Craig v.YouTube: An Interview with Comedian Kyle Dunnigan

By Devon Glenn 

When he’s not appearing in television series like Comedy Central’s “Reno 911” or doing standup on HBO, Kyle Dunnigan (or his work, at least) can be found on YouTube and iTunes, which offer a chance to work the crowd online, fertile testing grounds for new show ideas, and a little extra cash.

SocialTimes chatted with Dunnigan as he was wrapping up Amy Schumer’s new sketch comedy show for Comedy Central, for which he served as both a writer and an actor. “I’m a little upset that it’s ending,” Dunnigan said of the production process, but the show is just getting started, and will premiere in May.

Unlike a television series, YouTube gives the comedian the freedom to work on every part of creative process, right down to editing the videos on Final Cut. “I like the control aspect of it,” he said.

The response from fans is so great that Dunnigan has a hard time keeping up with the emails that come into his YouTube message box. To date, his YouTube channel has more than 18,000 subscribers and has earned more than 6.7 million views.

The star of his channel is a bespectacled doofus named Craig. The “Reno 911” character had changed during his run on the Comedy Central show, said Dunnigan, so the actor decided to make home movies for Craig, which he started uploading to the video-sharing site in 2006. The “Craig v. Wild” video alone has garnered more than 1.7 million page views.

The woman in the video is Dunnigan’s actual mother. “I forced her to do it,” he admitted. “She didn’t know what she was getting into.” But Mom was a hit.

Dunnigan tried hiring a local actress to play the role of his mother for his 2009 appearance on the Jay Leno show, but the actress couldn’t compete with the real thing. In the end, Leno flew Dunnigan’s real mother out from the East Coast to film the episode.

But YouTube is not all artistic expression and mother-son bonding. “I use it as a tool to get other parts,” Dunnigan said. Craig was the inspiration for the title character of a short animated pilot that Dunnigan created for Nickelodeon. His fan base on YouTube definitely helped his cause.

But sometimes the comedian wonders if, instead of going through the networks, he should keep his best ideas to himself. “How many ideas do I have left?” he pointed out.

As for the advertising dollars he gets from his YouTube videos, “It’s a really great bonus,” Dunnigan said. “It’s not a ton of money, but it’s paying some bills.”

Dunnigan seemed less enthusiastic about iTunes. Although his standup material and other works get a lot of traction — the podcast that he co-hosts with fellow comedians Tig Notaro and David Huntsberger, “Professor Blastoff,” premiered at #1 on iTunes Comedy Podcast Chart — the forum is not as much of a revenue generator as it could be.

HBO owns the rights to Dunnigan’s half-hour standup special on the cable network, he said. And when fans are looking for his recordings, they’ll find the same track for a couple bucks on the iTunes store that he could sell on his own website for a lot more.

Would he go the way of Louis CK and publish his next recording on his own? “If I got to his level, I would,” Dunnigan said. “He’s blazing a good trail for people.”