The future belongs to those who can look you in the eye through the internet. It belongs to the people that can convey analog feeling through digital channels. It belongs to guys like Ze Frank.
Widely known as a web funnyman, Frank’s greatest strength isn’t in his delivery and it’s not in his writing. It’s not hair, nor is it his clothes. Frank’s greatest strength is his ability to transcend a flat, emotionless screen and connect with his audience. He’s asked people to send in audio recordings of their dreams, allowed his fans to write his show and even encouraged his viewers to make an Earth Sandwich.
The witty, fast-talking considers himself a nerdcore comedian, but his passion is far greater than that: helping people create and interact using simple, addictive web tools.
While not everyone will get his jokes, there’s much to learn from Frank.
While Frank’s witticisms can be tough to keep up with, his rapidly changing facial expressions are not. Every tic, ever raised eyebrow and every time his eyes bug out just a bit offers more information than words are able to express. He’s not making faces at a camera, he’s expressing his emotions thought it.
Frank interacts with nearly every piece of on-screen graphics or on-set props he uses. From the cubby hole to his cardboard dials, they all seem somehow…real. While viewers understand that these are just part of his presentation, there’s a sense that each object is a character, rather than something to point at. Remember that next time you think about using 60 slides to tell a story.
Not to be confused with arrogance, Frank’s self assuredness is refreshing when compared to most self-deprecating internet comedians. He’s frank (yeah, I punned that one), open and completely confident about whatever he’s doing until he isn’t.
Despite Frank’s poise, his comedic timing, the fancy editing, the cool props and his ever-changing facial expressions, his greatest resource is his audience. From reading letters to asking them to participate in his schemes, his requests are not requests at all; they’re calls to action. He wants people to interact, so he tells them how to do it. Don’t you wish most presenters were this clear?
Could you be the next Ze Frank? Maybe. But what you can do is accept that the web isn’t JUST online, that cameras aren’t JUST recording devices and that an audience is JUST there to listen to you speak.
And you could show off pictures from your boss’s kids.