When I was a very young child, my mother would watch Art Linkletter interview children on his show, House Party. The segment was called "Kids Say the Darndest Things" and my mother thought it was round about the funniest thing going. I didn't. I thought the kids were being made fun of. I was embarrassed that I might one day be one of those kids. Heaven forbid someone should laugh at my pronunciation of "lellow" or at the collision of my naïveté and my rapidly increasing vocabulary. I didn't have the words for it then, but my young self found the show precious and, worst of all, patronizing.
Fast forward 40-some odd years to the age of YouTube. Kids are saying the darndest things all over the place and most of the Internet is laughing along in much the same way they laughed with Art in the 50s and 60s and then again with Bill Cosby in the 90s. The only trouble is now a child who makes a funny gaffe can be laughed at by millions of people around the world in just a matter of days. Most of the time I'm still not laughing along. I am a mother now, though, and I can see the humour in most of these videos. The ones I tend to like, however, are the videos that respect the imaginations and burgeoning intellects of children.
It's a fine line, I will admit, and I'm not always sure that as an adult I can tell exactly where that line is drawn anymore.
For example, when this video was all over Twitter and Facebook a couple of weeks ago, I wasn't taken in by it even though I found the story told by the children quite imaginative and funny. I even thought the dads were good sports; and yet, there was just something about it that felt a bit off to me.
I'm not keen on Kid History either. It feels as if the adults are simply using the kids as a vehicle for their own mugging kind of humour.
A couple of days ago my friend, Christina, sent me a link to the relatively new Written by a Kid series that's part of the greater Geek and Sundry online video community. With ten episodes under its belt, Written by a Kid is proving itself distinct. The producers audition young children and listen to them tell their stories with minimal interference. The videotaped storytelling session is then assigned to a director who brings his/her own vision to the project. The results are varied, wildly creative, and definitely funny. Most importantly, the notion that the child is a storyteller worthy of respect is never lost.
The first episode, "Scary Smash", brings in a shocking amount of talent (watch the video--I don't want to spoil the surprise), but the series doesn't serve simply as a vehicle for high-profile cameos. Each story and video stands on its own. Celebrity cameos are rare. Here are a few of my favourites. Tell me what you think--about Written by a Kid specifically or about the cute-child-on-YouTube phenomenon in general.
Episode 1: Scary Smash
Episode 3: La Munkya
Episode 10: Ginger Potato