With Felicia Day’s Geek & Sundry and Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist channels both set to debut next month, it’s shaping up to be a great season for YouTube users who like new, original content. There are already a lot of really great channels out there, of course, but they tend to get buried under the 35 hours’ worth of video that are uploaded to YouTube every single minute, so we’re guessing you haven’t seen all of them. Don’t stress about what you’re missing, though — we’ve rounded up some of our favorites for you, including everything from history lectures to comedy sketches. With any luck you’ll be all caught up on some of the best videos before Nerdist and Geek & Sundry explode with content April 2nd.
Vlogbrothers, Crash Course, and Sci Show
In 2007, brothers John and Hank Green began a YouTube video channel in an effort to connect to one another without using email. The show they created became massively popular, to the point that it has its own fandom (called “Nerdfighters”) and various spin-off channels. It might take some effort to familiarize yourself with the main Vlogbrothers feed, as it’s full of inside jokes, references, and story lines, but it’s worth catching up! In the meantime, you don’t need any prior knowledge to get involved with Sci Show, Hank Green’s program about various scientific topics, and Crash Course, in which John and Hank offer engaging lectures on history and biology, respectively. The above is John’s introductory video on the Agricultural Revolution, complete with a giant globe and adorable cartoon pictograms.
New Yorkers who still listen to alternative hip-hop on the radio (we’re guessing there aren’t that many left) might recognize Jay Smooth from his show, WBAI’s Underground Radio. In his video blog, he talks about politics, race relations, music, sociology, and a host of other topics that are relevant to understanding modern culture. And intelligent, thought-provoking topics aside, the guy is just funny! In the above video, called “How to Tell People They sound Racist,” he gives his viewers advice for calling attention to offensive behavior by comparing a racist comment to stealing someone’s wallet.
If you have little kids — or just enjoy animated programming — you might recognize the voices of Brian McElhaney and Nick Kocher as the two announcers for Cartoon Network. You may also have seen either of them in Louie or Young Adult, but YouTube is where they got their start as a sketch comedy team. They put out hilariously irreverent videos spoofing everything from movies to cooking shows to even Shakespeare, as in the above “A Monologue for Thee.” (Be sure to check out the sequel, a “Monologue for Three” — it stars a very familiar face!)
Originally envisioned in 1984 as a not-for-profit conference meant to foster discussion on technology, education, and design, TED has expanded into an enormous media empire dedicated to the free exchange of ideas. In addition to the two conferences still held every year in Palm Springs and Edinburgh, their YouTube channel is host to all kinds of lectures and lessons, using animation to make the ideas stick. The video above is from their series on How Things Work — in it, Mythbusters’ Adam Savage walks us through “How Simple Ideas Lead to Scientific Discoveries.” If you’re less interested in the animation, you can also check out their other channel, TED Talks, to see lectures by hundreds of scientists, sociologists, and cultural thinkers.
My Drunk Kitchen
Who hasn’t stumbled into their apartment at four in the morning after a night of wild partying and decided that what they need more than anything in the world is a hot grilled cheese sandwich? Well, if you have, then you also have a lot in common with Hannah Hart, who has created an entire YouTube sensation around her inebriated antics. Thankfully, her antics are probably more adorable than most people’s — a feat that requires a considerable amount of drunken skill.
By now you probably know all about the crazy shenanigans that go on in the College Humor office, but did you know that they’ve put together 240 Jake and Amir videos over the course of three years? That’s about two a week. And they’re just as prolific with their other series, especially their College Humor Originals and their Hardly Working series. You could spend days browsing their archives and you’re guaranteed never to get bored. Here’s an oldie but a goodie from two years ago called “Box Fort.” Guess what it’s about?
If music is more your thing, then check out the songs of Julia Nunes, one of the first singer/songwriters to use YouTube as a way to launch a career. In addition to doing all kinds of ukulele covers such as the Justin Bieber/Supremes mash-up above, she also writes her own material. Her latest music video, “Stay Awake,” is already up on her channel, and you can buy her albums through her website.
Smart Girls at the Party
You’d think that YouTube would be a hard place for intelligent young women to thrive, what with all the busty reply girls and angry commenters, but Amy Poehler of Parks and Recreation fame shows us that smart girls can have fun there, too. In every episode, she interviews a girl about her hobbies, as in the video above, where she talks to Rachel about her love for building robots. Poehler’s been a little busy lately, so the show’s taken a bit of a hiatus, but we know her alter ego Leslie Knope would approve.
Craig Benzine of Wheezy Waiter has been churning out hysterically weird videos since 2007 about nothing in particular — his life, current events, pop culture, science, etc. What makes him special is the quality of his videos: he has a lot of experience in video production, and the level of detail he puts into each clip is completely ridiculous, especially considering that he tries to upload one every weekday. Where does he get all the free time?
Michael Barryte recently got a lot of buzz for his speculative video “What if Episode One Was Good?” (above), in which he outlines all the good qualities that exist in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and how they could have been expanded upon. He’s been doing high-quality film reviews for a while, now, all in front of a green screen, and he’s really good at breaking down why movies do and don’t work on a narrative level. Too bad he can’t actually fix the prequels, though — guess we’ll leave that to Topher Grace.