Once upon a time, MTV actually was a music television network. Then, somewhere around 1996, the focus shifted from music videos to various types of shows. The most daring of these were saved for late at night when the censors couldn’t cry havoc. Young people gravitated toward these insane late night shows, which ranged from sex-ed talk show Loveline to the oft-imitated boys-acting-badly show Jackass. This was avant-garde television, stuff you couldn’t watch on your parent’s networks.
Within a decade, there were plenty of other crazy late-night contenders. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming has its roots in the bygone days of MTV, especially on shows like Loiter Squad and The Eric Andre Show. FX created a spinoff network, FXX, that features more extreme content all day long. MTV lost its place as a cultural touchstone and the crazy shows disappeared, replaced by repeats of 16 and Pregnant.
There’s a massive contingent of YouTubers, and many of them grew up in this MTV late night era. There are a million dumb kids trying to pull off Jackass-style stunts and more prank videos than anyone could ever want to see. Among the Wild West of the internet and YouTube, there are some channels that stand out. YouTube’s new, super-strict content system may destroy these channels before long, but for the time being, they are the new late night MTV. Warning: Many of these channels feature adult content. Viewer discretion advised.
Filthy Frank is one of the foulest comedians on YouTube. He’s the spawn of Tom Green and the guys from Jackass, rolled up and deep fried. Frank’s channel features several “characters” that he plays himself, including the insane “Frank” character. He does bizarre things in public to get a reaction, teaches viewers how to say vulgar things in Japanese, makes up rap songs, and is just… filthy.
Filthy Frank videos tend to be hard to watch, but he has a massive user following. Frank has more than 3.6 million subscribers and his videos on just the main channel have more than 392 million views. The filthy one describes himself as “the embodiment of everything a person should not be. He is anti-PC, anti-social, and anti-couth. He behaves and reacts excessively to everything expressly to highlight the ridiculousness of racism, misogyny, legalism, injustice, ignorance and other social blight.”
Many other YouTubers got their start (or fame) on Frank’s channel, including Ian of iDubbbzTV and Max of maxmoefoegames. In a way, that makes Frank the Jackass of YouTube, with idubbbz and maxmoefoegames serving as the Viva La Bam, only (arguably) less obnoxious.
Ian of iDubbbzTV is admirable in that he completely commits to an idea, even if it’s clear that the idea wasn’t a great one. When a fellow YouTuber made fun of him for having a receding hairline, he shaved the front part of his head to create an even worse hairline. He set up a P.O. Box and asked fans to send him “anything”, then unboxed the mail in the style of other YouTube unboxing videos. In addition to his more random videos and occasional sketches, he also critiques bad Kickstarter campaigns and fellow YouTube channels. It’s pure nihilism, but it’s usually pretty funny.
Ian features in a number of Filthy Frank videos, and often goes through horrendous experiences in the name of comedy. In one video where Frank and his friends play a game of “Deadly Twister”, Ian sticks his hand in a rat trap, gets kicked in the head, and gets pelted with raw eggs. His latest video features him eating a variety of insects he ordered off Amazon. A great deal of Ian’s humor comes in the form of shock entertainment, much like Jackass, but he also destroys internet culture in his various critiques on “Content Cop” and “Kickstarter Crap”. It’s clear the guy’s intelligent, he’s either just a total masochist or severely lacking in the common sense department.
Speaking of lacking in common sense, there’s Brave Wilderness and its host, Coyote Peterson. If Filthy Frank and iDubbbz are the boys of Jackass, this is YouTube’s Wildboyz. The channel features lots of educational nature videos, along with videos of Coyote being bitten, stung, and attacked by various animals. The channel has more than 4 million subscribers, though the most popular videos are definitely the ones where Coyote loses a bit of blood.
In the name of entertainment and education, Coyote has been stung by cow-killing wasps, bitten by bullet ants, chomped by an alligator snapping turtle, and even sucked on by leeches. There are plenty of more family-friendly videos too, including how to make backyard terrariums and other fun crafts. Those are great and all, but where else are you gonna see a guy purposely stick his arm in the maw of some of nature’s nastiest creatures?
Shows featuring a host making fun of short videos have been around forever. On the benign end are shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos. On the other end are programs like Talk Soup and its various spin-offs. MTV gave the format a go with its show Ridiculousness, hosted by skateboarder and reality star Rob Dyrdek. In these shows, the host shows clips from a video and then talks about the video, usually poking a bit of fun.
Enter RuPaul’s Drag Race star Willam Belli. Willam was already internet famous for her disqualification from the reality show, plus a number of roles in shows like Nip/Tuck and CSI. YouTube channel TheSTYLISH gave her a show, Willam’s Beatdown, in which she tried her hand at the “talk soup” format. She killed it, bringing her trademark trashy sense of humor and biting wit along with her killer fashion sense. TheSTYLISH killed the show after only one season, but Willam crowdfunded an additional two seasons, changing the name to just Beatdown. Her YouTube channel features music videos, makeup tutorials, and loads of LGBT-positive craziness. Willam talks like a trucker and looks like Booze Binging Barbie, but the aesthetic works. Besides, she’s a helluva lot funnier than that Tosh guy.