While we may not remember every superfluous math lesson or out-of-control party that happened in high school, many of us recall who won the coveted title of class clown. In Hollywood, many former class clowns have gone on to successful careers in comedy, such as Robin Williams, Amy Schumer and Kate McKinnon. However, for Kurtis Conner, it took time for him to step out of his shell. “I always thought I was funny, but I was never really outgoing,” Conner shares. “I was never the kind of person to be like, ‘Everyone, look at me!’ But I guess that’s kind of what I do now.”

Despite not being gregarious at school, Conner found a space to show off his wit online and began building a following on Vine. Conner was able to tailor his comedy to his target audience, Gen Z, and make a name for himself as a six-second wonder. Once Vine kicked the bucket, Conner and other creators fled to other platforms, such as Instagram and YouTube. The latter became a new home for Conner, who admits that changing over took some work. “Switching from Vine to YouTube wasn’t easy at all because they’re so different,” Conner explains. “On Vine, if you get an idea and film it, it’s done in 30 seconds. But for my YouTube videos, it’s like 10 hours plus of scripting, two to three hours of filming and then like 20 hours of editing.”

Although becoming a YouTuber proved to be labor intensive, Conner flourished on the platform and found a community that wanted to see him grow in his niche as a commentator. “When [subscribers] see something weird or dumb or people doing bad stuff on the internet, they’ll send it to me and say, ‘Kurtis, this would make a good video,’” Conner says. “It’s really tough thinking of new ideas every week and luckily, my channel has gotten to the point where people send me stuff.”

Photo by Peter Roessler

Photo by Peter Roessler

In the five years that Conner has been on YouTube, he’s fine-tuned what works best for him as a comedian. “Who I am on camera isn’t necessarily who I am 100 percent of the time,” Conner says. “I’m not just walking around all the time cracking jokes and I think if you’re on all the time, you lose who you are.” Through commentary comedy, he’s found a healthy balance between showing his personality and protecting his personal life, something many creators today struggle with. “It’s nice when there’s a YouTuber that I like who’s showing parts of their personal lives in a natural way, but I think it goes too far sometimes,” Conner explains. “If you’re putting so much of your life on the internet, at some point it’s part of the character you put on.”

Conner’s career in comedy has continued to evolve and as he becomes more confident, he’s leaned in to the world of standup and adapted his banter from the screen to the stage. “[In my set] I used to do a lot of puns and wordplay or fake stories I would write. But now it’s more observational storytelling and traditional standup,” Conner says. “I have a lot more fun doing that and there’s more freedom to play around. It’s a lot of fun being more open on stage and I think you get a better reaction from people when you’re being honest.” Conner will continue to supply his subscribers with weekly content on his YouTube channel, but going forward, he aspires to make standup a much larger part of his brand. “But who knows, maybe I’ll throw my life away and start a family vlog channel.”