Comedy trio and founders of The Wall of Comedy, Joivan Wade, Percelle Ascott, and Dee Kaate, discussed the differences between online and traditional media, and the importance of authenticity. The panel was chaired by Jo Burford, EMEA Community Manager at Niche.
Friends from school, Joivan and Percelle met Dee at a show where they were both performing comedy sets. “We just thought Dee was amazing at standup, and he thought we were brilliant at our set,” said Joivan. “We just kinda started talking and batting ideas and the chemistry was there from the get go”.
The first project the trio worked on together was YouTube web series Mandem on the Wall. “We saw people in the space doing web series like this,” Percelle said, referencing Humza Arshad, A Squeezy, and David Vujanic among others. “Those guys were inspirations to us.”
The group initially used Facebook to promote the series, which received around 50,000 views overnight. They later took a live version of Mandem on the Wall to the Hackney Empire, with Joivan explaining that they “wanted to really give our audience what we felt like no one else was giving them. It was really abnormal because you don’t really see like, young kids, especially from like the youth culture and urban community coming down to the theatre and buying tickets to sit and watch a play.”
When Jo asked whether the group were surprised at their success and the fanbase they grew so quickly, Joivan responded: “In all honesty, no. […] We kind of set out to do stuff and to grow an audience and to grow a fanbase otherwise we never would have started. And it was like, [our audience] grew with us, as opposed to… We didn’t just do something and it went like, boom, millions of views overnight.”
In contrast to other creators on YouTube, the group never wanted to stay on that platform. Their goal was always to take the concept to TV, where they’ve had some success, appearing in the E4 show Youngers, and having their own sketch show (JPD) commissioned by BBC Three.
However, Percelle added that they’ve always had a lot more support from other platforms, such as radio, saying that following their involvement with E4 “we were supposed to have this spin-off show and have our own TV show, but it didn’t quite go to plan, and I guess being a bit naive and being, you know… this is our first time doing anything, taking online to TV it was like, you know, we were kind of waiting around for TV to tell us our next move.”
Joivan shared that once they’d established their online audience, more production companies were beginning to show an interest. However, they were still struggling to have shows commissioned and made the decision instead to move away from TV and instead focus their efforts on online platforms.
“All we want to do as creators is produce high-quality content and be paid for it and TV is an avenue which gives us a platform to do that,” he explained. “But now, with online and the way things are going streaming-wise, you don’t need TV, and we realised that, so we started to put our projects online and just really champion that.”
He described The Wall of Comedy as a platform which commissions projects from creators that “broadcasters won’t take risks on”.
“We were always pigeonholed as ‘niche’,” added Percelle. “It just didn’t belong on TV, so it felt like we had no voice. Just because we couldn’t communicate to people up in the north of England, that meant that we can’t have an opportunity? That didn’t feel right. And also the fact that it was getting millions of views, that doesn’t feel like it’s niche, it’s mainstream.”
Dee also elaborated on the benefits of online platforms over more traditional ones, saying: “To finally have the internet, where anyone can get up and like express themselves and get it out to as many people as possible – that’s a godsend, because you’ve seen so much talent coming through and before, that talent would have to prove that they were qualified.”
The conversation then moved on to brand deals, with Jo referencing the group’s involvement in a campaign for Doritos, which had been organised through Niche. She asked whether they are now more picky with the brand deals they agree to.
“When you’re struggling you want to pick at any brand you can get because you need money,” Joivan remarked. However, he also pointed out that a brand deal can potentially jeopardise a creator’s relationship with their audience if it doesn’t feel authentic, losing them money in the long term.
“We’re just looking at projects and brands which really fit and if they don’t fit then there’s no point in working [with them] because you’re just going to end up in that cycle where you gonna wish you didn’t do it, and all your fans are gonna be like, ‘What are you doing? The Wall of Shit?'”
“Everything we’ve had to do is on our own hard work and our own merit,” reflected Percelle, “so we did the Youngers stuff, and after that point, we were talking to production companies for two years, nothing materialised, [we] lost our online audience because we were so focused on TV.
“I think a lot of creators do this full cycle thing,” he continued. “Where you start off, you’re a bit naive, and you go into the world and you work with seven brands, and this, that, and the other, and you might lose your authenticity. But then somehow, you keep going and being persistent, [and] you kind of find yourself, it comes back to where you originally started.
“In a lot of our journey, the big message is we did everything independently.”
Photos by Jon D Barker.
Also at #CreatorDay, panellists including Hazel Hayes and Oli White discussed how to build a successful career online. Alternatively, find out more about The Wall of Comedy’s partnership with Doritos and more brand deals made possible by Niche.