clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Full transcript: JibJab co-founder and CEO Gregg Spiridellis on Recode Decode

“How do we empower people with our content, as well as tools, to be funny in their own lives? It’s not about being mass-funny. It’s about being micro-funny.”

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, we continue the search for funny in tech and explore how to monetize it. JibJab CEO Gregg Spiridellis talks about how his long-lived company has adapted to the ever-changing internet.

You can listen to the entire interview here or in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Recode Radio presents Recode Decode, coming to you from the Vox Media podcast network. Hi, I am Kara Swisher, executive editor of Recode. You may know me as a political junkie, by which I mean today’s politicians make me want to eat all the junk food, but in my spare time, I talk tech. You are listening to Recode Decode, a podcast about tech and media’s key players, big ideas and how they are changing the world we live in. You can find more episodes of Recode Decode on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Play Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or just visit for more.

Today I am in San Francisco with Dick Costolo, the CEO of Chorus and the former CEO of Twitter. Dick has been joining me for several bonus episodes of Recode Decode this month, all of which have been gold.

Dick Costolo: Gold.

KS: Gold, gold!

DC: Home run.

KS: Home run. Talking about comedy and we’re killing it. Comedy and tech. Today in the red chair is Gregg Spiridellis, whom I’ve known for a long time, the CEO and co-founder of JibJab. A lot of our listeners may know JibJab for creating animated viral videos in the mid-2000s, including This Land, a cartoon about the 2004 presidential race between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Remember those nice days, but especially for children’s day, JibJab is best known.

DC: Remember when some experienced politicians were running the country? Somewhat experienced politicians.

KS: Yeah. Remember that? Good old days. He is known for the educational brand StoryBots and lots of things. Gregg, you’ve been around the block a time or two.

Gregg Spiridellis: Lots of things, yeah. Since ’99.

KS: We are going to talk about humor and viral videos and where everything is going. So, welcome.

DC: By the way, it is a red chair. It doesn’t really have to be a red chair since it’s a podcast.

KS: Yes, but ...

As a guest, it’s very ... I feel it. Yeah, I feel more important.

KS: Thank you. [To Dick] Yeah, you are just mad you don’t get to be in the nice chair.

Just saying, this is a career highlight for me.

KS: This is career highlight! You know, I believe Steve Jobs sat in that red chair, just so you know. There are so many people who have sat in that red chair. You are wrong.

DC: I believe a guy named Phil sat in that chair.

KS: No, no. Not everyone gets to sit in that red chair. Congratulations on the honor.

It’s an honor.

KS: Thank you, you polite young man.

DC: I’m just saying, he could be in a Philly cheesesteak place.

KS: Okay, in any case.

You feel better sitting in the chair.

KS: Anyway, Gregg, give us a little background about JibJab. I wrote about it. I met you, when?

Yeah, years ago. Maybe 10 years ago.

KS: 1990-something. Earlier.

Yeah, I remember.

KS: In the ’90s.

Maybe, yeah.

KS: When did you start your company?

We started in ’99, so we were in dial-up days. Then, I think we met then, and then the next time we met was in 2006, after I ...

KS: I did a crazy video. One of my crazy videos where I walked around with a video camera and bothering people.

Yes, exactly.

KS: What was that?

It was a GoPro? No, a Flip cam or something.

KS: Flip. It was a Flip cam. Right.

I remember the interview was arranged and my VC was very nervous. I just got funded and they said, “Kara is coming. Kara is coming. It’s going to be really tough,” and I said ...

DC: Get a red chair.

How tough can it be? You walked in the door and you said, “George Lucas says the internet is a wasteland for creativity.”

KS: No, puppies on the highway.

“Puppies on the highway and you guys are basically worthless. How do you feel about that?” I said, “Wow, nice to meet you too, Kara.”

KS: Nice to meet you, my Flip cam.

By the way, how did the whole viral video thing work doing dialog? Was that ... So that’s a good question. Flash. Flash animation, yeah.

KS: All right, so talk about the beginnings of your business.

Yeah, so the beginnings ...

KS: It was early. Who was your first funder?

It was very early. So, we went six years without funding. My background was, I was in investment banking. I went to Wharton and did my MBA. My brother was in art school and while I was doing my MBA.

KS: Another Spiridellis.

Another Spiridellis. I saw a cartoon on the internet. My brother was really interested in making television shows, and I said, “Why are you banging out horse shoes? You’ve got the Model T over here. Take a look at this. Make some animation using Flash. Vector animation. You can make animations with 300K and ship them around the world on a phone wire.” So, he started playing with it and we started riffing back and forth.

When I graduated, I thought this internet is going to be something. Someday, it’s going to be used for entertainment, and it took almost five years before we did This Land. People said, “These JibJab guys, overnight success.”

KS: You went through the fallow period, right?

Yeah. We’ve been through every period, yeah.

KS: I don’t know if you were busing tables at that point.

We were in the coat room at the Limelight.

KS: When did you get to the internet? Not until ...

Not until 2004.

KS: All right. So, you did that. Then talk about the early days. You were trying to get comedy, though.

Yeah, it was always comedy.

KS: You put heads on things. I know you kept sending me pictures, or that was later?

That was later. So originally, it was just about producing short-form comedy and it was iteration. People love politics and contemporary issues. Then we figured out music worked really well, and everything had to be short, and then we tapped into photo-collage animation as a style that my brother did with politicians, and that resonated really well.

KS: Just putting their heads and the mouth is open.

Exactly, with the chop-jaw mouth, which makes it look like anybody. Any 3-year-old could make it, but it was really just an amazing style that was constrained by the limitations of the technology, and we launched This Land. So, it was five years. We launched This Land. We were at the point where it was like, this internet is never going to be used for entertainment. We were about to give up, but we knew that election cycles were really big comedy. We said, “We are going to make one more shot at it.” We put This Land online and it was just gangbusters from the moment we released it.

KS: Right. Just like the dancing baby. Remember the dancing baby?

Yeah. Frog in the blender. It was probably ... You don’t remember that one, frog in the blender, joke cartoon?

KS: No.

I was a little closer to it back then.

KS: Dancing baby is where we go, and “all your base are belong to us.”

Yeah, and then with that it was overnight. It was just insanity. We did 80 million views back in 2004. There was no YouTube. We needed to string together a global network of mirroring sites, because we had a $400/month shared server in Texas, and so ...

DC: If you tell it to the kids today, they don’t believe it.

Yeah, exactly. That was part of the problem. You had to be good at tech back then to actually shift content, but we held it together. It was a really surreal experience. We were a week from thinking we may have to give up the business, we were on the couch with Jay Leno, getting emails from soldiers in Saddam Hussein’s palaces, telling us that the Pentagon had blocked JibJab because the soldiers were flooding the networks, watching the cartoon.

DC: Explain what it was. Explain what This Land was.

It was set to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and it was ...

DC: By the way, things that are funny are always better when explained. Let me explain. Let me break this down. I am sure they’ll be thrilled.

KS: For people that don’t know.

DC: So, in the first frame...

In the first shot, we open on George Bush sitting at his desk. It was a parody to “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie and it was George Bush calling John Kerry a liberal wiener and John Kerry calling George Bush a right-wing nut job.

KS: Yeah, it was great. It probably holds up. Does it hold up?

It still plays really well. When we go through and we show clips and we are talking about the company, it holds up really well, but you know, it was a more innocent time for politics. We thought they were childish back then. That was the whole joke, which I’ll explain soon. So, it was nuts. It was amazing and we spun that into ... cobbled together a business model around it.

KS: Which was?

Which was, back then it was licensing our stuff anywhere we could and bridging into exclusively licensing deals. So, this was pre-YouTube. You could build a comedy brand and then you could do exclusive licensing deals. We had Yahoo was an exclusive licenser. Meaning they could distribute and we would on our site, with MSN as well.

KS: Do you mean shared advertising?

Yeah. Or, they would pay us big advances and it was great. Then all of a sudden came YouTube. It was like the tornado on the horizon. I could just see the sink. When I saw “Chronicles of Narnia,” I thought now we are going to have to compete not only with anybody who can press an Upload button but basically the entire human history of comedy. The people were ripping off ... It was all unlicensed stuff. We would be competing with Buster Keaton to “Chronicles of Narnia.”

So we started rethinking our business model at that point, but it was great through about 2007, when YouTube, I think, was bought. Or 2006 they were bought.

KS: Yes, but you were trying to create it. I remember going there at another time and you were doing all kinds of creative original content, right? Comedy content.

Yeah, all original.

KS: So, what else was around?

I mean, the Funny or Die guys were around.

DC: I think they came in 07-08.

Once YouTube proved that there was a big audience for online video and it was doable, I think Funny or Die came around.

KS: And comedy was the biggest.

We knew that from the beginning. It’s social.

DC: You’re very early with everything. You’ve known all these things from the beginning.

Yeah, I know. We’ve been too early.

DC: How early were you in crypto?

Well, I am only early in things that don’t matter, don’t generate 10 billion percent returns per year. That’s what I am early in.

DC: You have super powers. I am early to all, all ...

All non-monetizing market segments.

KS: But you were going to try to make things for the portal and everybody was doing that in LA, because you were in Los Angeles, which is different.

Yes. So, we were in Los Angeles and it was ... I mean, the first wave was just insanity. It was ... I don’t know if you remember and, which was Ron Howard’s, and, and we were in ...

KS: It was all these Hollywood people trying to get online.

I remember we were in Brooklyn at the time and I flew out there in the summer of 2000 or 2001. I remember I called my brother and I said, “Hey, I am in this place. It’s amazing and there are great snacks. The best-looking people I’ve ever seen in my life. The fish tank is amazing. I have no idea what the fuck anybody is doing.”

KS: Millions to be made and everyone is an idiot. That’s an old Joe Mankiewicz.

Yeah. So it all collapsed, as predicted, and then we went through a bunch of these. We did toys.

DC: It all collapsed as Gregg foresaw several years ago.

Yes, exactly, but I have the staying power.

KS: But the snacks were delicious.

If you give me a bad market, I actually just stay in it and stay in it, until it becomes ...

DC: A good market.

A good market.

DC: All right.

KS: So, talk about your iteration. You did all kinds ... You shifted. Then you had the dancing ones and greeting cards?

The greeting cards.

KS: You and the Blue Mountain Arts people.

Yeah. So again, talk about iteration. After the dot-com crash.

KS: They sold out.

They sold out.

KS: Made a lot of money.

They sold it for like $800 million.

KS: They did. They called me and said, “Should we sell?” I am like, “Get cash. Run,” and then she is rich and happy.

Good for her.

KS: Yeah. I am still waiting for the present.

You didn’t get anything for the advice?

KS: I did not. It was an excellent piece of advice.

We did toys. I sold it. We had a popular cartoon called Nasty Santa, and when the dot-com crash happened I went into Spencer Gifts. Do you know Spencer Gifts?

KS: Yes, of course. All those dirty boob gifts.

Yeah, those stupid ... I found there was an open vendor day, so anybody could show up and sell something.

DC: What are you talking about?

KS: Spencer Gifts had edible underwear. I bought it when I was a teenager.

Yeah. So that was our shelter from the storm in the dot-com crash. So, we did that and we did books. We had a top-selling Disney book where we sold a children’s book called “Are You Grumpy, Santa?” We did a book with LL Cool J, and then we did ... and then when YouTube was going to kill the licensing business for good, we raised money, because we had this global brand, literally. We were one of the earliest brands and I knew my business model was going to go poof and I needed some capital.

It took us six-and-a-half years. We raised our first round in ’06, and we were going to branded entertainment on YouTube. The idea was we go help brands make funny stuff on YouTube. We spent six months John Landis. You know John Landis, “Blues Brothers,” “Trading Places” and “Animal House,” all classic. Then we did a sketch comedy competition. I got Verizon to sponsor it. We were on the “Tonight Show” with John Landis. Verizon did this whole big thing. We made zero money. It took me six months of my life.

DC: Went back to Nasty Santa.

I had just raised $6.5 million on the premise of helping brands do this and I felt terrible. It was the holidays and I was just in a panic.

KS: You felt bad for Verizon? Never.

No, I felt bad for my investor.

DC: I thought it was John Landis and Verizon.

I felt bad for my investor. We had sold this bill of goods and I was like, this is not going to work. So, I found American Greetings 10K, then $80 million/year business, selling subscription e-cards. That’s where we said, let’s go do this and make these things not suck. So, that’s also combining with cool new technology. That’s when we did personalization: You could actually combine the content and the tools and put your face in it, and then share it on Facebook.

KS: Also you did the eggs one. Do you remember the fried eggs?

Yes. You remember that.

KS: I sent that out. I spent a lot of money on your service, sending that out. It was like a movie with the faces on the eggs and it was like cruel. It was like the eggs got killed.

Yeah, they got cracked into a frying pan and they were screaming.

KS: Then it said, “Happy Birthday,” at the end with a cake.

Yeah, we felt bad about that.

KS: It was very sick.

DC: You guys have kind of a dark side.

Yeah, I do, actually.

KS: Then you had the Angry Orange. Did you have Angry Orange, yes or no?

No, but we had ...

KS: That was the same people.

That was the same guy. We found that creator and we brought him in, and then we produced a whole series of things with him. Then he said, “Thank you very much, I am going to television now.”

KS: What happened to Angry Orange?

It was a huge success. The Annoying Orange.

KS: The Annoying Orange. Right.

Dan the creator is a genius. It was a good show and I think it ran its course, though. I mean, how many episodes of a talking annoying orange can you watch?

KS: Laughable Apple. That was good, right?

DC: The person that could eat pear. We can go on but probably shouldn’t.

KS: Bananas Banana. So, you kept shifting business plans.

Yeah. You have to.

KS: So you went to the greeting card business. Is that ... Get us to today.

So the greeting cards were two things going on. One was we knew we could use the technology to let people create their own personalized content, and that was really exciting. The second thing that was happening was distribution. So, originally, in the This Land era, people would take a video and would email their entire address book a video.

KS: “Look at this!”

Remember that? Yes, that was cool, and that stopped. So, we were having trouble keeping the same virality up. When I saw the Facebook News Feed, I said this is the exact same thing. You are basically hitting 150 of your friends with a piece of content, but there is no social obligation to respond, like “Ha, ha. That’s funny.”

So, we were really early on Platform. We were one of the first builders on Facebook Platform, because they could also access photos. That was the other thing I saw. Birthdays and photos. I could get your information, all your friends’ birthdays, all your photos, your friends’ photos, and we could basically populate these personalized videos really easily. So that was distribution and business model subscription. We’ve got well over a million subs today, so, we built that business up.

KS: They are buying?

They are buying access to the library of greeting cards.

KS: Greeting cards that they send out on Facebook. Where is most of the business?

Most of the business, it’s all through JibJab.

KS: On Facebook, though, the distribution?

Distributions happens anywhere. You can distribute it, but most of the distribution happens on Facebook still.

KS: All right, what are we talking about then?

DC: The thing about those subscription businesses is they are hard to build, but once you build them, they are these great subscription revenue streams.

As someone who was in the hit business for many, many years, there is nothing better than the subscription business. You can actually sleep at night and not worry about how well your next piece of content is going to do. It’s a beautiful thing.

KS: So, that’s where it is now. Let’s talk about that. As Facebook and others start to iterate, did you use Twitter? Did he give you any deals?

Twitter wasn’t as visual. It didn’t really line up with us as much.

KS: Until now.

Until now. It’s much more so, but back in ’07-’08, it wasn’t a place where we were really successful, because we were all video and all visual content.

KS: What about now?

Now, we don’t see as much sharing through Twitter either. I think it’s just quicker consumption. Our videos are still about a minute, a minute and a half. I remember when that was short-form. So they are a little long for Twitter.

But you are asking where we are now. So, from about 2013, it’s always been about distribution. What’s the next distribution? Early on, it was email. We were the first to kind of capitalize email for video. Then it was Facebook. We capitalized Facebook, and in about 2013, we started seeing, what’s the next big distribution channels around messaging?

We said, “We don’t want to just throw e-cards on Messenger.” It’s the same way we didn’t take political satire and throw it on Facebook. What’s the right format for this channel? So, we created a new product called JibJab Messenger, and really around gifs. So, personalized gifs. That became really popular. Zuckerberg used it. We launched in 2014. In 2015, when Zuckerberg opened Messenger as a platform, he used our product at F8 to make the announcement.

Then when Apple opened up iMessage as a platform in 2016, they used JibJab at the keynote to do it. Yes, send gifs and personalized gifs, and we’ve got new products coming as well that even open up the customization opportunities even more.

KS: And there is lots of those companies now. I just noticed that on my phone, there is Bitmoji, there is a whole bunch that I don’t even know that sends gifs.

In iMessage?

KS: Tenor. I don’t even know.

Yeah, that’s another gif company like ... Yeah, there are a ton of them. I think where we stand out is original content production, like higher-quality production values and tools, personalization tools. How do you make something really unique? How do you help people stand out in their digital lives?

Back when we were doing This Land, it was, “Hey, I am the first to find this.” It was all about early discovery and, “I am cool because I shared it.” Then it became about like Elf Yourself, where we were doing Elf Yourself and people were sharing all these videos. Now, I think it’s how do you create a tool that lets people create something really funny, really contextually relevant in their text message conversations really fast? That’s what we are focused on now.

KS: All right. When we get back, we will talk more about what is funny, what works and where things are going. We are with Gregg Spiridellis and I am with my co-host Dick Costolo.

DC: Co-pilot.

KS: Co-pilot. I am really enjoying this thing. I think you are enjoying it too, aren’t you?

DC: Little bit.

KS: Little bit. All right.

He is envious of the red chair.

KS: He’s never getting one. All right, when we’re back we’ll be talking more about JibJab and other things.


We are here on Recode Decode. I am with Gregg Spiridellis from JibJab. We’ve been talking about the growth of his company, JibJab, which started off ... Has that had like 19 business plans at this point?

Nineteen different business models.

KS: Different models. Okay, so talk about what works and funny. How has funny changed? Because it used to be something you just stared at. They showed the other day the video of the guy beating up the computer and putting the keyboard, I forget what that meme was called, but it was one of the early ones. Then it was the dancing baby. I am trying to think of all the different ones.

DC: Well, and we were talking to Sarah Cooper on last week’s podcast about how some of the YouTube sensations now, it’s much more like shock comedy and immediate visual shock comedy.

KS: Like that stupid Logan Paul.

DC: With a lot less subtlety.

Is that generational, or ...?

DC: Yeah, I don’t know. What do you think? Is it technology-based? Is it generational?

KS: Let’s first talk about what has worked. Obviously ...

DC: Let’s all talk at once. That would be great.

KS: Good idea. Oh, my god. You are bossy person. This Land worked really well. Why? And it was funny.

It’s relevance. I think the key thing for us has always been relevance. How do you make something that’s relevant to the most amount of people at the same time? So, topical humor always works really, really well. When we did This Land, you had a really long shelf life. We knew this. This was by design. We could launch something in July for a presidential election that would be relevant through November.

KS: Which is astonishing.

Which is astonishing, and it doesn’t exist anymore.

DC: Immediacy. You were just saying earlier, even, immediacy is a lot more important now.


KS: Well, I mean Bannon was last Monday and shithole was Thursday.

And what’s next?

KS: I don’t know, maybe he did something today. I’m sure while we’re doing this, but it is being governed by Trump and on Twitter, which is interesting, but so you could have things like you had one on Walmart. Was it yours?

Yeah. We did Big Box Mart.

KS: Big Box Mart.

So we did a piece sat to “O Susannah” and called it the Big Box Mart.

KS: So, what is that called, spoof or what?

It was satire. Yeah, it was satire. So, we would do things that were culturally relevant. Back then, we could do Big Box Mart, because it was the idea that we love consuming and shopping and filling our houses with crap. Then all of a sudden, our factory shuts down and we are working in the Big Box Mart, and it’s not so cool anymore.

DC: Do you feel like now you’ve been at this long enough that you know what’s going to work? Before even something goes out, you kind of have a sense of, “This is going to work, this is going to move,” or, “Eh, let’s try it. I have no idea”?

KS: Or, something that you thought was going to move that should have moved?

Yeah, I think you have a sense for it. There is degrees. When we did This Land, it was just myself and my brother and ...

KS: And there was nothing else at the time. There wasn’t too much.

There was nothing else. Exactly. So, when you’re working on something for eight weeks, at some point the grind kills the funny, and if you are still laughing at the end of a production cycle, you know you have something.

DC: I think that’s comedy rule No. 1, the grind kills the funny.

Yeah, it kills the funny, until you see it again and you are like, “Okay, that must have been pretty good.” But also with This Land, one of the other reasons we started looking for new business models was that was July of ’04. I would bet, and I don’t have any proof on this, but if everyone who saw a video in July of 2004, I’ll bet we had 90 percent plus shared voice. That just doesn’t happen anymore. Everything is so ...

KS: No, it’s like three networks.

Yeah. Now, we are in a world where everything is so targeted. The things my 11-year-old son watches are things, in a million years, I would never watch, and the things that I watch and find funny are things that he won’t. There are very few things that I think cross all ages and demos.

KS: Was there something in the funny universe that really crossed over? I do remember This Land. It was definitely something I still recall. Because of this ... You can get jokes on Twitter, you can get jokes on Facebook, you can get funny videos that go around really quickly, or heart-warming videos, or the mom that wore the Chewbacca mask. That went around, and then it didn’t.

There was some of the Funny or Die stuff that went viral, like Will Ferrell, Drunk Landlord.

DC: Yeah, Drunk Landlord. The first one, and then the parasol one.

KS: Yeah. So, what happened? What do you think are some of the funnier ones that deserved or didn’t deserve their fame?

It’s hard to ... I mean, the things that get spread the most are the things that are funny. That’s the thing about comedy, it’s super subjective. What my son finds hilarious, I don’t even understand. So, you know, in terms of what’s funny, if it’s driving viewership, it’s funny to somebody.

I look at things now, I look at Bad Lip Reading. Do you know that format?

KS: No.

This is a format where they take like a “Star Wars” movie and then they superimpose gobbledygook dialog on top that looks like they are actually saying it. That’s one of the things my son showed me that I thought was really funny, and then I look at it and I am super jealous. I am like, “That’s a format you could scale forever.” You could do that to anything. There is an Inauguration Day one. There is a “Star Wars” one. You could do that over and over, and over again. I think that’s the key to funny.

KS: It sounds like auto-tune.

Auto-tune, exactly. There are a couple of these formats where you see them and you say, “Man, I wish I had thought of that.”

KS: Why don’t you just do it?

What’s that?

KS: Why don’t you just do it?

We try. We try. We are 18 years in and we are still alive. So, you know.

KS: What has been your favorite thing that’s not JibJab? What is something in comedy that you think has been perfect on the internet?

It’s a really good question. I don’t know if there is ... I wouldn’t point to one thing, per se. I think there is just so many different things, but all one-offs. You see formats and you appreciate them, but there is not one thing.

DC: The formats even run out of steam, you know?

KS: They do.


DC: “Between Two Ferns” is great, and then after a ton of these short-form formats, particularly, after the sixth, you say, “Zach is funny. These people are funny, but I get it.” We are doing the same. It’s like an “SNL” scene that goes on too long and you say, “Okay. It was one joke. It was hilarious. Let’s wrap it up.”

KS: Right. It’s the same thing they do with the Trump stuff. It’s sort of like, “Okay, we are done with that.” Although, you’d think you wouldn’t be.

Formats get tiring. The one that’s worked really well for us is the tools. So, when we did This Land, we created something that was relevant to the entire human population for a pretty good window of time. Coming out of that, we knew, we are good at what we do. We are not that good, like lightning in a bottle. You recognize it and say, “Give people tools to insert the relevance into the content themselves.” So that’s where Starring You and the ability to put the faces in, we create one template and it’s super-funny to see Uncle Joe in it tweet about 10 people. If you get enough of those groups of 10 people together, you can ...

KS: Right. You’ve sent me one doing disco with Walt Mossberg.

Yes, exactly. It’s funny, right? No? Okay, so it’s a little creepy.

KS: It’s grim, actually. It’s like very depressing, because I think you made him the lady. You made the guy that was in the Tony Manero suit. That was funny.

DC: It is true that the benefit of the immediacy and personalization you get now limits the distribution of it.

Totally, yes.

DC: In many regards. It’s an interesting trade-off that the new technology has caused to happen in comedy. You don’t get distribution on lots of things, because it’s funny to 15 people, and then you think beyond those 15 people, it’s like, “Why did you send me this stupid thing? I don’t even know who these people are.”

For us as a producer, though, it’s awesome, because we create one video and if we give people the tools to make it relevant to their small group of friends, and that we can replicate that over lots of small groups of friends, it gives us basically a hit scale without all the risk of being funny on a mass scale for a mass audience.

KS: Is it even possible anymore? Is mass scale ... like, I can’t get any things that ...

DC: So, you finally reach the ... You saw immediacy and personalization coming and you did the thing you saw coming that turns out to actually be a good business this time.

Yeah, exactly. We’ve built a really big business around this stuff, and it’s great. It lets us invest in new formats.

DC: You’ve gotten beyond your previous superpower of being able to foresee.

Being early in the worst markets.

DC: The worst possible market. That’s the point of humor.

KS: So, what does this look like going forward, when you are thinking about comedy? Comedy is what drives it. Either viral or comedy, essentially. It seems like the twin things that seem to be popular online.

Yeah. I think producing just video for consumption is a really tough business. That is a really tough business, not a business ...

KS: It’s mostly they take clips like Jimmy Fallon or ...

Yes, exactly. So, you are competing, if you are an original content producer and you are distributing on digital, you’ve got to compete against Jimmy Fallon and Colbert, people who have writing rooms filled with the best talent in the world. It’s a really, really tough space to be. So for us, we think about how do we empower people with our content, as well as tools, to be funny in their own lives? So it’s not about being mass-funny. It’s about being micro-funny, but doing it in a way that it can be replicated in hit scale.

KS: What happens to mass-funny?

I think mass-funny is where is the money that can afford the investment. So, if you look at, like you were saying, Jimmy Fallon or these great really super-well-produced video content that gets repurposed and distributed online, really hard to compete against that, if you are just looking at digital for uniqueness.

KS: How do they make money? Because I don’t think they could either. Correct?

I think they repurpose. That’s what the challenge is, it’s all gravy for those guys. They are producing, with the economics of television, and then they go clean up the tips.

KS: Although some feel like that will ruin the television part. You watch all the choice bits, and then ...

Yeah, the next day.

KS: Yes, because I can’t remember the last time I turned on a ...

Yeah, me neither.

KS: “SNL,” the same thing. I just watch ...

DC: Yeah, same thing. I just watch the choice bits.

What’s the average age of a “Tonight Show” viewer nowadays? My guess is ...

DC: About 6.

Six viewers or 6 years old?

DC: 6 years old.

KS: 6 years old, but they do watch. It’s interesting, we have kids of similar ages. They do watch John Oliver and they do ... I watch them very carefully, they don’t not want to watch long things. They do watch a lot of stupid stuff. They were watching that Logan Paul for a minute, and then they decided it was stupid.

Do they watch on television or they watch the clips the next day?

KS: They watch the clips. Everything is on their phone.

Everything is the next day.

KS: Nothing is done on their phone. On the TV is video games and maybe “South Park.”

And YouTube, for me. My television ...

KS: No, they don’t watch YouTube on TV.

Is that right? It’s all YouTube in my house, and Vine. They watch Vine on YouTube. That’s what they do.

KS: Right. All right, we are going to get into that next, because that’s a Dick Costolo special. We are here on Recode Decode with Gregg Spiridellis from JibJab, and Dick Costolo, creator of Vine.


We are here with Gregg Spiridellis from JibJab and my co-host Dick Costolo, the former CEO of Twitter, who ... You guys tried lots of comedy things, right?

DC: Yeah, there was so much. Vine was comedy. One of the fascinating things about Vine was that the specifics of the format, the six-second video, the constraint of the six seconds, and then the fact that it both auto-played and looped. It was really one of the first, I think, one of the first formats that just kept playing over and over and over again. That facilitated all these comedy innovations on the platform then other people used.

KS: Yes, they borrowed. Speaking of which, but they really did. It was interesting, because I remember, again, my kids looking at things falling on people’s heads. It was a big thing, or banging things.

DC: That was over and over again, or they would execute the loop perfectly, so it started at the same place it finished and that could be ...

Also amazing artistry on Vine. There are people who did amazing stop-motion, visual effects, other than say YouTube, early on, which was like shock kind of content. There was some really amazing artistry applied.

KS: Then you made it longer, right? You made it from six to ...

DC: No. Vine was for most of the duration of the platform, if not the entire duration, even after I left, I am not quite sure if after I left, but was six seconds. Instagram was initially, when they came out with video, doing the same way, looping and auto-play. Instead, it was 15 seconds. Then they expanded significantly from there.

KS: Right. You had, again, the idea and then ...

DC: I wouldn’t say I had the idea. Gregg saw it coming before it happened.

Back when I was one of the Vine guys that created it and built it, and we bought it.

KS: You buy the company, and then Facebook took it.

DC: Yeah. Something like that.

KS: Speaking of Facebook, Dick, why don’t you ask the inevitable Facebook question?

DC: Yeah. So, they’ve just announced the changes they are going to make to the News Feed. Talk about what you think the impact [will be]. As someone who has been in the publishing space and creating your own content, and providing tools for content-creators, you are in a perfect position to talk about ...

KS: And helping Facebook grow.

DC: What do you see happening there?

Mostly independent publishers ...

DC: Hold on. [To Kara] You asked me to ask the question.

KS: Oh, sorry.

DC: And then you finished it. I was just getting to that question.

KS: Go ahead. I’ll just keep quiet right now.

DC: I was just setting up the question.

KS: All right, go ahead.

I think most independent publishers probably feel like people who lived in Hawaii this past weekend right now.

DC: Thank you for answering my question.

Incoming ICBM. Just kidding. Like we have no idea what the impact on the News Feed changes are going to be. We all live in the Facebook world right now. That is the vast majority of any publishers, distributions ...

DC: We are all Hawaiians.

We are Hawaii. We are all in solidarity.

KS: Hawaii strong.

It’s scary. Look, when you’ve got such a juggernaut delivering that much traffic, you just kind of hold your breath and hope.

DC: So, what do you do if you are a publisher?

KS: Especially an independent publisher? Even the big ones could be in trouble.

I think what you do is you just wait and you see what the real impact of these changes are. Facebook has been doing this since the day the platform opened. The difference is, I think, back in the early days, people would complain about Facebook changing the rules of the game.

DC: Did you say since the day of the platform doping?

They doped, yeah. That’s how they reach superhuman success.

KS: There is a Jeff Bezos joke in there, but go ahead.

But they always change the platform to prevent gaming of distribution. So, we are always fine because we are creating things that have organic value.

KS: Which they say they value.

Which they say they value. Now, we’ll see. What exactly do they mean by making it more personal? Look, they are trying to make the News Feed more personal. If that means ... it could mean anything. We just don’t know what the impact is going to be. I think what we’re ...

DC: So that could be right down the middle for you as a publisher of tools for personalizing creative expression.

It could be.

KS: He looks nervous, I’ll be honest with you.

Do I look nervous?

KS: Yeah. I mean, I’d be nervous.

Yeah. I mean, the bottom line is, years ago, Facebook killed organic distribution.

DC: You don’t look nervous to me, by the way.

Okay, thanks. It’s the red chair.

DC: It’s the red chair.

KS: You don’t know. You’re saying, “I don’t know,” when it’s your business, it seems like.

If anyone sits in this red chair and tells you they know what the impact of that change is going to be is, they are just full of shit.

KS: What did you do when you heard about it?

I picked my kids up at the soccer game and ...

KS: You didn’t call Facebook and say, “What the fuck?”

No, I didn’t call. Look, they don’t care. No one cares.

DC: I am going to call Facebook right now. “Give me Zuckerberg. Get me Zuckerberg on the phone.”

The truth is for us, years ago, they killed organic distribution, and this is nothing new. I mean, our business of subscriptions, they clamped down on organic distribution and pushed us into the paid media space years and years and years ago. My biggest fear is that we are going to have a rush of demand on paid media inventory and that’s going to raise prices of customer acquisition, but I don’t think it’s going to be apocalyptic to us.

Now, if I am someone like BuzzFeed, for example, that scares me. And it’s a real shame, too, because Jonah is like one of the most creative ... I mean, he is an amazing format guy. I saw in his memo, they did $52 million of revenue from platforms, including Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon. Probably mostly Facebook, but when you think about the impact of BuzzFeed and the fact that their top line is only $50 million from platforms, and now they are going to be pulled back even further, where is the money to innovate? How does someone like Jonah who is actually building an innovative publishing platform ...

KS: Like Tasty. What happens to Tasty?

Yeah. How do you survive?

KS: Thinking what happens to Instagram, too.

Yeah. What happens to Instagram?

KS: Does that apply to Instagram? Do you use Instagram a lot?

Well, people publish out to Instagram, but there aren’t links back to our products, so for virality it’s not that useful to us. The interesting thing is at what point does Facebook shoot itself in the foot by clamping back too much?

KS: Well, it’s interesting because they did press publishers to do videos and everything. I remember, they said, “Kara, do Facebook Live.” I said, “No.” They said, “Why?” I said, “Because it’s a waste of my time. You are not going to give me any money, and then you are going to screw me. So, I’d rather just go to No. 3.” I don’t see ... Of course, they were saying, “Kara, you are so mean.” I was around for AOL.

It’s hard to be on the cutting edge with new products.

KS: Yeah, but AOL did the same thing at the time.

All platforms.

KS: They do. They want the money. They want to be paid. You have to end up paying them, and then there is some Ponzi scheme happening, and then ...

So the question is, at what point do people who are investing capital in things that make these platforms better either stop or lose the ability? Because there is just not the monetization back.

KS: So, where do you imagine going?

For us, I think we are okay, because we’ve had to build our economics around buying media. The only thing that’s a challenge for us is if inventory gets a lot more expensive, but there is no place else. I mean, there is no place else.

KS: Not Snapchat?

No. I mean, Snapchat is a walled garden. Facebook has become a walled garden. All these places, and I think there is a loss of innovation that’s going to make those platforms less interesting places, and maybe opening up ... maybe competitive opportunity for other people to open up and start to reinvigorate some of that innovation somewhere else.

DC: Do you see any new platforms emerging? Do you see any of these new services or platforms emerging on what you think that’s kind of niche-y right now, but if it grows it could be a big thing?

I think iMessage is a really interesting platform to build for us.

KS: Because in China that’s how they use their messaging.

All in Asia, messaging becomes the center of all of your digital experience and the iMessage platform is really, really good. You can build great products on the iMessage platform. Consumers in the U.S. aren’t used to using it.

KS: No, I just yell at my kids on it.

They are not used to using these tools, but I think the ...

DC: What do you mean? They are not used to using them to develop the things?

Yeah. I feel like ...

DC: They are not used to using them as platforms.

KS: They don’t think of them like Facebook.

Yeah, people think of it, “I am going to yell at my kids on my text message.” I am in and I am out. There is a whole ... Apple just updated it, so the icons for platforms are right there.

KS: Yeah. I’ve been using it a lot more.

Yeah. So I think people are going to start using it more, but that’s the way it’s always been. When we did This Land in ’04, we were always ahead not only in bad markets, but also in distribution. People would tell me in ’04, in This Land, the thing my brother and I heard more than anything was, “You’re never going to believe this. My dad emailed this to me. Unbelievable, my dad is on email.” Like this was some incredible thing. A few years ago, it was mom using emoji in text. I think it takes time for these consumer behaviors to set in, but iMessage is a great product.

DC: Now, it’s your mom sending you Nasty Santa.

Yeah, exactly. Now, she is sending me ...

DC: By the way, why do you yell at your kids on iMessage?

KS: “Call me back.”

DC: I see. I thought you were just specifically saying on iMessage, “Stop. Turn off the green regular text. Put iMessage on, so I can yell at you.”

KS: No, we are all on iPhones, but no, I am using the emojis. The Bitmojis, because I have an excellent Bitmoji of myself, and it drives my kids crazy. They say, “Mom, you are so uncool,” and then I send them 80 of them.

Yeah, exactly. That’s what Evan Spiegel has done incredibly well, in my opinion. He’s realized that communication platforms don’t have to be commoditized. You can actually make communication platforms better with really great content. What’s amazing to me is, no one else has figured that out. No one else is trying.

KS: He is so innovative. Again, I spent some time with him recently. It’s such a ... I mean, he can be very difficult, as they all can, but I have to say, every conversation with him I find fascinating, because he is actually creative. I think it’s because he is in Los Angeles. I am not sure what it is. Do you find that when you are ...?

I don’t know him personally, but ...

KS: No, but I mean in Los Angeles.

I don’t know. I don’t have the point of reference for up here. So, I am sure, yes, Los Angeles, you are around a much more creative community. But he takes risks and he’s realized that communication isn’t about utility at this point, it’s about fun. How do you help people be fun and funny?

DC: I mean, I think he is a fantastic product thinker. He is the first person — and now it’s become common to hear this — but he was the first person I remember saying to me, he was talking about comments in a feed, like comments on Instagram posts. He shook his head about it and said, “People don’t want to communicate around the media. They want to communicate through media.” Now, five years later or whatever, it’s kind of an obvious statement, but I remember thinking at that time, that’s a super-important insight.

You see like ...

DC: The only reason Gregg didn’t see was because it was highly monetized.

No. My problem was I saw all the content, I just didn’t think how do I take this content and build a communication platform? By the time I realized that it was already too late.

KS: I feel like it not just the correct platform. I watch my kids use it and I find them to be very creative on it. It’s very different than any others.

You see companies without the creative DNA copy all the features. You can get a mask anywhere, like the lenses. You can get those anywhere now, but it’s missing the point. You can’t follow, I think, when it comes to content and formats. You have to get out ahead of it, you have to compete with Evan, with Gregg, new formats.

KS: He is in trouble, though. He’s considered to be in trouble because what’s interesting is that’s the narrative around Snapchat. Yet, everybody copies him, which is really interesting. It feels like, what’s that guy who made the car that everybody copied back in the day?

DC: Ford?

KS: No, not the Ford.

DC: Delorean.

KS: Delorean or something like that. It’s like that now.

The interesting thing is everyone copies the features, but no one has captured the magic that I think that when they release ...

KS: I think that he started a service that is so hard to use. It still is.

Yeah, and I think ... I’d be surprised. You can’t copy the tools and just kind of throw ... A lot of people say, “You just hire some college kids to make the content.” No. This has got to be, you’ve got to lead with this. The tools should follow the content, not the other way around.

KS: What about AR and VR? Are you moving into that?

I love AR. VR is kind of outside of our wheelhouse. I think that’s more in the gaming space. I find it fascinating, but AR, I think, is really interesting. It turns the world around you into a canvas. So you can think about ...

KS: So, comedy in that.

Yeah, comedy also, I think.

KS: How?

I think surprising, funny things that you can do in any sort of environment. Like, if you can understand the context of a live camera, you could actually, I think, create lots of funny gags around stuff.

DC: Not in long form, but just like things that pop that make you laugh, and you are onto the next thing. It jives with that immediacy and small, narrow distribution that’s becoming more and more popular and it’s straight down the middle for your platform, I think.


KS: Such as what? Give me an example.

DC: Just like having a video of your mom and dad driving and then having an AR of whatever crazy thing is in the backseat of the car, or something.

KS: Oh, I see.

DC: It’s going to be funny to seven people, but it’s really funny to those seven people, and if you’ve got a tool set that enables you to do that, that’s fantastic.

KS: Do you remember that thing? It was called Traffic Jam or something like that, where people would be sitting there and talking, and then a wall would fall on them? You never saw that?


KS: That was a long time ago.

DC: I feel like you had this website that was like the dark web for internet comedy that you went to. Just kidding.

KS: No, but it was funny. You would be like, “Hi. How are you doing?” Then a car would come up. It was AR-ish.

When the iPhone first came out, they had those special effects. You could launch a missile on something.

KS: Yeah. I like ... There is one you can still do, like populate, which I use a lot more.

Yeah. Meteorites fall on people and that sort of thing.

KS: Where do you imagine people are going to be watching this? Are there going to be glasses or ... Where would people ... like, we could sit there with glasses and laugh to ourselves?

I don’t know. I think it’s through the ... I mean, for me, the foreseeable future is through the phone.

KS: Like you sit and stare?

Yeah. When you’re doing this production ...

KS: What do you think, Dick? Phone?

DC: I think he’s right. I think you’re right. I think it’s the phone. It’s so easy, especially with AR really working well on the phone now. It’s so easy and ubiquitous, it’s just easy to develop for and it seems like it will be that way for a while.

KS: Nothing else?

DC: No, just for a while at least.

For a while. Yeah, I think like glasses, anything I’ve got to take an effort into doing, unless I really want something, I am not going to put on a pair of glasses or a big headset or anything.

KS: More than just sitting there and staring at your phone, and possibly getting into a car accident.

I didn’t say while driving. Dick was the one who said in the backseat of the car.

KS: While walking. It’s really become like an epidemic. I scream at the phone users on the street. I did one the other day. It scared the shit out of someone.

Someone should just follow you with a camera and get videos of you screaming at people.

KS: This guy almost got killed. I was like, “Put your phone down!”

That would be good. Facebook Live. Go take their money. Go do a show. That’s a good show, Kara yelling at people. That would be great. We’d just follow you around all the time.

DC: Or, people who are about to get hurt.

Yeah, for their own benefit.

KS: It’s true. I think I saved a guy’s life. I do. I feel like I am a superhero. No, he was pissed.

DC: She would be like, “The Blue Mountain people should be paying me fees.”

Internet history would be littered with people who should be paying Kara.

KS: It’s true. So, phone. Anywhere else that the comedy ...

DC: Or, Kara Swisher’s financial advisory and personal safety services.

Full service.

DC: Yeah, both.

KS: If it was you, you’d be happy that I saved your life. You look at your phone a lot walking, I’ve noticed.

DC: I do.

KS: You do. It’s really like, what are you looking at?

DC: I also can’t see anything while I’m looking at my phone.

KS: Then you do the thing with your glasses.

DC: I know.

KS: Like your old man thing.

DC: It’s because I am old. It’s like, I literally can’t see whether something is a circular shape or a square shape from about three inches away. So, it’s not good.

KS: All right, anything else you’d say that can happen?

I don’t know. I mean, look, Spectacles was another example of creative genius and who knows how that plays out.

KS: Kids didn’t want to wear those.

Yeah. I don’t know. I find it hard to imagine some sort of... Actually, you have to figure out the fashion piece of it as well as the technology piece of it, both really, really hard independently, and that Venn diagram is probably nearly impossible.

KS: They’ve got to be in your current glasses or something.

Yes, or optical implants. I mean, that’s ...

KS: Optical implants.

DC: The Snap glasses or whatever. I don’t know what they are called.

They are called Spectacles. Thank you.

DC: First, you couldn’t get them. A pop-up store in Manhattan was lines around and around the block.

Another example of creative genius. There is one in the Grand Canyon. They did a great job with that.

KS: Now they have a lot of them.

DC: But specifically talking to the point about the intersection of fashion and technology kind of nailed that initially, but fashion is at the whim of is this going to be important in the moment?

The only thing with a shorter shelf life than comedy is fashion.

DC: Right.

KS: All right. So, we are going to finish up talking about what you think about where comedy is going. Where does it go? Does it become more like Logan Paul and just shock-jock kind of stuff, or does it get more nuanced? I think recently, Twitter has been really funny, for example. I laugh and laugh and laugh at Twitter all day. I think that’s why I am so addicted, too, because it’s not so much the vile stuff, because I am sick of that, like the yelling. It’s the comedy based on it.

DC: Yeah, the political environment in which we find ourselves really lends itself to the comedians on Twitter.

KS: Right, but it’s regular people, too.

DC: Yeah. Fair. That’s true. I mean, it’s just so perfectly set up for it.

I mean, I think that’s where it goes, which is it’s not about one person producing lots and lots of comedy. It’s giving everybody tools to help them be funny, and then platforms raised to the top. The things that one person might have had a spark of genius that raises it to the top.

KS: Does it have to be visual? Because I’ve noticed text is something I really like. There was one the other day. There was this argument over the shitty medium and the women who create it, and this person said, “I think the creator of the shitty media is just shitty men in media,” but also why is it funny, which is where great comedy is.

Yeah. Text is great. I mean yes, it’s a great format. Super-fast and that’s why Twitter is so funny.

KS: Yeah.

I want Vine back. Come on, Dick.

DC: Dom says he is working on something like V2, so we’ll see what happens.

KS: Where it goes.

DC: He’s sort of teased on Twitter a few “here is what’s coming” and it’s very sort of V2 sounding.

You’ve talked about this idea of constrained publishing.

DC: Don’t look at me when you ask me a question.

I wasn’t asking a question.

DC: Sorry. I had a relapse.

KS: Go ahead and ask it, Gregg.

No, we’ve always felt like what we do is like a coloring book. You can’t give someone a blank canvas and have them be funny, but you can give them a coloring book and anyone could be coloring the lines.

DC: That’s right.

Dick has talked about this idea of constrained publishing.

KS: Did you coin that term?

Yeah, I think he did. I don’t know.

KS: Constrained. I love it.

Let’s say until someone factually disputes it.

KS: I like that. Constrained. It’s got a little S&M to it. It’s got all kinds of things going. Constrained.

DC: No, I think that’s true. I’ll name-drop here. I had the benefit to have a conversation with Sarah Silverman once about this, which she probably won’t remember, and she said, this was back in the old 140 days, way before 280. She said, “If I write a joke on Twitter and it’s 145 characters, I’m like, ugh, damn it Twitter.” She didn’t probably say damn it. Then she says, “Then I figured out how to narrow it, shorten it to 140, it’s better. It’s a funnier joke. It’s better, and it’s lighter.”

I think that’s true. Constrained publishing ... Which by the way, that’s what was so great about Vine. You have six seconds. Here is what’s going to happen. It’s going to auto-play and it’s going to loop. You have six seconds, and people dove into that constraint and entirely new personalities and people you’ve never heard of before. I think that that’s an amazing thing.

KS: So, do you like 280? Were you the one getting in the way of 280?

DC: No. I love 280. I think it’s great. I said it when we were first testing it. My sense was they wouldn’t be testing this publicly already with a broader audience if they didn’t already know it was something that had a great experimental result. I think what actually happened there was ...

KS: I liked 140 better, I’ve got to tell you. I grew up with the constraint.

DC: I like 280, but these constrained formats and these constrained platforms, they enable and in some ways even foster new ways of thinking about things that are funny and new ways of thinking about creativity and comedy.

They also make it more accessible to everyday people. So, where is comedy going? You don’t have to be an Eddie Murphy or someone who’s got consistent genius that you can tell long-form stories and keep people in stitches. You can use these tools and create. Maybe everyone has got one thing, one joke in them that now they can actually tell that joke.

KS: And it’s funny for one second?

Yeah, and that’s great. That feels great.

KS: All right, so I am going to put you on the spot. What do you think that you’ve seen lately or in the history that’s just really you’d find to be genius?

I mentioned earlier. I think Bad Lip Reading right now is the top of my watch list. Again, it’s from my kids. It’s what I am watching with my kids.

KS: Bad Lip Reading.

Bad Lip Reading.

KS: Which I can see you getting tired of.

You can, but yeah, they’ve been around for a little while and it still holds. Again, that format is so genius. It can apply it for every single subject matter, from Donald Trump to “Star Wars.”

KS: Right. The cat memes, though, went away pretty fast.

They did.

KS: It was there and then it wasn’t. Let’s bring them back. What do you think? I always liked the cat memes.

Mine is a person, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I don’t think there is anybody that’s got better comic timing or delivery on the planet right now. I just think she is consistently, show after show and year after year, gets better and better and better.

DC: If we go offline, I just watched Dave Chapelle Netflix Special and it just blew me away. For an hour, hour and a half, he’s just got these incredible narratives and he’s just such an amazing storyteller, and he’s been out of the game for a decade. He just came back and just nailed it.

KS: I will have to watch that. I’ve got to say, I just was watching all the new “Will & Graces.” They are just fucking pros. They are just pros. I know that’s a format and an old type of comedy format, like the sitcom, but it’s perfect. Why are you laughing at me like that?

DC: I’m just shaking my head. “Will & Grace.”

KS: It’s really good.

DC: It’s kind of old person.

KS: No, watch it again. I am telling you, watch it again. You’ll be surprised.

DC: All right, I will.

KS: When people pull something off, really, Lucille Ball is still funny to this day.

DC: Totally agree. Lucille Ball, like master of physical comedy.

KS: Right.

DC: Like, maybe one of the best ever.

KS: Not just that. Some of the comments, the way she says things.

DC: Fair.

KS: Like Ethel Mertz and Fred, they are still funny.

DC: There are 18 people listening now. And now 17. One just passed away.

KS: No, but I think you are incorrect, completely. Anyway Gregg, thank you. Is there anything new coming up? You had Story Bots?

Yeah. We have Story Bots. It’s a kids business that we built, and it’s a digital platform, basically “Sesame Street” for connected kids. We have, in addition, the whole digital property. We’ve got a Netflix original show. It was nominated for six Emmys this year, at BAFTA and the Peabody.

KS: It’s a show-show?

It’s a show-show. Yeah, it’s our first television show that we’ve produced. We are in Season Two. It’s got special guests like Snoop Dogg and Ed Norton and Christina Applegate. So, we’re producing ...

KS: It’s just like a hip “Sesame Street”?

Yeah. What we saw was Dreamworks and Pixar now are creating feature films that parents really enjoyed as well. If you had young kids and you were watching television, you wanted to bang your head against the wall. So, we saw this opportunity.

KS: I still love the Wiggles. Don’t say that.

You do love the Wiggles. Okay.

KS: Who doesn’t love the Wiggles? I still love them. I watched them the other day.

What did you think of Barney? How was Barney?

KS: No, I never liked Barney.

Yeah. So, we created a show around ... Make it fun like parents would want to watch too.

KS: The other is Teletubbies. I like the Teletubbies. I liked the whole bit, I’ll be honest.

DC: I like the idea of Kara knowing about a dark website for random internet comedy that only she sees.

While she’s watching the Teletubbies, she is watching people getting hit by a wall.

KS: I am a deeply funny person. I just said that. Go ahead, I just gave you an opening.

I know you did. Says all the very funny people, “I am a very funny person.”

KS: I’ve been known to be funny.

I totally agree.

KS: Did you hear last week Laura Ingraham attacked me on Twitter? That was funny.

DC: I did see that. That was excellent. You got directly attacked by Laura.

KS: Speaking of explaining a joke, she was trying to explain a racist rant. I’m like, if you have to explain the racist rant, it’s not funny.

DC: I love how they have a hard-hard right, and the device they use is they capitalize every fifth word. That makes their point more. It’s like, “Well, I can’t think of how to do this more articulately so I’ll do all caps every fifth word and that’ll really make it ...”

KS: Selective capitalization.

DC: Yeah.

KS: It’s the people, not the country. Just like, wow!

DC: Right. Well, that seems important.

KS: I thought it was funny. I thought it was funny.

DC: No, that was a great exchange. I wanted it to keep going. I just thought about I should create another not Dick Costolo, the Twitter account, right now to inject myself into that conversation to keep it going.

KS: Why can’t you inject? You could have come to my rescue.

DC: I know. Well, it would have ruined it. It would have been like one of those, once I get into it, they would have been like everyone would have left.

KS: Yes, that’s true. It’s a fair point. Anyway, Gregg ...

DC: It’s like most parties I go to.

KS: I left a party you were at last week. You are right, I did. It was like, “Dick is here.”

DC: Well, obviously, “Oh god, it’s the C-list. Time to go.”

KS: No, everyone was a man but me. It was at CES. It was nice though, but we’re not supposed to talk about that party. Oops, it was off the record. Anyway, Rob Goldberg, it was a good party.

All right, Gregg, it was great talking to you.

That was fun. Thank you.

KS: It was, really. Thanks for coming on the show. We love JibJab. I’ve loved JibJab for years. You guys are really, you just plug away. That’s what I like about it.

Keep running. “Run, Forrest, run.

KS: Run, Forrest, run. Right. Thanks again to Dick for co-hosting with me. We have one more show left, I think. We can book someone who is funny.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.