In an age where popularity is measured by page views and virtual subscribers, Graydon Sheppard has quickly risen though the ranks. Cocreator of “Shit Girls Say,” the popular Twitter feed and YouTube video series, Sheppard finds inspiration in mundane but devilishly funny girl-isms—one-liners like “Twinsies!” and “Get these chips away from me.”
The Toronto-based filmmaker, photographer, and, most recently, funnyman, studied at the MFA film program at Columbia’s School of the Arts from September 2009 to May 2010. “And then I ran out of money,” he said, laughing. “So that’s why I left. It’s hard to get funding to go to school in the U.S. from
Sheppard said that while he would have loved to have completed his degree, he wouldn’t have had it any other way in light of his recent Internet success.
The idea behind the Twitter account occurred to him and his boyfriend Kyle Humphrey spontaneously. “We were sitting around one day watching TV or something and one of us said, ‘Can you pass me that blanket,’ and it kind of struck us as something a girl would say.”
They started tweeting in April 2011, and within a day or two, had accumulated over 200 tweets. Now, the first installment of “Shit Girls Say” has 14 million views.
While their spitfire aphorisms are far from politically correct, the sayings are colored by a reality that is stranger than fiction. “We started thinking about the complexities and layers of what might be said and what might be funny about it, and we tried to go beyond things like, ‘My butt looks fat in these jeans,’ and those kinds of clichéd jokes.”
Much of that knack for complex observational humor is rooted in his and Kyle’s relationships with the women in their lives. “We grew up around strong women, with single mothers and sisters and grandmothers and aunts, and our ears were tuned to these things,” Sheppard added. “It just dawned on us that there was something funny in that.”
His intention, though, is not to tell specific stories, but rather to document “what people say en masse.”
Not surprisingly, Sheppard admits that most of the comedians he looks up to are women, particularly those who are “unapologetic and willful and strong and funny.”
He also prefers comedy with strong female leads, and takes inspiration from sitcoms like “Strangers With Candy” and “Nighty Night.”
Out of a desire both to direct and perform—and with past drag experience to boot—he shot and cut three videos in December, featuring cameos from actress and singer Juliette Lewis. Sheppard still has a fourth video in the works.
As the YouTube uploads acquire Internet meme status, copycats in the style of the original videos crop up daily—including Spectator’s “Shit Columbians Say”—slicing and cataloguing the online and offline populations one video at a time. “It’s nothing but flattering,” Sheppard said. “We haven’t seen them all, obviously, but some of them are quite good. The way the Internet works, I think it’s really exciting to have.”
Out of those viewed, he finds “Shit Monks Say” and “Shit Nobody Says” to be particularly clever.
Beyond the world of “Shit X Says,” Sheppard designed the album art for Feist’s most recent release, “Metals,” and has directed selected music videos and short films.
But rather than detaching his side projects from his more serious work, Sheppard remains optimistic that he can integrate his visual skills and past experience as a filmmaker into comedy.
“This opens up so many doors for me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do comedy, and I didn’t know if I was allowed, I guess you could say.”
Despite his self-proclaimed “freedom to be funny,” Sheppard hesitated before replying when asked to say something representative of the typical Columbia student.
“I don’t go below 96th.”