The winner of the Best Comedian on Twitter goes to…Rafinha Bastos! Wait, who? Here’s the deal: Bastos is a Brazilian stand-up comedian and television personality south of the Equator. And by the way, Brazil is only slightly smaller than the States, both by population and area. Still, there’s a decent chance you don’t know who he is– nor have you heard of most of the Shorty Awards nominees for Best Comedian, other than Ellen Degeneres, who I’m sure is heartbroken at being passed over by the Academy. To be fair, Bastos a real comedian; he’s a well-respected, hard working, ass-kicking comic who has hosted several popular television shows and is currently a member of a Brazilian equivalent of Saturday Night Live. The New York Times even elected him the most influential person on Twitter in 2011; he’s got more than 5.4 million followers.
So why the massive mainstream-popularity disconnect amongst nominees? It’s because the Shorty Awards, the self-proclaimed Oscars of Social Media, collect their nominations from the general populace via Twitter.
Winners are then chosen by the Real-Time Academy of Short Form Arts and Sciences, a group “comprised of leaders in technology, journalism, business, and culture” that include Paul Scheer, Charlie Sheen, MC Hammer (?) Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and Foursquare co-founder Dennis Crowley. So anyone, literally, anyone (no really, anyone…I met an 18-year old girl who was nominated because she tweets as a baby), with a Twitter, Tumblr, or YouTube channel can be nominated for an award.
Nearly all of the nominees for Shorty Awards boast YouTube and Twitter followers in the hundreds of thousands and views well into the millions. Most comedians are thrilled to have five to 10 thousand people reading their pre-written, drafted tweets while staring at their cell phones as they cross traffic. It’s not uncommon to hear stand-up comedians complain about a fake Lady Gaga account (also a Shorty Award category this year) having a million followers when their own “brilliant material” is lost in a feed of Huffington Post headlines and Colin Quinn rants. Comedians like to think of themselves as artists and better than ‘trash’ such as fake celebrity accounts, but do the numbers speak louder than our 140 characters? Most times, yes.
But when we hate on an account like @SarcasticRover, a Twitter posing as the Mars Rover with a touch of biting wit, for having over 100,000 followers, are we warranted with our jealousy when our own account numbers at a mere 355? Maybe we’re missing something that the people want.
Not all of the award categories were as asinine as Best Justin Bieber Fake Twitter or Best Phillipines Twitter Account. Jimmy Kimmel accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award, responding with a very funny compilation of the children from his viewer-submitted series of children’s pranks. Watch below:
Some awards applauded companies that have embraced social media as a new, significant platform to reach a wider audience, such as Best Overall Brand Presence on Twitter and Best Overall Brand Presence on Tumblr (both of which went to Comedy Central for The Daily Show with a Jon Stewart). The vibe at the Shorty Awards ceremony was light-hearted as a massive group of awkward twenty-somethings that specialize in sitting behind a computer were shoved together to socialize around an open bar and photobooth. Inbetween awards, host Felicia Day (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Guild) entertained the half-empty theater in Times Square but presented lackluster sketches in between presentations.
Had more of the sketches been like Seth Green’s chat with the Mars Curiosity Rover (winner of Best Foursquare Mayor of the Year), I think more people would have paid attention to the ceremony and less attention to the free booze and hors d’oeuvres. Moments of levity came from presenters such as Carrie Keagan (VH1′s Big Morning Buzz Live), Hannibal Buress (pictured above), and Chris Hardwick (pictured at the top with Felicia Day), who all acknowledged the humor in a social media awards show where Tumblr-ing from your seats was actually encouraged.
The Shorty Awards are a moment for oft-overlooked tech talent to get a little bit of recognition, even if it is from just the 12 friends and family who are paying attention when their category for Best GIF Maker is announced. I am sure that it makes that extra time spent selecting the perfect stills of Michelle Obama to make the most seamless GIF to post on Reddit seem worth it when you get to take a picture of yourself on a theater stage holding a trophy, an experience probably not had too much in high school. Sitting on the coach bus that was commissioned to take attendees from the TimesCenter in midtown to the TriBeCa Grand Hotel for the after party, there was a sense of pride in the award winners, even if the product of their work plays for 2 seconds at a time or can be typed in under 140 characters. In between the business networking and sharing of news read in Wired, award winners got a night of celebration before going back to their day jobs, where bosses don’t care how many Twitter followers you have, you still better not be hung over for the 10:00 meeting. Sounds not unlike comedians going to work the morning after performing for seven people at 12:30 am at the Comic Strip, no?