David Earl, have you heard of him? He's an enigmatic fellow working in the comedy world under many guises. One you may recognise as Brian Gittings; the gravelly-voiced cafe owner who, after supporting Ricky Gervais on his Science tour in ’09, made a cameo appearance in his film Cemetery Junction last year.
Another character, recently outed to be Earl by the Guardian, is a Twitter-based sex therapist called Dr Peter Thraft who has a growing fan base of nearly 7,000 followers, despite only tweeting since January this year. And if it wasn't for the aforementioned newspaper you probably wouldn't know it was Mr Earl, he must like an air of mystery.
But I’m here to talk about his other alter ego, one that has little coverage in the press and, at present, only a cult following of fans. His name? Steve Cumberland; a narcissistic 37-year-old vlogger (video blogger) who, having not had a relationship with a woman for three years, is on a mission to get one, via his broadcasts. He’s a hopeless bastard.
A year ago this month Earl posted the first video of his creation Steve Cumberland on his own YouTube channel. With no mention of it being a comedy persona you have to dig a little deeper to find his identity (check the tags under the descriptions), which might be why his audience is currently limited - some people think he's real.
Steve's the sort of person everyone has met in their life. You know that bloke who’s hoping to get cloned so he can be intimate with himself? That’s Cumbo, as he likes to be known. An attention-seeking self-styled lady’s man with a moronic laugh so OTT it’s hilarious. But like all great comedy characters there's a vulnerability to him, a naivety that’s warming.
On YouTube you will find Cumbo in all his blissfully unaware self-absorbed glory. He sits in his house and to webcam regales us with tales of his favourite subject, himself. Stories consist of improbable ca-ray-zay nights in Brighton, where he lives, taking drugs, boozing, chatting up girls and knocking about with a group of people in their early 20s; who he wants them to nickname him The Godfather, but it didn’t catch on.
For a year now ‘The Cumbo’ (worth a follow for Tweets such as this when the world found out Osama bin Laden was killed: “Wish I'd just been shot in the head - might get some bloody attention on here!!! Err, girls!”) has posted footage roughly every other month in five minute spurts of comedy delight. All done in typical vlog style with Americanisms, quick edits, jump cuts and basic effects like faux sentimental black and white cutaways, giving authenticity that confuses some into thinking he's an actual person.
Steve Cumberland; a narcissistic 37-year-old vlogger (video blogger) who, having not had a relationship with a woman for three years, is on a mission to get one, via his broadcasts. He’s a hopeless bastard.
The videos are a refreshing parody of the vlogging phenomenon that has exploded over the past few years, thanks to sites like YouTube that give a platform for self-infatuated persons to broadcast from. It's a strange thing too, vlogging. It's like a self-edited waffle of a person's life, one that they don't mind portraying to the whole world; a bit like updates on Facebook but a longer film version, a more in-depth me me meness.
YouTube is awash with footage of many broadcasters who are similar to Cumbo but they're not playing a character they're real people, with no sense of irony. It’s also a big business with some channels receiving over a million viewers per episode. Last year the YouTube rich list (that features at least two video bloggers along with other entertainers who they call their ‘partners’) revealed some earned over £65,000 in a year through advertising revenues. I know.
One guy who didn't appear on the YouTube rich list, but is popular in terms of his relatively large viewing figures, is Myles Dyer. He’s a prime example of a typical vlogger who Earl is satirising:
If like me you're thinking: "Effin' hell, who watches this zip bag of guffs?” Well perhaps it’s the same people who've become accustomed to living their lives on the internet in tandem with the real world. They don’t bat an eyelid to people such as Dyer who reveal intimate details of themselves, and actively seek a window into such a person’s day-to-day existence. Or maybe reality TV is to blame? Feeding a desire to see real people in real situations - like sitting in their bedrooms talking bollocks to camera.
That’s why Earl’s creation is not only very funny but also a reflection on our society and how we’re so enwrapped by celeb culture that now, through the medium of online videos and social networking, some of the ordinary Joes want in on the action; they want to be famous. In one broadcast Cumbo says: “Thank you all so much for the lovely comments you've been leaving on my Facebook and YouTube page, I actually feel like a bit of a celebrity at the moment.”
Another didactical video sees Steve Jean Cumberland, to give his full name, stating: “If my great-grandad could see what I’m doing now he'd think, 'Jesus Christ. What has happened to the world?' But my great-grandad doesn't understand that this is how it is now in 2011, we're kicking ass, we're communicating, we're getting in contact, we're loving each other, we're passing love vibes...” Going on to say “I wanna produce videos that make you sit back and go, 'this is what i want to do most evenings... press play let's see what new video Steve's got’."
That’s where I’m going now to view some more of his videos because he deserves better ratings for using a comedy character in an original and thought provoking way. And who knows in the near distant future he may have mainstream success; in one of the releases this week he mentions he's in talks with Channel 4’s T4 to present at festivals. If this is true he may not be comedy's best kept secret anymore, let’s just hope the commercial world doesn’t stifle the creative freedom he has online. Long live Cumbo.
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