Comedy Writer Heather Anne Campbell On Writing For Web Video

By Megan O'Neill 

Emmy nominated writer, sketch comedian and improv comedy writer Heather Anne Campbell has written for Saturday Night Live, The Midnight Show, a group that performs at UCB Theater, and more and recently began writing viral videos for Fox Animation’s ADHD, a show set to premiere in July of this year.  We caught up with her to find out more about what she’s doing in the realm of web video, as well as to glean some advice for wannabe writers for web.

Campbell has worked on a number of hit web videos over the years, including A Charlie Brown Christmas Reunion for ADHD this past holiday season, Immortal Dog, Sympathy for Slender Man, and, my personal favorite, Drive Recklessly, which we covered back in September 2011. The videos have racked up a combined millions of views.

“Writing for the web is like writing good sketch comedy,” says Campbell.  “YouTube is the best thing to happen to sketch comedy since cable.”  The short nature of online videos provide the perfect medium for videos similar to the content on Python, SNL and similar shows.  Campbell says, “So, look at the best parts of these shows, and see how you would apply them to your own content.”

When I told Campbell that I believe understanding what will go viral and why is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, she responded, “I completely disagree.  I think a video can get a minimum of 200,000 views on release if you follow a certain set of rules about length, title, content, framing and yes — sound.  And so far, the videos I’ve worked on have averaged exactly that.”

When asked what advice she would give to comedy writers looking to get into web video, Campbell said, “My advice would be keep your work short.  Nobody wants to sit through a 6 minute video.  That’s the first and most important thing.”

Campbell teaches a class about the specifics of writing sketch comedy for the web through The Miles Stroth Workshop, where she delves further into the science behind writing viral content for the web.

Megan O’Neill is the resident web video expert here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.