WORCESTER – Quick and funny and to the point. That’s Worcester’s Andrew Cosenza and his “The AC Show” in a nutshell.
In terms of viewership, the short-length “pot comedy”-style videos have paid off immensely.
As of the start of this week, the 60-second sketch comedy YouTube show has nearly 4.4 million views and 2,700 subscribers.
“It’s been great. With the ongoing social media craze, YouTube has been such a great tool to get the show out there beyond Shrewsbury and Worcester,” Cosenza said.
Not all, but a lot of the skits featured on The AC show have to do with smoking marijuana, something Cosenza says has been welcomed by a wider audience as the push for the legalization of pot has been gaining steam over the past few years.
Cosenza, 34, and a graduate of Shrewsbury high school and Quinsigamond Community College, said, “We’ve been doing pot comedy since the start — when you used to get arrested for smoking a bowl or having a dime bag on you. My father came to me and was concerned that people in the town would be talking about me and calling me a pothead. But I said, ‘Dad, it’s comedy. It’s what I do.’”
“Since then, pot was decriminalized. Then it was legalized. And now it’s a business. It’s been crazy to see all of the different people making money off of it. Now so many people are coming up to me and telling me how much they like our take on smoking and pot comedy in general.”
The YouTube show features regularly scheduled “Token Tuesdays” — hilarious takes on commercials with a “high” twist, including Sonic, Dunkaroos, and Captain Crunch — and “Toke Back Thursdays” — a look back at old pot comedy sketches in previous iterations of the AC show.
“Our audience grew a boatload. We’ve been a pot comedy show since day one, and I’m not changing that for anyone. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do: pot humor and grow into other comedy from there.”
Seventeen years ago, Cosenza started The AC & Tully Show with his friend Sean O’Toole after a stint with the former Circus TV show on Shrewsbury Public Access [SPAC] programming. Cosenza and his friends got into backyard wrestling, beating up on each other solely for their own amusement and anyone willing to watch.
The AC Show — now featuring solely Cosenza as the host — grew from that performance on Circus TV and things began to start to roll for Cosenza.
Cosenza is now joined his brother, and re-occurring character, Justin Cosenza and Robert “Pork” Therrien, also a re-occurring character. The show’s production is rounded out by Dan Dascho, of Paxton, the show’s editor and graphic arts and special effects coordinator, Roland Peterleitner, of Holden who serves as the show’s business manager, financial adviser and executive producer and production assistants Amanda Bilodeau and “LJ.”
“We’ve always been writing comedy skits — trying our hand at Saturday Night Live-type stuff. We started creating episodes and it started as a talk show format with local bands and special guests, but as the Jackass-era came and the YouTube era followed, we started doing skit, after skit, after skit,” Cosenza said.
After a few years with SPAC, The AC Show got picked by Charter Cable in Worcester and did a seven-episode first season with each episode being sponsored by Golden Pizza and airing right after the 10 PM news.
“That was interesting. Our very first episode we opened up with an infomercial skit called “The Hump Master.” It was a dude on an exercise bike doing this thrusting motion. Needless to say, that very first night Charter got a bunch of phone calls from people that still had the channel on after the news,” Cosenza said.
“We got a call from the program manager right after that first show. For the next season, they bumped us back to 12,” Cosenza added, laughing.
They did four seasons with Charter, with the final season being pushed back to 1 AM.
Today, Cosenza relies solely on YouTube to air its programming, while still utilizing studio space at SPAC when needed. According to Cosenza, by airing on YouTube, not only is there further reach of an audience, but more of an opportunity to monetize the show.
“At first, I wasn’t paying attention to our views on YouTube. But then Google purchased YouTube and Google Adsense gave us another opportunity to make some money through advertisement so long as we were getting enough views,” Cosenza said.
Currently, The AC Show has a product placement contract with SRH Clothing out of California. The agreement calls for Cosenza to wear their clothing during interviews and sketches, and Cosenza receives free clothing.
The presence of recognizable local and national celebrities making appearances on the show has also helped grow the show’s audience, Cosenza said.
The show has featured rapper Tech N9ne, former Boston Bruin and Boston radio personality Lyndon “LB” Byers, and recurring voiceovers from WAAF and WXLO radio personality Kevin Barbare.
Cosenza said, “Having [Barbare] on the show has really taken us to the next level. He’s the best. It’s an absolute pleasure working with him and the quality of his work is huge. More people have recognized the show.”
Moving forward, Cosenza will focus on developing hidden camera sketches and adopting a gorilla-style “shock and awe” approach to comedy.
“The attention span is what we need to focus on. You can’t make those eight-minute sketches anymore. People aren’t watching that long just to hear two funny lines or jokes,” Cosenza said.
One of the most popular sketches, according to Cosenza, featured Cosenza fishing inside fish tanks at Petco. Cosenza was outfitted in full fishing gear including a fishing rod, tackle box and boots.
“We went in with a hidden camera. One Petco threatened to call the cops. The other had teenagers working and they didn’t know what to say or do,” Cosenza said.
“We’ve got several gopros, hidden cameras in sunglasses and a hidden camera in a neck tie. We just go for it. The moment you ask for permission to film, they’re going to say no. They’re only going to look at the negative side of things or possible bad press. So we have to go in gorilla-style and just do it.”
To keep up with The AC Show’s recent antics and sketches, be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel.