Hey, You’re Cool! Comedian KevOnStage
Who said dad jokes have to be corny?
“How do you find Will Smith in the snow?” says KevOnStage, Head of Comedy at Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital, setting up one of his favorite punchlines. “You look for Fresh Prints.”
The quip is the type of irresistible knee-slappers that are routine on ADD’s popular series, Dad Jokes, on which Kev (born Kevin Fredericks) regularly appears. The comedian and content creator has been dedicated to serving online LOLs since being fired from his banking job in Seattle in 2012, moving to L.A. and joining All Def Digital in 2014. Today, the husband and father of two has garnered an enormous social media following thanks in part to hilarious recurring videos like Ratchet Names Gone Wild, Sexy Praise Dance, Is It True? and the aforementioned Dad Jokes.
MASS APPEAL caught up with KevOnStage to discuss how his personal comedy platform and brand grew in five short years, the creative process behind All Def Digital’s video content, and how his sons got him started in the business.
How did you come up with the name KevOnStage?
I go by KevOnStage on social media because when I was working at the bank I was tweeting crazy and I didn’t want people to search my name and find out where I worked and get me fired.
You started putting videos on YouTube about five years ago right?
Yeah I started in 2012 on my personal YouTube channel just kind of messing around. I started with one video a week, then three videos a week, then one video a day. I’ve been doing one video a day for the last four years.
What were your expectations when you first started recording those videos?
I was living in Tacoma, Washington, at the time and all I really wanted was to be funny and have people see my videos. I don’t think I really had any expectations of money or career. I mean, there wasn’t really like a career in the industry at that time. It was just a way to express myself creatively, get a lot of views and hopefully get my name out there. I saw a lot of people going viral on YouTube. At the time I was making plays in the Seattle/Tacoma area and it was kind of hard to do anything other than that with the money I had. YouTube was free, so I felt I could take advantage of having the internet and social media at my fingertips.
When you first started, did you think it would grow into what it grew into?
So my son first started recording videos because he saw me doing it, and both my sons got a contract for me to write, direct and produce videos for them and to act in it, so I saw that was an opportunity for money to be made in that area. Right after that, he booked a movie because people had seen his YouTube videos. But for myself, I didn’t see that immediately for a lot longer after that because I was never one of the biggest creators on YouTube. I had a small audience where people kind of rocked with me. On Facebook , I’m closing in on a million followers, but on YouTube I was kind of a slow grower. I’m at 200,000 now, but I don’t think I’ll ever get more than that. [Laughs] I don’t think I’ll ever get 300,000. But I’m growing on other platforms so I guess that’s okay.
What’s your role at All Def Digital?
I’m the Head of Content for Comedy, so I have some say in almost all content, but I have a lot of great producers and creatives that work with me. Including producers and editors, my comedy team is about 10-12 people. Most of my job is empowering people to take advantage of their creativity as opposed to me being a director like, “You do this, you do that.” I’m more of a manager of great talent. Definitely more Phil Jackson than Michael Jordan.
What’s the creative and brainstorming process behind the content you produce?
Dad Jokes was created by Patrick Houston, who’s equally creative as I am. My producers and creatives curate a lot of the ideas and I just help shape them. You know, I just help with ideas and to make things better. I don’t sit and create all the ideas, I just tweak them. I help them with ideas on who the talent will be or to shoot it like this or get this guy. Things like that. I work with some of the most talented and creative people in the world and most of the work that you see on the channel is the result of Patrick, DoBoy, John, Meg, Chris and Melanie. They do a lot of the heavy lifting.
In addition to All Def, you’re also one-third of The Playmakers, right?
Yep! The Playmakers is where I got my start. Well, I started in stand-up comedy before I even started with The Playmakers. My best friend and my brother, Jason and Anthony Davis, made plays and that’s where the term “The Playmakers” came from. Together we tried to do the play thing, but basically we didn’t have enough money to make any money with plays. You either have to move them from city to city or run them for three to four weeks at a time to make money and we didn’t have the money to do either, so we were like, “Let’s just make YouTube videos.” That’s where I saw my first initial success, as a member of The Playmakers.
I know it’s entertainment and production, but what else does The Playmakers entail?
We’re kind of a creative company. We made content for YouTube—plays obviously. We produced a web series for ourselves and Tracey Edmonds. As a standup comedy group, we still go out from time to time and do stand-up comedy shows together as well.
What do you want for yourself ultimately?
I love that I can do a little bit of a lot. One of the reasons that I love All Def Digital is that they give me the freedom to be creative in my own right and work with the company. As KevOnStage, I’m able to make my videos about whatever I want and they support me and post my videos. I’m able to do standup whenever I want and with All Def Digital I’m empowered too. Last year I was able to write, direct and produce a movie; this year I was able to direct my first pilot, written by a good friend of mine named DoBoy who created this show. I love that I have the opportunity to scratch all of those itches. I don’t know if I’m ever the type to be like ‘I’m only going to do stand-up’ or ‘I’m only going to act or direct.’ I like the opportunity to do it all from time to time. I get to act in videos, which I like doing. I get to be a creative producer. I get to give people the opportunity to cast, so I kind of like all facets of that.