In an era dominated by blockbuster remakes and big budget cable TV, Hollywood still serves as the capital of western entertainment. Often lost amongst the over-advertised and the mainstream meme machines are stories about the self-made. The artists who operate inside those frequently confining walls in order to support their own brand of content.
One of those amazing creators is Ben Giroux. Ben’s background in comedic acting and stand-up have netted him significant roles in several Nickelodeon and Disney produced series along with a myriad of other credits. But what you should also be paying attention to is his own, self-produced works. Ben has quietly amassed a catalogue of inventive and hysterical short-form skits that will keep you glued to his YouTube channel. But there’s a chance you’ve already seen his work. Finally landing that breakout, self-produced hit with Back to the 90s, Giroux and crew’s stock is soaring as the nostalgia heavy tune has passed fifty million total views.
So let’s reminisce with the rising star as he takes us behind the curtain. Here’s our chat with the very funny and gracious Mr. Giroux.
1. Your list of credits is absurdly diverse. When did that need to be in front of and behind the camera begin? What led you down the performers path?
Thank you! I’ve been lucky to have an extremely varied list of television and film credits over the past decade that I’ve worked hard to amass — and I love them all equally. Playing over-the-top larger-than-life characters on Nickelodeon and Disney sitcoms is a total blast, as is my more grounded comedic roles on shows like Psych, Bones, House, NCIS, etc.
There’s a photo of me as a one-week old infant — my dad is holding me up to the television set and we’re watching Moe slamming an anvil over Curly’s head in The Three Stooges. Literally from Day One I grew up in a colorful household that put comedy on a pedestal. Diving into a life of entertainment and comedy seemed like the obvious journey. Plus, peaking at 5’2″, a career in basketball didn’t seem like a wise option.
2. Has comedy always been a primary focus?
If I strip away everything in my life, at my core, all I want to do is make people laugh. Particularly when the state of the world is a little “icky” right now, I sort of feel like it’s my job as a performer to infuse as much levity into the universe as possible.
3. It looks like you bounce around between voice over, live action roles and the work you produce, write and direct, how much does your preparation vary between the different types of projects?
I definitely have experience wearing multiple hats on a set. Sometimes, it’s difficult to totally remove my “director” hat when I’m hired on a show as an actor. But I think having experience in front of and behind the camera ultimately makes me a better performer.
I had this beautiful epiphany sometime after college: that I didn’t have to choose just ONE thing in entertainment. I could attempt multiple paths and ultimately find success in each of them. My voiceover career has flourished lately and it’s been a dream-come-true to voice the leading role in Butch Hartman’s Bunsen is a Beast on Nickelodeon. As a kid who grew up watching cartoons like Doug, Red & Stimpy, and Rugrats, recording my own Nicktoon has been very full circle. Additionally, my on-camera career has been on a steady climb for the last decade, going from traditional sitcoms like Anger Management with Charlie Sheen to cartoony roles like ‘The Toddler’ on Dan Schneider’s Henry Danger.
The most satisfying path of them all, however, has been building my own production company Small Red Cape, constructing a team of dedicated filmmakers, and creating my own content. I’ve been steadily producing my own short-form comedic content for 10 years, and most recently, it finally broke through to the masses with my viral music video Back to the 90s. When young actors ask me for advice after moving to Hollywood, I always say: be proactive and make your own work. Eventually, it pays off in big ways.
4. A more recent part of your mainstream work is geared toward a younger audience. How are the fan interactions there different than for your other works?
My work on kids’ sitcoms like Henry Danger, Sam & Cat, Best Friends Whenever, and Mighty Med are a total blast because it’s the closest thing to live-action theatre on television. I come from a background in live theatre, so to get to play big, over-the-top, cartoony characters is very familiar. Working on Nickelodeon and Disney shows also really introduces you to a passionate, youthful fanbase. Some of the most supportive fans of my own produced work originally found their way to my comedy through watching my kids sitcom roles.
5. Overall, how much does fan interaction and social media play into your work? Do you find it informs what you do in any way?
I think it’s all about staying true to yourself and your comedic brand. Fans can sense when you’re being authentic or if you’re making stuff you feel like you “should” be making vs. “want” to be making. I certainly have to walk a fine line between more R-rated comedy that fits my personal brand and an understanding that my audience is largely youthful. So lately, I’m trying to keep my stuff appropriate for kids, but still super funny. Back to the 90s is a great example – a celebratory, ridiculous music video about a decade – something that all ages can enjoy.
I also actually LOVE responding to trolls. A comment from an online troll is like a joke setup… and it’s up to me to write the punchline.
6. Outside of the network type roles, you have written, directed and produced – I LOVE Sh*tty Dates so much – quite a bit of independent content under the Small Red Cape banner. What’s the evolution of your self-made work going from stand-up to an actual production company?
After college, it was just me and two other guys running around with a tiny camera and no lights. I got into branded comedy on YouTube right after college — building up the FML YouTube channel, FailBlog, and ultimately executive producing the FRED channel. All of that was fun, but I wasn’t able to truly make the kind of comedy I wanted to be making. So I finally decided to begin investing in my own content. What kind of stuff did I want to actually watch? This is what I should be making. It was that realization that led me to the creation of Small Red Cape. My team is now 100-people deep. On set for Back to the 90s, I marveled at the 60-foot jib camera crane, the huge grip & electric team running around, and my producers’ ability to manage a massive set. It was a fun realization in recognizing just how far my production chops had come. While making my own comedy is expensive, it’s been the most satisfying part of my journey.
7. Diving into your shorts – figuratively – you frequently use your height as the catalyst for humor. What prompted you to take something personal like that and put it front and center? And does that tie into your personal fitness? You clearly have a gym membership.
Hey who are you calling short!? Kidding. In Hollywood, you have to ultimately play to your strengths and what makes you unique. As a shorter guy, I knew this opened me up to more specific kinds of roles at the onset of my career. I’m no stranger to playing elves, leprechauns, and jockeys… and only one of those is human.
My height provided a specific avenue and entry-point for a career in entertainment. Now that my career is in full swing, I’m actively expanding on those roles and getting away from the height stuff. But at the beginning, playing to my height was essential for building my television resume with “easy to book” roles.
Height has always defined my life to some degree. Growing up, it was tough being the short kid. Once I found my swagger as an adult, I decided it was time to tackle my childhood demons head-on by creating a braggadocios, thug rap video called Little Dude Anthem. I teamed up with indie hip-hop artist Jensen Reed for the project and we amassed 1 million views.
And heck yeah, I have a gym membership. I think a career in entertainment can be too all-consuming sometimes. That’s why it’s important to have hobbies outside of comedy. For me, it’s fitness and travel. I travel around the country competing in Spartan Race obstacle course races. It’s a great excuse to train, keep myself in shape, and see new places. Plus, no one cares about your Modern Family callback when you’re throwing a spear in the middle of the Montana woods.
8. Staying on your self-produced work, the absolutely hysterical – and very relatable for me – Back to the 90s video is killing it on your Facebook page and YouTube channel, what’s the progression of a project like that?
We just hit 50 million views today! Back to the 90s is opening huge doors for me. It’s the third music video collaboration between myself and indie hip-hop artist Jensen Reed. From the inception of the idea, to pre-production, production, animation, and post-production… the whole thing took two years to complete. Jensen and I both recognized we were really nostalgic and wistful for our childhoods, so we wanted to make a celebratory anthem for our generation. We enlisted the help of hundreds of talented people, and while we expected the video to do well, we didn’t anticipate it would literally change our lives and careers. We’re pitching television shows, working on music video deals, meeting with massive production companies, doing tons of press – it’s truly been a dream. And the thing I’m most proud of: it’s all a result of pouring our hearts and souls into our own work.
It’s a huge win for my entire production team and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve all been able to accomplish together. We’re just getting started…
9. When something like Back to the 90s takes off, does that change the types of upcoming productions from Small Red Cape? Or are the next projects already planned out?
I’m glad one of my projects blew up at this stage of my career. Had this happened ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been prepared for the moment. Now, I’m overwhelmingly prepared: I have a ten-year body of work that can be referenced and I have a massive slate of short form and long form content ready to produce. When we hit #11 on the Billboard charts, Billboard ran a really cool feature on Jensen and myself. In the article, Jensen had a great line: “this is your classic 15-year overnight success story”. And it’s true: I’ve been grinding in Hollywood for a long time. And now, I’m ready to capitalize on the moment.
10. Besides in two white shirts, white pants and white shoes, where can fans look to find you next? That you’re allowed to tell us about, anyway.
I’m voicing a bunch of animated projects in the coming months and working on tons of new music video concepts. Most of my upcoming stuff I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but big things are coming! Bunsen is a Beast airs Saturday mornings on Nickelodeon. To stay up to date on my upcoming projects, I encourage fans to follow my Instagram http://instagram.com/BenGiroux and my Facebook: http://facebook.com/BenGirouxActor
11. Between writing, directing, producing and performing, what facet of your career do you want to carry you to the next level? Where would you want the next break to take you?
At my core, I’m always an actor first. In order to truly achieve what I want: I need to construct my own roles. Thankfully, it’s never been easier to do that with technology and traditional television changing by the second.
And if the acting thing doesn’t work out, there’s always basketball.
12. In all the interviews and behind the scenes moments, what topic or aspect of you as a performer have you wanted to take about but haven’t been asked?
What’s the best advice you ever received on set? “Do good work — and be a good dude.”