I know very little about anything, but I can pretend to know more than I actually do about a few topics -- namely, beer, art, shoes, and that's about it. But entertainment? Not so much. Particularly online. I still think the internet (yes, lowercase "i," I'm taking a stand) is for porn, cat memes, and YouTube trolls. But I do know genius when I see it. I knew it when I saw, Liam Kyle Sullivan's Shoes; I knew it when I saw college friend, Randall's The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger; and I knew it upon seeing Paro Deez.
What is Paro Deez? Well, I don't want to oversell it, so I'll just say that it's only one of the most brilliant online features today. Basically, the creator takes clips of young pop stars being interviewed on a host of television programs, and then splices them together, creating a dialogue and a narrative among the pop stars rooted in competition, obloquies, and brutal oneupmanship. At first the segments come across as petty and superficial, primarily because the "stars" are often very young and are pop-culturally evasive to many of us older folks. But then, after watching the segments ten to fifteen times in a row, you get absolutely hooked (in spite of the real characters' personalities, but because of the invented, parodic ones). Well, not all of us get hooked -- half of us do, half of us don't. Paro Deez is very divisive, it seems.
My friends and I now use it as litmus test of character among people we've known for years. The friends who get it are IN; the friends who don't get it are put on a list. That list is then forwarded to the FBI, the CIA, and Interpol. I call it the Miley test (as in Miley Cyrus). Those who don't get it are typically the ones who see Miley as the seemingly unhinged, tongue-streaking, twerking Miley of yore. Those who DO get it, however, have listened to Miley's latest album, Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, which was co-written and co-produced by The Flaming Lips. Have you listened to it? Have you seen Miley perform, Karen Don't Be Sad, on Saturday Night Live? Wow.
Speaking of Miley, she's one of the main characters of Paro Deez, and she's a force with which to be reckoned. Her mano a manos with nemeses like Taylor Swift and Adele are intense and gut-punchingly funny, rife with lowbrow slams and highbrow contestations. The jabs and quarrels cover everything from street cred to recreational self-medication; from racism to feminism. And it's all done with such originality and such aplomb -- both earned and unearned.
I recently interviewed the creator of Paro Deez, who was so articulate and insightful. I wasn't surprised, mind you, but merely impressed. What follows is a Q&A. But don't read it until or unless you've watched a few of the Paro Deez segments. Start with Ratchet White Girls and get sucked in from there. Enjoy!
What was the impetus to create Paro Deez? Is there a story behind it? Some context? A revelation?
I got my inspiration to make celebrity voice-over dubs from other YouTubers in the game who pioneered this particular art form. After becoming so obsessed and spoiled with laughter, I wanted to take a stab at trying it out. I never thought of myself as a true comic, but I love to create, and I'm familiar with editing so I thought, why not? I had to think hard about what type of show to make first. No one was really featuring a lot of white female pop stars, and a revelation did indeed happen. Why not use white girls and give them black girl sass? And thus, Ratchet White Girls was born, and here we are fifty videos later. Thanks to ThisisMackTV, Got 2B Real, and my partners at The Legends Panel for their videos, which have inspired my own efforts.
Describe your process: do you create narratives and back into them? Or do you let the spliced segments speak for themselves? And how do you find and decide on the various segments?
Sometimes I create random narratives, and sometimes I create videos on the spot based on juicy current events. I usually envision a plot in my head for a few days, and then I look for footage and videos online. Watching through them, I get a good idea for bits of dialogue based on facial expressions. As long as the videos have a decent amount of camera time focusing on the subject, and are not too out-of-date, then I choose them for my pieces. Next comes the pre-editing -- coming up with dialogue, recording and plugging in the voices, and more editing. This can take anywhere from a couple days to a couple of weeks. It is excruciatingly tedious at times, but the response from fans is always so gratifying.
The personalities you ascribe to the real-life characters are over-the-top yet somehow believably fitting. Talk about how you "grant" the characters their personas.
I try not to overthink them, and let the characters basically speak through me. Miley Cyrus was one of my first characters, and ultimately the easiest. Putting forth a country-slash-urban accent is a lot of fun. For the most part, I find one funny thing about a celebrity and just run with it. It gets tricky trying to differentiate between voices and characters who are not as lively and vibrant, but I just do my best to give the characters something.
The backgrounds of the divas are so well researched. Where do you get your information, and why do you place emphasis on jokes and digs that are often backed by actual facts?
Google and YouTube are pretty much what I use to research information. Before getting to the meat of making the videos, I just do a "re-cap" search on the celebrities to decipher what is worth adding in. For more developed concepts such as my Knowles Family Values or You Can't Sit With Us programs, much more research is needed. Sometimes it is surprising what certain stats you forget about performers. The subscribers are also a mega way to get the 411. They are probably the most reliable source for leads to the scoop.
You broach many important but oftentimes sensitive subjects -- e.g., racial tension, feminist nuances, socio-economic discrepancies, etc. And you do so cavalierly, yet so fairly (relatively speaking). Is this conscientiously important to you, or is it more a product of your intuitive creativity?
In the honor of the great Joan Rivers, sometimes comedy is about taking the deepest, darkest, most twisted things in life and figuring out a way to laugh about them so that you, if only for a moment, escape the pain. With so much racial tension -- among many other cultural, national, and worldly issues -- sometimes we all just need a break. These videos provide an escape for me at times, yet still I remain conscious of what's real. In the future, I do plan on pushing the boundaries a bit to combine the perfect merging of funny and serious for some topics dear to my heart. I believe it can be true spiritual medicine.
How do you settle on those hilarious voices?
Honestly, I kinda hate my voice at times. Because I'm disguised behind pitch-tweaked audio is why I even have the guts to do this seriously. It's really down to the celebrity character. If they have a distinctive voice, I do my best to emulate it with my own twist. I'm no impersonator by any means, but I surprise myself every now and then. Sometimes I hate the way a voice will come out, or it will come out sounding like another character, and I'm like "screw it, I'm running with it!"
Are you a one-person operation, or do you enlist the feedback and assistance of others?
I actually do it all myself. Which is why I can't quite put them out as frequently as I'd like. Hopefully one day, if my channel reaches the levels of Bart Baker and other big shots, I can hire a staff to assist with the scouting and editing of the footage, and other areas of the process. As for now, the dedication to the subscribers pushes me to get them done. I have never previewed or demoed a video or concept before anyone. The only feedback I get is from the people who click on the videos.
Tell us about yourself: your background, hobbies, interests, aspirations, etc.
I grew up in South Carolina, and I'm 29 years old. I have always had a very creative soul, and have always been into the arts: show choir, theater, band, step team, creative writing, and so on. Music and songwriting are also very deep passions of mine. I have even been on a couple of auditions or two, but we won't mention those in detail. Not to give up hope, I still plan on entering the music world with my musical gifts, in addition to my aspiring career as a director. It took a few years of in and out, back and forth, but I got my B.F.A. in Media Production here in Atlanta, in the summer of 2014. My ultimate dream is to own a Music, Film, and Dance School/Hall.
What are your greatest hopes and satisfactions associated with your work, and how has your work been received thus far?
My greatest hope is to create a catalog of timeless art, and develop a following of dedicated people who can look at my channel to reference feel-good moments. The true satisfaction comes from connecting with ordinary people who are just blown away with my humor. Again, I never thought of myself as any type of comedian or funny guy. But people have given me a reason to reach for higher goals and to push myself. I was so happy when I got my first 1000 views with a parody of the girl group Danity Kane, entitled, Dawn Richard Explains Why She Punched Aubrey O'Day, and then my first 100,000 with my Aaliyah Speaks To Wendy Williams About Biopic video, and then another 200,000 with my Janet Jackson Speaks To Ciara, Tinashe, and Jason Derulo About BET Tribute parody. My levels of excitement and appreciation grew with each milestone. However, nothing was like the response to my Nicki Minaj Speaks To Taylor Swift About VMA Feud (w/ Miley Cyrus and Raven-Symone) parody. I'll never forget this one, as it currently stands with over 600,000 YouTube views. It trail-blazed through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and all types of blogs. One bigwig YouTuber even jacked some of my jokes and used them in their own version of my video!
Some people don't get it. Some people hate the way my voice sounds. Some just don't think it's funny at all. And I can't blame them. Not everyone has had the same experiences I have had to relate to the very nuanced humor I use. I take my few dislikes, and I mildly bicker every now and then with an emotional viewer, but then I keep it moving. The overwhelming support from loyal subscribers is more than enough reason not to get too worked up about it. As I always say: live, love, and laugh.
Episode 1 of Season 2 just dropped last week. Can you give us any hints as to who else will be in the running for Miley's new roommate? And what are your thoughts on Queen Mother's new album?
I won't spill the beans on potential roommates, but I will say that based on the great feedback from the premiere episode, Sia will definitely return. And of course you can expect more ratchet quarreling between new roommate, Jojo, kicked-out, Kesha, and head of the house, Miley. As far as Queen Mother, her album was nothing short of soul-wrenching, heart-filled, musical art. I Miss You and Million Years Ago are great tracks; two of my favorites. She is slaying the game right now, which is exactly why I call her "The Adelecalypse."