I Am Fighter
The writers behind the YouTube comedy phenomenon on long term goals and short term perks
The two 20-something’s sitting in Starbucks look like your average student/grad types in hooded tops and jeans. They inform me that they’ve just come down from the Empire Music Hall in Botanic Avenue, a typical student haunt. Except they weren’t in the Empire for a few Saturday afternoon pints.
The two young men in front of me, Colin Geddis and Dan Watson, are the stars of YouTube film series I Am Fighter. Their rendezvous in the Empire was with a BBC producer who wants to commission them to write sketches for a new comedy show. Not bad for a recent graduate and a Law student.
I Am Fighter is a series of comical sketches on YouTube following culchie hardman Barry ‘The Blender’ Henderson and his sidekick Thomas ‘The Tanker’ Smythe as they teach viewers how to ‘fight’. The audience is given a crash course in ‘kickings’, ‘stranglings’ and the ‘use of weapons in a combat situation’.
The ironic thing is that Barry actually can’t fight very well. As Thomas ‘The Tanker’ points out, '[In the playground] Barry thought they were calling him the Blender when in fact they were saying, ‘Ye bender, ye bender’.'
Each 10-minute clip uploaded grosses well over 300,000 hits, with the official Barry the Blender Henderson Facebook page touting nearly 16,000 fans. Testament to their new found fame, Geddis and Watson are interrupted three times during the course of our 30-minute interview by crowds of adoring teens asking for a picture with ‘the big lad’.
So, given the success of I Am Fighter and the duo’s obvious flair for comedy, surely there was a grand plan behind it all? Apparently not.
'I didn’t even touch a camera till the end of second year doing Design and Communications at University of Ulster, Magee,' says Geddis, 'And [pointing to Watson] he’s a Law student at Queen’s. I’d always been into comedy, tried my hand at serious things like drama but realized I should just stick to what I’m good at.'
According to Watson, the concept for I Am Fighter began with the following question from Geddis: 'Do you want to do a script together?'
'We were initially going to do any sort of documentary type thing,' Watson recalls. Colin had a garage, the boxing gloves, pads, so it just worked out so much easier to do something like I Am Fighter.'
Since then the duo have had numerous offers of work, including sketch writing for a new BBC comedy show called LOL, collaborations with NI production houses Green Ink and Kudos and a pitch to Channel 4.
The duo’s tale of how they met seems just as unplanned and accidental. 'I hang about with Dan’s brother because he’s my age and once everyone got too drunk and went to sleep, we would sit up all night and watch comedy DVD’s. We thought "Aye, we could do this".'
How does each I Am Fighter clip come together? 'The way it normally works is that I’ll come up with a funny situation and Watson just drops the jokes into it. There’s a lot of standing around for like about ten minutes, then Watson usually comes up with something funny to say. That’s when it’s funniest because if we’d written it a month in advance it wouldn’t be funny anymore. If the situation is funny, the lines sort of write themselves.'
But what has made I Am Fighter so successful? Was there a significant marketing spend for each film? 'It literally requires nothing,' admits Geddis. 'The only expense is time and biscuits for tea. The first one lay online for about 6 months, then it finally got about a thousand hits and I had a heart attack! It just kept getting bigger and bigger and it was like a domino effect, every time we brought out a new one, they all seemed to get bigger. 350,000 isn’t a lot but everyone here has seen it like.'
Interestingly, despite being their most successful work to date, Geddis and Watson don’t consider I Am Fighter to be their best effort. 'It’s bad. It’s terrible comedy, but if you have the right character and it’s really forced and the person is convincing enough when they’re doing it, then it’s funny. It’s a stepping-stone; as long as it gets you to where you want to be then it’s all good.'
So what’s next for the Barry the Blender Henderson? 'We’re stopping at show 6. It will probably end up on TV in a different format, like not in the garage, and not as an entire show, but a sketch as part of a bigger show.' And personal dreams? 'In 5 years, I’d like to be sitting very still, drinking tea and writing comedy that other people make,' laughs Geddis. 'That would be the dream.' His friend nods in agreement.
And with that, the new enfants terrible of ‘Norn Irish’ (as Barry himself might say) comedy leave Starbucks and prepare for a few ‘stranglings’ in Victoria Square. Watch this space for more information on the evolution of Geddis and Watson.