Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu might be dominating the streaming wars, but never discount the original streaming site: YouTube. Over the years, tons of budding creators have used the video-sharing platform as a hub to post their passion projects -- see: The Actress, Lemmings, Clark and Michael, The 'Bu, The Outs, and Green Porno -- and while the number of outlets continues to increase, the O.G. still has several (free!) gems. Read on for some of our faves.
'Last Week Tonight' Writer Josh Gondelman Takes Shots, Talks About Working For John Oliver
The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl
The seeds for HBO's hit comedy Insecure were planted with this snappy web series more than half a decade ago. HBO's product is, of course, flashier and more fleshed out now, but if you dig into Mis-Adventures you'll see how creator Issa Rae got her start, developed her voice, and laid the blueprint for one of TV's more innovative shows. Both offer a semi-autobiographical look at Issa Rae's titular awkwardness; both are insightful, funny, and worth your time.
Brian Jordan Alvarez/YouTube
Do You Want to See a Dead Body?
What started as a small Funny or Die saga has graduated into a full-fledged comedy series. Rob Huebel stars as a schlubbier version of himself who ambushes self-aware celebrities -- including John Cho, Judy Greer, Craig Robinson, and Adam Scott -- farts around with them before, yeah... showing them dead bodies! As the title hints, shit gets dark. But Huebel's able to make the proceedings palatable with his earnest (read: hilariously pathetic and inept) attempts at leading a good adventure. It's kind of like watching an "Epic Fail" compilation with good actors. You can watch the originals here and the new (sadly, not free) ones here.
The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo
OK, a couple things: Yes, the episodes are very long for a web series (usually around 20 minutes), and much of the show revolves around dating in L.A. and making it as an actor (oof). But it's stacked with under-appreciated talent, it's often educational and relatable, and it's always hysterical. ("I try to make Caleb a big mess, and something I like right now is that Caleb fucks up and is fucked up in real ways that aren't really fully redeemable," Brian Jordan Alvarez, the creator who plays the title character, has said. "We're all shitty people on some level.") You might have already seen the great meme this web series birthed: "Sometimes, things that are expensive... are worse." Please know that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Picture Teddy from Bob's Burgers. Now throw him in a janky Batman costume and give him his own spinoff. Baman Piderman is kind of like that -- but still even sillier than you're thinking. Don't be deceived by a quick glance at its looks and jokes, though, because everything is done for a reason. "Something I think is really fun is complexity within simplicity," the husband-wife duo behind the toon have said. "We want it to feel lazy and dumb, since that's part of the humor and I feel like the art reflects that." The gags build from Episode 1 and haven't stopped crescendoing. Hit play when you need a pick-me-up. At its core, it's a delightfully goofy show about friendship, and it won't disappoint.
Created by Troy Wagner and Joseph DeLage in 2009, this Slender Man-inspired web series boasts more than 400,000 subscribers and 90 snackable episodes. Marble Hornets begins with footage left by a film student -- who was working on a feature project three years earlier after encountering a mysterious humanoid dubbed "The Operator" -- but quickly morphs into an addictive marathon of paranoia. In the same vein as "The Dionaea House" and "Ted the Caver," it's an immersive internet urban legend that's hard to quit.
Put down Fifty Shades. Comedienne Jenny Jaffe stars here as Ivy, a dominatrix who's forced to confront her OCD when a rival dungeon moves into her upstate New York town and threatens to steal her business. ("The interesting thing about Neurotica is that it's about someone who knows what their issues are and is learning to cope with them," Jaffe's said. "When you have any mental illness, you're still a person in the world striving to accomplish personal goals.") A hilariously inventive story? A positive message? Spankings? Yep, Neurotica really has it all.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy
The idea of a live-action Mortal Kombat web series might sound laughably bad -- in league with something like a Dragon Ball Z or Pokémon disaster. Good news? This oldie, adapted from the popular video game series, is no joke. The fight choreography and production value -- save for a few expectedly wonky special effects -- will consistently leave you feeling pleasantly surprised. Fans already in the know, keep praying the reboot is on its way.
This six-part drama, co-created by Jen Richards and Laura Zak, centers on two trans women struggling to date in L.A. In some ways, Her Story is kind of like Caleb Gallo's more serious older sibling. It never gets as outright jokey, but you're still in for a sensitive, thoughtful, and enlightening watch. It was nominated for an Outstanding Short Form Drama Emmy in 2016. It should have won.
Co-written by Larry David's daughter, Cazzie David, Eighty-Sixed has fittingly been called Curb Your Enthusiasm for millennials. It's a cheap comparison, but it works. Like its HBO forefather, Eighty-Sixed is cringeworthy, relatable, and fun to watch -- in that sadistic sort of way; just add in more social media predicaments. Sadly, it ended recently with its eighth episode. ("I didn’t want the web series to evolve too much, which would have been inevitable if we kept going," Cazzie has said. "I just wanted it to be this short saga of this girl going through a breakup.") But that doesn't mean you should sleep on it, or its burgeoning team.
Two Sentence Horror Stories
Fans of Channel Zero will love Vera Miao's horror anthology, essentially a more bite-size version of the former. As the title implies, 2SHS encourages its directors to take the first sentence of a viral internet scare -- e.g., "'I love you,' I whispered, hugging Mom close" -- and reimagine it as a socially conscious short film before sucker-punching you with a twist. You can watch the first above, and the rest here.
From Super Deluxe: "Actress Sarah Ramos found an embarrassing romantic comedy she wrote when she was 12…and she actually made it." In other words, it's every bit as random, abrupt, and hilarious as Fox's similarly conceived Axe Cop. The biggest, and best, difference? City Girl is live-action, which makes it all the more ridiculous.
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