CollegeHumor videos have set the standard for high-budget internet videos since the mid-2000s, making fun of stuff like fonts, comment sections, The Purge, “second puberty,” failing a test, eating with rich friends, guys who play guitar to get laid, and embarrassing Google searches.
Since the beginning, Sam Reich has been running the show as head of the site’s video division. We talked to Sam about how his job has grown as CollegeHumor expanded to TV and launched spinoffs, and as he built a larger and larger team.
Name: Sam Reich Location: Los Angeles, CA Current gig: Chief Creative Officer, CH Media Current computer: iMac Current mobile device: iPhone X One word that best describes how you work: Calm
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and went straight into the arts. In 2003, I started making videos with my comedy group, which at the time was pretty novel. There was no flash video, for instance.
In 2006, CollegeHumor was looking for someone to start their video division, and since there weren’t many people who specialised in the field, I got the job. At first, I was a one man band—I was writing, producing, directing, and editing everything largely by myself—but we slowly but surely added staff member by staff member, and we’re now a team of 40+.
In 2013, we moved the video division from New York to LA to start pitching and selling TV shows. We had an early success with Adam Ruins Everything, and that allowed us to sell other shows to MTV, Pop TV, Freeform, and digital platforms like Go90, YouTube Premium, and Facebook Watch.
More recently, we’ve turned our attention toward our new subscription platform, where we’re going directly to our audience with premium shows. It’s called DROPOUT. See how full circle that was?
Take us through a recent workday.
Wake up, shower, brush teeth, listen to NPR, worry about the world.
Eat eggs and toast, drink too much cold brew.
Drive to work, listen to chill electronica. I like my car to feel like an H&M.
Do 30 minutes of community: YouTube comments, Discord, etc.
Monthly check-in with my Head of Production.
Strategy discussion about changing our YouTube intros.
Call with the East Coast team about a new series they’re developing.
Lunch: grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, a slide of bread that I try and fail to resist.
2019 budget strategy session with CEO and CFO.
Call with CEO of another, similar company to swap notes.
Birthday claps for my VP of Creative (see below for “birthday claps” definition).
3 hours of tasks, emails, and Slack messages.
Drive home, listen to Hidden Brain NPR podcast.
Have dinner, watch RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love Trixie, but Shangela was robbed.
Go on a long walk with my partner and dog.
Take a bath and review cuts. I have yet to drop my phone in the tub.
Meditate for 20 minutes, checking the time twice throughout.
Go to sleep.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Todoist. I’m a “Getting Things Done” fanatic.
Slack. We implemented it 4 years ago and it made us 50% more productive.
My Beats wireless headphones. I know audiophiles are snobbish about Beats, but I’m basic.
My Away backpack and luggage.
What’s your workspace setup like?
iMac, dark grey walls, low lighting. I try to keep it zen. I couldn’t make comedy in a stressful environment. I don’t know how certain high-stress TV shows do it.
What’s your best life hack?
All day, I listen to the sound of rain on RainyMood.com to help me focus.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
On someone’s birthday, we give them “birthday claps”: we start clapping, then gather around them, then sing “happy birthday,” then chant “speech,” then—the moment they start speaking — interrupt them with cheers. This exact tradition has been in place since 2006.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I use a combination of Todoist and the “Getting Things Done” method: I collect to-dos in an “inbox” and then organise them later by date and priority. That way, I wake up each day knowing what to do in what order. More recently, I added a #timely hashtag in order to distinguish between “urgent” and “important.” The magic of GTD is that it gets things out of my head and into a system so I can stay in the moment.
At any time, I have four tabs open: Todoist, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Slack. My calendar is first priority, my to-dos are second priority, Slack (internal communication) is third priority, and emails (external communication) are my last priority. These days, I often don’t email until 3 PM. I usually try to keep 3 – 6 PM free for Slacks and email so I can focus on meetings and to-dos the first half of the day. Since I’m on PST and our New York office shuts down at 6 PM EST, this works out well.
All this and then also people yelling at me.
How do you recharge or take a break?
All sorts of ways: A cup of tea, a 5-minute meditation, walking around the block, noodling on a guitar, wandering around the office and distracting my team members. On the weekends, I sometimes go to the Korean spa and alternate between the hot tub and the cold dip just to give my body a shock.
What’s your favourite side project?
I make silly videos on social media. The tools on Snapchat and Insta stories are great for fooling around. Making comedy is easier than ever before. This could eventually put me out of a job.
What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Any of Netflix’s programming department; The Far Side’s Gary Larson. What is he up to these days?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
From my high school drama teacher, Mark Lindberg: “It’s not how much you want something; it’s how long you want it for.”
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Usually, my best ideas and revelations come to me when I’m bored. I’d love to be bored more, but there just isn’t time.