A group of modish young Angelenos has congregated at Eveleigh, a bistro off Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. During the day, many of them work as chauffeurs, waiters, or in retail. But their real passion is Vine, where these up-and-coming comedians have amassed millions of followers. They are Vinelebrities. A friend of a friend gives me the lay of the land.
That’s Brittany Furlan, she has 2.4 million followers … she’s the Queen of Vine.
And that’s Iman Crosson, or Alphacat, with almost a million followers. He does a great Obama impersonation.
For the uninitiated, Vine is a Twitter-owned mobile app that allows its users to post niftily edited video clips up to six seconds in length, which can then be shared via Twitter or Facebook. The app was launched on January 24 as a free iOS app on the iPhone and iPod Touch, and a version for Android phones was made available on June 3. The app has been used to debut footage from the superhero blockbuster Wolverine, by journalists to cover breaking news in war zones, and by major record labels to promote various releases.
But the most effective usage of Vine, so far, has been in the realm of comedy, and the majority of these Vinelebrities are hungry comics. They’re also a community, with many of them appearing in one another’s videos and tagging one another—thereby promoting each other’s accounts to their large followings.
The hottest name of them all, though, is Andrew Bachelor —better known by his Vine handle, King Bach (pronounced Batch). In the last month, the 25-year-old comedian has seen his Vine following grow from less than a million to over 1.9 million. And as soon as he arrives, two servers at the restaurant immediately home in on him, asking for a picture.
Bachelor was introduced to Vine by his pal Furlan, and he fired off his first one on May 29. In recent weeks, he’s seen celebrities with large Twitter followings like Questlove tweet out his hilarious Vines, had celeb cameos in his Vines by New Girl’s Lamorne Morris—whom he met over Twitter—and has also been featured more and more on the Facebook page “Best Vines,” which has over 11.6 million likes.
“With Vine, I started doing it, and my first Vines sucked—they were horrible—but I started studying and seeing which Vines got the most likes, and what people liked to see and laugh in, and I took that and put my own unique spin on it,” says Bachelor. “The results started to happen, and now I’ve almost mastered the structure of what people like to look at on Vine.”
He’s also managed to monetize his Vine, selling T shirts bearing his slogan “But That Backflip Though,” selling the occasional parody song on iTunes, and charging companies for creating custom Vines.“I have a gig I’m doing in New York for Samsung Labor Day weekend at Electric Zoo,” says Bachelor. “They flew me out because of my Vine following, and they want me to do some Vines for them. I have my rate that I charge, which is $1,000 per 100,000 followers. So if I had 1 million followers, that’s $10,000 per vine. I have 1.9 million now, so … they’re going to be paying the big ones.”
Bachelor was born in Canada to two Jamaican parents—both accountants—and says he comes from “a family of clowns,” so comedy’s in his blood. When he was 2, the family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, and Bachelor grew to become a sports star in the high jump. He received a full athletic scholarship to Florida State University for high jumping and was ranked No. 14 in the nation in the high jump in college and No. 2 in the state of Florida.
While enrolled at FSU, he began sharpening his comedy routine. Bachelor was a member of the comedy troupe 30in60, as well as an acting group called Black Actor’s Guild. He would perform comedy sketches with his troupe around campus.
“I remember one sketch we did, which was a Klondike sketch that played off the jingle, What would you do-ooo-ooo for a Klondike bar. There were four of us lined up, and one person was like, I’d read a book! and another said I’d run a mile! and another said I’d change the world! and the last guy was like, I’d suck a dick!”
In 2008, during his sophomore year of college, he saw comedians start to gain large followings on YouTube, including acts like DERRICK comedy and Julian Smith, so he began creating YouTube videos. After graduating from FSU in 2010, Bachelor enrolled in the masters program at the New York Film Academy, before dropping out in 2012 during his last semester and moving to Hollywood.
“It was too repetitive for me, and I was tired of waiting and wanted to get out and do things,” he says. “So I went out to L.A.”
He took classes with the sketch-comedy troupe the Groundlings to enhance his improv skills and revamped his YouTube channel, which he dubbed BachelorsPadTV. The channel has over 128,000 subscribers and features sketch comedy with high production values, including parodies of the films Flight and Django Unchained.
“A reason why I started Vine is because it costs a lot of money to keep putting out content on YouTube,” says Bachelor. “I needed to find a way to connect with my fans and have them see me on the regular without breaking the bank.”
Bachelor’s Vines usually star the same people—his friends. It’s a group that ranges from about 4 to 15 people per shoot, and he estimates he’s worked with about 30 friends total on various Vines.
“A normal day would be from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., so we treat it kind of like a 9-to-5,” says Bachelor. “We get to our meeting spot, think of ideas, and film the ideas and keep rotating and filming other friends’ ideas ’til the end of the day.”
According to Bachelor, his favorite Vine is this one:
But his main goal, for now, is to branch out and create a sketch-comedy show in the vein of people he looks up to—the Dave Chappelles and Key and Peeles of the world.
“I’m working with BET on a pilot for a sketch-comedy show,” he says. “We just finished signing the contracts, so now it’s time to deliver and see what they say.”