In 2015, comedian Sam Hyde's career was booming.
The sketch writer/performance artist had just sold a show to Adult Swim and his off-brand indie comedy, which had been incredibly influential in niche Internet communities like 4chan, was starting to gain wider appeal. Three years later, he's been almost entirely dethroned––his show canceled, his YouTube and Reddit communities removed, and his Twitter banned. His rise and fall offer a unique case study on the topic of censoring artists with disagreeable views. So what happened?
Sam Hyde is the most prominent member of the three-man sketch comedy troupe Million Dollar Extreme (MDE). The Rhode Island-based group gained recognition in niche Internet circles during the early 2010s. Their most popular videos, like "MDE WHYPZ : New Bedford Street Heat," involved publicly screwing with unassuming people. Their videos usually featured bizarre language and absurd graphics and were likely influenced by the stylings of their contemporary YouTuber, Cboyardee, along with other sketch groups like Tim and Eric. Unlike their influences, however, much of MDE's appeal revolved around their confrontational style, especially the way they interacted with their subjects who weren't in on the joke. It felt alternative, gritty, and most importantly, very funny.
Million Dollar Extreme - MDE WHYPZ : New Bedford Street Heat www.youtube.com
Hyde, in particular, gained wider notoriety for a number of public pranks. In 2012 he hosted a fake panel titled "Samurai Swordplay in a Digital Age" using the pseudonym "Master Kenchiro Ichiimada" at an anime convention in Vermont, tasking a friend with blocking the door so trapped attendees couldn't leave. Then in 2013, he pulled a similar stunt at a Drexel University TEDx Talk, delivering a satirical, jargon-filled tech speech titled "2070 Paradigm Shift" while wearing a maroon jumpsuit and a breastplate. These bits, especially the latter, made a splash in the underground comedy scene, giving Hyde clout as an edgy, alternative comedian.
sam hyde gives a ted talk: 2070 PARADIGM SHIFT www.youtube.com
While his fake panels were certainly aggressive performance pieces, they weren't cruel. The same could not be said for his other best-known 2013 performance, a "standup" routine at a Brooklyn venue that consisted entirely of Hyde reading ultra-conservative talking points against homosexuality with the intent of making everyone in the audience walk out. Gauging the artistic merit of a performance piece like this is especially difficult, as it largely hinges on its creator's intent. Is Sam Hyde a living "persona," like Andy Kaufman, who never breaks character to comment on the absurdity of society? Or is he a genuine homophobe? Or perhaps his intent really doesn't matter at all considering the damaging effect it had on LGBTQ viewers.
Privileged White Male Triggers Oppressed Victims, Ban This Video Now and Block Him www.youtube.com
The truth likely lies somewhere in between. Sam Hyde is a comedian playing an amped-up version of himself. But that exaggerated Hyde also expresses his real beliefs, at least to some extent. In many ways, Hyde is the embodiment of post-ironic comedy, using the guise of humor to walk the line between genuine and "just joking." That's not to say Hyde is actually a raging homophobe or evil cartoon villain. He addresses the routine with an air of regret in a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. But he's also a vocal proponent of alt-right ideology, which imbues a lot of his more controversial work with an added layer of maliciousness.
This toxicity, incited by Hyde and propagated by his fanbase, directly lead to his downfall. Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace premiered on Adult Swim in August 2016. By December, the show had already been canceled in spite of good ratings due to other Adult Swim-affiliated stars not wanting to work at a network that was supporting Hyde, especially when he had the power to instantly mobilize his small but rabid fanbase to brutalize any ideological dissenters.
Take, for instance, Hyde's interview with BuzzFeed News reporter David Bernstein following the release of his show. Hyde takes the interview opportunity, during which Bernstein attempts to gauge Hyde's actual viewpoints, to verbally abuse Bernstein, calling him insulting names and telling him that he'll never amount to anything in life.
(RE-UPLOADED) My Amazing BUZZFEED Interview w'ViewtifulBlockhead' Joe Bernstein! www.youtube.com
Regardless of whether or not Hyde's bit is funny or intended "seriously," the repercussions for Bernstein were certainly real. Many records of the online attacks against Bernstein have been lost due to purges of the MDE subreddit and various Twitter accounts, but a quick search for "Sam Hyde Bernstein" still reveals antisemitic, hate-filled threads on sites like Stormfront (which we won't link or support in any capacity) and r/TheDonald. In fact, many of Hyde's fans directly blame Bernstein for Hyde's deplatforming due to the resulting article. Hyde, on the other hand, blames Jews in a more general sense, along with fellow comedian Tim Heidecker who he seems to assume had something to do with MDE's cancellation.
Since then, Hyde's YouTube channel and Twitter account, along with the Million Dollar Extreme subreddit he moderated, have all been removed due to violating each platform's hate speech regulations. Hyde continues to generate content (rarely) for his few remaining followers on a private platform, but he's essentially been removed from every mainstream outlet.
In some ways, this is sad. Regardless of his political views, Hyde is a talented comedian and performance artist. He has a unique sense of humor and a knack for pulling off stunts. A lot of his content is very funny. It's a shame to see a good comedian essentially barred from performing. That being said, comedy, even satire, relies on the audience ultimately realizing the performance is a joke. You can't claim something is comedy anymore when its fans are actively sending death threats to the person being "made fun of."
Currently, Hyde's career prospects are barely a shadow of what they once were. He created a new YouTube channel which was immediately demonetized. Now he's hosting everything on a personal website behind a paywall, but his new content is lacking in quality and consistency, with a new release once every three months at best. In one video, Hyde goes on a massive "ironic" tirade against Adult Swim. In the most recent, he and his friends just harass people at their homes. His newer work completely lacks any relevant social commentary or greater point. It's not particularly funny either. Hyde's comedic voice has effectively been neutered.
Sam Hyde is living proof that free speech might prevent the government from censoring your views, but it doesn't force anyone else to support, promote, or monetize them. His career became a casualty of his own ideology. To be clear, Sam Hyde isn't just someone with conservative views. Rather, he facilitated and moderated a fanbase that actively spread hate speech and terrorized his enemies. His comedy wasn't just comedy with a right-wing twist. It was a comedy that inspired real-world harassment against specific people. Even in the free market of ideas, nobody should be forced to actively support toxic behavior. So they didn't – Reddit, YouTube, Twitter, and Adult Swim all showed Sam Hyde the door. That doesn't mean he can't still make comedy; he can. It just means that nobody wants to pay him for it.
POP⚡DUST | Read More...