and age).

Tosh succeeds at the construction of a better corporate frame than YouTube ever could muster (what with its pretense of gee whilickers DIY transparency), due to his show’s impressively smooth blending of professional and amateur content, so that the corporate content (the frame) is cleverly masked through falsified formats of ribald user-generated style, taste, and performance. Tosh’s “offensive” embrace of all things nasty, anti-pc, and puerile is artfully serviced by a hidden team of professional curators, and yet another team of grown-up comedy writers, camera, and sound men, all supported by a team of paying corporate advertisers, who together allow the show to produce just the right shimmer of professional gloss to pass as (while bettering) yet another of the racist, sexist, bawdy, and downright predictable slapstick, “shocking,” “comedy” videos the show re-presents. The fact is that the user-produced content he spotlights (while also racist, sexist, and bawdy) is also badly performed, written, and shot, is not professionally conceived. So Tosh tells us that it’s a hell of a lot more pleasurable to have this paltry user-fare framed by some good old mainstream (production) values, even as Tosh pretends to be just one of the boys.