If you never heard of Avi Rothman yet, don’t worry, you will. He has worked on some of the most hilarious videos on the web including Modern Day Jesus and the brilliant Inappropriate Yoga Guy. The Laugh Button got to chat with the comedian and it’s clear that big things are expected from him.
So what attracted you to comedy?
I guess I was always attracted to comedy ever since I was a kid. I remember I used to imitate my grandparents… I think a lot of people in my family had good senses of humor… My brother, who is ten years older than me, would always make me laugh. He always seemed to have an easy time finding humor in different situations.
In high school, we used to put on a show called The Original Show, every year. This was basically an hour and a half long sketch show that I looked forward to writing and acting in every year. I was fortunate to work with a really talented writer/director for the show who was also an inspiration toward comedy.
How did you get into world of the web comedy?
I owe a lot to my friends Ryan Reyes, Oren Kaplan, and David Savauge. David approached Oren and I because he wanted to make a viral video. This was when YouTube first came on the scene and was beginning to become popular. I believe David was attending graduate school at the UCLA Anderson school of business. He was interested in online marketing and asked all of us to come up with some sort of viral video. I remember all of us sitting in the house Ryan and I were living in in Echo park. We began brainstorming ideas. Oren was sure we needed music, or some kind of song to make the video viral. He had his talented brother Leav there to play guitar. I thought we needed to be racy. We basically came up with this idea of making a pseudo commercial for American apparel where all of us were naked, making breakfast. We called it “Naked Breakfast”. I think it got over 150,000 hits in two days. Ryan posted it and I think his video now has over 500,000 hits. I think it would have gotten more except for the fact that it was flagged for, “adult content”… Even though we blurred out everything. I think that video helped me realize how accessible an audience could be, if it in fact went viral.
I also owe a lot to James and Tyler Mcfadden of gopotato.tv. They are the brothers who essentially convinced me to shoot the first Inappropriate Yoga Guy video, Tyler and James produced it.
How do you find inspiration for your characters?
I guess most of the characters I develop I draw from real people and real experiences. The Yoga Guy character comes from real experiences. He’s actually a combination of a few people. My sister got me in to yoga about seven years ago. For a while I became addicted and was in class 5 times a week. I’m usually the quiet one in class, generally keeping to myself. I love observing people… At times I thought there were so many characters in my yoga class. I would see a lot of guys blatantly hitting on and trying to pick up women… and vice versa.
Did you have a weird experience during Yoga yourself to spawn Ogden’s character? Maybe Modern Day Jesus did some yoga?
Yeah… I remember after class I went to the bathroom to change out of my sweaty clothes. The particular class was really crowded so the bathroom was also packed. I wanted to change quickly because I’m not a fan of being naked in front of other people. One of the regular guys in class who is somewhat clueless about personal space came right up to me when I was trying to pull my pants on. He commented on my handstand technique, and my improvement. The entire time I was thinking, “can’t this wait until I pull my pants over my crotch and get out of the bathroom?” I would also see this guy talk to women in the middle of class. I guess he lacked any sort of appropriate behavior.
I don’t think Jesus needs to do yoga. I think he’s always in top physical condition… because he’s Jesus.
Your clips have brought in millions of hits on the web. Has this level of viral video success helped open doors for you?
The Jesus videos helped sell and create two more videos for Atom.com. Oren and I also pitched Comedy Central a half hour Jesus show. The Yoga Guy also led Greg Thanos (writer/director) and I to Yoga Journal Magazine. We ended up working with them to create a five episode web series for their online magazine. This has also led to a lot of meetings for us as well… which is always great.
A lot of your projects seem to be collaborative, do you like working as part of a comedy team better than going at it solo?
Yeah, I really do like to collaborate. I might develop a character on my own, but I really like collaborating with people. I like getting in to a rhythm of throwing ideas back and forth and getting others perspectives of what it is we’re working on. That’s not to say I never butt heads with people. Even when you think you’ve found a really great collaborative partner there are always hurdles and walls standing in your way that you need to climb over.
What new projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m working on a couple things right now. Greg Thanos and I are working on some Yoga Guy stuff. Seth Menachem (my writing partner who co-developed the show Partners with me) and I are developing another show cable show… I feel like things are always in the works.
Where can people find more information about you?
I’m really bad at self promotion. I do have a website that has most of the projects I’ve created / co-created. You can check it out at avirothman.com.