Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen were two typical college students in 1999 when they decided to harness the power of the Web. Forget file sharing, competing with Microsoft or Napster; these guys just wanted to collect all the crap that was floating around their school’s computer networks and showcase it for the world.
The end result, CollegeHumor.com, is genius in its simplicity. The site links to funny websites, stupid videos, a few (very funny) columns and some weird/hot/bizarre photos submitted by students. “We thought, if you’re a college student, you could either write for your school paper and have a thousand people see it, or you could have roughly a million people see it,” says Van Veen, whose offices are now in NYC.
With a book, The CollegeHumor Guide to College: Selling Kidneys for Beer Money, Sleeping with Professors, Majoring in Communications and Other Really Good Ideas, and more than nine million visitors hitting their site every month, the two co-founders sat down with COED in the Fall of 2005 to share their vision.
Favorite moments: “My favorite pictures have been something so stupid you don’t know why you’re laughing at it, like an animal dressed up in human clothes,” says Van Veen. “But I think the most appealing thing about the site is the movies we get. We had a kid throw scissors and it landed in another kid’s arm, we’ve got kids that take a flaming shot and don’t realize that they have to blow it out first.”
On those R-rated pictures of girls: “I wouldn’t call it pornography. There’s nothing below the belt, there’s no penetration. You can’t have big advertisers if you have that. We get a dozen pictures of women writing College Humor on their chests every day, and we’ll only put two of them up — otherwise it would be an adult site, not a comic site.”
Living on the Edge: “Our goal is to be a humorous site, with like an edge. We’re kind of following the model of National Lampoon, and trying not to be a bland CBS primetime where there’s nothing to say.”
What Not to Submit: “Guys submit pictures of their p*nises. All the time, several times a week. We’ve never published them, but guys keep submitting it. I think in someone’s head, they’re like, ‘Oh, someone will totally want to see my d*ck.’ And everyone thinks when they go to the bathroom it’s interesting. They send us pictures with the headline ‘This is the biggest cr*p ever!’ Surprisingly, people don’t want to see pictures of other people’s feces.”
Sorority Blues: “We used to film a show called ‘Get Stupid’ where we’d get into a shower with the girls of a sorority house and dare them to take a shower with the host of the show. Once the video got online, some of the girls were kicked out.”
Growing Up (Sort of): “We knew we wanted to do a book, the first book was the most logical step into the book world. This is 98% new stuff, and a few all-time favorites, like ‘The 10 Commandments of College.'”
Handling Success: “We’re happy we’ve created a successful brand. We’ve been doing it for a while; it’s not like winning the lottery, this has taken six years. So we haven’t gone too crazy with our success. For example, I only own two jets and they’re modeled to look like the inside of these offices.”