The last episode of Ryan Shelton’s latest Instagram series Cliff 2 (the sequel to his previous Instagram series Cliff) will be uploaded today to his Instagram account. What will happen? Has Rebrecca killed Cliff? And is there a future in this kind of thing?
Before we vaguely answer at least one of those questions, just a reminder that Instagram only allows you to upload between 3 and 15 seconds of video. And when someone starts to play it, it plays on mute (the user has to tap again to hear the sound). And as soon as the video ends it starts playing again, and will keep playing on a loop unless the viewer taps to stop it or scrolls away. As if less than 15 seconds isn’t restrictive enough for a sitcom episode, in Cliff Shelton can’t have anything important going on sound-wise for the first 1-2 seconds because many people won’t hear it, and he’s got to create a clear endpoint or deliberately structure the ending so he can use the loop back to the start to his advantage.
That’s a lot to think about in a short video, but those restrictions lend themselves to comedy pretty well. Comedy works best when its pacey and loaded with gags, and here Shelton has no choice but to tell his story quickly and to look for any opportunity to insert humour. In Cliff 2 the characters are deliberately odd, with stupid wigs and outfits, who talk in bizarre language and suddenly do strange things – plenty of funny there!
This isn’t necessarily a fair comparison, but it’s a welcome contrast from the sketch shows which stretch out one weak gag over multiple weak sketches (Open Slather) or the sitcoms which waste time on half-arsed, waffly dramatic sub-plots (Please Like Me returns soon!). Perhaps the people with social media-era attention spans have the right idea about comedy after all – get to the gag as soon as possible!
And in the spirit of Cliff 2 we’ll keep this review brief and end it here… Or will we? (Yes – Ed.)