Josh Taylor is 24 years old. He’s married. He works with his dad creating patent drawings. He lives in Hermitage, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb where was raised and homeschooled with his brother, Jordan.
Then, a few years ago, things got weird.
I’m past the point where I’m stressed about it; I’m just kind of enjoying watching it play out.
In 2005, Josh and Jordan started making silly comic videos with a handycam. Before the videos could be posted online, Google Video demanded an account name; BlimeyCow appeared, as if by magic.
“Brain fart is a great way of putting it,” Josh concedes.
BlimeyCow videos skewer the idiosyncrasies of conservative evangelical culture, church, family…but unlike other comedy on these subjects, the laughs come from people who have remained inside that culture, rather than shucked it off for something more sophisticated. This makes their comedy not only sharply observant, but also endearing.
Things fizzled a little bit after Josh got married and Jordan started college. But two years ago, they committed to putting out a new video every week, and Messy Mondays was born. There was, Josh says, a “nicer camera” in play, and YouTube was the platform of choice. Subjects like “3 Types of Churches,” “10 Ways to Get a Girl to Like You” and “The Truth About Youth Group” brought in 3000 views per video, per week.
That was cool. That was a lot more than we were used to. It was cool to know there were people we didn’t know that were watching our stuff.
Then I had the idea. ‘We were homeschooled–let’s do one that’s about misconceptions about homeschoolers.’
I think we got a million views that month.
Previously, in response to the fans that kept asking “Why aren’t you guys famous yet?”, Josh had written on BlimeyCow’s blog that their humor would be popular only with a certain kind of audience–conservative evangelical lifers who appreciated the chance to laugh at themselves. That audience, he speculated, wasn’t likely to be very big.
“Two weeks later, we do that homeschool video and it blows up, based on that one group I said wasn’t there.
“So I had to sit back and assess. If this is a group of people that is looking for content on the internet, then we’re going to be a thing. I know this crowd; I can speak to this crowd.”
To Josh, homeschooling is a form of intellectual anarchy. At least, it can be. The problems (and the stereotypes) arise when homeschooling parents become just as doctrinarian as the public school system.
Of course, those rigid conservative stereotypes are exactly what make the homeschooling paradigm funny, even to the people inside it. But like most people who are used to being laughed at, homeschoolers need to know they’re being laughed with, in order to laugh themselves.
“I’d be remiss not to admit that a lot of those Christian cliches are justified. When we make jokes in our videos about homeschoolers it’s like ‘Haha, we’re not like that.’ Then get quiet and say ‘Well, we kind of are.'”
“You can get away with saying things sarcastically that you couldn’t any other way. There’s this hiphop artist named Propaganda–he said that the only time people are being honest is when they’re being sarcastic.”
In order to produce quality laughs that he’s included in, Josh says, it’s easy to fall into another stereotype–the hopelessly depressed stand-up comic. clown. “I understand that now,” he admits. “To write comedy, you have to be painfully self-aware. You look at the world around you, and you see every flaw.
“A lot of times, I’ll be struggling with something, and I’ll think ‘Why does this bother me?’ I’ll write it out–this root emotion, this thing I deal with–then I can make fun of myself.”
Josh talks to me in a room that appears to be a DIY control room for some kind of off-the-grid science experiment…or else simply the library of an active churchgoing family. Swiveling back and forth in his desk chair, looking to various corners of the room in search of words and phrases, he talks a mile a minute, leading me to wonder if I’m wasting his time. But he emails me later to say he enjoyed our chat, leading me to believe that maybe he just really thinks that fast.
It’s probably essential, since he parcels out his week between his day job and writing scripts, in between family, church, blogging, and brainstorming ideas for the show with youth group kids. Over the weekend, the BlimeyCow crew–Jordan, Josh, Josh’s wife Kelli, and whatever extra friends or celebrities they might rope in–spends five to seven hours shooting, and another twelve hours editing, in order to have the video ready to post on Monday.
It might sound like his schedule doesn’t leave much time for self-doubt, but he’s quick to say, “I definitely make time for that.” People often write in to suggest that they cover various kinds of topics, or incorporate different kinds of technology. “I would love to,” he says, “but I don’t have time to learn how to do that stuff.” For that reason, the show remains rudimentary–a black background, a few fright wigs, a lot of quick cuts. It’s like watching a play in a black-box theatre–the audience has to imagine everything.
The reason I get discouraged is the very thing I get encouragement from: our show isn’t very cool, but people are watching it.
There isn’t much to our show, other than the writing and that Jordan is a funny personality…according to what people have said. I don’t buy that he’s funny, but people come back.
The homeschool video catapulted BlimeyCow to a level of popularity that neither Josh nor Jordan expected. Recently, they’ve been approached by a number of managers who want to help them become the next big thing. It can be anxiety-inducing, Josh says.
“A few months ago, I had a meeting with a fella downtown, who does management marketing kind of stuff. He spoke one of my worst fears out loud: ‘You have this thing that’s very popular right now, and it’s going to disappear if you don’t capitalize on it soon.’
“For them, the bottom line is to make money. Our bottom line is that we enjoy making videos. If people enjoy this, it would be nice to just do this, and not have to worry about making time for the things”–full-time jobs, that is–“that make it so we can do this.”
Still, these conversations can make him afraid that he’s wasting an opportunity. But as more offers of this nature materialize, and more people write in to say how much they love the show, he’s realized that letting the thing evolve naturally is fine.
“It’s mostly just getting over that fear–a fear I have in my life, in general–that I’m not doing enough, that I should be doing more.” At this point, he acknowledges that he feels stretched a little thin. “But I’ve stretched myself thin in a way that I’m comfortable doing. God’s taken care of everything so far, I haven’t screwed everything up too much. He’s going to keep taking care of us, and work everything out.”
Blimey Cow’s recent Kickstarter campaign brought in 1000% of their funding goal. And that is not a joke.
It’s cool to know you’re in the middle of what you’re going to tell your kids about.
Follow the BlimeyCow story here.