NICK DOUGLAS — There are two ways to do internet video. Either let everyone throw up whatever they want and hope the good stuff sticks, or demand a little quality. Of course, by quality I don't mean your videos won't still be about swearing babies and fart jokes, but they'll be funny babies and farts. The following sites all have real comedy (not, like, guys lip-synching to the Backstreet Boys) and let anyone send in material. They all also have some more "official" material. (Weirdly, they all have black backgrounds.) And they all prove that "user generated" doesn't mean "suck."
My personal favorite. Turner started this site in January, seeded with sketches by comedians like cartoonist Brad Neely (creator of the "Washington" music video), standup artist Eugene Mirman, Law and Order actor Richard Belzer, News Radio actor Dave Foley (running a talk show from bed), and NYC comedian Chelsea Peretti (her schtick is asking strangers to be her friend). I also recommend sketch group Honor Student (which ran a "Pay it Forward" style clip about a kid with a weiner joke) and actor Bobby Tisdale (who plays an awkward B&B owner who raises a fighting cock).
So far, Super Deluxe has the most (and most consistently) funny videos of the whole crowd. A surprising number come from user submissions. The whole thing is beautifully put together in a well-designed site with tastefully integrated ads. The only problem? There's not enough new stuff each day.
Acceptable.tv has its own set of producers who make shows like Homeless James Bond (oh. my. god. watch now) and Lord of the Phils. Acceptable.tv features pretty high-budget shows (more expensive-looking than an SNL sketch) but keeps an indie feel to the comedy.
Apparently Jack Black helped shepherd this project based on Channel 101, a monthly video showdown where aspiring filmmakers made episodic films for theater and internet audiences. Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, and a pre-SNL Andy Samberg all participated in that.
At Acceptable.tv, the user submissions kick ass too. For instance, L33t Haxxors (again. oh. my. god. watch) actually makes new hacker jokes: the heroes meet a bouncer who asks for a password, so they shout "Your phone number! ABCD! Your mom's phone number! Password!" Contextual ads flick across the screen. Someone wears a Digg t-shirt. That's why this sketch won a spot on VH1 along with the top-user-rated producer-made shows.
This site has a more baroque feel. Most of the clips are from standup routines, and the comedic styles feel more old-school.
Rooftop is the most orderly of the comedy video sites, putting clips into channels like "songs," "politics," and "bathroom humor." No one clip blows me away (except for the clever This American Life send-up by Kasper Hauser), but the collective effect of watching ten thirty-second clips is fun. Also dig the "daily 8" sidebar, which satisfies the craving for a new clip much better than sites like Super Deluxe, where clips can reappear on the front page months after they first show up.
The downside: Standup doesn't play as well on the internet. Also, the banner ads constantly reload, which doesn't do much when there are only about three ads to cycle through.
Funny or Die
If other video sites were a football team, Will Ferrell's new site "Funny or Die" would be the aspirational water boy. The videos are crap, the design's crap, and the random-stream-of-videos-regardless-of-quality interface means skipping a lot of low-rated clips that should already be out of rotation. It's like this site is designed to hurt you. But replacing the usual five-star system with a no-nonsense vote — after every clip, you get to rate it "funny" or "die" — is a smart trick that could turn this into the best user-voted collection of comedy.
Just not yet.
Nick Douglas writes for Valleywag and Look Shiny. You can't rate Look Shiny, which is probably good news for Nick.