When I was at Comikaze this year, I was lucky to do a quick interview with Soren Bowie, Daniel O’Brien, and Michael Swaim from Cracked.com. These guys have produced some of my favorite content on the site in the past years, so I was definitely excited to speak to them about their contributions.
I was curious about how each of the guys became involved with the site. Interestingly enough, they all had similar answers: they did their best to make themselves indispensable. Daniel said that he started to submit articles back in 2007 and said yes to every job that was offered. By the end of the year, he had muzzled his way in. “They either had to hire me, or find out what jobs they would have to do if I left. ‘Why are our lights not on?! Daniel isn’t here!’ Things like that.”
Soren said he came in the same way; he, like Michael Swaim, was doing a lot of sketch comedy at the time. “I also happened to be working in the same building as Cracked—they needed extras for ‘Agents of Cracked’, and was asked to participate.”
Michael butts in, here, laughing, “I remember the first thing we cast Soren in—we asked him to be the coolest guy in the room. And he’s still doing a great job in that role. In life, and on the site.” In addition to the sketch comedy that helped Michael get discovered, he was also the editor of a satire paper in college.
“A lot of it was trickery,” Daniel says. Cracked is owned by a bigger company, with more official hiring practices (things that grown ups do!), but again, due to their hard work, it seemed silly not to pay them in the end, as they became indispensable to the site’s day to day running.
“There was a point that Jack [editor-in-chief of Cracked] didn’t realize I edited the videos,” says Michael, “when he realized that, I sort of had my ‘in’.”
Cracked itself is a site with humble beginnings, but has grown into a comedy and information powerhouse, where people go to find not only humorous content, but intelligent content. It’s one of the few sites on the web where people can learn about the world around them, get good advice, and laugh while doing so. I wondered if their fast-growing influence on the Internet was a shock to them or if it felt like a natural progression from all their hard work.
“It’s not a shock, really, since we’ve all been there from the beginning,” Michael says, “it was shocking/gratifying for the first couple of years, but now if it doesn’t keep growing we feel [slightly] disappointed.”
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying, baby!” Soren interjects.
“It’s great to see things out in the real world, especially here at Comikaze,” Daniel says. “We have only had the site traffic, which eventually becomes meaningless, but once you get to actually interact with people… it really makes a difference.”
Soren smiles, adding, “This is basically our dream jobs—and we got to invent them for ourselves.”
“Unlike some of our friendly competition,” Michael says, “we decided instead of growing our staff, we would keep our cast growing slowly, instead just having everyone doing twice as much as they did before. We’re a close knit group.” Which shows, in both the friendliness of the cast and their dedication.
At first glance, it may seem that Cracked does a lot of the same ‘hook’ items that BuzzFeed does (“Five things that will make you smarter/taller/thinner/funnier”), there is anintelligence to their humor. Even their “low brow” items have a nuance to them that very few sites can match. Slate says that Cracked is”what happens when the internet tries harder”—and I totally agree.
“We’re not money grubbers, by any means,” Soren says, with a little shake of his head. “We really try to put out the best products we can. It’s important to us that they are as good as we can make them. So when people do read our articles, they strike a chord. That may be why readers choose to actually stick around. ”
Michael adds on that Cracked has phenomenal “time on site” metrics, which means that people are “actually reading all the words written, which I think is rare, these days.”
In closing, I wanted to know what sort of projects these three were working on.
Soren Bowie/Michael Swain: Cracked Studios – An offshoot of Cracked, where different sorts of webseries are produced. “We’re really proud of them, and they look really professional. I feel they are smart.”
Speaking of which, one that should get more attention is Monster Management:
Daniel O’Brien: How to fight Presidents – A book about presidents, and how to fight them.
What president could Daniel beat? “James Madison. Tiny, tiny little thing. I can fight James Madison and children. That’s where my strength lies.” (I personally think he could at least manage Taft!)