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  • Writer's pictureStand-Up Comedy Historian

An Interview with Kiki, a Prolific YouTuber and Singer

Today's interview is with my friend, Kiki. This has been in the works for over a year since I first met them through a Bo Burnham fan group chat on Twitter.

Kiki also was kind enough to beautifully sing my lyrics for 40, a parody song I wrote in 2022 when I turned that age.

I've always been impressed by the range of topics Kiki has on their various YouTube channels, including animated shows, stunning covers of Bo's songs, and even a Twitch stream!

We finally were able to align our schedules, and Kiki was kind enough to discuss everything with me and what they're working on next.

Here's my interview with Kiki, which has been edited and condensed for clarity purposes.

Stand-Up Comedy Historian: Hey, Kiki! I'm so glad we were able to figure the timing out for this long-awaited interview. Thanks for chatting with me!

Kiki: Sure. It's no problem!

SUCH: Awesome!

So first, can you please provide some details about yourself?

Kiki: Hey, I'm Kiki! I'm nonbinary, mangalorean and in my 20s. I live in the US, and I'm a very creative person.

I originally went to school for animation, but switched into studying human computer interaction design and work as a UX designer now. In my free time, I write and edit video essays and music on YouTube. I also run an animation-focused and volunteer-based collective of artists and YouTubers centered around uplifting and platforming independent creatives called Animation Appreciation Hub

SUCH: How did you get started with those videos? Are you a formally trained editor?

Kiki: When I moved to a new town in 2017 for work, I didn't know anyone in the area and had a ton of free time. I spent the first few months there watching a lot of YouTube to pass the time and found myself thinking "I could do that if I wanted to."

So, finally, one day I challenged myself to prove it, and I made a silly little lookbook video. That's the one that, in my head, kicked off this entire thing. I experimented with a few different formats and uploaded videos of me singing and playing songs for about a year before I tried writing my first video essay, a retrospective of As Told By Ginger. It took me about four months to put together—and it was a long time before I would post another one—but I realized that was the format I was good at then.

As Told By Ginger

I'm entirely self-taught, no formal training. Just lots of practice and failure and learning lessons from my efforts.

SUCH: Wow, you are an excellent editor for having no training!

How many YouTube channels do you have? Series?

Kiki: I used to do everything on one channel, but as my video essays have picked up some steam I decided to move music to a separate one.

So now there's offbeat kiki for my video essays and kikimo, my music alias, where I post weekly music stuff. I have a vlog channel called kiki's garden that I want to build out more when I have the time and space, but that's on hiatus for now.

I also recently launched a side project with our mutual friend Isabel called Death Note Genderbent where we are leading a small cast of talented vocalists and voice actors in a fan cast recording of the Death Note musical and dubs of other content from the franchise. 

In terms of series I've carved out a few on my main channel. There's Perfect Pilots, where I break down the first episode of a television series and try to figure out the best way to start a television show. I've covered shows like Scrubs, Futurama and Mission Hill. I also did a retrospective series last fall called Scooby Doo and the Corporate Culprit, where I took a look at the four most famous animated Scooby Doo movies from the 2000s and did a deep dive on their production history. That was really fun.

Other than that, my videos tend to fall into 3 categories—film analysis, full series retrospectives (exhausting), and what I've been doing recently—personal essays where I pick a more specific topic from media I love and relate it back to my own life. I've found this last category a bit easier to do as of late because it comes from the heart, whereas most of my other videos require a lot of research to prepare for writing them. 

SUCH: Yes, I really enjoyed watching the Futurama and Mission Hill videos. I remember seeing those pilots when they first aired (I'm so old! Haha).

And I'm not surprised the retrospective ones are so time-consuming. Good for you for finding a better balance for your mental health!

So how long does it take for you to work on your videos? What's your writing process, from concept to uploading on YouTube?

Kiki: Some of my videos have been in the drafts for years. Some of them I make in 3 days. I have a huge backlog of video scripts at varying degrees of completion [Ed. note: Same with me and articles for this site].

Sometimes I just get an idea and run with it for a couple days and then there's an upload, and sometimes I get an idea and have to sit on it for a few weeks and let it marinate before I'm ready to write.

For these 10–20 minute essays I've been making lately, a lot of the writing happens in my head. I watch or play whatever I'm going to talk about, then think about the topic for a couple days and get an idea of what I want to say, then sit down and write up a draft of the script in one or two sittings.

The next day I'll refine the script, record the voiceover and cut/level the audio. The following day I'll typically sit down for 8 hours and edit the whole thing in one go. I make the skeleton first, and then edit in b-roll. Copyright clearance used to be the last step, and that could sometimes take hours or days, but I have my process to a point now where my videos usually clear on the first upload.

And then I just pray people receive it well and find some comfort in it, as my videos are mostly a dialogue with my audience about the media I love and the experiences I've had.

SUCH: Do you ever have videos taken down? Demonetized?

Kiki: I've never had videos taken down or fully demonetized. I wrote an essay this past winter about Puss In Boots: The Last Wish that got copyright blocked for most of the world less than 48 hours after I uploaded it with copyright clearance.

That was a real emotional blow because it was the most personal video I had ever written; I talk about my struggles with depression and feeling the pull toward darkness, likening it to the whistle of the Wolf executioner. Looking at my analytics before it was copyrighted, it was on track to reach a lot of people, and I was really proud of it. I still am. So that one hurt.

SUCH: I'm sorry to hear that got blocked. I actually enjoyed that film a lot more than I thought I would (I typically dislike Shrek-related movies), and John Mulaney was wonderful in it as Jack Horner.

Jack Horner

You prove Bo's adage about taking the time to create something worthwhile over falling for the IV drip of content. Have you ever doubted yourself and wanted to post something before it was ready for the public? How do you stay on the right path?

Kiki: Thank you for saying that. My mentality about posting the things I make online is that once it's there, it'll be there forever. I'd rather spend the extra time to make sure I'm proud of it.

In the few cases where I've rushed something for a deadline, I look back at it now and I'm not very happy with it. The online landscape now pressures people into thinking that if they don't make themselves regularly available for public consumption, they don't exist. But the truth of the matter is that idea is driven by corporations' desire to profit off of our lives by sandwiching them with ads, farming us for content. I think online art outside of capitalism would be so different, but it's hard for us to even conceptualize it.

SUCH: Oh for sure. The attention economy that Bo warned us about is alive and well (and slowly killing everyone in my opinion ugh). I wish I could monetize this website somehow without having to resort to garbage ads to stay afloat—late-stage capitalism rears its ugly head once more.

Speaking of Bo, when did you first become a fan of his works?


Kiki: I've been a Bo Burnham fan since before Words Words Words came out, and I've always seen the humanity behind his work even when my friends just thought he was a funny dude, especially when he was touring when I was in high school and I saw early bootlegs of We Think We Know You.

I'm pretty sure my first exposure to Bo was when my friend showed me his song My Whole Family Thinks I'm Gay on his iPod in 2009. Obviously his music has evolved many times since then, but I've enjoyed his comedy work for the last 14 years. I played that Comedy Central special on repeat until Words Words Words came out.

Bo's Comedy Central Presents episode

I remember watching bootlegs of the what. tour and so highly anticipating the official release, listening to From God's Perspective the day it came out on his YouTube channel while working on my SAIC animation final and feeling so many emotions. I got to see Make Happy in person in Indianapolis, where he actually performed From God's Perspective as a bonus. It was beautiful. 

I've felt very seen watching his work over the years and appreciated him sharing similar ideas when asked about the online landscape, moreso since his Eighth Grade era. He participated in some really good panels and interviews about growing up online and what it does to people. So as I've grown up and decided my own views about art and the world around me, it's been nice to see him come to similar conclusions given that he's my favorite artist. 

SUCH: I completely agree with you there. I'm older than Bo, but Eighth Grade's depiction of anxiety made me feel seen in a way I had never experienced before. He just GETS it, and I'm so happy to provide a place for people to see how his work affects people around the world.

Wow, you got to see Bo perform in person? That is SO cool. And Make Happy was such a fantastic comedy special!

So you first started on YouTube posting your animation over a decade ago. How has your channel evolved since then? Why did you change what you uploaded? And do you still draw for fun?

Kiki: Those animation exercises were pretty much just documented for posterity.

I launched offbeat kiki for real in 2017 with music and storytelling content. In 2018, I started incorporating video essays. Over the years I've fallen in love with writing them more and more and my channel has seen a strong response from them, so I have chased it and moved music to a separate channel. 

I do still draw for fun, but I get frustrated with drawing cartoons and animation because I have less control over it than I do with writing and a lot of the time I'm not happy with how it looks. I am however challenging myself to just do it anyway.

And thanks to my friends who are also making their own cartoons over at Animation Appreciation Hub, I've picked up work on my own cartoon again for the first time in years. 

SUCH: That's such a cool idea! I've loved cartoons since I was a young child, so it is great to see your collective engaging in that art form.

What are your influences? Are there any particular creators who inspire you?

Kiki: For my video essays, my greatest inspirations have been my friends who make them—they're all linked on my YouTube channel.

But I especially owe it to ToonrificTariq. We made an hourlong retrospective on Braceface in 2020. It got over a million views and really kicked off me taking writing these videos more seriously.

I had written 2 and was working on a third when he and I made that video. Now I have made around 35. For my music, I've always been into the godfathers of indie, Animal Collective. They're my favorite band, and I was heavily involved in the fandom for years. As with all things though, I have tried to carve out my own sound to the best of my ability.

Bo's what. AMA includes him discussing Animal Collective

When I release my first original album, I want it to just sound like me. In general I find myself inspired by people who carve out something new and fresh in whatever medium they're creating in. 

SUCH: Speaking of music, what made you want to cover Bo's songs? And why did you start with From God's Perspective?

Kiki: I started with From God's Perspective because it was my favorite at the time. I was grappling with my own exit from Catholicism around when that song came out, and it was so impactful to me. It's still stayed close to my heart over the years. It's much more of a serious piece than most of his songs, so it felt more natural to me.

Back then I would just turn on my webcam and record myself singing whatever I'd been practicing enough to feel comfortable posting it. I guess it was Bo that week. I definitely didn't expect it to go anywhere but that video actually pushed me over 1000 subscribers, so I recorded a few more. My favorite from my old covers of his is probably still the cover of Art Is Dead that I posted on his birthday five years ago. I saw Eighth Grade that night! I've never slayed my uke like that since...and it's a picture of what I was like before a soul knew who I was.

SUCH: That's a lovely way to look at your videos—as a snapshot in time.

And I totally hear you as a former Catholic myself. But I prefer the scathing lyrics of Rant or Oh My God to From God's Perspective...I just truly despise the institution of the Roman Catholic Church and how it exacerbates anxiety and maximizes shame (two things I already had in spades by elementary school).

What made you want to create your video essays? Which is your favorite of the ones you've posted so far? Least favorite? Are there any older videos or covers you would remake/do over? Why?

Kiki: I've always enjoyed writing and storytelling and have been passionate about animation since I was a kid, but I've never really had anywhere to infodump about it. It kind of felt like a natural progression in my YouTube journey. I tried it once and loved it.

There's a little bit of reparenting myself and nurturing my inner child in a lot of these videos. Anything I've made this year could be a favorite—I'm having so much fun with it and really feel like I found my groove. but I'll call out the video I made on HBO Max's Velma series. It was very personal as it involved discussing my experiences growing up Indian in a white community, and it felt like the strongest and most important video essay I've made to date. 

My least favorite would probably be the video I did on how gender is represented in the game Catherine: Full Body. I like what I said still, but I hate the way I edited it and have considered remaking it sometime. 

SUCH: I absolutely agree with you on the Velma series. Was it the best show ever? Definitely not, but the immediately visceral reaction to an Indian protagonist was so overblown and clearly based in misogyny and racism.

You have such a wide variety of content on your channel: animation video essays, livestreams, and covers of popular songs. Which type do you prefer best? Which do you think should be more popular but doesn't get the views you need to keep creating?

Kiki: I love livestreaming on Twitch and YouTube and actually enjoy the smaller audience there as it's nice to see familiar names and get to know people a little bit that way.

I enjoy making everything that I do. I don't know if I can pick one that's the best because they serve different and important purposes in my life.

I do wish more people cared about the music stuff that I make, but I also get that there are millions of people making covers. And there's only one me making the video essays that I'm making.

Writing can be a lot more universal than music as people have preferences for different sounds and genres. So I understand why things are the way they are. I just hope people show up when I get around to sharing more of my original music.

SUCH: That's understandable, but I'm glad you are being realistic about it. I enjoy all of your music personally!

Your first cover post-Inside is That Funny Feeling. What compelled you to sing this song in a video as soon as you could? I also really enjoyed reading your description for that video.

Bo Burnham's new special really hit home for me as a longtime fan of his content, it's been beautiful to watch him grow, learn, create and navigate his relationship with his audience. More on that later, but for now here is my take on Funny Feeling, which speaks to me quite deeply.

Do you still feel the same way about Bo's masterpiece now?

Kiki: I connected with that song deeply on my first watch as I think a lot of people did. I wanted to post something to show my appreciation and celebrate Inside's release, and TFF was the easiest to do at the time since all I needed was a guitar.

I kind of wish I'd waited and learned the song a bit more before I posted, but I also know it was authentic so it's alright. I still love Inside, but it's one of those projects where it's so precious to me, I can't watch it too often. I'm the same way with my other favorite films. 

SUCH: I can understand that conundrum, but I have watched Inside so many times that I've lost count haha.

And That Funny Feeling is still my favorite song from the special. It's just such a gorgeous and meaningful piece to me.

Your cover of Look Who's Inside Again is wonderful, and I especially appreciate your inclusion of one of my favorite Bo content creator tropes—the current person watching their younger self perform online.

Kiki and their younger self

Why do you think this particular scene struck a chord with YouTubers and young people in general?

Kiki: Because we're all conditioned to document our lives online for public consumption, and none of us knew the ramifications of doing so when we were stupid teenagers uploading webcam videos. That's one of the things that I think made Inside so successful, its near-universal relatability despite being about the isolation of a person who's been in the spotlight for years. 

Knowing he preached—and I'm saying "preached" intentionally because look at the way he lit that scene and set it up, I saw it live and certainly felt the religious overtones—about living a life offline and not performing for the internet if you can, while also knowing that in the modern era to be an artist basically requires shilling yourself on the internet if you ever want to feel any response to your creations at all. It's challenging to grapple with, and I think that probably plays into why so many people connected to that as well. 

SUCH: That makes perfect sense! And yes, Bo does come across as a preacher sometimes—he actually told Marc Maron that he wanted to be a priest or minister when he was younger. Guess he is now in a way, particularly in All Eyes On Me!

I also really enjoyed your dramatic take on Welcome to the Internet as a villain song. How did you come up with the idea to slowly add more eccentric accessories as the song progresses?

Did you happen to just have a cane and cape on hand, or were those purchases for the video? Your creepy laugh is PERFECT by the way.

Kiki: I bought the mask, cane, and gloves for the video. I already owned the velvet cape though I think—I have a couple of 'em. That song seemed like a Disney villain song to me, especially when I heard my own voice on it.

I wanted to do something more than just record myself in front of a wall that time, so I played with lighting and costuming and shot changes and tried to match it to the progressive demented energy of the song.

I loved making that video. I haven't made a music video since then though. I was really discouraged from doing music videos when it didn't get seen like so many other versions of WTTI had. And I just sadly don't have the space in my current place to film stuff like that.

SUCH: Aww, that's too bad. It's definitely one of my favorites, and that particular version was included in Musical Comedy's best covers compilation video (along with our friend Isabel!). Were you excited to be featured in that video?

Kiki: It's always fun to be recognized as a fan. There are a couple compilations I got put in—another one was "Bo Burnham: INSIDE but it's recreated by his fans." 

SUCH: Good to know! I'm happy others have recognized your fantastic videos.

Speaking of which, I absolutely adore your cover of The Future.

The visuals combined with your beautiful voice make for one of the best Outtakes covers imo. How did you put out such a well-edited video in under 24 hours since the special had premiered on YouTube?

Kiki: That was super fun. I was obsessed with that song when I watched the Outtakes. I couldn't get it out of my head and the droning misery of it really resonates with me.

It was also hilarious to me because in my circle we used to yell "living in the future!" whenever something stupidly dystopian would happen, before the Outtakes came out, and this song is about misery and monotony of the modern era despite all of its technological advances.

I made the track myself in Logic Pro X, changed a couple of the lyrics to fit my life better, and shot it in one or two takes against a wall in my room that I kept open for filming stuff. The entire thing came together very fast. I look at it now and think it's very sloppy, so I appreciate your kindness about it. 

SUCH: Oh, I didn't find it sloppy at all, but I'm no expert in music lol. For people my age (and I'm guessing for Bo as well), 2020 was always that distant future date that seemed impossible to reach in the '90s. In fact, I wrote a terribly disturbing essay in 1996 set in 2020 that you can read here.

But I digress.

So what is your favorite part about being a YouTube creator? What's your least favorite? Do you have any suggestions for people who want to do content creation similar to your channel?

Kiki: My favorite part is how much less disconnected from the world that I feel now versus when I started the channel. Not because I have people following me but because of the comments I've read and responded to from people who connect with my ideas or have lived similar experiences to mine. I've also made a lot of close friends through my experience as a YouTuber. 

I started my channel as a way to reach out in a period of loneliness, inspired by all those creators who made me feel less alone when I was isolated. And I've always told myself the goal was to help someone who's like I was when I was young—queer, isolated, depressed, in a bad home environment—know that you can get out of that dark place, become your own person and make a life for yourself even if it feels like everything is working against you. I wish I'd had that when I was a kid. I think we are all connected to each other by nature of being on Earth and I want to contribute to bringing people together somehow.  

SUCH: That is so inspirational, Kiki, and I know exactly what you mean. There was no acceptance of bisexual comedy nerds in the 1990s, so I just kinda hid who I was to fit in (very poorly, might I add). I'm only just now fully embracing who I really am and being authentic and self-compassionate after decades of emotional abuse. It's been a struggle for sure, but I'm happy to see other queer creators thrive!

Back to your video essays. I really enjoyed your examination of Futurama's pilot (I watched the show when it first aired, and I DEFINITELY remember those Fox teaser commercials!). What compels you to analyze animated comedies, and are you taking suggestions?

I watched anything animated back in the day, so I know them all—Mission Hill (which you've already covered beautifully), Downtown, The Oblongs, Dilbert (fantastic show despite the creator), Ugly Americans, 3 South, Undergrads, and my girl Daria to name a few.

I even still have a TV Guide from 1997 about the animation revolution!

By the way, your purple hair seems similar to that of Leela. Coincidence?

Kiki: I'd gladly take suggestions from you or anyone else watching my stuff. I loved writing that Futurama video. I felt like I learned a few things about the show through my own process of analyzing it.

I grew up watching The Simpsons and Futurama every night as I ate dinner so they're kind of baked into me [Ed. note: Same, but it was two episodes of The Simpsons for me]. Mission Hill was a more recent discovery that I became absolutely enamored with. I can't really explain why I feel so compelled to talk about cartoons, I've just always adored them. They make my brain wake up and get excited. They're one of the only things that's always fun for me. I will love animation until the day I die.

In terms of my purple hair, I had a huge crush on Leela (and Fry lol) as a kid and have always gravitated towards characters with a black and purple color scheme, so while it's not intentional, I'm sure there was some influence somewhere. I just feel normal when my hair is like this and VERY WEIRD when it isn't. 

SUCH: Good to know! I had a crush on Fry and Leela too (see repressed bisexual), so I totally get that. And yes to cartoons just being fun. For me, they are like a security blanket—they make me feel safe and comfort me in a way nothing else can. And all of those shows were hilariously subversive—they really honed my sense of humor.

So I'd noticed you had polled your followers about doing a Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous episode. I obviously said Yes!

Bo as Zach Stone and Armen Weitzman as Greg LeBlanc

When will this episode be out, and what aspects of Bo's hidden gem do you plan to discuss and analyze? Can't wait to see it!

Kiki: Yes, I've actually had that script mostly done since winter 2021, which is embarrassing. It's over 5,000 words at the moment.

It's going to be a huge video to make, and I think I've felt intimidated because I've never spoken analytically about Bo's work before on my channel, and he's my favorite, so I just want to do it justice. I am feeling these days like I'm more capable of that.

I made my own version of the Zach Stone theme song for the video, and I'm planning on retrospecting and analyzing the entire thing—all the characters, their relationships, what Zach's chase for fame really means and maybe even a bit of how this show plays into his career at large. I have no idea when it's going to come out though. Whenever I'm feeling healthy enough for such a big undertaking, because it'll be a beast to finish and edit.

SUCH: You did your own version of the theme song?! Now I'm even more excited to see the final results. No rush though!

So what's your favorite Bo song/special? You can name more than one.

Kiki: My favorite thing is whatever he's gonna share with us next. I don't know if I could ever pick a special and say it's my favorite. They've all meant the world to me at different parts of my life.

I guess right now the one that is the most meaningful to me is actually the Outtakes because it gives us so much insight into his creative process. Watching that was incredibly cathartic and enlightening, and it also gave us the underrated bop Microwave Popcorn. 😂 

Inside has a lot of more serious or legitimate songs that were fully conceptualized, so it was nice to see and hear that he had silly and stupid ideas in the ideation process. The spider bit in Five Years always gets me. 

"girlfriend" Bo freaking out about the spider

SUCH: Yes, I adore Microwave Popcorn as well! I feel like it's underrated with Bo fans, but it's a gem.

And I completely agree with you about how silly the Outtakes got. Some of his bits and songs seemed pulled from his Make Happy days! Haha

Please tell me one fun fact about yourself. Do you have any specific hobbies or interests people don't know about?

Kiki: I basically never share them because they're more for me, but I love more traditional crafting as well as all the artistic pursuits that I have made public.

I've taught myself how to make fun soap bars, punch needle, customize my furniture and decor with spray paint and vinyl, and I love making 2D and 3D things out of perler beads. The last thing I made was a little 3D companion cube box from the Portal games. 

SUCH: Oh man, that sounds so cool! Bo is actually a fan of Portal (well, he appears to have worn an Aperture shirt at least lol).

Do you have any upcoming projects? Do you plan on making more Bo-related content or covers in the future beyond Zach Stone?

Kiki: There's a chance I'll make a cover of new music if/when he releases it, but to be honest I think the best way to honor how his work has affected my life is to chase making my own original stuff. So I've been doing that slowly.

I started writing a little half-hour special of my own, and I don't know when I'll have the space to film it, but a lot of the songs are drafted in some way.

As for any more analysis, I chose Zach Stone because (at least before it was on Netflix) I felt it was severely underappreciated. It's one of the funniest shows I've ever seen, and the plot is so well-written. I don't personally think I would find any value in doing analysis on his specials because people have talked them to death already, and I find all of the essays interpreting his work to be exhausting.

SUCH: Yeah, there are a LOT of video essays about Bo. Sometimes it feels like YouTube is obsessed with him.

Oh, wow—I would love to see your special! I'm sure it's super creative knowing your other works.

How can fans best support you and your channels? And do you have any social media that you'd like to plug?

Kiki: The best way to support me is just to subscribe to my channels and watch my stuff. I do also love talking to people in my comments—I read every one of them.

I would say also follow me on Twitter because I post there when I make something, but who knows how long that'll be around now.

Thanks so much for this interview, SUCH. It was so in depth and allowed me to look back on my time as a creator in order to answer your questions. I really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this. 

SUCH: Any time. I'm glad we were able to make this work, and I look forward to seeing what you create next!

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