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Smosh Carves Out a Comedic Home Between Nickelodeon and Comedy Central

"We're never going to leave our Internet presence behind," Anthony Padilla told the full house at Code/Media in Los Angeles.

Vjeran Pavic, Re/code

If you don’t recognize the names Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, you simply don’t know Smosh.

Digital media veterans who refined their creative chops on Myspace, the comedy duo was interviewed onstage by Peter Kafka at the first-ever Code/Media conference in Santa Monica, Calif., on Thursday evening,

Padilla recalled “freaking out” when one of their early Smosh videos attracted 100 views.

The comedy and business partners acknowledged that they didn’t follow the traditional route to Hollywood acclaim, studying general education courses in community college instead of filmmaking at USC.

“We followed the Mark Zuckerberg path — minus the Harvard thing,” Hecox said.

These days, Smosh’s YouTube channel has logged three billion views (and counting), as Padilla and Hecox seek to carve out a comedic niche somewhere between Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. Their videos reflect a young, male sensibility: Recent sketches explore a Viagra overdose, a Ouija board session designed to recruit the spirit world in a campaign to convince a young woman to break up with her boyfriend, and a music video inspired by “Assassin’s Creed.”

Like many digital media entrepreneurs, Smosh has employed traditional media business practices to support its Internet-era creative endeavor. Former Disney television executive Barry Blumberg convinced Padilla and Hecox to extend their reach beyond their flagship YouTube channel to launch their own website, publish magazines and create mobile apps and games.

“At that point, we were just living in our parents’ house, making some videos, hanging out, not thinking of where this could take us,” said Hecox of the time before Blumberg’s arrival with a vision of turning Smosh into the “Saturday Night Live” of the Internet.

Smosh has become a full-time gig — it’s better than working at Chuck E. Cheese’s, they noted. But as their following grows, Hecox and Padilla said they don’t foresee a time when they will abandon the Internet to pursue a career in TV or film. That’s not where their audience is, anyway.

“Many of our fans don’t watch TV, they just watch the Internet,” said Padilla.

Neither would dismiss the possibility of exploring new forms of entertainment — but they also vowed not to leave the Internet behind.

“We don’t want to abandon everybody who helped us get to where we are,” Padilla said.

Hecox said that Walt Disney Co.’s $500 million acquisition earlier this week of Maker Studios, a producer and distributor of YouTube videos, is lending legitimacy to digital entertainment.

“Disney is giving its stamp of approval on this space,” Hecox said. “It’s becoming a huge thing.”

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