Canadian YouTube comedian Brittlestar shifts his approach as the pandemic drags on
Online personality Stewart Reynolds has been using his comedic voice of reason to get us through a tough year
Stewart Reynolds, better known by his online handle Brittlestar, has been resonating with audiences throughout the pandemic with his unique brand of online videos.
The internet's self-appointed favourite dad has been popular on social media for years. The Stratford native's comedic observations on the pandemic and the U.S. have made him a household name on Twitter and Facebook over the past year, bringing his distinctive sense of humour to his more than 350,000 followers.
So, how has he been keeping his own spirits up?
"Leonard Cohen once said he believed that the brain cells that were responsible for anxiety died off when you turn 50," Reynolds told Day 6 host Brent Bambury. "I think he might have been right."
Reynolds spoke with Bambury about what the past year has been like, and how he's feeling as the pandemic drags on.
Below is part of that conversation.
WATCH | Brittlestar on pandemic worrying
What is it that compels you to make videos to share on social media?
It's funny, because it reminds me we were filming one time out in Vancouver and I was working with two other friends. They're watching the monitor as I was doing a scene and I was told afterwards that one of them turned to the other and said, "he's just funny to look at, isn't he?" And I took that as a compliment.
And then ... bizarrely, recently I was told by a guy in [Los Angeles] who was like, "No one should want what you're selling because, you know, you're no Brad Pitt. But for some reason they do."
I like creating stuff and I like, sort of, getting stuff out there. And I think maybe there's an every man quality to me. People look at me in the aspirational world of social media, and they think, "Yeah, I could probably hit that. I could probably get to that level, for sure."
The thing about the material that you bring us, the quality of it, it feels to me like it's inspirational. It's not cutting — it's satire — but it isn't aiming to hurt anybody…. So do you see yourself as sort of a cheerleader for the country, or as someone that can help us through whatever tribulations we have?
What's really interesting is that ... I've been creating social media content as a full-time job for the past eight years and something now ... and I started doing it on Vine because we were going through a terrible time. Our business had collapsed, all that kind of stuff, and it was kind of a really bummer existence — sort of day to day life, just horrible things happening all the time and a big struggle. And I was like, I want to laugh. I want to be happy and I want to smile.
I remember watching on YouTube a blooper reel from The Office, the American [version], and I was like, "Man, they have so much fun at work. I want to do that." And so I started making videos for that reason and I didn't really think much of it and sort of thought, "Well, this is just for me."
Then I went to the first meetup, which was in Toronto, [at] Yonge and Dundas Square, and as I was crossing the street from the Eaton Centre across to the square itself, this woman who was in her 50s, ran up to me ... [and] I was not accustomed to people recognizing me at all. And she ran up to me — I had no idea she was — and she gave me this big hug and she said, "Listen, your videos have gotten me and my family through a really terrible time." And I was like, "Oh, God. Like, I didn't realise that this kind of impact."
So I've kind of been aware of the fact that I have a platform, and I think coming into the pandemic, it was like ... it's nothing but bad news these days. These are dark days, and if I can try to lighten the load, or at least let people know that they're not the only people going through this, then maybe that's a good thing and if I can, I should.
I don't think I'd be doing much good if I went and created a video that was just either all angry, or all sad, or all jokes. It's got to be kind of a balance.- Stewart Reynolds, comedian better known as Brittlestar
During the pandemic, do you feel that more people have discovered you? Have you reached more subscribers?
100 per cent because there's nothing else to do. I think people are glued to their phones, they're glued to their computers, glued to the television ... and I think that one of the great things about social media, specifically, is that I can create something that is hyper-regional and it resonates with a lot of people.
And I think also beyond that, it's a very intimate medium. When people are watching the content I create, they're usually watching on a mobile device, which means that they're holding me in their hand. And sometimes they're holding me in their hand when they're sitting quietly, either in headphones, or they're sitting by themselves on the couch or they're laying in bed or they're in the bathroom, and it's like this is super vulnerable and obviously a very intimate connection that people have.
It's like that first rule of broadcasting: You're not talking to a bunch of people, you're talking to one person. And I think that that maybe has served me well through this past year, for sure.
WATCH | Reynolds delivers a "thinly veiled message" to provincial leaders
Lately, I feel like there might have been a slight change in the way that you approach the pandemic in the videos.... It feels a little more thoughtful, maybe a little more solemn than the work you've done. Or is that just my imagination?
No, I mean, there is a little bit of that aspect to it. One of the things that's weird is that, you know, I used to do these weekly panels on national TV and I was brought in as like the jester.... And I remember one of the stories was this terrible, terrible event that had happened.
Then they turned to me and I was like, "I can't make fun of this. There's no jokes in this," which, in itself, is funny now.
But, I think about the pandemic and you see the numbers and the people and the people that it has affected. And then the thing that really starts to get to me in the past little bit has been watching people in health care — like watching the doctors and nurses and health-care people — who are like, "We were watching this whole thing happen in slow motion," and how helpless they must feel.
I think also, I've been fortunate enough to be connected with a bunch of top health-care people in the U.S. and Canada who are also feeding me information. Who are saying, "Hey, listen, you should look at this because it might be sort of inspirational." And none of it's funny.
I don't think I'd be doing much good if I went and created a video that was just either all angry, or all sad, or all jokes. It's got to be kind of a balance, and I'm hoping I'm hitting it by sort of getting across a couple of sneaky sort of jokes. But at the same time…. I've got this platform and I feel sort of obliged to, if I can help, make things better, why wouldn't I?
Written by Hannah Theodore. Produced by Laurie Allan. Q&A edited for length and clarity.
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