This is the second in a special Overthinkers series, Critical Analysis, which focuses on interviews with online content creators who concentrate on pop culture. Our first interview, published last week, was a discussion with filmmaker and reviewer Brad Jones.
Online reviewer and musician Tony Goldmark’s comedic review series Some Jerk with a Camera stands out from its contemporaries for a pretty noticeable reason. In the show, Goldmark as “the Jerk” reviews attractions from the world’s most recognizable theme parks, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, as well as media about them, while unofficially filming on location at those parks.
In its second season, Some Jerk was picked up by Geekvision.tv, and in 2014 it was announced as part of a new slate of shows on ChannelAwesome.com, where it has remained ever since. Other than Some Jerk, Goldmark also created and currently presents the unscripted review show One Movie Later and the theme park news show State of the Parks.
Before going into online content, Goldmark worked as a comedy musician, releasing several albums since 1999, with the most recent being Goldmark After Dark in 2014, and receiving airplay on The Dr. Demento Show.
I recently spoke with Goldmark over the phone, where we discussed alter egos, collaboration and how to get Weird Al Yankovic to cameo in your video.
How did you decide to start making Some Jerk With a Camera?
I was a huge fan of the Nostalgia Critic, ever since it started, and I wanted to do that kind of thing; but I always thought, “Well, I’m just some other dude with an opinion, what do I really have to bring to the table that hasn’t been done before? How do I stand out from the crowd?” And around the same time, I moved to Los Angeles and I’ve always been a huge Disneyland fan. So the first month I was able to go to Disneyland pretty much whenever I wanted, and I went so often that I started getting bored with it. I had the tourist mentality of “I have to do everything while I’m here, the park’s going to close tonight and I have to do everything before it closes.” And so every time I would go, I would just do everything, and I got bored with the place after a while. And I thought, “I don’t want to lose interest in this place altogether, I love it too much.” So doing a Nostalgia Critic-style show about Disneyland in particular and theme parks in general was the impetus for that. I chose the name Some Jerk with a Camera just because of, “How am I going to stand out from a crowd? I’m just another jerk with a camera,” so that became the name of the show. I didn’t want the show’s name to be too theme park-specific, because I wanted to give it a freedom to grow and evolve in whatever direction it needed. As long as I had the Jerk and the camera, I’d be set.
From what I’ve seen, the differences between you and the Jerk are similar to a Stephen Colbert/“Stephen Colbert” dynamic.
That’s kind of what I’m going for, though my opinions that I espouse as the Jerk are closer to my real opinions than what “Stephen Colbert” said on The Colbert Report. It’s more of a comedically exaggerated version of me, whenever I need to comedically exaggerate. Whenever I want it to be how I really think, it’s how I really think. Basically, it’s like any other persona – it’s me, except when it’s not.
Some Jerk With a Camera places a major emphasis on storylines, and though it’s a comedy show, it does take more serious turns, like the end of Season 2 and the three-part review of Escape from Tomorrow. What do you think about when you sit down to write an episode?
It depends on the episode, really. I’m actually going to try to get away from the storylines when I finally do Season 4 and try to do more episodic episodes that work well on their own terms. I mean as cool as it is to have a continuous show, I think having more episodes that are good entry points are also pretty important. I guess the story stuff makes it cooler, it gives every episode a reason to exist. As for the occasional sincere moments on the show, I like to say that because most of the show is just joke-joke-joke-joke-joke, it makes the moments even more sincere when they happen.
Some Jerk feels like a very collaborative show, what with other personalities like Charlie Callahan (Rebel Band Geek Productions), Garrett Snook (What We Had to Watch) and Morgan Funder (The Idiot’s Lantern) making frequent appearances on the show, and you appearing on their shows. Do you feel like you guys are a stable of actors, a la Mel Brooks?
That’s very high praise, you comparing us to Mel Brooks! We’re more just a group of friends who met through these videos that we do and we just are the people we all hang out with. And whenever we need help, we’re always the first person we call, as it were. And it’s not as collaborative as it looks. I’m a firm believer in [the idea that] everyone’s show should be their vision. Whoever’s putting in the work to make a finished script, to editing it – it’s their word of law, if there’s ever a disagreement, they win. And whoever’s channel the video is being made for is basically the dictator of that video. I like to be the dictator of my own videos, and not expecting that of others would be hypocritical. I do like involving as many people as possible, having a cast of characters or an ensemble in a way; but if you’re watching video on my channel, it’s pretty much all me. It’s pretty much me making the artistic and creative decisions that go into it with a few exceptions. But I do like the collaboration of working with other people, because at the end of the day, I have to have at least one other person there just to hold the camera, because I’m shooting all this stuff on location and you can’t bring tripods into the parks. You might as well ask for their input. And I hope that my friends feel safe in sharing ideas they have for my show with me, because I’m always open to them, but ultimately the decision is all mine, just as with their channels it’s all theirs.
What can fans expect for Season 4 of Some Jerk?
I know which topics I’m going to cover, and I’ve got a couple ideas here and there, but most of 2017 I have spent working on a different, pretty elaborate video which is going to drop at the end of the summer, which doesn’t really count as a part of Season 3 or Season 4, but as soon as I’m done with that, it’s basically full steam ahead on writing Season 4 and hopefully shooting in early 2018 and start releasing it this time next year. The one thing I will say is that it’s probably going to involve another Florida trip.
Now on to music. You’ve had many references in Some Jerk and on its commentaries to Weird Al Yankovic, Dr. Demento and the Great Luke Ski, who often cameos in your show. Where did your passion for music begin?
From when I was a fetus, basically. My parents were both huge music aficionados, so I’ve inherited that from them. My dad had a huge record collection, and he would make me some of the best and most elaborate mixtapes ever. Starlord’s mom has got nothing on my dad. But that’s where I got the music bug, as it were, and because my parents were also musicians, they knew a bunch of other musicians. And at one point, when I was 12 years old, my mother got it in her head: “You know what might be fun? My 12-year-old son recording an album!” And that’s how I came to record my first album, which came out in 1996. It’s not without its juvenile charm, I suppose, but it’s not something I’m eager to make available all over again. I was always a huge Weird Al fan and started getting into that, and I recorded several albums from 2001 to 2014, which was my most recent one, all of varying quality, I’d say. Some of the songs are really good and some make me cringe, but they’re out there and you can find them if you really want.
As a fellow fan, I gotta ask: How did you get the Weird Al cameo in the It’s a Small World Holiday review?
Before I started doing Some Jerk with a Camera in earnest, my single biggest passion in life was Weird Al fandom. And I had a comedy music career that I didn’t really deserve when I was a teenage jerk. So I went to all three Weird Al fan conventions in Chicago – Alcon, which ran from 1998 to 2002. I got to meet Al a couple of times through that, and I got to meet his drummer, John “Bermuda” Schwartz, who was able to invite me backstage to several concerts for years after. In 2011, I started doing Some Jerk with a Camera, I was doing this episode on It’s a Small World Holiday, and I had an opportunity for a Weird Al cameo, and I thought, “You know, it never hurts to ask.” So I asked and he said yes and we did it in one take and that was it! In fact, the girl I was with at the time was so convinced that Al was going to say no. She hadn’t really met Al before, but she’d dealt with celebrities and bands, and so she just thought he was going to say no. So after we got an autograph and a picture with him, she left the room and I just asked, “Al, could you do this thing?” and he said yes, and I had to pull her back into the room like, “We’re doing it! Come on we can’t miss this opportunity!” It was a little touch and go, but we got the cameo, and it’s one of my favorite moments in the history of Some Jerk with a Camera.
What’s the best piece of advice that someone has given you for your professional life?
In college, I took a Writing for TV class, when I wanted to be a TV writer. And I guess the best advice I got was from one of my instructors, who said, “In show business, ‘no’ does not mean ‘no.’ ‘No’ just means ‘not now.’” It’s all about being patient. Just because you get turned down today doesn’t mean you’ll always get turned down. You’ve just got to keep plugging away at it, and that’s really good advice for anybody trying to do this kind of stuff. I only have about 6,000 subscribers now, and compared to other YouTubers that not much, but that’s not nothing, either. 6,000 people know who I am and that certainly wasn’t the case when I started. So just keep climbing that mountain.
Let’s say you find this interview ten years down the line. Do you have any questions for your future self?
What am I about to do that I should not do? Just tell me what mistakes I’m gonna make in the next ten years, so I won’t make them [laughs].
Goldmark’s work can be found on his YouTube channel and on ChannelAwesome.com, and his album Goldmark After Dark is available on Bandcamp. Interested parties can also donate to Goldmark through his Patreon page.