By Rob LeDonne
It’s happened to all of us. We’re sitting at our computers, and a friend or family member sends over the link for a humorous online video. “You have to see this,” typically reads the accompanying message, and once playing the video does its part to make you crack a smile and hopefully laugh. If this has happened to you within the past five years, odds are one of the videos was the brainchild of Michael Gallagher, a 2007 graduate of Torrey Pines High School who runs the comedic YouTube channel “Totally Sketch.”
“It started pretty organically,” explained Gallagher, who’s currently celebrating his five-year anniversary of making funny web videos. Growing up in Rancho Santa Fe and as a student at Torrey Pines, Gallagher had a deep interest in comedy and has worked at pursuing it in the intervening years. Since the launch of Totally Sketch in 2009, he’s racked up the views to prove his success, and his large collection of videos has netted Gallagher over a million YouTube subscribers and hundreds of millions of hits. In fact, one of his most famous videos — a raunchy yet silly skit called “Interactive Sex” — has racked up 108,000,000 views alone.
“That one probably has a lot of views because of its title, but we do a lot of videos in the ‘interactive’ series, and it’s set up kind of like a choose your own adventure book,” Gallagher explained from Los Angeles, where he currently resides.
What sets Totally Sketch apart from the many other channels that flood YouTube is that while Gallagher has a hand in every video, each one’s cast of actors changes to fit the sketch’s demands. For example, if a video needs an elderly man, Gallagher will cast an actual elderly man, instead of dressing someone up to fit the part.
“This is different from what ‘Saturday Night Live’ usually does,” explains Gallagher of the holy grail of sketch comedy television. “They have a certain cast of actors, and I think that’s limiting. Though, it’s probably the filmmaker side of me that thinks that.”
Gallagher’s filmmaker side can be traced back to his time studying at the Los Angeles branch of the New York Film Academy. While there, he cut his teeth on everything involved with movie production, right on the Universal Studios backlot.
“I learned quite a bit there,” Gallagher explains of the program that gives each student all of the resources of a professional filmmaker. The experience led him to want to pursue show business as a career, and throughout the rest of his time at Torrey Pines and beyond, he’s held a variety of random odd jobs. “I was assisting on everything. One of my first gigs was directing a commercial/music video for Sha Na Na,” Gallagher notes of the group from the movie “Grease.”
Shortly after graduating Torrey Pines, Gallagher began working on a daily webseries for an internet upstart, and then created Totally Sketch in 2009. “What really helped us was that a lot of people in the tech world with millions of followers were tweeting out the links to my first few videos,” Gallagher said. “From there, we made our own audience.”
In Totally Sketch’s past five years of internet videos, Gallagher has worked with countless people. Among them, Keith David (from classic comedy “There’s Something About Mary”); Roger Bart (the Tony Award-winning actor from “The Producers”); and the members of the Good Neighbor comedy troop whose members Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney (himself a 2003 graduate of nearby Scripps Ranch High School) are currently cast members on the aforementioned “Saturday Night Live.” In addition, Gallagher’s style of zany comedy has landed him high-powered Hollywood representation, as well as many fans in high places (including the actor Emile Hirsch, and Andy Samberg’s famed Lonely Island comedy troop).
Gallagher is also a creative executive and co-founder of YouTube network Maker Studios, which just last week was purchased by the Disney company for $500 million. Explained Disney CEO and Chairman Robert Iger to The Hollywood Reporter: “Short-form online video is growing at an astonishing pace and with Maker Studios, Disney will now be at the center of this dynamic industry with an unmatched combination of advanced technology and programming expertise and capabilities.”
Throughout it all, Gallagher realizes how lucky he is to have success in a career that genuinely interests him. “I’m doing what I love and having fun with my friends at the same time. What could be better than that?”
Check out Totally Sketch’s Youtube page at: