During a Vice podcast, comedian, musician, and big hair enthusiast Reggie Watts explains Jash like this: “It’s sort of a conglomerate of four comedic entities.” Watts adds to this thought, saying, “it’s just a YouTube channel that features all of the weird shit that we make specifically with Jash producing it.”
“Weird shit,” as Watts calls it, is probably the best way to describe the content hosted at the Jash YouTube channel. A joint collaboration between comedians Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Time & Eric, and Watts, Jash maybe the strangest place on YouTube right now (barring any deep web stuff — you stay away from there).
I’ll give you an example: Five months ago, during YouTube Comedy Week, Tim & Eric of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” put out a video called “Goatee Music Video.” It was a three-minute video from fictional band The Pipple Brothers, who were played by Tim & Eric in quite possibly the worst wigs ever created. The song is about needing a goatee, it’s super weird, but that’s expected from the same guys who created “Tom Goes to the Mayor,” a show that Adult Swim once called “one of the most polarizing shows” they have ever produced.
While TV audiences may not have been ready for “Tom Goes to the Mayor” back in 2004, Jash seems to exist right in the web’s wheelhouse. When you spend enough time with YouTube’s comment section, you start to expect at least a few pieces of horrifyingly offensive banter. Surprisingly, “Goatee Music Video” has a comment section filled with genuinely positive and semi-well-meaning feedback. I know, I was surprised too.
“Very happy to see The Pipple Bros back in action, am feeling very excited to have the opportunity to observe Jash in all it’s glory where all the fun began,” writes one commenter.
A YouTube comments section sans trolling, only Jash could make that happen.
Absurdist humor is the bread and butter of Jash content. For the majority of their careers, Watts, Silverman, Tim & Eric, and Cera have traveled in similar if not the exact same circles. If one were to track the genesis of Jash humor, they’d probably land on the doorstep of David Cross and Bob Odenkirk. From 1995–1998, Odenkirk and Cross had an HBO sketch comedy program called “Mr. Show,” which many claim is the herald of modern absurdist comedy.
Following the threads back, we see that Silverman was a writer for “Mr. Show” alongside Scott Aukerman — now host of IFC faux-talk show “Comedy Bang Bang,” in which Watts co-stars. Cross, after “Mr. Show” was canceled, would go on to star in “Arrested Development” as Tobias Fünke, uncle to George Michael Bluth, who is played by Cera.
Tying Tim & Eric into the equation, the duo initially launched “Tom Goes to the Mayor” on the website timeanderic.com. However, after a guest appearance from Cross, the animated show was noticed by Odenkirk, who began producing it for Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
Although Watts describes Jash as a YouTube channel, the comedic collaboration is more of a multi-channel network. There is the one Jash YouTube channel, which is updated infrequently. Stretching beyond that, each individual member has their own channel, which is tied to the main Jash hub. And while all individual Jash channels post more often than YouTube.com/JashNetwork, it’s Cera’s channel that perhaps has the most innovative content.
Cera posts new videos sporadically, yet when he does, they are equal parts bizarre and comedic. Moving past simply absurdist humor or sketch comedy, many of Cera’s uploads are more similar to short indie films. “Gregory Go Boom,” a 17-minute film starring Cera as Gregory, a wheelchair-bound young man, is anything but funny. The film’s pace and sense of atmosphere resonate closer to a horror film than anything you’d see on Comedy Central. It’s deeply disturbing, but it’s like few things seen on YouTube. This is Cera and writer/director Janicza Bravo testing the limits of what modern comedy is, and if it can exist on a place like YouTube.
“I think it’s a certain form of disruption and discomfort,” Watts says about his personal agenda during the aforementioned Vice interview. Watts may be speaking as an individual, but “disruption” seems to be at the very core of the Jash mission statement.
A conglomerate of very talented comedians with a penchant for the absurd — sounds like a recipe for chaos and discomfort to me. “I think it is a form of destabilization,” Watts says. “Well, it’s mostly about subverting expectation but getting to a point where people just kind of surrender to an experience.”