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Arts and Entertainment

Interview: Luke Barats, YouTube Comedy Star

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Luke Barats just wants a drink and to show off his knees. Is that so wrong?! Photo courtesy Luke Barats.

In Los Angeles, A-list celebrities wait in line in front of you at Caffe Primo, while B-list celebrities make your nonfat mocha. That is to say, there’s ‘stars’ everywhere, and it’s easy (even in fashion, perhaps) to be unimpressed. In Spokane, Washington, however, celebrities are a bit harder to come by. Strange, since this is exactly where you can find Barats and Bereta, longtime internet video sensations. With millions of hits, numerous accolades, and a one-year NBC deal behind them, the two mid-twenties comedy boys just keep on working, producing videos and doing a lot of fresh, live work. There isn’t the sense of urgency that you might find in a starving artist living in downtown LA, but you certainly like to believe Barats and Bereta have the skill and determination to be successful.

Recently, LAist got to have a chat with co-founding member Luke Barats on what it means to be wildly popular (on the internet) what sort of comedy might be in store for him and his partner (not on that way).

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LAist: When did you start doing comedy?
Luke Barats: In high school I got way into theater and improv, so I guess that's where it spawned.

What are some highlights from your young career?
Making a pilot for NBC has to be up there. My comedy partner, Joe Bereta, and I also made Variety's "Comedy Impact List" in 2006, and we've had a handful of videos featured on YouTube's homepage.

Do you embrace the role of 'internet celebrity', or are you still trying to find your niche?
I guess I should embrace it more than I do. Being viewed by millions of people was never the intent when Joe and I put our videos on YouTube, so we've always thought of the exposure as a perk and not a destination. The role of "internet celebrity" is a fleeting thing, so we're certainly still trying to carve a niche in other comedic realms. Because one day we'll wake up and be 50 year old men, and not too many people want to watch a 50-year old dude prancing around YouTube.

What role has the internet had in changing the face of comedy?
The 13-year old girl has more sway than ever. The online comedic landscape (the top subscribed lists, the most viewed videos, etc.) are decided by the participants of these video sharing sites. And the people participating in these sites are teenagers. For better or worse, it seems that a comedian wanting to reach the upper echelons of YouTube today must pander to a young audience.

On any given day in your comedy life, what would you be found doing?
I'd probably be found working furiously on one Internet video or another. Joe and I try to bust out a video every three weeks. We like to write, produce, act, and edit everything ourselves, so the vids are a pretty significant chunk of our comedy lives.

What are your thoughts on comedy partners or teams, as opposed to a solitary approach?
I think it's nice to have a partner if things pan out that way-- two heads are better than one when generating ideas. Plus, I enjoy presenting my comedy in sketch form as opposed to traditional stand-up. But that's just me. In the end I suppose it just boils down to the material-- was Derek and the Dominoes' "Layla" better than Clapton's "Layla" after he went solo? It's all "Layla" to me.

What interaction have you had with the Los Angeles comedy scene?
I've watched (in awe) a lot of the improv around L.A. Aside from shaking hands after shows and congratulating them, though, I've had very little interaction with the comedians down there. It's tough to be plugged into the L.A. comedy scene when I don't even live there, but every time I'm in town I make a point to drop in on The Groundlings, UCB, and iO.

What are your plans for the future? (And you can't say national healthcare).
National smelthcare. ...Yeah, I guess the plan is to continue pumping out comedy gold like that "national smelthcare" gem you just witnessed.

Do you think you will reach a point where you can say 'I made it'?
I doubt it, because that would require me to have a concrete goal in mind. I just hope to have the opportunity to create comedy in one form or another until the day I die.

Who are some of your favorite comedians?
David Cross, Tenacious D, Flight of the Conchords, Eddie Izzard, The Lonely Island, George Carlin...

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BONUS QUESTION:
Let's hang out.

Sounds great! You bring the beer.