You or someone you know has undoubtedly sat in front of a computer and laughed out loud at YouTube sensation What the Buck, who has more than 30,000 subscribers. His videos, which are also on MySpace and his own Web site, buckhollywood.com, give his humorous, sarcastic take on all things pop culture. He’s done more than 300 videos so far, and he’s just begun to snark.
Buck is Michael Buckley, 32, who has always been drawn to performing. “My college degree is in psychology, but I was in the theater group and I did all the shows,” he says. “I always tell people I was never a great actor, singer or dancer. I was adequate. I was a male doing theater, and when you’re in high school and college, they certainly need males doing theater. I definitely had a false perception of myself.
“Now, as a grown-up, it’s fun to play myself,” he adds. “A couple of years ago, when I strategized what was next, I knew it wasn’t going to be acting. I enjoy playing What the Buck, which in many ways is an extreme version of me.”
In 2004, Buckley tried out for the TV show Survivor, and actually made it to the final 50 audition in Los Angeles. When he didn’t make the show, he began thinking about what he might like to do. He created a public access show for his Connecticut hometown, then in 2006 his teenage cousin posted a video on YouTube and soon there was a Buck buzz.
“I started covering American Idol in the spring of 2007 and that kind of got my first batch of attention. It was one video a week and now it’s like three or four a week. It’s become a second full-time job,” he says. “I’d never written before and suddenly I’ve written 300 episodes. I didn’t even know I would enjoy writing, and now I love it so much.”
He used to tape the videos at the studio where he did the old public access show, but recently he bought professional equipment and created his own studio in the home he shares with his husband of nearly seven years, who is also named Michael (one joke was about how it was impossible for them to adapt a Bennifer or Brangelina-like nickname) and their four dogs. Being totally out combined with the gay sensibility of his humor has generated a lot of feedback—both positive and negative.
“I’m not a flag carrier or a cause person,” says Buckley. “I’m not someone who’s here to play down stereotypes. I am just myself. Because I’ve become relatively successful and I have a large audience, I do get emails all the time from gay people who say because I’m married, I’m a good role model for the gay community. For me, it was never a big deal being gay. It was not something that was traumatic. It was just another part of who I was. So, when people say, ‘You’re gay. You’re a faggot,’ I say, ‘Tell me I wear glasses. Try telling me something I don’t know.’
“I didn’t necessarily start out to do that, but I realize that’s what I’m getting,” he continues. “I take it seriously when I get letters from kids who tell me how important it is to see someone like me. I enjoy putting myself out there.” Although he winces at some of the homophobic contents, he turns the joke back on the people who make them.
Although Buckley reveals a lot about himself, including the fact that he has a regular day job, he won’t say precisely what it is. He will say it’s a 9–5 office job that he really likes and occasionally he hears his own voice coming out of an office mate’s computer—commenting about American Idol, America’s Next Top Model, Dancing with the Stars or the latest celebrity scandal. Given recent events, he has tempered his comments on Britney Spears.
“My focus is to beat up on people she surrounds herself with, like the a-hole guys,” he says. “Then I pick on shows like Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood that exploit it. My show is the anti of those entertainment shows. I like to poke fun. That’s way more fun for me than going on one of these shows and pretending I’m a real entertainment reporter. ‘Let me tell you what’s going on with Britney outside the hospital.’ I don’t need that crap.”
Buckley has no idea where all his notoriety will lead. He does love the fact that he was recognized three times and asked to pose for pictures at a recent Spice Girls concert. He really enjoys the interactive nature of the Internet. And he’s likes the control he has over his content. That doesn’t mean he’s averse to winding up on television.
“I have some meetings coming up,” he says. “I do get approached for things (he’s made several appearances on FOX News offering celebrity commentary). Nothing life-changing has happened yet. I believe something will happen.
“I believe in my ability. I know I am putting out something funny and people are enjoying it. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. I’m 100 percent focused on continuing to crank out the product.
“I know I have a lot of people I’m trying to please. I gave up trying to please the people I was never going to please. I know what works for me and I know how to deliver material in a way that my viewers will enjoy.”