When BYUtv creative development supervisor Jared N. Shores (BS ’10) attended a 2011 show of BYU’s sketch comedy troupe, Divine Comedy, his expectations were low. Veteran student performer Matthew R. Meese (BS ’09) had told him he really needed to check out the cast. Shores anticipated a few cheap laughs in a lackluster student show but agreed to attend. What he discovered was an uproarious performance that, through a fledgling YouTube site, was beginning to get attention far beyond campus.
Shores and Meese soon began examining how they might create a half-hour BYUtv comedy program that would appeal to college kids as well as teens and tweens and their parents. What they came up with was Studio C, a comedy show featuring 10 BYU grads in three- to five-minute skits ranging from silly to literary.
With Shores producing and directing the show, Studio C got laughs from its first sketch in 2012. Now 500 skits later, it has garnered a massive following on TV and online, where the show has more than 600,000 YouTube subscribers. “I could not have predicted this ever-growing popularity when Matt approached me,” says Shores.
Studio C’s biggest online victory came via the face of Scott Sterling, a hapless soccer goalie (played by Meese) who repeatedly saves penalty kicks with his battered face. That 2014 video delighted more than 100 million viewers (35 million on YouTube alone). At the same time, Studio C debuted three Hunger Gamesparodies and drew millions more viewers. Since then, some three dozen other videos have passed the coveted million-views mark.
Shores says the formula for Studio C’s success is funny, creative, and relevant content that avoids the crassness and obscenity that characterize much of contemporary comedy.
He credits his BYU degree in economics with helping him understand and analyze audiences.
“I was sort of a fish out of water in economics,” he says. “My advisors did not know what to say to me. I always knew I wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry, but I found the modeling and projection in my major fascinating. Through economics I could study human behavior with a framework that tells me who people are and what they value by how they use their resources and how they behave.”
Meese, a leading writer of show content, says Shores “allows creative leeway, which we value. There’s no feeling that this comes from the top down. Jared wants to know how he can help and does a lot of extra-mile work for the show.”
Even still, Meese admits, “we often remind ourselves we are guessing. We don’t know how well we are doing until the audience tells us. But Jared is an excellent, discerning guesser with a good sense of what is going to work.”
Shores says serendipity plays a role too. “With ‘Hunger Games,’ we were deliberately trying to snag those million viewers and worked diligently on the look, the music, the script, the staging—everything. ‘Scott Sterling’ was just one of the skits. We didn’t even sense it might be singular until editing. It was fun to see both approaches work but maybe even a little more gratifying that one of our regular skits was the breakaway we all had wanted so much.”
So what’s in store for 2016? A return of Scott Sterling, says Meese, adding—after a pause—“Do not expect him to fare very well.”
In fact, watch it here:
—Charlene Renberg Winters (BA '73, MA '96), BYU Magazine, Spring 2016