A few years ago Nathan, Theo and John started uploading homemade sketch videos to YouTube. Now they’re playing at the Opera House in the Sydney Comedy Festival Gala and preparing to take their collaborative comedy act on tour. Their phenomenal rise from Internet comedians to sold-out shows reflects a changing landscape of arts and performance. The trio’s humour is powerful in mirroring society’s stereotypes and rooted ideologies.
WORDS Hannah McNicholas
YouTube has made it easier than ever for fledgling comedians to get their material seen, but few as successfully as Superwog and Mychonny. After years of producing sketch videos for their subscribers, these local boys are launching their first live tour to bring their hilarious shows to an even wider audience.
Brothers Nathan and Theo Saidden started their YouTube channel ‘Superwog’ in 2008. “We started just literally uploading a video four years ago,” Theo says. “I was studying business and law and I wanted to do acting. I enrolled in full-time acting classes while I was doing full-time uni and I didn’t get any jobs. I was so frustrated. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do’. So I turned to YouTube.” John Luc, known on YouTube as ‘Mychonny’, has a similar story. He started out lip-synching to the Captain Planet theme song. Nowadays he’s one of the most subscribed to channels in Australia with over 600,000 followers. “I was already on YouTube in high school,” he says, reflecting on how he began his Internet career. “[Then] it was YouTube or uni, I got to choose.” The rest, as they say, is history.
The Superwog boys were fans of Mychonny’s videos before they met at a YouTube event a few years back. “Naturally we started video collaborating,” explains Nathan. “Then we took it to the next level.” Their collective comedy style is distinctly Australian, playing up cultural stereotypes to create sketches that appeal to a wide audience, something that has given them a massive online following. With videos like ‘Why Wogs Could Never Be on Neighbours’ and ‘Driving in Cars with Asians’, Superwog and Mychonny tread a thin line between entertaining and offending.
“We’ve never had a real physical backlash,” says John, laughing. “We’re playing on a stereotype that I think is very real, on both sides, so we’ll make fun of the Aussies and then we’ll make fun of the wogs just as much. It’s an equal playing field.”
[pullquote_right]“We’re playing on a stereotype that I think is very real, on both sides, so we’ll make fun of the Aussies and then we’ll make fun of the wogs just as much.”[/pullquote_right]
Now they’re bringing their live show ‘Superwog and Mychonny’ to sold-out shows at Melbourne Town Hall and Sydney’s Enmore Theatre, carrying over their trademark brand of humour from screen to stage. “There’s a bit of stereotyping,” Theo admits. “That’s our specialty. It’s a show that’s based around race comedy. We’re not trying to do something totally different. This is what we’re here for. So it is going to have stereotypes and a bit of irony.”
Rather than offending or alienating their audiences, Superwog and Mychonny break down cultural paradigms by highlighting and parodying Australian stereotypes. “We’re celebrating the differences,” says Theo. “That’s got a positive ring to it. It’s not a negative thing.”
Bringing their web-based comedy to a live event presents a unique challenge. They’re careful not to give too much away when discussing their show, which has been in the works for months. “We’re not doing stand-up,” says Theo. “We could’ve done that with each character, you know, Wog Bitch speaks to the crowd. But we’re not just having a conversation between two characters, we’re having a narrative behind it as well. You have to listen. You have to understand and you will laugh because of the situations, how it starts and how it finishes.” John agrees, “It’s like watching a video live … There is some connection, some stand-alone skits. I guess we should say that we’re in characters and we’re doing things that we wouldn’t be doing in our videos, more like the same characters but different stories and scenarios.”
“You can’t just say ‘this is what an Aussie does, and do it on stage’, or ‘this is what a wog does’,” says Theo, discussing the learning curve as they moved from writing video skits to a cohesive live show. “We’re known for displaying the differences between wogs and Aussies, quite specifically, and [our videos] rely on editing. Whereas in a theatre show you need to have objectives behind the characters movements, stuff like that. You have to collaborate.”
Despite their years of experience in front of the cameras, the thought of a live audience makes the boys a little nervous. “It’s not like the videos where you can do it whenever you want,” Nathan explains. “You don’t have to really remember your lines or what you’ve got to do, where you’ve got to move and all that kind of stuff. And if I screw up, I screw up for these two as well. But it’s fun.” Theo concurs: “It’s more of an investment as well. People are going and paying for a ticket to come and watch for an hour. You can’t be yelling at each other for five minutes. People will walk out. You can’t get away with that.”
Along with their YouTube channels and flourishing live careers, John, Nathan and Theo are keen to seek out opportunities in film and TV, yet are frustrated by cultural stereotyping in Australian media. Nathan’s experiences mirror this sentiment. “When we did try to get jobs on TV, it was always like ‘here, hold this gun and wear Adidas and scream, and you also like drugs’.” He laments the Australian media’s reluctance to take chances with diverse subject matter. “A lot of Australian [media] doesn’t want to take risks,” he says, citing recent flops like A Few Best Men. “Their content is really low-risk, safe, good, wholesome.” Do the trio have what it takes to tackle our culture’s problem with bland and homogenised standards of diversity? “Australia just doesn’t seem to produce top quality comedy films,” says Theo. “I would love to put out a really good Australian comedy film that people would enjoy.”
For now, the boys are focused on giving their fans an unforgettable live experience. “It’s in the spirit of YouTube,” says Theo. “The spirit of our characters are there, but it’s a brand new performance.” John agrees, “We’re bringing them something new that we can’t give online.” Nathan grins to that and says, “We want to give them some hardcore shit.”
Here’s one of the latest Superwog videos on Aussie stereotypes. We think we might have inspired them to make it from our chat!