Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Written by a kid

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


  1. A fellow Northwestern alum tried to start a TV series in LA that was similar... but it never took off. She was before her time (well, before youtube time, which probably would have changed her results dramatically) There is also a local theatre company that goes to elem schools that asks the kids to write in stories, then picks several stories and acts them out at an assembly, pulling kids up from the audience to act out the parts alongside professional actors. The kids LOVE it.

  2. Not a fan, but I'm no kid. Definitely an improvement over the concept of adults laughing at kids, but I get impatient. There is a group called "Story Pirates" on the Kids Place satellite radio station doing a similar thing: children send in their own stories, then the Pirates perform them on the air, but they embellish them quite a bit. Those and the taped telephone calls where the kids are blathering make me change the channel.

  3. I mispronounced the word "agriculture" when I was about seven, and my parents laughed and laughed. I STILL feel peeved and humiliated about it.

  4. I LOVE IT! I love this show. I hadn't heard of it before your post yesterday, but by now my children and I have watched nearly every episode. I wrote it up on my blog for you : )

  5. not sure I love it- but as a previous commenter said "I'm not a kid anymore".
    Don't you think the children would enjoy telling a story and drawing ( by hand or online) their own images.

  6. not sure I love it- but as a previous commenter said "I'm not a kid anymore".
    Don't you think the children would enjoy telling a story and drawing ( by hand or online) their own images.


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