Jason Horton, the man behind the famous “7 Minutes in Heaven” interactive video and a “YouTube Next Comic,” thinks of his YouTube channel as “kind of like my business card.” As an actor, writer, producer, and comedian, Horton’s got a lot going on behind the scenes, and YouTube serves as the gateway to his greater body of work.
Having moved to LA in 2006 to pursue acting and live comedy, Horton arrived on the scene as YouTube was just beginning. Already having a sense of himself as someone coming to LA to audition for commercials and do the whole “live comedy grind,” Horton “really had no idea” that YouTube could become such a helpful supplement to his career.
Back then, Horton performed sketch comedy at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre and at iO West, also acting with an improv group he started back in San Diego. A member of Horton’s improv group, YouTuber Bree Essrig connected him to Totally Sketch, where he began working on their digital videos. From there, Horton got recognition for something surprisingly unique when it came to YouTubers — his acting background.
Whereas many YouTubers became known for their personable vlogging demeanors, Horton explained, “I filled a lot of different categories, so I found myself doing a lot of collaborations…working with Maker…MysteryGuitarMan (real name: Joe Penna), and iJustine.” The more Horton worked on other people’s YouTube videos, the more he thought about creating content of his own on the platform. So many simplistic videos “had like a million views,” he says.
The interactive videos he’s become known for, like the well-known “7 Minutes in Heaven,” proved an amazing
YouTube tactic, since one video automatically leads viewers to the next, as they can click at the end to have the main character perform one of two options (the chosen one playing out in the subsequent video). Like most of Horton’s YouTube videos, this one plays off the theme of guys (usually portrayed by Horton) being awkward around women. Why focus on such a potentially painful topic?
“It’s always going to be something people can relate to,” Horton explained. “I can never be this cool guy…and YouTube is supposed to be a place where you can be you…I wanted this [channel] to be an extension of myself.”
Noting that “cool is what TV and movies are for,” Horton thinks of YouTube as pertaining much more to real life, where things are, admittedly, awkward. However, Horton’s tried to branch out from his typical video’s theme on YouTube, but “people don’t care as much.”
“That’s why I’ll write more in other outlets,” he said. Having written absurd comedy for AwesomenessTV and fifteen-year-old girls alike, Horton enjoys the challenge of trying to make anything funny as well as writing in someone else’s voice. “I’m not very me-centric,” he says. “Even though my YouTube channel has my name all over it, if you look at it, it’s not only me. It’s a lot of what I think is funny and interesting through the voices and the eyes of other people, so I’m just surrounded by a group of people who are more talented and better looking than me…I don’t mind working with others; I play well with others.”
This explains the host of collaborations on Horton’s YouTube channel. Though he admits it’s hard to foresee how his audience will react to certain videos, Horton has a better sense of what the end product of a video is going to look like when he repeatedly collaborates with fellow ‘Tubers. Taryn Southern, for example, appears in lots of Jason Horton’s videos. “She is such a professional and really really funny,” he described. “I can count on her to bring the noise as far as doing a good job without a lot of preparation.”
There’s not a lot of preparation with these videos because Horton and his co-stars “don’t study scripts.” Instead, Horton writes scripts “just to show people,” from which they gain a basic idea of the plot before turning to improv, a practice he also engages in over at Totally Sketch. “When I get a script I’ll read it once to make sure I’m not doing anything I don’t want to do or is terribly unfunny, but otherwise I look at it there and I just kind of figure out [how the video will go] from there,” Horton says about the process.
Overall, Horton described the key to YouTube as “doing something consistently that you love doing and are willing to put the time into, then just kind of letting it happen.” He cautioned that it takes time to get people to care. Though some YouTube stars get started with a surprise viral hit, this isn’t the case for all of them. Most YouTubers have to rely on some trial and error in order to find their niche. “If people love your Q&A videos but they don’t care about your recipe videos, maybe don’t waste your time on the recipe videos and just do the Q&A’s,” he advises. “Then build that up, at which point…people may want to see your recipe videos because you have this stable channel.”
Over years of working on the platform, on both his own and other people’s channels, YouTube has certainly managed to surprise Horton. Harkening back to his “not-cool guy” status, Horton tended to assume that “people didn’t care” about him. Yet after establishing his YouTube presence, his live shows gained significantly larger audiences, which Horton found to be “amazing and weird.” He’s also active in his channel’s comments section. “You can really make someone’s day, even change their life a bit on YouTube.”