Jus Reign was shooting a commercial for Sprite when the news broke that Vine would shut down permanently. The Toronto-based comedian catapulted to viral fame during Vine's brief, but crucial, tenure on our social media timelines. At first it was just my Indian friends and I that would share his six-second sketches about mean dads, classical interpolations of popular rap songs, and other absurdist jokes; but pretty soon, all kinds of pals were sharing and tagging me in his clips.
His success on Vine offered proof that South Asian audiences exist, and that non-South Asian viewers were happy to watch a dude in a turban tell jokes. "Vine grew my audience so that bigger and more mainstream opportunities started coming my way," said Jus Reign, when we spoke the day after the news broke. It's also the reason he's getting Sprite money now.
How do you feel about the news that Vine is shutting down?
It’s crazy. It’s surreal. But, I mean, instagram was ruthless when they came out with videos and it gave Vine a run for its money. Vine was easily one of my best social media shindigs, you know? I’m a little bit sad. Vine has done a lot for me in terms of taking me to another level of my career.
Before Vine you were making YouTubes. Would you say that joining Vine changed your career?
100%. I had no idea how big Vine would be. When I joined I had started to realize I’d kind of plateaued. I’d wanted to experiment with different things on YouTube, but every time I’d make non-South Asian related content people would be like, “Oh man, you’re not funny anymore. Why don’t you make more Desi Parents videos! What is this?!” So I was scared to make stuff that wasn’t not for South Asians.
I didn’t initially start a YouTube to make brown content; I just wanted to make shit that was funny. I got stuck in that niche market and it was hard to transition out; Vine helped me find my real audience. It got me to rework my creative juices and tackle making content in only six seconds. Trying to make someone laugh in six seconds is a challenge. I had a lot of fun doing it and that really launched me to another level: that was the first platform that I hit a million followers on. And then people were like, “Wow, my favorite Viner has a YouTube channel?” People had no idea I'd already been making videos, so it brought a new audience to my YouTube and other social platforms. It had a big part to play in getting me out of my creative plateau and in terms of building a [wider] audience.
Do you remember your first Vine that went super viral?
I was in India and I made a Vine of me standing in the mirror singing [Bryan Silva's “Fufu Lame Shit”] in a Punjabi-style. That went very viral. And I also started the “Do you even listen to Drake?” series in India where I just drove around asking random people, merchants, people on the street, like “Yo, do you guys even listen to Drake?” and they’d be so confused. Those ones went really viral.
My friends and I still really love the T.I. one…
Oh right! That one went super, super viral, and like T.I. and Ludacris and all these rappers posted it.
Is there a Vine that you're most proud of?
There’s the one I made with Desiigner, the polar bear song. I'm very proud of that.
I know YouTubers tag each other all the time, but Vine felt like it had a real authentic community vibe. Would you agree?
There are different groups on Vine. There are top Viners that made very generic Vines, like, [does a funny voice] When you get your homework and your bae — things like that. There’s another group, that I was in, that parodied that. And then there were artistic Vines, and so on. People met through those groups and became friends through that.
I met some of my best friends on Vine, some people I’m going to make future content with. Wahlid is one of my really good friends now and we’re going to be working on so much more scripted content and bigger projects, all because we met through Vine. Guys like Zach Piona and Cody Ko — the friends we have, we built from there. And now we’re working on bigger and better projects and that’s all because we met through Vine.
How did you meet Wahlid?
He was one of my favorite Viners; I liked how outlandish he was. I really loved his Vines and one day he messaged me saying that he loved mine too. When I was in L.A. we met up and had lunch and instantly became friends. Also, he’s Afghan so he made a lot of Vines that I thought were hilarious, like TSA-related things or Vines about bad terrorism jokes — these are things that I could relate to. Our sense of humor is pretty much exactly the same.
You've been using Vine less and less. Why is that?
I still love Vine and I think I’m going to make a whole streak before it goes out; me and Wahlid have been talking about it. I started using Snapchat more because it was easier for me to tell longer stories. But I also think [the market] just got way too competitive. Before, YouTube was pretty much the only video platform; now there’s Vine, Twitter videos, Facebook video, etc. Everyone wants a piece of that market. Vine was easily digestible, short form content — and then Instagram came in with 15 second videos and took a big chunk of that market.
And then I feel like there was also a Vine coup. I’m not sure exactly what happened but it was something like all the top Viners would always be on the Explore page, which made it harder for new Viners or those with less of audience to get recognition. So Vine started curating the Explore pages with videos that were really actually funny [and not just popular] and I think that bothered some people. Vine was just trying to give others a chance too because for so long the Explore page was just dominated by the same people.