Jash Shows YouTube Is Not So Easy—Even for Big Comics [UPDATED]

Sarah Silverman, Reggie Watts struggle to find a loyal audience

Early last year, following the fallout from the YouTube-funded channels effort, many pointed to a new wave of celebrities attempting YouTube channels—including Ricky Gervais and Adam Carolla—as a sign that the Google platform wasn't totally giving up on Hollywood.

One of the new launches came last March: Jash, a YouTube-funded channel from big name comic actors Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Reggie Watts and others. According to The Hollywood Reporter, some of the comics involved in Jash were approached by Google to launch the channel, which definitely tends toward the experimental side.

Some of Jash is pretty funny, like this black-and-white mock French film featuring Silverman in an torrid love affair with a little kid. Some of it is super weird (and funny). Some of it is outright disgusting (and still funny to some). But unfortunately, not much of Jash is consistently popular.

Silverman has had a few clips go viral, including this early video featuring Wil.i.am. But more frequently, Jash clips, whether produced by Silverman, Watts or Cera, hover around 50,000 views.

The channel itself has generated 800,000-plus total views since launch [UPDATED: Jash has accumulated close to 4 million], while garnering just 130,000 subscribers. Which is perhaps surprising, given that unlike some celebs who've bombed on YouTube, Silverman, Watts and Cera are not strangers to Web video and social media. Watts boasts 144,000 followers on Twitter, and was a standout performer during YouTube's initial Comedy Week. Meanwhile, Silverman has nearly 5 million Twitter followers—not to mention the massive viral hit she produced with Jimmy Kimmel a few years ago (I'm F**king Matt Damon).

Contrast Jash with the performance of Ray William Johnson, a huge YouTube star who still can't claim the popularity or cultural status of Silverman or Cera. Johnson consistently pulls in 200,000 to 2 million views per video, depending on the series (he produces several). To be fair, Johnson has been active on YouTube for years—and it's a learned art form. But the key difference between Johnson and the aforementioned comedians is that he practically lives on YouTube. And he's constantly interacting with fans. In Jash's comments, Silverman and Cera post promotional links, but Johnson actually talks to fans. He also regularly asks for their feedback in his videos.

The takeaway here seems it's hard to be successful on YouTube part-time. Of course, Silverman, Cera, Watts and the rest of the Jash team have lots of other things going on, like movies, TV shows and standup. And maybe Jash takes off once they get more acclimated to the platform. Until then, although star power will get you started, you have to work hard to make it on YouTube.