The art of fast-talking videos

Have you noticed how many really funny videos there are now in which people talk fast and don’t seem to take a breath?

Someone needs to do a study on why this works so well. Sadly, in spite of pursuing this all morning, I can’t find evidence of any such study. But this is the Internet, so I did find a few opinion pieces. The general feeling appears to be that the fast-talking thing is a sign that (a) comedic timing is either dead or irreversibly changing, and (b) people’s minimalistic attention-span requires fast-talking to get anything through to them before their minds wander. What was I saying? Oh, yes, fast-talking.

I’m not so sure I subscribe to either point of view. I love videos from Vlog BrothersMinutePhysics and CPG Grey and they are all both funny and jammed with good information. I think part of the reason I love them is that I’m in awe of anyone who can speak so clearly and get so much information across so crisply and amusingly. It may be a new sort of comic timing but it’s probably one that fits the medium – this isn’t stand-up or a sitcom it’s someone talking on your computer, usually as a voice-over to a series of illustrations. Comparing it to older comedy styles is probably meaningless in the end – a bit like comparing witty t-shirts to 1920s suits, the comparison is there but it doesn’t mean very much.

The argument that fast-talking is evidence of our reduced attention spans is almost certainly valid, but there’s little in the world today that isn’t evidence of our capacity to move on quickly. And when you think about it there’s a real skill and art in being able to take a complex idea and distil it down into a meaningful, and funny, few minutes. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for more detailed shows but I have to admit I’ve learnt far more from MinutePhysics than from all of the wonderful University physics lectures available via the Web that I don’t listen to.

Anyway, in my view one of the best fast-talkers out there, and one who’s been doing it for a long time, comes from right here in Australia. The grand-daddy of fast-talking breathlessness is Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw in his Zero Punctuation games reviews. These are not the gentle reviews of the ABC’s Good Game. They are no-holds-barred, crude, rude, NSFW, opinionated tear-downs of what is good and what is bad – well mostly what is bad. They are generally hilarious and they do not appear to involve taking a breath, ever.

Oh, and if you are an aspiring fast-talking video artist the Internet can even tell you how to learn to talk faster.

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