Through his unique content and charm, Kurtis Conner has become one of the internet's most beloved people, and you'll be happy to know he's just as goofy behind the camera.
The internet comedian, Kurtis Conner, made a stop in Downtown Columbus for his ongoing Kurtis Conner Live! Tour. He was accompanied by his best friends and fellow Canadian comedians, Jacob Sharpe and Dean Hebscher. But before we dive into the incredible mind of Kurtis Conner, a bit of background in case you’ve been under a rock for the past 9 years.
Kurtis’s social media presence started gaining traction in 2014 when he joined the 6-second video platform Vine. By the time Vine shut down in 2017, Kurtis had amassed more than 350,000 followers. That same year, Kurtis’s YouTube channel really started to grow. It features a collection of hilarious commentary videos on a range of bad movies, cringy internet trends, and personas, and putting himself through entertaining “experiments." Like the time he became a magician, mastered the Fushigi, or achieved a world record speed run in an obscure golf video game. His goofy personality and often absurdist humor has drawn in over 4.12M subscribers and over half a billion views for his channel since he first started uploading videos in 2014. If you have ever seen any of Kurtis’s videos or listened to his "Very Really Good" podcast, it’s obvious why so many people consume and genuinely love his content; his perfectly timed jokes and comical skits leave you with the best kind of sore ribs from laughing too much. If you have been one of the few living on a rock lately, might I suggest watching The Frightening World of AI Generated Content. It’s a personal favorite of mine and it demonstrates the care and obvious dedication Kurtis puts into his content – also, it’s just hilarious.
But enough about that, let’s get to the part you actually care about.
You started your public-facing career on Vine, do you ever get frustrated if people only recognize you from those 6-second videos?
Kurtis: I feel like there was a brief time where I was like, I'm doing so much more than that, which is like a stupid ego thing, I guess. But it makes me happy now when people are like, I used to watch you on Vine, but they don't watch any of my shit now. I love that. I feel like I like that more because they just didn't care about whatever I am doing now, but they just liked me at that time of the Internet. I look at Vine with a lot of nostalgia and a lot of good memories. So, it's cool when people bring it up, I like it.
You have such a massive audience. Does that ever actually feel like real people to you?
Kurtis: Yeah, it’s weird, I know it's real people because of all the shows we've done, I'm seeing real people there. It's not just comments in the chairs. Honestly, the best part of touring is to see real people and then we meet them after a show, everyone's always super nice. The scale is something that I don't fully comprehend sometimes, like for subscribers. I hit 4 million a few weeks ago, and thinking about that number of people is crazy. But the shows definitely help put it into perspective. There's still a part of me that’s like all these people are just here by accident. They don't mean to be here. It's weird because I feel like I don't do anything to deserve it, but they're there so it's really cool.
With that many people following you, is it ever weird to think about how your audience has parasocial relationships with you?
Kurtis: Yeah, all the time. It’s not a normal human relationship to have with someone. Obviously, the person I am online is very close to who I am in real life. I think definitely for me, no matter how similar I am to my online persona in real life, they're completely separate for me, even if they come off identical. I don't know how to describe it, but it is strange when people come up and they make a joke to me, that's kind of mean, and I'm like, that was mean, why'd you say that? But it's because they're like, oh, I've watched this guy, I know so much about him, he's like my friend. And then they'll say something pretty mean, and I'm like, okay, great. Thank you so much for that. Mostly it's like, why is your mustache gross? Or like, you're really short in person. Yeah, they're telling someone to change their appearance, so that's always good. But I do understand it because I'm sure I also have parasocial stuff with other artists that I look up to. It's just a part of being art.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kurtis has an incredible mustache IRL
Does your audience at all shape the content you produce?
Kurtis: It's definitely a delicate balance that you have to maintain because it's like you want to make the audience happy, but also what started making the audience happy was them watching the creator do what they wanted to do. It's a catch – 22, because when you do stuff only to make your audience happy, what does that do? You're not really doing it for yourself, and you might not grow. You might just stay stagnant and only keep the audience that wanted the old content, and there's also probably a portion of the audience who doesn’t want that, and they're just going to fuck off. So I think it's definitely a balance of making the things that you want to make, but also inserting maybe a few things that will be a nod or reference point to something that the audience may want. I do get a lot of ideas for videos from my fans though, which is cool because they're like, “I saw this really bad movie and you should talk about it.” That's how most of them happen, which is great. It is increasingly hard to find ideas to talk about for videos. It's a fucking nightmare. Especially when I'm touring.
When it comes to your creative projects outside of simply just making videos, for example, the Kurtis Conner Greatest Hits VHS tapes you made for your Patreon subscribers, are those ideas something you come up with, or do you have other people sharing these ideas with you?
Kurtis: VHS? That was my idea. I want to get credit for that, I want to go on the record. I remember I was in some thrift/vintage market thing in Canada and they had, I think it was like a Kid Rock, or some country star who had, a greatest hits VHS. And it was like the goofiest thing I've ever seen, because, that's how people use to watch music videos, and I thought it’d be really cool to do that for some of my videos. It's funny because there are only three YouTube videos on there that you could just watch for free online, but I’m just a huge nostalgia fan and I grew up watching VHS tapes and shit. Yeah, so that specifically was my idea, then we had a guy help us make them. But for the most part, my merch guy Andrew, he has really good ideas most of the time for merch. The artists that we do work with, like Kel, Brandon, and Dee, they're all super fucking talented and I think we all understand each other enough. But I'm such a big fan of their work, too, when I'm like, just do whatever you want to do, and they nail it, like, every time. I've just heard other from artists that work with other YouTubers or musicians, and they're overly specific about what they want. And it's like you hire an artist to do something, to be an artist, so just let them be an artist. It's definitely a collaboration, but I will say the VHS tapes were my idea.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The VHS tapes were Kurtis’s idea.
It was at this point that the guys across the hall started causing a bit of a ruckus, Kurtis kindly closed the door and jokingly poked fun at his friends, “Fucking irresponsible bastard. I want to be on the record with that too. They fucking suck I hate all of them.
Speaking of Jacob and Dean, what has it been like touring with your best friends? Do you guys ever get fed up with each other?
Kurtis: We're all adults and I can usually tell when one of us is getting fed up with everyone or if I'm getting fed up, they usually can tell. If we need to do that, I'll just fuck off and do my own thing. I never thought it was going to be like, oh, but what if we're not friends after this? That would be insane. We've been best friends for pretty much nine years. They're like my brothers, but also you get fed up with your brother sometimes, especially because those guys fart a lot, and it smells stinking crazy. But when we have time off at home, it feels weird not hanging around them.
Okay, so shifting more towards this tour specifically, how do you develop your material? Basically, if you could just tell me how you're funny, that'd be great.
Kurtis: Yeah, that's a good question. I don't know, I feel like I have been doing stand-up longer than I've been doing, videos. That's how I got into just comedy in general, just through stand-up about nine years ago now. Actually, my first show was in June 2013.
How many people were there?
Kurtis: In the audience? Probably like five people. It was like an open mic at a cafe, and I sucked. Not good at all. I think maybe one person laughed, like one time - it was probably like a pity laugh too. It was rough. I brought my parents too, I'm sure they laughed…. But the material on this tour, a lot of it was written in the last two years over the pandemic, and I tried it out over the last six or nine months before we left for tour. There is one bit that is from pre-pandemic, so it's, like, a lot of stuff from before, but also some newer stuff. The ideas usually happen when I'm with Dean and Jacob, just laughing about stuff. I’ll think about something on the street, and I’ll write it down and then try to turn it into something. I’ll try it out at a smaller show that we do in Toronto, in front of a real crowd, because that's the only way you can really tell if a joke works. If that goes well, then I put it into the show. I've seen all of our sets change quite a bit from the beginning of the tour. We have definitely made everything more cohesive, and they all just flow a lot better now, which is good. It's just practice, I guess.
Has there been a city on tour so far where you had just super low or no expectations, but the stop ended up surprising you?
Kurtis: Yes, actually it was Pittsburgh. That day was weird, we had a lot of strange things happen to us in the city - just people and characters, a lot of weird stuff. We also went to three different fucking Targets to find Xbox controllers and it was just a rough day for some reason. We were all like fuck this, I fucking hate this city. I just want to go, I want to do this show and leave - we were all just being old bitches. But then hearing the crowd when the show started and Jacob went on, they were so fucking loud and excited. They were for sure one of the best crowds we have had on the tour so far.
What made you want to go on tour in the first place?
Kurtis: Yeah, that’s a great question. I feel like, it wasn't even a question, really. It was like, I have to do this. It would have been so easy to just stay at home and make YouTube videos and sit inside and do whatever, but performing is how I started in comedy, and I love doing it so much. I'm in a position now where I'm able to do a huge theater tour across North America with my two best friends. So it's like, why wouldn't I, right? It fucking sucks being away from home, obviously, away from Jenna and our dog, Kiwi, that sucks a lot, but they get it, it's a thing that I've been wanting to do for literally nine years. The fact that I get to do it is really cool, and to meet the fans - they all seem so excited to be at the shows. As hard as it is to be away from home and stuff and to sleep on a bus with a bunch of other dudes who fart and burp all the fucking time. It's fun, and I'm really glad I did it.
Your relationship with Jenna is incredibly admirable, well I say that from a parasocial context of course. What has been an integral part for you guys in maintaining a long-lasting and healthy relationship?
Kurtis: I think you should just always have fun with them. I feel like that's one thing that Jenna and I do, we're always having fun. Even if we're just watching a show or just having dinner, it's always so much fun. You need to be laughing with the person. It's so weird to hear some people being like, yes, my boyfriend or girlfriend, they're not funny at all. Why are you with them then? What are you doing? They're supposed to be funny to you, right? Some people aren't that funny, but they're funny to someone, everyone is funny to some person. You should always be having fun with them. You should also always be there for them as much as you can. Communication is important, sometimes I'm not the best at that, but it is important. But yeah, I think the big one is you have to fucking really love hanging out with that person. You got to love doing whatever with that person, for more than 4 hours at least.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jenna Allard has the most incredible style + taste ever and STUDIO ERA is one of my favorite accounts on Instagram, every post is a Pinterest dream and it’s all very much chef’s kiss.
What do you see for yourself in the future? Is there anything that you really want to happen in terms of your career?
Kurtis: In terms of stand-up, obviously the goal with this tour once it's done is to film it professionally and put it out somewhere, whether that's Netflix or somewhere like that - that would be really cool. Even if I just fucking release it myself, I don't care. I just want to have it done, just fucking put it out and be like, I'm not touring with this anymore. But we also want to travel and do an Australia tour and European/UK tour, but I feel like I need to travel and do those shows before I put out the special. For videos, I just want to keep making fun videos that I like. I have always wanted to write a movie though, I think that'd be really cool.
I was actually going to ask if you ever saw yourself writing any longer scripts in the future.
Kurtis: Yeah, for sure, I’d love to because writing is so fun. I hate the process of fucking filming and editing, it's so boring. I wish I could just write and then it's just done already. But, definitely being me, I'd probably also want to have a fucking finger in everything that was going on with it, but yeah, that'd be cool to write a movie. I've always wanted to like star in it, that would be sick too.
Okay, this is a question from one of my friends, Bridget. Neil Breen? She wanted to know if you had ever tried contacting him or if you would ever collaborate with him?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Neil Breen is an incredible filmmaker who independently produces and stars in his own films. Kurtis reviewed two of his films on his channel and I’ll just let the video speak for themselves: Fateful Findings: An Extremely Weird Movie, and Twisted Pair: The Best Movie of All Time?
Kurtis: I have tried several times. I've sent him DM, this is actually tea, the inside scoop. But I was going to invest in his new movie. I was ready to give him too much money to be a part of it, to be, like an executive producer on it. He fucking responded, and he was like, “Okay, what movies have you invested in before? Have you done this before?” And I was like, “I'm a first-time investor, but I'm just a big fan of you and your vision. I'd love to be a part of this.” I think I threw out some fucking number that was too much, and he was like, “Sorry, but I only want to work with experienced film investors at this time.” It was a fucking stake through the heart. It fucking broke my heart. But yeah, I've reached out to him, and my team has reached out. When I had a publicist, I made them reach out to him, several times. And it just never happened. One day. That's like my dream, to do anything with him.
So I heard about your tour bus burning down, my sincere condolences, I know there were probably some sentimental things on there that you can't necessarily just buy back. Was there anything on there that you are just absolutely gutted about, that you lost?
Kurtis: Well, one thing I'll never be able to get back for sure, I had a hat. It was an Eric Clapton hat. It was brown suede, and it was given to me by Post Malone. I went to his concert in Philly, we were hanging out and after the show, I was wearing the hat that he had on earlier. I tried giving it back to him, but he was like, “Just keep it, man, it looks really good on you.” It was such a nice, genuine thing that he did, and I loved that hat. I left it on the bus, and then it got fried.
Is there a song that you have got on repeat at the moment?
Kurtis: Yeah. The new 1975 song is really good. They're all really good, but the new one they just put out "I'm In Love With You" or whatever is really good.
Okay, this is the last question. You ended up on stage with the band Wallows in Toronto a few months ago, what was that experience like?
EDITORS NOTE: Kurtis tweeted in 2020 that he would join Wallows if YouTube didn’t work out since he looks like Dylan Minnette, Cole Preston, and Braeden Lemasters combined - two years later and it’s official.
Kurtis: It was a lot of fun. They're great people. I love them so much and it was awesome. I wish I could do it all the time.
It was at this point that I was politely ushered out by Kurtis’s team so they could finish getting ready for their show. Knowing how much they made me laugh in unscripted conversations, I was excited to hear the sets that they have all clearly spent so much time and hard work developing.
Kurtis Conner Live! is not some hacksawed comedy show in a dingy basement, there is such obvious care and intent behind every facet of the show: from the art, lighting, intro videos, and voiceovers, to the jokes themselves.
These small touches gave even more personality to each of the guy’s sets, lending to an atmosphere in the theatre that made everyone reluctant to leave – I along with many others was politely asked to please “get out of the gosh darn theatre” by the staff after Kurtis, Dean, and Jacob had long left the stage. These guys clearly love what they do, and you can feel that genuine passion for their work on stage.
Kurtis, Jacob, and Dean are some of the loveliest people you could ever meet. Their comfort with each other, no doubt from their about nine years of friendship, and comedic riffs off one another proves them to be some of the most naturally funny people, dare I say ever. This gaggle of guys is just as funny off the cuff and unscripted as you would suspect. It's abundantly clear that these guys are just being themselves, and having so much fun with that. Each of their online presences are so clearly extensions of their real-world selves; they are all just as genuine, kind, and fucking hilarious as you would hope they would be. If for some reason you are looking for some sage advice from all of this, take it from Kurtis himself on a recent episode of Very Really Good, “I just want to goof around and make weird and funny shit.”
We could all take a page from Kurtis's book and just learn to goof the fuck around.
Kurtis, Dean, and Jacob are on tour until November, and if you don’t go see them on any of their remaining stops, you’ll personally be hearing from my lawyer.
Make sure to follow MUD on Instagram for more conversations with your favorite internet personalities.