I’m inventing a new term, right now: “shitshow comedy”. It’s my favourite form of entertainment, but I always struggle even defining it let alone finding new examples of it. This article is my attempt to explain it, provide some favourite examples, and help anyone else who has the same taste in comedy.
This post took far too long to write, since I kept getting distracted by, you guessed it, the “irresistible allure” of the very content I was trying to document! I’ve spent tens if not hundreds of hours listening to / watching everyone listed here, most of it multiple times.
Shitshow comedy is comedy that isn’t scripted, isn’t predictable, isn’t primarily driven by financial gain, and is a non-stop inexplicable car crash throughout. It’s not “absurdist”, “random”, “fringe”, or “zoomer humour”, but the shitshow has elements from all of them. It can be unintentional or intentional.
It can be a podcast, a video, a livestream, it can even be a game. It can be a few seconds or a few hours long. It can be a one-off, a series, or even an entire career, but when you see it you’ll know.
The appeal is hard to define, there are no jokes or slapstick comedy. And yet… it’s undeniably funny. Here’s an example that is a one-off, short, unintentional video, courtesy of DJ Akademiks:
Okay, without further ado let’s move on to probably the most useful part of this post: examples of shitshow comedy.
Whilst most shitshow comedy creators these days are on Twitch, YouTube was historically a much better place to find their work.
Twitch has the real-time aspect, meaning there’s a lot more scope for unpredictability, however a lot of streams have constant interactions with chat / donators. This keeps them somewhat grounded in reality, and stops them from getting too “into” anything with shitshow potential.
YouTube on the other hand requires recording, editing, and uploading the content. Considering how often shitshow comedy interferes with the technical elements (e.g. PC breaking, internet dying, files corrupted), the scope of disaster is limited. However, since a creator can spend hours playing a game without any interruptions, they can get much deeper into the disaster.
The best shitshow comedians can handle both. For example, Jerma’s infamous “Grab That Auto 5” wouldn’t have worked as well if it was a stream, since half the appeal is Jerma getting lost in the insanity of the games. Similarly, the “700,000 MORE* Games” stream wouldn’t have worked as a video. The accidental self-slap, clickmaps, and chat helping hunt for witch image assets are a core part.
YouTube / YouTube 2 / Twitch
By far my favourite content creator, undeniably the most creative person I’ve ever seen, the “anti-streamer”. It’s impossible to pick a single example, anyone with any interest in shitshow comedy will know and love him.
Probably the least consistently live & most unknown creator on this list, since he also has an actual job at Yogscast (seemingly sorting… everything). However his streams are consistently all over the place. Bad camera, bad audio, disruptive bit donation incentives, it’s got everything you could ask for.
YouTube / Twitch
The Yogscast are a group with 30+ members these days, so there’s not actually that much fully shitshow comedy left in their main videos (besides Lewis of course). However, in the early days of the channel (and group), it was a chaotic mess. The intentionally independent yet collaborating nature of the group’s individuals lets new shitshow comedy emerge (e.g. Dafnotdaff) whilst also having the support structure they need (e.g. legal services, office space).
YouTube / Twitch
Whilst technically a RuneScape streamer, Will’s Friday variety streams are some of the best shitshow comedy I’ve seen. Maybe it’s just because the variety games are a break from his hundred-hour grinds on RuneScape, but he brings an amazing sense of humour to every game he touches, regardless of quality.
YouTube / Twitch
Whilst Hatfilms are Yogscast affiliated, they usually keep to themselves as a trio. A mixture of IRL and gaming content, their content varies from relatively slick to shitshow, usually depending on the game.
I must admit, I never listen to actual radio. However, there’s quite a few shitshow comedy shows that eventually become podcasts, and get some exposure. All of these sources are from 2010 or earlier, all are British, and mostly from XFM, so there’s definitely something suspicious going on there!
There’s undoubtedly plenty of other audio-first creators around, however I suspect Twitch has made it much more appealing to stream instead of performing on radio. Additionally, whilst I don’t try many new podcasts, I’d love to find some more up to date shitshow comedy.
|Adam & Joe
Radio 6 Show / Recent podcasts
Despite not doing much work together since the early 2010s, Adam & Joe’s radio shows, podcasts, and TV show are a crucial part of shitshow comedy. The radio shows in particular, due to their live nature, were prone to disintegrating into complete chaos. Whilst the pair were somewhat limited by broadcasting standards (no swearing!), their childlike sense of humour is persistently endearing. Awful puns and toilet humour make easy listening, and it’s bittersweet that they’ve both moved on to independent successes!
Yogpod / Yogpod Animations
The Yogpod is from early, early Yogscast history (2009-2010), and is a perfect little bubble of their original style. It’s just 2 friends, talking shit whilst usually playing World of Warcraft at the same time. Nothing of any importance is discussed, but it’s deeply nostalgic for anyone who used to play MMORPGs for hours with online friends. This podcast has been essentially succeeded by “Simon’s Peculiar Portions”.
XFM Radio Show / Animations
Whilst this is technically Ricky Gervais’ show with Karl Pilkington and Stephen Merchant, it’s pretty obvious who the star of the show is. Originally a producer of the show, and slowly becoming a presenter, Karl’s “unique” perspective on the world is truly innovative. Whilst the show wasn’t technically that much of a shitshow, there was a constant air of chaos as well as extremely unpredictable conversation topics. The spin-off podcasts are more professional, but Karl still keeps the unpredictability going. And yes, he is 100% a real person.
Similarly to the Ricky Gervais show, whilst this was Russell’s show… he wasn’t always the star. The dynamic between him and his co-hosts Matt Morgan and Trever Lock (and occasionally Karl Pilkington!) caused the shitshow comedy to work, with all 3 of them playing their part.
Finally, I want to call out a couple of other shitshow comedy sources that defy classification for one reason or another.
A pioneer of the art form, truly. His interviews are probably the most chaotic TV that has, does, or will ever exist. Every single one is perfect in its own way, but I’d like to draw special attention to:
- Rapper Warrior Ninja & Part 2: Danny Brown, A$AP Rocky, JPEGMAFIA, Lil Yachty.
- Wiz Khalifa: George Clooney(ish), naked PAs, and raccoons.
- Jack McBrayer: Hannibal’s real voice, grey food, and unusual prices.
- A grizzly bear: Yes, a real bear. No, it isn’t safe.
How can a game count as shitshow comedy? By having the perfect combination of complex yet understandable mechanics, all implemented a little bit jankily. The end result is a game that almost guarantees a very funny experience due to the sheer chaos of it all.
It’s the game behind my favourite Jerma stream and itswill had a similar shitshow experience. In fact, every single video I saw of it was excellent shitshow comedy throughout. You don’t truly know a man until you’ve watched him try to comprehend a surreal wrestling match.
Shitshow comedy is rarely directly sponsored or profitable. There’s no product to sell, no catchy marketing phrase, it’s just a mess that is usually supported by adverts or donations. The restrictions that come with commercialised comedy stifle shitshow comedy too much, forcing it to follow a script, a timeline, or family-friendly language.
The internet has been a blessing for this form of comedy, letting individuals or groups who could never receive traditional funding suddenly find an audience via YouTube / Twitch, and get paid. Services like Patreon also free them from worrying about their content appealing to a wide audience for profitability reasons, and just… let them be funny.
This makes shitshow comedy a much-needed relief from the all too common sales-pitch-during-comedy structure.
Unpredictability is the single biggest identifier of shitshow comedy. Not just unpredictability in terms of what will be said or what will happen, but on a meta level too. Will the Twitch stream break and end without any explanation? Will the game experience a bizarre bug? Will it all go smoothly and be boring? Anything is possible!
Additionally, all of the disaster / mess isn’t affecting others, it’s just self-contained chaos.
Despite not knowing what will happen next, there is an element of “comfiness” to shitshow comedy. This applies most to people like Jerma who do lengthy livestreams, by knowing the content creator’s personality even previously unwatched videos are somewhat familiar.
This trait along with the next makes a lot of shitshow content perfect both for dedicated watching, and having on in the background.
With group content between long-standing content creators like Triforce or Hatfilms, their dynamics are a known quantity. Each has a niche to fill, whilst the words in their interactions are always changing, the overall theme of the conversation has been performed a hundred times before.
Okay, so if shitshow comedy seemingly doesn’t require much preparation or scripting, and just requires putting funny people in scenarios where things can go wrong, why isn’t it everywhere?
What do all the content creators listed have in common? Ultimately, not much.
Because of this, it’s hard to find new examples besides stumbling upon them randomly or having them personally recommended to you. They’re unlikely to be doing big partnerships with large financial backing, or making strategic co-op videos, so will just be fumbling around in a weird game category. Additionally, they’re usually on the fringes of their category, so it can be hard to find them amongst the hundreds of other creators.
Similarly, how can these creators market themselves? They’re usually not particularly good at any one game, not particularly good at organising mutually beneficial collaborations, and not even aiming for growth as a primary goal. Instead, they usually seem pretty happy just making their existing audience have a good time.
It’s hard to believe given his extreme success now, but if Jerma hadn’t made Team Fortress 2 videos it’s unlikely he’d be anywhere near where he is today. Just like with the Yogscast and Minecraft, becoming the funniest content creator for a popular game can kickstart a career, and make years of effort seem like an overnight success. Both creators didn’t necessarily initially aim for comedy, but their light-hearted approach to tutorials drew in an audience that may have originally clicked for information, but stayed for the creator’s personality.
Finally, the unpredictable nature of this content makes it tricky to sponsor. Too loose a sponsorship deal and there could easily be some negative brand association. Too strict and the content will suffer. Whilst some creators manage to retain their creative control over sponsored streams, most (especially smaller ones) end up with sponsored streams that feel quite stilted, and can often be noticeably different to a regular stream.
Luckily, since shitshow comedians often have a very passionate fanbase, they are generally willing to “put up” with more. For example, Jerma has had a crypto sponsor, and itswill has had a Raid sponsorship. I personally dislike both these industries / companies but… I also know how hard it can be to make a decent income streaming, especially as a shitshow streamer. As such, I don’t mind these sponsorships at all, whereas for a more “normal” streamer it might be a little disappointing.
Ultimately, I’m still not convinced I’ve managed to define shitshow comedy. Perhaps the indescribable nature of it is the very point, and it can only ever be shown through examples and recommendations. It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’ve been watching every creator listed for years, and I suspect nostalgia plays a part.
Of course, it’s also possible that there’s a common term for this style of comedy, and I’ve just somehow never come across it. I can at least be sure that nobody has compared Jerma and Adam & Joe before, so this post might help fans of one discover the other!