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Cracked’s ‘After Hours’ came from self-indulgence

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By The Webby Awards, Contributor

With hundreds of millions of views each month, Cracked.com has managed to successfully stand out in the crowded online space of humor websites, especially with its Web series “After Hours” that launched in 2010.

What’s been the secret to the success of “After Hours”? It all started with self-indulgence, according to Daniel O’Brien, the head writer and creative director of video.

“The whole team was getting together, and we were supposed to be talking about pitches for the website, but instead we were talking about ‘Back to the Future’ because we all like that movie,” O’Brien said. “We had so much fun talking about it that we thought, ‘Let’s just get some friends together and film it in a diner and see if people respond to it.’ It was very self-indulgent, and it worked.”

The first episode of “After Hours,” “Why ‘Back to the Future’ Is Secretly Horrifying,” featured the four friends, including O’Brien and Soren Bowie, Cracked’s senior editor. It garnered nearly 5 million views. That early success allowed Cracked to continue producing “After Hours” episodes such as “Why Pixar Movies Are All Secretly About the Apocalypse” and “The Horrifying Truth About Life Inside of Movie Musicals.” In each video, the team sits at a diner and engages in amusing analytical discussions about different movies.

Now in its fourth season, “After Hours” has generated more than 50 million views on Cracked.com. This past May, it won the Webby Award for Best Writing in Online Film and Video.

Accepting their Webby at the 18th Annual Webby Awards,  O’Brien and Bowiedelivered their “5-Word Speech” as a comedic bit: “America,” they said together. “You go,” Bowie said. “No, you go,” O’Brien replied.

While “After Hours” may have started as a self-indulgent experiment, O’Brien admits there is more to its success and to standing out on the Web in general.

“We’re bringing something fresh to a conversation but doing it in a way that makes you feel like you’re sitting around with friends,” said O’Brien.

Hailed as “the Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, including Websites, Interactive Advertising & Media, Online Film & Video, Mobile & Apps, and Social.

Established in 1996, The Webby Awards received 12,000 entries from all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide this year. The Webby Awards is presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS). Sponsors and partners of The Webby Awards include Dell, Microsoft, Vitamin T, Leica, MailChimp, Engine Yard, Funny or Die, Advertising Age, Percolate, BuzzFeed, Mashable, HLN, Business Insider, Internet Week New York and Guardian News and Media.

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