bill wurtz

bill wurtz

YouTube’s Preeminent Absurdist Can be

Just as Informative as He is Confounding


Winner of the 2016 Shorty Award (a social media accolade) for Best in Weird, the YouTuber known as bill wurtz has a supremely eclectic and unpredictable approach to his content that is as engaging as it is unique.

For example, here’s a short video where he contemplates¬†“doing some content”:

Aaaaaand here’s the follow through:

As you can see, in a few short seconds his approach becomes immediately recognisable yet hard to define, a fidgety, retro take on absurdism that establishes rhythms in order to shit on them as soon as possible. Almost all of his videos rely on tinny, sideshow music production and easy melodies to grab the viewer, before switching up expectations with a speedy non-sequitur and incongruous visuals. For the most part, his vibe is short, inscrutable and so precise in its stupidity that it almost seems smart.

Take, for instance, “funny dolphin”:

To start with, the gyrating cartoon dolphin that is the video’s subject answers simple questions with “undies”. Then it is asked the average distance between Jupiter and Pluto; after a pause, it correctly answers, “3.187 billion miles.” The timing and the aberration itself is funny enough, but then the dolphin is asked many questions where the answer could easily be “undies” and responds otherwise (Q: “What do they sell at Victoria’s Secrets?” A: “Secrets”). This is Wurtz’s signature move, establishing a pattern, swerving away from it, then returning to and subverting it.

Sometimes he does this in less than five seconds, as with “jingle bells”:

Regardless of how pleasing these silly stubs are, it needs to be said that Wurtz’s opus is undoubtedly his longform video, “history of japan”:

Over nine breezy, unbridled and lowkey chaotic minutes, Wurtz uses every tool at his disposal to inform and discombobulate you. Hardly a second goes by without Wurtz employing his bewildering tactic of abruptly zooming in on the text and giving it a weird, acid neon wash. He also sings words at random and uses hilariously inappropriate music and sound effects to accompany his visuals. Above all, though, what’s most startling is how thoroughly Wurtz has clearly researched the long, internecine history of Japan and how potently he distills that information into a short video, so that you can learn and be cheerily puzzled simultaneously.

All of his bizarre trappings aside, Wurtz is so popular because he knows the value of finding a niche and burrowing deeper into it, rather than trying to expand it to suit others. His appeal is not broad, but it runs deep and confirms the suspicion that bat-shit material can still succeed so long as it’s driven by a desire to engage and enlighten, even indirectly.

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