September, 2013 Issue

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Spoken Reasons


The term "YouTube celebrity" is thrown around a lot these days, but there aren't a lot of them who have more than their 15 minutes (or 15 seconds) of fame. They get their hits on the videos and fade right back into the relative obscurity from whence they came.

This month's cover artist is the exception, someone that one can refer to as a genuine, bona fide YouTube celebrity, so much so that he has made the jump from his own successful channels to the big screen.

Spoken Reasons has amassed over 300 million views on his series of videos (not just a single flash in the pan but multiple 1+ million view video success) and boasts over 3 million subscribers. Hollywood has taken note of this self made star, to the point that he just made his debut acting appearance in the smash success "The Heat," starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

It's not surprising that his star is on such a meteoric rise, for a guy who got a standing ovation after his first spoken word performance, and won $500 for his first stand-up comedy appearance. Not to mention the role he landed in "The Heat" was his first ever audition.

Spoken Reasons is a poet, comic, writer, actor and legitimate jack-of-all-trades, who has clearly mastered some. When booking for the campus market, SR says you'll get a little bit of it all. "When you see me in person, you are going to get the Spoken Reasons show. You're not going to get a straight stand up show, you're not going to get 100% laughs, or all poetry. You are going to see a person who possess many talents, including comedy, singing, spoken word, piano; it's a show with a lot of variety. I am not a very structured guy when it comes to my live show (laughs), I perform based on how I'm feeling and how the crowd is reacting. They are always receptive to it. I believe if you are an artist and you are true to yourself and true to your craft and people know that, you will never have a problem. It doesn't matter what you do, if you want to get on stage and chop your feet off and throw them in the audience, if that is what you are passionate about and people know that, they are going to accept it. There are plenty of artists in the world out there who do reckless things on the stage and they have fans that support them. You personally may not support it or understand it, but someone will."

His initial fascination with performing was captivated by the spoken word. "It was actually a weird situation. I was in college myself and didn't have much to speak of. I was on the verge of looking for a job, and I was involved with a girl who dumped me for a football player that had entered the NFL draft. She told me that I wasn't going to be anybody. I needed to upgrade all my clothes, because I was always wearing the same thing because I didn't have any money. That being said, I used that as motivation; I locked myself in my apartment for about a week and asked myself 'What am I going to do? What am I going to do to make myself a better person?' I decided to start sharing my pain and thoughts with the world. I got on Google and typed in the keyword 'poetry.' It was just something random, but I found spoken word poetry through that and found out there was a venue right around the corner form my apartment complex. I went on a whim and I liked the people, I liked the strong mental pictures the metaphors invoked, so the next week I wrote out my poetry and hit the stage myself. I showed up and got a standing ovation and it captivated me. I have been holding on to it ever since."

This was in the city of Orlando, at a club called the Speak No Evil poetry lounge. SR says a group called Diverse Elements was an early influence, a collection of poets he eventually befriended and became a huge personal influence for him. "They are like my poetry family. They were the first poets that I was exposed to, so those people were all inspirations to me early on. In the beginning I was just being inspired by them from afar, but over time, they adopted me like a little brother and it was on a personal level. I consider all of them family."

After that initial encouraging reaction of a standing ovation from his first performance, Spoken Reasons dove headfirst into the world of becoming a full time performer. "I saw it as a career path. I consider myself a messenger, and I think it is my life's calling. It was the career path I wanted to take, but spoken word is not a big market or a place where one can make a lot of money. I was in Orlando, had just dropped out of college and wasn't making any money. I wasn't making enough to make ends meet and keep the lights on, so I moved back home. Once that happened, I didn't have any choice but to get online and get on YouTube. I discovered that I could make my own channel, and from there I decided I would just do comedy."

It came naturally to him. "I have always been a funny guy, but it wasn't something that I asked for. It was a means to an end at the time; I was in a situation I had to find my way out of. That was in 2008. I was able to generate enough buzz to start supporting myself off of shows. I made all of my ends meet by doing poetry and standup shows around the region, driving to Atlanta and other major markets in the area. Nowadays these kids on YouTube are putting up videos that are getting popularity, but they have no stage experience or knowledge of what it's like to work in front of anything but a camera. That's why I am glad I started off as a poet, because I was able to maintain my financial income on that level, which not only allowed me to keep producing content for my YouTube channel, but also gave me real life experience handling live audiences. I got on the road."

Just like with the spoken word format, Spoken Reasons garnered immediate success with stand-up comedy, which turned out to be a more viable source of bookings, since the art form was more in demand in more venues than purely spoken word performances. "I did a majority of comedy performances because that was where I could find work. I stayed online, I never stopped dropping videos. I dropped 2 a week for 9 months straight in 2011, and it allowed me to continue to grow my presence and fan base. You have to get out and show up, perform shows. You can't just sit at home and wait, looking online hoping success will come to you."

When it comes to finding those bookings, the old adage "get off your ass and knock on doors" applied to his method of getting things done. "I networked! When I first got on YouTube, I was already an actual road artist. I was networking with people who were in the game for 20 or 30 years that allowed me to get my foot in the door in a lot of places that most YouTube kids had no idea about, and these old school folks knew nothing about them. Me getting out and actually talking to people and working on selling myself made all the difference, rather than just sitting back and trying to let all the YouTube views do the work for me."

The campus market has been a part of Spoken Reason's world for a long time. "The college market has always been a priority for me. I entered the college market in 2008, doing free shows. I would drive from my home during college to another college and volunteer my services just for a chance to perform. At most other venues I would be performing for older people. The college market has the students, who really relate to me. I'm a young guy, I'm only 24 years old and those are the people I appeal to the most. They make up the majority of my fans, so why wouldn't I be where they are?"

Being in front of a less jaded crowd is a thrill for any performer, but most especially one that has made his bones in a forum like YouTube, where the demographic feels right at home. "They are very enthusiastic. Rather than the older crowd at a comedy club being surprised by me, someone they don't know, on a college campus, I am who they came to see. I am who they look up to and who inspires them. That's a great feeling. I make them laugh and bring joy to their lives and they respond in kind."

Spoken Reasons isn't the aloof sort of performer who walks on, does his stage time and disappears, part of his favorite thing about performing on campus is meeting the people who want to meet him. "I do meet & greets, I hang out with my fans, I actually take pictures with them on stage while I am performing a live show. I always take pictures and I interact with my fans on Twitter each and every day. I actually make my Twitter about them, not me."

Watching Spoken Reasons on YouTube is a practice in eclecticism. He covers such a wide range of topics and material it's easy to see why he can find a home on just about any stage, in front of any audience. "I am whoever you accept me to be. I am just a guy who tells the truth and speaks from the heart. I don't believe truth has any color, or class, or age. It's all about the topic I am discussing and anyone can relate to what I am talking about. I might have come from a different situation or environment than some of the folks in my audience, but there is nothing truly different about us. Whatever each person hears and sees is what each one accepts. I am not speaking just for one direct type of demographic, I am speaking to people in general."

SR is constantly looking to new challenges and to break new ground, it's what makes him who he is. "I initially tried stand-up comedy because I wanted to accept that challenge in my life. I was in a poetry venue performing and I saw a flyer and they were giving out $500 to any person that won the competition. I signed myself up, battled about 300 comedians and won the whole competition. I just did it because I wanted to see if I could."

It was his first audition that landed him his role in "The Heat." You might think working alongside such stars as Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy would be intimidating for the big screen virgin, but if you do, you don't know Spoken Reasons. "Of course that is a direction I want to pursue, because I can captivate more people, and that is what I am here for. It is a huge platform. Let's say I was never to be in another movie, it doesn't matter. Because I am creating my own content, writing my own stuff, I still get to be in front of people and spread my message. My career doesn't depend solely on me landing another role. Each one might help me reach more people, but I will always be out and performing, and that is all that really matters."

This is a young and dynamic star with a big future, who will probably have a limited time in the campus market before he is either too hot to afford, or too busy to work the gigs. So, if you want to find out how to get him on your campus while there's still time, contact Brian Dennis at Diversity Talent Agency at brian@diversitytalentagency. com or 770-210-5579. Be sure to mention this story to receive a special CAM reader discount on the show!