Super Deluxe: Editing as Part of the Art

It was only recently that I wrote about how damaging editing can be to comedy. Often chaining or dulling the creative process, there’s a lot of evidence for its oppressive implications. On the other hand, it’s only fair to discuss how liberating it can be for expression. In fact, creators like Super Deluxe have shown how effective it is when used constructively. There have been hints of it for years. Even Chris Morris, as shackled as he was, could reconstitute existing material into something new and interesting. To finally tie up connections to the previous article in this arc, here’s a prophetic example of Morris doing just that:

Examples go back far further too. However, it’s only since the 21st century that it’s really taken hold as an absolute basis for content. In many ways, this is a reflection on the nature of the internet. Short video edits, or “super cuts”, are too perfectly consumable to ignore. Indeed, they’re far more digestible than other mediums. It only helps them further that sharing such videos is both user friendly and encouraged. None of this takes away from their validity. We’re in an age of change, and it’s fascinating to see how that impacts our tastes and popular culture.

After all, the library of Super Deluxe would be almost impossible to present as a syndicated television show*. It’s interesting to note how viewers, even myself, would probably consider the concept too thin to sustain half an hour. Yet, our new binge-watching approach could easily have us trapped in a Super Deluxe playlist for hours. This is an irony that many television executives are loath to understand. Thank great Atheismo for YouTube, and its fluidity as a platform. Without it, we’d probably never accidentally encounter such raw, unbridled creativity as:

Admittedly, this video is the result of a lot more than pure editing. It still helps me make my point. It also helps me transition into a brief history. Despite its current mega-popularity, Super Deluxe has older roots than many of its viewers may expect. First launched in 2007 by Turner Broadcasting, it initially acted as an online content machine of a slightly different focus. It featured an impressive array of comedians too.  With the likes of Tim & Eric, Bob Odenkirk and Maria Bamford involved, it presented innovative material in the form of web-shows like Y’All So Stupid. Although much of its output was great, it would turn out to be a short-lived effort.

What may come as a surprise to the casual fan is what happened next. When Super Deluxe folded, barely a year into its existence, it didn’t just disappear back into the ether. Instead, it served as the jumping-off-point for Adult Swim. Since that transition, Adult Swim‘s reception has been enormously positive. Much of its programming has seeped into the public consciousness with an ease its peers find elusive. By 2015, Super Deluxe saw itself inexplicably rebooted by Turner. It’s been said that it’s only connected to its first iteration by name. I suggest that there’s more to it than that.

The above is listed as Super Deluxe‘s earliest YouTube upload. I’m sure the true entrance to their rabbit hole is earlier still, but this will do for now. There are instant similarities to Y’All So Stupid, but with a more minimalist and refined tone. As such, this is clearly something in the same ballpark as its original namesake. With the continued involvement of people like Heidecker, some fairly clear lines tie the two projects. Of course, this is nothing more than prelude and context. In essence, Super Deluxe has always been about hyper-creativity. In its current form, it often uses brilliant editing techniques to tell its myriad stories.

Take the exhibit provided above. It’s an edited rendition of a horny man’s answering machine message. Alone, that’s a dull and kind of creepy thing to hear. Given a context, through the use of various techniques, it becomes quite hilarious. Beyond that, if you wish to delve this deep, it provides a subtle commentary on surrounding society. Consider the anonymous stupidity of the man in question. Assuming no-one’s listening, he spits meaningless filth regardless. This may just be one of the faces of “looking for love” in the 21st century. It’s as sad as it is funny. While the medium of animation is as important to its make-up, edits have played a big part in its craft.

It’s simple. It’s effective. It almost certainly made you laugh. Videos like this represent a large chunk of Super Deluxe’s output. Nearly entirely constructed from pre-existing footage, it proves how much you can twist something into a new form. Having recently spoken to Dominick Nero, the creator of this video, for a feature here, I know first-hand that the intentions behind it aren’t as juvenile as certain generations may consider. It’s so much more than re-cut material at the expense of an out-of-touch television presenter. In honesty, it is that consciously too. However, there are deeper edges of satire and commentary that are well worth exploring. Isn’t it odd how, seeing the world through this warped lens, it doesn’t seem as far detached from reality as it may appear?

An even better example, and more of Nero‘s fine handiwork, is his excellent edit, Hillary’s Got Talent! (embedded beneath this paragraph). Again, the comedic and satirical crux of it is somewhat easy to get your hands around. Its premise is to uproot the speeches of Hillary Clinton, placing them in the context of an America’s Got Talent audition. Anybody not living under a rock can see the humorous appeal in that. Those who bother to take it a step further can even quickly see the commentary it’s making on politics, reality television and popular culture in general. What could be easy to neglect in the flurry of all that, is the pure skill in the execution of its edits:

Beyond some overlaid text, every frame of this is reconstituted. It’s the very model of the old adage, “more than the sum of its parts”. Nero has taken multiple sources and given them a brand new perspective. Masterfully cut, there’s something chilling in its familiarity. It’s as if these nightmarish scenes are the reality. You can probably attribute that to how well it skirts the uncanny valley. It’s so close to the truth. Only a gnat’s chuff away from what we see on our screens in sincerity, I believe this kind of editing has a lot of power. In many ways it’s replacing traditional comedy. Much television comedy pales in comparison to the innovations of the internet. Otherwise, it steals its ideas en masse.

In a world that seems increasingly insane, Super Deluxe can make an odd kind of sense. Of this, Vic Berger is the established stalwart craftsman. He and Super Deluxe have become synonymous with one another. It’s entirely likely you’ve seen his work. His edits of Donald Trump speeches and rallies have taken off big time. There’s not a huge leap to take in seeing why either. Isn’t it clear how something like this would resonate?:

Like Nero’s output, this heavily relies on established footage. Other Berger edits are more busy and bluntly comedic, but what’s notable about this one is its minimalism. In actuality, what we see on our screens is terrifying. This speaks to the strength of two things. First, it’s an indictment of Berger’s intense creativity. The subtlety and cleverness of his editing is astounding. Secondly, it’s a stark portrayal of an unbelievable truth. In some ways, Berger has managed to realise, in one short video, the way many of us view the ascent of Trump.

It was all the more harrowing that it signalled a careful change in tone. Huge swathes of the worldwide population were left in a strange liberal denial in the days leading to Trump’s inauguration. In that period of sweet disbelief, it was easier to laugh at edits that portrayed him as a boisterous clown. By the time that the above video appeared, a terrible shock had fallen upon pretty much everyone with concern for global politics. It’s that shock which permeate’s Berger’s recreation. It’s so powerful in its deep-seated reality that it approaches the apocalyptic. The editing is the smoking gun at the heart of these successes.

Its importance is utilised in different ways too. Throughout Super Deluxe‘s output, it appears to act as one of the few coherent threads. Not all of their videos concentrate on it with such intensity. Some of their series, such as David, use editing in more pedestrian ways. Beyond that, editing gets melded into a beautiful soup of cosmopolitan craft. That’s another thread; the propensity for Super Deluxe to explore multiple avenues of content is exciting and inspiring. What caught my eye, as an admitted smoker, was their niche Stoned Mode playlist.

Here, editing is integrated as a part of the process. It doesn’t have to be the entire spine of a video to make its mark. The above, and many videos like it, show what a useful part of a whole it is. Of course, this is far from anything new. Almost all art-forms have been subject to editing to some degree. Indeed, film editors have been all too often overlooked in the rush to lob support at directors and writers. It’s just that Super Deluxe seem to take it so seriously. That’s exactly why people like Nero and Berger are able to shine on their platform. I also credit editing, in large part, to their catalogue in general.

It’s a relief that somewhere is giving a voice to this malnourished medium. Through work like this, we can see that cutting and chopping things around isn’t some cynical backroom activity. A lot of the meat and structure can be thanks to the efforts of editors. Many of their themed playlists are wonderful in their dedication to magnifying this. Its one of many pillars behind their semi-educational ology videos:

Although there’s a lot more going on than pure edits, there’s no way to be blind to its importance. It’s what affords the piece its flow; even its rhythm. This comes up time and time again when mass consuming Super Deluxe. The beauty in it is how the edits are used to raise the content to a new level. It seems British comedy was unlucky for feeling the burn of their influence instead. As this one YouTube channel shows, they can be as much a helping hand as a punch in the bollocks.

Some final demonstrations of this from Super Deluxe are probably worthy of mention. Their Scenery collection is a true sight to behold. Full of hidden gems, it consists of edited footage of unique and enthralling events. From images of hair salons to musings on deer, it’s a compellingly engaging watch. Along with the subjects themselves, it’s the manner of their presentation that gives them an artful framing. This is equally true of Turnt Beauty. These surreal fashion videos have an entire foot dipped into the principles of hypnotic editing. It might be this that acts as the secret spice to their addictive nature.

With no doubt, editing is beginning to receive the respect it always deserved. It’s not that Super Deluxe has a monopoly on these techniques. To claim that would be ignorant. There’s always been a validity to the power of editors, swept under the rug of Hollywood hysteria. As a part of the industry, it’s by and large stayed quiet and humble.

People are starting to take note. The internet offers an arena for it that seems all too perfectly suited. That’s surely why we’re seeing more of it in our newsfeeds and Twitter scrolls. Since it’s somewhere that minds like Nero and Berger can thrive, we should be glad that it’s opening artistic doors.

It would also be silly to assume that the harmful editors don’t still roam the halls. They have their footholds, wherever they feel they need them. This breed of editor is probably feeling more frantic in the 21st century, if anything. After all, their thoughtless campaign against the output of their betters is becoming less relevant every day. It’s stages like YouTube, and the collectives who use them, that slowly erode at the bullshit of long-accepted tradition. Personally, I welcome this with open arms.

No one thing in a creative process is sure. While edits can act as a constraint, we see, through Super Deluxe and its peers, just how many impressive avenues they can present. It takes a lot of practice, effort and intuition to use edits to their full potential. Pay a thought to those behind lonely suites, making your treasured shows and films as engaging as possible. Through putting a telescope on its application, it’s clear how useful it really is. Spend any amount of time watching “YouTube Poop” and you’ll soon see the difference between pissing around on iMovie and bringing something to life. In today’s climate, nobody does that better than Super Deluxe. In conclusion, here’s some dogs getting washed to finalise my points:

*Super Deluxe has, in fact, produced numerous television series and films; separate to their primary YouTube output.

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