It happened with a single click. Before I knew it I was watching the last few minutes of a web series I have spent the last seven years laughing along with: CollegeHumor’s “Jake and Amir.” I wasn’t in my Galesburg apartment anymore. I was back in my childhood room, splayed out on the tattered paisley comforter cover that draped my bed. Browsing YouTube for something funny to take me away from whatever high school difficulty I was dealing with at the time, I stumbled upon a video called “Jake and Amir: Happy Holidays.” That was the first time I watched Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld’s double act, a comedic orchestration situated so firmly in my wheelhouse that I spent the next few hours watching every video they had created up to that point. I was 15 at the time. In about a month I will be 22, and I’m as big of a fan of the duo today as I was all those years ago.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Jake and Amir follows the classic comedic formula of the straight man/funny man routine. The series takes place in the CollegeHumor offices and details the lives of two workmates. Blumenfeld’s outlandish actions prod Hurwitz, who attempts to subdue his annoying counterpart. Their humor is nonsensical and is usually predicated on inside jokes from previous episodes. They touch on modern insecurities like social media privacy, some Jewish blagues and passing fads. The series grew as the duo honed their craft. Though one could jump into any video and consider it funny, the series rewards those with an in-depth knowledge of the progression of the characters. Zany guests including Thomas Middleditch from “Silicon Valley” and Ben Schwartz from “Parks and Rec,” who take on recurring roles that grow the universe of the series. Their absurdisms know no bounds and have worked their way into my day-to-day vocabulary. As I reminisced upon the series’ constant presence in my life, I thought more about what it means to be a fan.
Being a fan of internet videos in particular is a relatively new fandom when compared to following film, TV or written works. The rate at which these videos come out gives them an ephemeral quality. There will never be a box set of Jake and Amir videos sitting on the shelf next to my Ocean’s Eleven trilogy set. I don’t know where these videos are stored, or if someday YouTube will cease to exist and the videos will disappear into the ether. There is a degree of accessibility that the other mediums don’t have. You can consume the videos at any time and don’t lose anything by watching them on a small screen. The videos usually fall between 90 seconds and three minutes in length. The set up is simple, the pair sitting at desks that face each other as the camera jumps between the two. Jake and Amir was one of CollegeHumor’s first video series, and survived as the site became a nest of commercials and articles that are really just commercials in disguise. Yet the web series retains the association to CollegeHumor and is therefore relegated to a certain level of comedy. The comedic duo cannot easily be compared to stand-up greats.
Jake and Amir fans dwell in relative obscurity. Interactions are pretty much limited to discussion threads on their subreddit. I can talk basketball with most strangers, but I can’t talk Jake and Amir. The odds of running into someone as into the series as you are is a rarity. I think a telling anecdote comes from Allison Williams, who also appeared in the series and later on Jake and Amir’s podcast, “If I Were You.” Williams said that while she is more frequently recognized for her work on HBO’s “Girls,” people who recognize her from the web series are much more enthusiastic. If you’re into Jake and Amir you’re in all the way—you know the jokes and the videos inside and out. The comedy is niche: I couldn’t get enough. I kept a weekly appointment with myself for years to see their videos released every Tuesday. I haven’t kept up with anything else nearly as long.
Today the team is focused on getting a show greenlit on TBS. They have a weekly podcast during which they give advice to audience members who send in their problems. Their humor lives on beyond their videos, but the characters they played are dead. They do live podcast tours so their fans still have a chance to see them, but the weekly appointment I’ve kept is now over. As a fan I count myself lucky to have followed such a prolific series. “Game of Thrones” acolytes have hung on for nearly 20 years as George R.R. Martin cranks out his manifesto. Fans of Fox’s TV series “Firefly” still mourn the end of the show though it only lasted a single 14 episode season. “Jake and Amir” have given me countless hours of entertainment. I think that it should be required viewing for Jewish teenagers who feel out of place.
The red bar at the bottom of the video reached the end and I was back in my apartment. I felt a sense of loss. I was sad that the series was over. A web series that started off as a distraction from my life had become part of my life. A YouTube video without much meaning at all in the grand scheme of popular culture meant everything to me at that moment. I met Jake and Amir briefly when they served as the MCs for a Ford Fiesta unveiling in downtown Los Angeles. I met Amir again when my plane was delayed in the Salt Lake City Airport and I saw him walking through the terminal. I may never meet them again. As Jake and Amir, and hopefully myself, move to bigger and better things, I will never underestimate the impact that those few minutes of comedic relief had on me seven years ago.