By AMANDA MCCULLOUGH
Social media is changing how we communicate. Just ask me, through email I have had the most glorious opportunity to email Joey Richter, who just a few years ago was like you and I. A recent graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Performance with a concentration in acting, Richter didn’t really talk to his Resident Advisor but did love a good mustache party and enjoys the buck fifty hot dog deal at Costco, now has over 64,000 followers (and growing) on Twitter and 100 million (and growing) hits on YouTube . Why? His sophomore year of college he was a part of a YouTube hit known as “A Very Potter Musical.” Haven’t seen it? As soon as you finish this article go watch it, then follow it up with “A Very Potter Sequel,” “Me and My Dick” and “Starship,” all these plays written by the Lang brothers and music by Darren Criss. Composed of University of Michigan students they went from just a group trying to have fun and entertain to having a large fan base across the world. No literally, from the U.S. to the Philippines StarKid has found its way into the hearts of millions, though for Richter his mom is still his number one fan and supporter.
Through the fame (“if you can call it that,” he says) Richter has kept his life relatively calm and private; it’s one of the perks of being a YouTube hit who at the time was still in school, a big school. Unlike Mary Washington, Michigan is huge, and not everyone knows everyone and everything. When picking where to go, Richter was deciding between Michigan and New York University, and like many as soon as he stepped foot on campus he knew it was the place for him.
“I visited with my mom and just knew it was the place I needed to be. Everyone there was so nice and it seemed like they wanted you to go there, to join their family,” said Richter. Now, as freshman who have descended upon our very own school in August we often look back and think of ourselves freshman year.
“Did I really think using a lanyard was cool? Why did we walk so slowly? But mostly, we can remember the nerves of beginning college.
With such sights as Facebook, many freshmen are able to connect with not just fellow classmates but upperclassmen through groups before they even move in. Facebook helps ease the nerves for the many who flocked to the UMW Class of 2015 group in hopes of finding a friend or connection. As time progresses and classes get harder you start to find your niche and your group of friends but what if your group suddenly becomes a YouTube hit?
They didn’t do the show with the intention of it becoming a hit. Now, years later, they have formed an official production company known as StarKid now headquartered in Chicago, Ill.
“The chemistry we share and fun we have together is just too much to let go of. It’s contagious. I think that’s a part of the appeal of it all, people can feel that energy we share on stage. It’s kinetic, personal and very down-to-earth. We’re just a group of young adults who share a love for comedy, storytelling, music and theater, just like so many of our fans.” The group has performed at various conferences but for Richter when they premiered “A Very Potter Sequel” at Infinitus in Orlando summer 2010, remembers the feeling he had seeing over 2000 people crammed into an enormous ballroom, “screaming and going nuts over the show”.
From my correspondence with Richter, I could tell that even today he is still humbled and overwhelmed by the amount of dedication his fans have and just how grateful he is for them.
“They are a devout, talented and insanely sweet group of people and I owe so much to them” said Richter. It’s those traits and his respect for his fan is what I am sure will help raise him to the top of his next goal, entering the Film and TV industry.
While finishing up his senior year at Michigan, Richter was preparing for his fourth show and staring in “Starship” as Bug. A very different character then Ron Weasley who he portrayed in “A Harry Potter Musical.”
“Bug is so naïve and innocent. He was more of the straight-man so that was different from the quirky supporting role like Ron,” said Richter. “Starship” was also the first StarKid production in Chicago. It presented many challenges for the group. Half the show consisted of puppets and one of their stars was located in Ann, Arbor Michigan and not Chicago.
“We began scheduling with my professors back in November so that I could work it out with classes and still graduate on time and miss the least amount of classes. I went to classes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, leave for Chicago Thursday night, rehearsed Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night return to Ann Arbor and do it all over again.” Starship was sold out for all of its performances and Nicole Fegan a StarKid fan explained the atmosphere as being intense and breathtaking.
“The fandom surrounding Starkid is very internet based,” said Fegan and “Richter definitely did have the biggest amount of people surrounding him, he was incredibly nice, smiley and goofy. “Starship” was premiered on YouTube a few months later in May and was deemed a success by fans and critics alike and Richter once again proved that Starkid is no fluke or Rebecca Black.
Even if you’re not on YouTube, college is stressful, I know that and you as readers know that. We constantly have something hovering over us from deadlines, to exams on an everyday bases “You shouldn’t wait till the night before” said Richter but you should “enjoy a nice drink with your favorite professor (as long as you are legally allowed to!!)”. Let’s not forget the added distractors of Facebook and Twitter.
Yes, we Facebook stalk and yes, we follow celebrities. It’s more than that now; it’s a form of communicating, whether it’s a Facebook invite to a party to tweeting about an opinion in 140 characters of less.
“The problem with twitter is that people get an impression of you via series of status/links/etc. that consist of 140 characters.” Said Richter.
This might be where our life is very different compared to his. As someone who just has 90 or so followers, when I tweet it doesn’t reach a big audience. When Richter tweets he has an audience of over 64,000 followers and has learned that you have to draw a line somewhere or your life will be all over the Internet.
“My business is entertainment,” Richter says, “And yes there have been a few occasions in which I’ve used these sights to rally support for a friend, cause, project but I enjoy being silly and making people laugh too much. I understand that with everything that makes people laugh, there is a line drawn. Somebody will always be offended.”
You see this with his tweets. He keeps them light and funny and to the fan they appreciate it and contrary to popular belief he does read all his tweets from fans, including the various Tumblrs and blogs dedicated to him, which is another way our lives our different. As much as I think I should have countless Tumblrs dedicated to how awesome I am (yes, he has a Tumblr dedicated to how awesome he is) I don’t, it hasn’t gone to his head. He is still a young adult who likes playing Fruit Ninja on his iPhone, enjoys Taco Bell and thinks that guys who play guitar are always in the room when he hits on a girl. He took a chance going to Michigan, but we all take chances when we pick a school to spend the next four or five years at. It’s the halfway point of the semester and it’s up to you on want to finish it.
Richter lives in Los Angeles, CA. and has recently released a Hunger Game parody, and is now in Chicago with some of the StarKid cast preparing for the next big stop in his life, The Space Tour. The Space Tour consists of songs from the various productions they have done and is visiting multiple states and cities starting Nov. 4 and has sold out shows in almost all of them. With promises of a great show, I know I’m excited to go see what this group has to offer live at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD. on Nov. 20.