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Chewing it over with Videogum.com editor and 'U' alum Gabriel Delahaye

BY BRIGID KILCOIN
Daily Arts Writer
Published November 10, 2009

"People don't really realize how much work it is to write a professional blog. I think it's because of how stupid blogs are. But they are incredibly work-intensive."

Although many might not equate "professional pop-culture blogger" with "grueling occupation," University alum Gabriel Delahaye, a senior editor of entertainment blog Videogum.com, wants to clear up a common misconception: Getting paid to provide commentary on YouTube videos and write snarky recaps of television shows isn't as simple as it seems.

"Videogum is my full-time job. I work about 60 hours a week, and it would be easy to work more. Then most nights I watch something on TV to write about the next day. I'm very lucky to have a boss that likes my work and trusts me, so there is basically no editing hierarchy. That is definitely one of the reasons there are so many typos on the site all the time," Delahaye wrote in an e-mail interview.

"I mostly cover what I want to cover, and what I want to cover tends to be things that I hate," Delahaye wrote. "I mean, it's much easier to be funny about things that are terrible or silly or flawed than it is to be funny about things that are genuinely wonderful and enriching and beautiful."

It's easy to believe that someone who watches TV for a living would prefer to do anything else in his free time. But Delahaye is different. Despite making a living by critiquing the awful, the hackneyed and the woefully misguided, he still has a soft spot for television, easily providing a list of his favorite shows.

"I love '30 Rock,' and 'Tim and Eric,' and 'Arrested Development,' and 'The Wire,' and 'Lost,' and 'The Sopranos,' and 'Mad Men,' and 'Friday Night Lights,' and 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force,' and 'Eastbound and Down.' I genuinely think we are living in a golden age of TV and of comedy. It's never really been any better than this."

But this doesn't mean he's able to completely switch off the critic's mindset.

"It's definitely harder to enjoy TV now because everything is a potential subject, and I'm much more aggressively critical," he wrote. "But good shows are still good, and there are a few things that I watch that I don't write about specifically so that I can just enjoy them and not have to think about what Locke becoming the leader of the Island says about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That's a bad example, though, because I write about 'Lost.' And because Locke becoming the leader of the Island is more about NATO's role as an international police force."

The comments on Delahaye's Videogum posts are often as amusing as the posts themselves, with dozens of anonymous posters slavishly imitating his unique style and attempting to one-up his commentary. Others criticize his repetitiveness and constant cynicism. Despite the polarizing nature of his writing, Delahaye loves the feedback, going so far as to create a site feature where he posts his five favorite comments each week.

"Oh, it is incredibly flattering. Sometimes I worry that I'm too predictable. But I'm also writing about 12 posts a day, so it is hard to reinvent that many wheels," Delahaye wrote.

And bored college students aren't the only ones paying attention to his work.

"I did get an e-mail from Verne Troyer last winter telling me that he hoped I got hit by a bus."

Troyer's dismay is a little understandable: Delahaye's jaundiced views can seem needlessly harsh to someone unfamiliar with his sense of humor. However, he accepts that many will react negatively to his work.

"I'm very aware that a lot of the people that I write about on the site are trying their best to actually create something, even if what they're creating is terrible," Delahaye wrote. "I respect that. But I also figure that anyone who just sold their Tumblr to NBC or is making $10 million to star in a movie about a hotel for CGI ferrets can probably handle someone calling them names on a pop culture blog."

Prior to serving as professional media gadfly, Delahaye attended the University of Michigan. As an Ann Arbor native, the decision was natural.

"If this was a Lifetime movie, I would tell you that I didn't decide on Michigan, but rather Michigan decided on me. But this is not a Lifetime movie, and that is a ridiculous thing to say," Delahaye wrote.

Not content to simply focus on his studies, Delahaye worked at famed Ann Arbor liquor store Village Corner during his collegiate career, inspiring terror in underage Wolverines.

"Oh, it was really a power trip in the worst way," he wrote. "I loved taking people's fake IDs and I had no sympathy for them at all, despite the fact that I was only 18-20 when I worked there. I think my philosophy was that if you were underage and you wanted to drink alcohol, you should just get a job at a store that sold alcohol."

After graduation, Delahaye joined the mass of Midwest college graduates descending upon New York and searched in vain for a media job, but he found life as an East Coast transplant challenging.

"I moved to New York the fall after college, and I hated it," he wrote. "The thing about New York is that if you're not happy with what you're doing, it's the most depressing place in the world, because it's not like some coal mining town where everyone is unhappy with what they're doing and you just drink about it. Then again, in New York's defense, I think part of the problem was I just didn't know what I wanted. And I didn't know how to figure out what I wanted and stay in New York, so I left."

Delahaye finally found his niche in Internet-based writing, and his familiarity with cyberspace led to his job at Videogum, a blog that collects reader-submitted video links and offers commentary on them in a way similar to its sister site, Stereogum, compiles music links. Despite — or perhaps because of — his familiarity with the medium, he disparages the majority of Web-based content.

"I got involved by starting a LiveJournal, which is a free blogging service reserved for children. But that ease of access is great for young people trying to get their writing out there. On the other hand, it is terrible for people actually trying to read the Internet for pleasure. Because, let's be real: most of it is terrible. 90 percent of the Internet is a nightmare. After that, 9 percent is top-10 lists of kittens wearing casts. And the other 1 percent is actually decent."

Despite his slow beginnings, Delahaye doesn't dissuade other starry-eyed kids dreaming of ripping apart the latest shitty media in a public forum.

"I think that getting a job in the entertainment industry is difficult, but I think that getting a job in any industry is difficult. Except stripping."


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