In case you hadn’t noticed, I love Jimmy Fallon, and during midterms week I may have slightly overdosed on YouTube videos during study breaks…or instead of study breaks. Oops.
But no, I’m not going to talk about Jimmy Fallon yet again, he was merely the mechanism for how I found out about my current topic.
Sasha Fierce. Lemony Snicket. Gorillaz.
What do all three of these things have in common? It’s not music, because Lemony Snicket isn’t a musician, he’s an author. At first glance, it may not be obvious, but when you think about it, they all do have something in common.
They are all alter egos. Think back to when you were a kid, reading A Series of Unfortunate Events (or, if you’re like me, you were probably reading them in the recent rather than distant past). Do you remember how the mystery about who Lemony Snicket actually is intrigued you? Do you remember wondering if this was actually a true story because the narrator was so convincing?
I don’t know what it is about alter egos, but they always seem to fascinate me, especially when they reach a certain level of dedication. When I met “Lemony Snicket,” or rather Daniel Handler, I was fascinated by his willingness to play with this alter ego to entertain all of the kids sitting in front of him on the carpet of the library we were in. And I was thrilled when I walked up to have my book signed by him, only to get witty sarcasm and a note in my book that said “Jeannie! Hi! How are you? Me, too.” Alter egos are simply fascinating to me.
Which is why, when I first saw Miranda Sings playing pictionary on Jimmy Fallon, I became mildly obsessed with her.
The skit is hilarious, but where Jerry Seinfeld and Martin Short were obviously making jokes, Miranda was not. She was withdrawn, and yet I found her the best part of the skit. Instantly I looked her up on YouTube where most of her audience comes from. I scrolled through the videos and though I didn’t automatically realize it, I intuitively knew that this wasn’t a real girl, this was a character and there was a “real” Miranda somewhere.
But I couldn’t find her real YouTube. If you’re familiar with the way YouTube famous people promote themselves, you’ll know that typically the YouTuber will have the “famous” channel, the channel for skits and parodies and music videos, and then will have a separate channel for behind the scenes content as well as personal vlogs for those who are interested. This is meant to separate the two “lives” of the YouTuber in a way that TV and film rarely does – it separates the creator from the creation, pulling the curtain back and showing the audience that yes, these are real people rather than just funny script writers/actors. So as I scrolled through Miranda’s videos, I tried to find a link in the description for the real Miranda channel, the one that isn’t playing to the camera. There was none.
I tried the website, figuring in some small part there had to be a note that said “Miranda Sings is the creation of Miranda Smith, an actress from Atlanta, Georgia” or whatever. There was none. Her entire YouTube channel was completely in character, and her bio was simply her character talking about herself (like she does on YouTube). There wasn’t even a hint for who she was.
This intrigued me further. It’s one thing to have an alter ego, like Sasha Fierce. But there wasn’t a whole lot of mystery; Beyonce was still Beyonce, and she just became Sasha for a short time. Miranda, on the other hand, seemed to do everything in character, purposefully keeping her true identity a secret.
Unfortunately, after about five more minutes of searching, I typed “Miranda Sings” into Google and one of the suggestions read “Miranda Sings real name” and the first result that came back was a video by Colleen Ballinger entitled “Becoming Miranda Sings.”
As you can probably guess, this cracked the code, although I still found her video to be hilarious as she still keeps the character a mystery. Colleen in the beginning claims her and Miranda are “good friends” and once she “becomes” Miranda Sings, she says “Colleen who was in the beginning of this video with me will be in my shows with me,” referring to the Colleen/Miranda comedy tours she takes.
The mystery was solved, and I began watching Colleen’s videos, finding her to be a lot more tolerable than the…um…special Miranda.
And yet, I’m still willing to believe in the mystery behind the ego. I know who she is now, but that doesn’t ruin Miranda’s videos for me. In fact…it makes me like her more.
As I was watching Miranda videos, looking at comments on the Jimmy Fallon video (Miranda’s first big television debut), and thinking about her “acting” with Jerry Seinfeld, I not only gained respect for her as an actress/comedian, but also started thinking more about comedy than I ever had before.
I knew that comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler often talked about the gender inequality in television and media as a whole, but I never stopped to think about women in comedy because I never wanted to be in comedy. But as I thought about it, I realized that the majority of famous stand-up comedians are male, and here I’m talking about stand-up as a genre rather than stand up as a gateway to acting in comedy. When Amanda Seales went on CNN to slam some dude about catcalling, I looked up her YouTube channel and watched her hilarious stand-up. And that’s the only female stand-up comedian I think I’ve ever watched. Ever. Maybe this isn’t telling because I don’t really watch stand-up ever, but when I think about stand-up Bryan Reagan, Louis C.K., and Dane Cook come to mind, rather than Margaret Cho (bless her) or Sarah Silverman.
I know I talk about female equality a lot in my blogs, but it’s only because I’m not only passionate about it but I also see women disproportionately represented in the arts. Like I said, I’ve never wanted to be a comedian, but I have huge respect for them, especially the ladies of SNL (you kill it Leslie Jones), so seeing a young comedian like Colleen makes me so incredibly happy. It’s also interesting that she isn’t doing stand-up (though that could be part of her live show line up), and to me, her character work would shine somewhere like SNL. However, for now, I think she’s happy with YouTube.