Crafton on the World of YouTube Pranks

YouTube is an extremely wide-reaching platform in terms of audiences and content, ebbing into countless different worlds such as various kinds of comedy, make up artistry, music and more. Specifically, YouTube has been the place for the gag of pranks to thrive, popularizing going out into the street to prank random passersby as seen on the shows of Ellen Degeneres and James Cordon. The prank world of YouTube, however, has evolved into something of a monster, creating pranking channels. These can manifest in a myriad of different ways, but I will be focusing on prank channels in which the audience and those participating themselves know both the “pranker” and the “prank-ee.”

Slightly different to Gunning, Crafton believes that gags are completely non-narrational, meaning that they take everyone and everything involved in the scenario out of a narrational framework to a more disordered one in which bodies act on each other. ‘In fact, the separation between the vertical domain of slapstick (the arena of spectacle I will represent by the metaphor of the thrown pie) and the horizontal domain of the story (the arena of the chase) was a calculated rupture, designed to keep the two elements antagonistically apart’ (Crafton 107). This, however, is not the case with these certain kinds of prank channels as people create an entire narrative around these gags. David Dobrik is an extremely popular version of this in which he creates videos of him pranking various members of his friend group. He has built his audience around having a personal understanding of himself and each of his friends, even growing personal attachments to them enabling us to know what scares and shocks each member of his friend group. His viewers are personally invested in him and his friends, thus adding a new layer of emotion and comedy to these narrative gags. Dobrik spins Crafton’s understanding of gags on its head with this type of content, creating a narrative around each of his clever gags, allowing him to amass huge followings and success.




One comment

  1. I like your idea that the degree of familiarity with characters involved in a prank affects the experience of a gag as narrative or non-narrative! It does seem like knowing more about the characters and their relationships, knowing information beyond what is featured within a gag scene, enables the viewer to perceive the characters’ responses and actions within the framework of something longer-lasting; enables the viewer to know the before and the after of gags and see them as consequential to the characters’ lives.

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