Among the billions of videos on YouTube, drowned out by commercials for real estate and cars, dwells awesome local content that is nearly impossible to find — unless you know where to look.
What’s got 40 pages and some entertaining and/or enlightening channels to follow? This paper!
We scoured YouTube to find some local people with YouTube channels worth watching, ranging from disgustingly amazing to philosophically engaging to mesmerizing.
From Westfield we have The Vulgar Chef, a.k.a. Kyle Marcoux, who specializes in creating wickedly indulgent food that definitely requires deep-frying and/or bacon. When he’s not cooking delicious monstrosities, Marcoux can be found “burning Little Caesar’s pizzas,” sitting on the can, and swearing in public.
Hailing from Amherst is Richard D. Wolff, a local OG of anti-capitalist philosophy and independent thinking. Wolff is a UMass Amherst economics professor emeritus and a visiting professor of international affairs at the New School in NYC. He’s also got a unique take on the economy based on “rethinking Marxism,” which is the title of journal he co-founded in 1988 Agree with his politics or disagree, Wolff will get you thinking outside the box, or hexagon, or dodecahedron for that matter.
In Easthampton, and across the globe, Off the Map Live, the Easthampton-based tattoo parlor’s channel is streaming. See skin art as it happens. (Not recommended for folks who can’t handle a little blood). There are also workshops, tips for artists, product knowledge, and drunk reviews of tattoos.
Favor 2 Betty is a sketch comedy channel inspired by groups like Kids in the Hall. It now includes a dozen or so cast and crew members.
For the public-minded: Northampton Community Television offers a wealth of member-produced videos. And for the more private-at-heart, check out young Northampton filmmaker Benjamin Bradley-Gilbert’s visual, musical poems to life’s tender and fleeting moments.
It’s all online — not always easy to discover, but waiting to be watched.
Christopher Almeida Prime/Favor 2 Betty
Inspired by a mutual love for sketch comedy in the late ’90s, high school friends Christopher Almeida, Justin Silva, Jake Lagerstrom, Jeff Braz, and Chris Diaz started shooting short skits with a VHS camcorder. Now in their mid-30s, they’re still making comedy shorts, only now they shoot them on their smartphones. “We try to get together and do it at least two times a month,” Almeida says. “We’ll plan a weekend and somebody will throw out an idea and we’ll brainstorm on it all week and write back and forth notes and then we’ll just go and shoot it.”
Favor 2 Betty now includes a dozen or so cast and crew members, and their audience has steadily grown, too. One recent video — part of their action-horror-comedy Ghost Blasterz trilogy about a group of inept ghost-fighting frat boys — had nearly 5,000 views on Facebook, after which Almeida says people started recognizing him in public.
While Favor 2 Betty used to have to approach businesses they wanted to use as venues for their videos, now those businesses come to them. They’ve shot scenes at Abandoned Building Brewery, Iron Duke Brewing, and Solmar Restaurant to name a few. “We’ll go in there and shoot a little skit and also throw in a little free publicity,” he says. “We just do it for fun.”
As far as forging a film career goes, Benjamin Bradley-Gilbert is still early in his journey. The Northampton native is a visual media arts student at Emerson College, applying his interests in narrative film and short documentary.
But his YouTube channel has over 30,000 views so far, in part due to his captivating habit of shooting and editing spare moments throughout his day into brief clips, often only a minute or two long, paired with songs. The result is a series of videos that play like a cross between personal journal entries and music videos — a visual soundtrack to Bradley-Gilbert’s life.
Micro-documenting one’s day, through all the routine and ridiculous moments, has become much more commonplace over the past few years, even if most of us can only claim a scattered record of quick attempts. I have an app on my phone, for example, called 1 Second Everyday, that mashes videos shot on impulse into one film each year that lasts 365 seconds, providing a rapid-fire glimpse into my memories. Half the time, I blow it off. Just because something is convenient doesn’t mean it’s easy.
For Bradley-Gilbert, cinematography is not a sporadic urge. The 130-plus films he has shot trend toward the bite-sized, but they retain a thoughtful, well-shot beauty that mixes passing glances with lingering stares, as in a recent trip to Cape Cod. To the tune of chill new wave beats, indie pop, or mellow electronica, he makes blink-and-you-miss-it moments into something permanent.
Wolff, a self-described socialist-economist, began his YouTube channel, RichardDWolff, back in 2011, but he’s been spreading an alternative interpretation of the economy since he started teaching in the ’70s. A longtime UMass professor, Wolff takes a look at the U.S. economy and capitalism from the bottom up, viewing the economy as something that should sustain laborers, not necessarily corporations.
We try “to focus on examining how capitalism as a system is a core component of many urgent social problems today and why system change ought to be among the solutions being considered,” says Wolff.
This reversal of this founding capitalist principle — the fortunes of the wealthy are more valuable than the people who contribute to it — puts a thought-provoking twist on all of Wolff’s analysies. Wolff, who is active on other social media platforms, says video is the best way to reach his audience, but his radio show is doing pretty well, too.
So far, Wolff’s channel has more than 2 million views and nearly 27,000 subscribers. The videos are sponsored by Democracy at Work, a nonprofit co-founded by Wolff.
“Our weekly hour-long radio show Economic Update has grown from 1 to 60 stations across the country that broadcast it regularly as does Truthout.org, reaching well over 1 million receivers,” Wolff says. “And finally, we also continued interest in reading texts, especially when more developed arguments are sought.”
When people tune into one of his videos, Wolff says he hopes to inspire debate, respect, and interest.
“Capitalism no longer serves the needs of a majority[. It] is controlled politically as well as economically by the minority whose needs it does serve, and therefore system change is on our historical agenda,” he says.
Many of the videos on Wolff’s channel run between about a half hour and an hour and a half, but Wolff has recently started producing shorter clips, “Econominutes,” which attempt to boil down Wolff’s ideas into four to six minute videos. The latest one is about Brexit.
Off the Map Live is TattooNOW and Off the Map Tattoo’s weekly live webcast, broadcast from its home base in Easthampton, which reaches 5,000 to 10,000 live viewers per broadcast in over 150 different countries, according to owner Gabe Ripley.
Ripley says that 40 percent of the viewers are in the U.S., while the rest of the audience tunes in from Mexico, the U.K., Canada, Colombia, and other parts of the world depending on the guest that week. The show, hosted by TattooNOW’s digital media specialist Ben Licata, is part chat show, part industry news, and part artist shop-talk.
Licata and his guests interview world-famous artists and talk about their work, host live music acts, and conduct webinars for artists on techniques and products. The channel itself has steadily picked up over 11,000 subscribers since it launched in 2007. “Every tattoo shop is a little different,” says Ripley. “With the Off the Map Live show, we really get to show people what we’re about.”
Starting in August, the public will be invited to check out the show in person at Off the Map’s new location at 82½ Cottage St., every Monday at 8 p.m. Personally, one of my favorite features is “Drunk Critique,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Hosts Matt Driscoll and Josh Suchoza critique tattoos while over-imbibing Fort Hill beer.
Northampton Community Television
NCTV does a lot for Northampton and the Valley — it’s a community media center, a public access television station, a host to technical workshops, and an economic development organization — but its greatest asset is its talented pool of members. Armed with the equipment to make web videos, docs, podcasts, and TV episodes, media-makers from all over the area collaborate with NCTV. The result: a broad and rich collection of videos on the station’s YouTube channel — some news-related, some more arty and creative — that give us surprising glimpses into local life.
“Almost everything that our members produce goes online,” says Ian Bauer, NCTV’s project coordinator. “The audience for our TV stations is confined to Northampton’s cable subscribers. On YouTube, it’s all there for the whole world to see.”
It can be hard to predict which videos will take off with viewers. One local Bernie Sanders interview from last year, filmed before his name caught fire nationally, now has about 30,000 views. A Peewee football game from 2012 pulled, rather puzzlingly, 100,000 views.
Among his favorite recent vids, Bauer recommends Hitler’s Northampton Rant, a parody video by John Riley that adds subtitles to a bunker scene from the German film Downfall to detail Hamp’s storefront vacancies.
Another popular recent video is called Paradise City Arts Fest in 360, which employs the station’s new 360-degree camera — particularly fun to watch because the YouTube player allows the viewer to guide the camera wherever they want while the video is playing.
“A lot of local access stations have a studio with a three-camera setup, and people will come in and shoot a 30-minute video,” Bauer says. “We don’t have a studio like that, so people tend to shoot in the field more … and I think their videos are getting shorter over time — more geared toward a YouTube audience.”
All of NCTV’s videos are licensed with Creative Commons, a public copyright which allows anyone and everyone to share, use, and build upon the footage for their own projects.
The Vulgar Chef
The Vulgar Chef’s most popular video is the one for Spaghetti and Meatball Tacos.
“I made the taco shells out of spaghetti and filled that shit with meatballs and sauce,” says Kyle Marcoux, a machinist in his late 20s living in Westfield. “My next idea is for a reverse mozzarella stick. I’m going to fry the bread in the friggin’ marinara and fry it and dip it into some melted mozzarella cheese. I don’t know how that’s going to work yet.”
Marcoux says he’s always had an interest in food; so he watches a lot of the Food Network. “You watch enough, you can start figuring stuff out.”
In 2013, Marcoux started filming his kitchen hobby and putting his creations up on YouTube. People responded positively to Marcoux’s signature style of mega-unhealthy chow, combined in dramatic and drool-worthy ways, as well as his foul mouth. He has about 7,300 followers and his videos have been viewed more than 400,000 times.
“This is just the way my friends and I talk and this is, I think, how a lot of kitchens are, too,” Marcoux says. “The Vulgar Chef thing started as a joke, sort of a place to trash on vegetarians and food trends. Then there was some steam behind it out of nowhere, so I just rolled with it.”
Marcoux’s culinary delights include Hawaiian Pizza Breakfast Sandwich, Taco Biscuits, Chicago Dog Deep Dish Stuffed Pizza, Honey Bacon Marijuana Popcorn, Country Fried Chicken Pizza Crust, and Bacon Wrapped English Muffin Pizza Sandwich
The chef, who is self-taught, posts two videos a week: Sunday “Funday,” and Tuesday.
“I actually have a lot of fans who are classically trained and really schooled chefs who enjoy what I do,” Marcoux says. “Just because I’m not cooking with foie gras and fancy shit there is still a passion to it — I’m just using Spaghetti O’s and mac ‘n’ cheese.”
Contact the Valley Advocate staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.