Andrew Schulz was the most-viewed standup comedian on YouTube in both 2018 and 2019, averaging over four million views per week. In 2020, his popularity continues to skyrocket, in no small part because of the late-night style monologues he began uploading online when the COVID-19 pandemic started. While his rise and rise may seem like a stroke of serendipity, a Twitter thread by Harry Dry, who runs the weekly marketing case study newsletter Harry’s Marketing Examples, underscores that the American comedian made very deliberate decisions to turn his luck around in the wake of repeated rejections from large networks. From content creation to distribution, Schulz’s unconventional approach enabled him not just to reach a wider audience, but to do it without ever filtering jokes or reining in his bold punchlines—an executive decision that’s earned him over 4 million followers across YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Here’s what you can learn from his incredible D-I-Y success story.
Free YouTube specials
When Schulz’s self-funded one-hour special was also turned down by networks (that had always been skeptical of giving him a deal), he decided to release it on his YouTube channel for free—but not before a serious edit.
Ditching the Hour
He said he realised that most people start watching a comedy special, even enjoy it, but rarely finish the whole thing. So, he reasons, “I figured the hour was too long.” Schulz’s 4:4:1 clocks in at just under 17 minutes and won him rave reviews.
Now one of the mainstays of his channel, Schulz’s crowd-work clips were initially conceptualised as a way to generate fresh content for YouTube; according to the Harry’s Marketing Examples thread, “Schulz started honing his improv. Because learning to roast the crowd meant new content every night. He’d film every show. Sometimes 7 in one weekend. Hoping to get one electric clip for YouTube.”
Between 2018-19, Schulz uploaded over 100 bits of comedy or, in his own words, “100 ways of discovering me.” As a result, his subscribers grew from 140K to 840K in the span of one year.
By treating YouTube as his own network, Schulz was able to sidestep the public perception problem that ‘watering down jokes’ can have for comedians. Trademark Schulz remains free from the control of executives and that’s a really, really good thing.
The post credits Schulz’s social media skills as another important reason for his widespread success. His refreshing take on late-night show monologues is geared for Instagram where “he’d get your attention with a one-line intro. Then ask you to “turn your phone” to stop you scrolling by.”
Today, Schulz puts out more content than networks can keep up with, which is a long way from being turned down by them over five years ago. The secret’s actually a single-step process—helping yourself—without waiting on a network. Help from others follows.
You can read the full Twitter thread below: