Mind the oxymoron, but Ed Bassmaster is a “seriously funny” human being. A man of many guises, this online sensation has a cult following in his hometown of Philadelphia, and is potentially on the cusp of nationwide US mainstream media recognition.
It’s a recognition that his comedic talent certainly merits. Boasting a modest 51,000 Facebook fans (http://www.facebook.com/OfficialEdBassmaster), and 9,000 followers on Twitter (http://twitter.com/edbassmaster) belies the fact that his plethora of sidesplitting alter-egos have amassed millions upon millions of YouTube views over recent years.
Indeed, Ed perfectly captures the essence of an eclectic array of eccentric caricatures including the lovable rogue “Skippy,” the articulate “Mumbles,” the delightful “Hacker,” the homie “Teste,” the testosterone-fuelled “Emilio” and inimitable sister “Tequila” (http://www.youtube.com/user/edbassmaster). A veritable ensemble of idiosyncratic individuals you’d be proud to take home to meet the parents.
I first encountered Ed as arguably his most revered character, the legend that is “Skippy”, when the globe’s largest MMA promotion descended upon Pennsylvania for UFC 133. It was an opportune moment for Señor Bassmaster to stitch up half of the UFC’s employers and employees, comprising the likes of top execs Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta, to fighters Rashad Evans and Matt Serra, and other integral parts of the company like behind-the-scenes liaison officer Burt Watson and octagon-girl Chandella Powell. His two ensuing videos are quite simply must-see material for any MMA fan. I subsequently decided to track Ed down in order to quiz him about his UFC 133 access-all-areas experience;
JS: Hi Ed, I saw your hilarious UFC 133 Skippy YouTube videos and felt compelled to contact you, the person, in order to obtain your thoughts on the whole experience. So you first met Dana before UFC 133 at the Preston and Steve radio show. Did you already know these radio presenters, and had you pre-arranged access into the building?
EB: Yes, I also appear on their show once in a while, and they are familiar with me. In fact, they generally let me on the show whenever I want to, there’s no set schedule. It’s just random, I’ll call regularly to find out who’s going to be on the show, and if it’s an interesting person then I’ll just turn up and improv. I actually had two tickets for the UFC 133 event, so I thought to spontaneously give the guys a call to find out whether any UFC characters would be dropping by to promote the event, and the producer informed me that the very next day Dana White would be featuring. He invited me to come along and mess with Dana a little. So we took the opportunity, and Dana didn’t have a clue he was being set up. He told me afterwards that he had never seen Skippy, or any of my other characters online. I kind of just bombarded him in the green room, the waiting room before the show started. I caught him off guard, and approached without really even asking if I could have an interview. Afterwards, I discovered that he thought Skippy was kinda “special”, so he felt bad for him, and that’s why he was giving him the time of day.
JS: Haha, absolutely. That must be part of the appeal with Skippy, the fact that he’s a bit “special”, but very endearing and that’s why people are very accommodating towards him. Ok, so briefly run through how you managed to gain access-all-areas pass to UFC 133?
EB: Well after the interview, Dana and I talked. He thought it was funny, and thought it would be hilarious if I came to the event dressed as Skippy, and he set the whole thing up. He actually hooked me up with as many tickets as I wanted, so I brought along 8 friends, and he sorted out floor tickets for us all.
JS: That’s immense. Okay, evidently you are hugely popular online. Have you ever been approached by a network to produce a show?
EB: I’ve been approached a few times, but I don’t really discuss it a lot because in the early stages anything could happen, and a lot of things fall through for different reasons. I’ve had several talks with various production companies. It’s usually the production companies that make the initial contact, because if they help produce a show, they will subsequently pitch it to the networks. Right now, I’m talking with a production company in Los Angeles that produces a very popular show that airs on a major US network, and they want to begin pitching a show for me. That bodes well. Basically, we’ve already started filming, and it’s in the beginning stages, but I don’t tend to mention it much, just in case a network doesn’t decide to pick it up. The show is in development, and the production company is producing a reel for it right now. But, I haven’t really told my Facebook fans because I don’t want them to get excited prematurely.
JS: Great. Presumably, the show stars all the characters that have turned you into an online marvel?
EB: Yeah, it’s basically what I do on YouTube with a reality element incorporated, because it will be filming the behind-the-scenes footage of my pranks. It’s essentially a reality show based around my life, how I set up the pranks, hidden camera footage, and following me during my day-to-day life as Ed hanging out with my family.
JS: Sounds fantastic. Moving back onto the UFC now, you already had two tickets before meeting Dana, so you’re obviously a fan?
EB: Yes, definitely. I’ve been watching MMA for around 14 years. In fact, even before then. I was hooked since I watched UFC 1. I don’t get time to read a lot online about MMA, but I do go on CagePotato every once in a while, or UFC.com. But mainly, I just watch the fights.
JS: Yes, I’m a fan of CagePotato too. So this wasn’t a case of having to research everything before you conducted the prank? Have you attended an event live previously?
EB: No, I didn’t need to research this one. I knew who everybody was and I was quite familiar with what was going on, which was kinda neat. However, it was my first live event, because it was only the second time the UFC has made it to Philadelphia, and I’ve never had the chance to catch one in Vegas or any other cities. I didn’t want to go to a UFC event unless I was near the cage, because I’d prefer to watch it on the big-screen at home. And even after attending the event, and sitting cageside, I would still say the view is better on TV.
JS: Ok, so consequently, as an old-school MMA fan, it must have been a big deal to meet all the UFC stars? Given that you characters provide a barrier, would you have been more nervous meeting them initially as Ed than Skippy?
EB: It was huge man, very exciting. I’ve met a few celebrities through this whole YouTube odyssey, but this was the most exciting for me. In terms of nerves, meeting these high-profile guys as Ed or Skippy makes no difference to me. I’m a pretty laidback guy, I’m easy-going and I don’t get intimidated very easily so meeting these people doesn’t really faze me. I do a lot of fishing also, and I got the opportunity to fish with my favourite professional bass fisherman Mike Iaconelli over here in the US, and to me that was more exciting than hanging out with Sean Penn.
JS: Fair enough, that makes sense. And did Dana authorise you to interview fighters at literally any time?
EB: The way it worked was, we were sitting down, and Dana’s assistant approached us when Dana wanted to see us. He informed us that Dana wanted us to prank Lorenzo Fertitta because he had no idea who we were. So, we went into the suite and filmed that segment. When we were finished, Dana told his camera guy to take us around the locker rooms to interview some of the fighters. I sent Dana the clips a couple of days later to gain his authorisation that I could put the material out on YouTube, and make sure it was cool with Lorenzo, and he text me back immediately to give me the go-ahead. I’ve actually chatted to Dana a few times since UFC 133, just small-talk, and he gave me his address so I could send him out a Skippy shirt. It’s kinda neat to be corresponding with a guy that’s as busy as he is.
JS: That’s very cool Ed. What struck me the most about your “carte blanche” backstage pass was the fact that you were permitted to interview certain fighters, like Tito and Rashad, before the fights, and the main event at that. That’s incredible really, because one would presume that the organization wouldn’t burden the fighters with any pre-fight commitments as they are getting in the zone.
EB: Well, Dana told his camera guy to take us around to interview all the fighters that had won already, and all of a sudden this guy was just taking us into every locker-room. I think Mike Brown was the only fighter that I interviewed who had just won. Both Rashad and Tito hadn’t fought yet, and like you, I thought that was insane, because these guys were in fight-mode. I mean, they don’t do regular interviews pre-fight, let alone being pranked, so it was crazy that this guy was giving us access. I don’t know how Dana White felt about that, because he didn’t say anything after seeing the video. All I know is that he found the video hilarious.
JS: Absolutely, it’s unbelievable but worked out brilliantly. For those you interviewed and revealed pre-fight (like Tito), I think the laughter probably helped to alleviate their pre-fight stress a little. Okay, so how come you decided to use “Skippy” for UFC event, and not one of your other characters?
EB: Well, I did “Skippy” on a whim at the radio station with Dana, there was no real reason behind it. I guess I just thought that “Skippy” was the right man for the job. And also, Dana is a smart guy, so he might have called my bluff had I pranked him as “Mumbles”, since “Mumbles” is generally a less believable character. I realized I may be able to secure more footage with “Skippy”. Dana White fell in love with the “Skippy” character, so didn’t want me to enact my other characters.
JS: Ok, and is Skippy your favourite character to play?
EB: I don’t really have a particular favourite, but “Skippy” is right up there. He’s probably one of the most popular, and most requested.
JS: Yes, I can imagine that. I’ve subsequently watched all your characters but I’m a fan of “Skippy” in particular. He’s immense. Obviously, it’d be difficult to pull of the “Skippy” prank again as most of the MMA community are now aware of the lovable rogue. If you were to be granted UFC access again which of your other alter-egos would you adopt?
EB: Yeah, a lot of people have asked if I’m going to do any more UFC stuff. Depending on how many people in the UFC saw that video, it’s obviously going to be impossible to prank somebody with the same thing over. In terms of alternate characters, I’d probably opt for the “look at this” guy (“Emilio”) because he’s so flamboyant, and totally the opposite of any other MMA interviewer. You don’t see any guys like “Emilio” in the fighting world, no writers or commentators look like him.
JS: Haha, indeed. His campness would prove distinctive in the macho environment of MMA. Ok, so before you alluded to the contact you’ve had with Dana since UFC 133. Has he, or anyone within organization, suggested you can do anything else with the UFC?
EB: Well, Dana had a woman from his media department contact me and ask if I’d like to work with the UFC in the future, helping promote events. I keenly expressed an interest, but we haven’t followed it up yet. We didn’t really discuss in what capacity I would be required, so I’m not too sure about how exactly they’d utilise me. Even though it wouldn’t be a prank per se, because most UFC people are probably familiar with “Skippy” now, I think it would be funny to have “Skippy” go to the events and conduct interviews, almost like Ariel Helwani does. It may not be quite as effective, but it’d still be funny, and we could catch a few people out.
JS: Yes absolutely, even when people are aware of “Skippy”, he’s such a lovable character that it could work. Have any other opportunities arisen from this UFC exposure? Is this the most amount of exposure you’ve received in one hit?
EB: As of yet, nothing has emerged. And I’m yet to hear about what the fighters thought about the final output, though I’d love to hear their feedback. In terms of exposure, the UFC video has accumulated around 200,000 hits, but I have a couple of YouTube videos that have around 6-8 million views a piece. They’re back in the archives.
JS: WOW, okay, did Lorenzo take you up on that massage off-camera? How was the hug from Rashad?
EB: Haha, no he didn’t. The hug from Rashad was amazing, I was totally blown away by that. Nicest guy I’ve probably ever met in my life, very sincere. He was just so laidback and relaxed. Once again, he thought “Skippy” was special and treated him very kindly. That really took me off guard, and I have a lot of respect for Rashad. I’ve been a big fan of his since season 1 of “The Ultimate Fighter”, and I was actually pulling for him to win against Tito. Just to see that side of him was really cool, and made me an even bigger fan.
JS: Yes, it was particularly special in light of the fact that he was literally moments away from stepping into the Octagon. Okay, where do I get hold of a “Skippy” shirt?
EB: It’s a website called “District Lines” (http://www.districtlines.com/Ed-Bassmaster/T-Shirts). It’s my own brand, and includes a “Skippy” T-shirt, “Mumbles” and a “Brady Bunch”-style collage of all the characters in the vlogs.
JS: Haha, immense. I was actually referring to the “Skippy” Hawaiian number that he rocks during filming. You’d see a lot of people turning up to UFC events with “Skippy” shirts in order to pay homage to the legend. In fact, you could also launch a “Mumbles” cowboy hat, and “Skippy” glasses. Can you actually see through those glasses?
EB: Hahaha, that’d be awesome. I can’t see through the glasses, and that’s why I do take them off as often as possible, because they hurt my eyes bad. There’s no alternative, there are no other glasses that magnify your eyes in that fashion without messing up your vision, so you’ve just gotta do it.
JS: Haha, okay, did you reveal the prank to everyone you spoke to, because from the video it seemed like you didn’t have a chance to (e.g. with Burt Watson, Charles Barkley, Rashad, Kenny)?
EB: With Rashad, I did hand him a YouTube card to reveal the prank, but one of his trainers appeared from the backroom to summons him. It all happened real quick, I showed him the card, he started to laugh and shook my hand, and then he was pulled away by one of his trainers. He appreciated the joke, but it wasn’t as funny as some of the other reactions (specifically Matt Serra) because it was interrupted, so I chose to leave it out. With Kenny, he was sitting in front of us during the fights, and he heard “Skippy” yelling “Kick his ass” throughout the fights. Kenny and his friend kept laughing, and I don’t think he had any idea what was going on. I then approached Kenny and handed him one of my YouTube cards. Afterwards, I saw him in the hallway and captured the footage, but I’m not sure if he knew what was going on. It was only a brief interview because someone was rushing him to go and do another interview. With Burt Watson, we just walked away, haha. In the end, we were walking around real fast and just stopping people randomly as went along. Same situation with Charles Barkley.
JS: Haha, you called him Morgan Freeman then just walked away, ingenious. Okay, and in your opinion, who reacted the best to being Punk’d? Who found it the most funny? Who was the most awkward?
EB: Matt Serra provided the best reaction definitely. I didn’t get the awkward vibe off anyone. Everyone that we let off the hook laughed and found it amusing. With Lorenzo, I don’t think he was 100% sure what was happening, even when Dana grabbed me and burst out laughing, and I revealed the prank to him. I mean, here’s a guy who’s a billionaire, has probably never been pranked in this way before, so was a little out of his element.
JS: Haha, absolutely. Conversely, Dana loves a prank so this worked perfectly. Moving onto Chandella, is she your favourite ring-girl? Would you rather have “scored” with Arianny or Brittney?
EB: Haha, yeah, she’s my favourite, she was very sweet to “Skippy”. In all reality, I’m a fight fan, so I don’t even pay that much attention to the ring girls.
JS: Haha, okay, well you’re a married man so we’ll leave it there, as I don’t want to get you into any trouble here. How did the fans at cage-side react to “Skippy”?
EB: Everybody tends to react to “Skippy” like they feel a bit sorry for him. With it being my hometown of Philly, there were a lot of people that recognised me. Even from the parking lot to the front door I was stopped several times by fans. When I was inside the arena, I could hear people yelling out “Skippy” from the stands, so I would stop for pictures as I was walking by. Most people that recognise me tend to ask for a picture.
JS: Great. And finally, obviously not many of us get granted the behind-the-scenes access apart from the snippets of Dana White Vlogs. How was the backstage UFC experience? Is it as manic as it looks?
EB: Yes, it is manic back there. There are people running around everywhere. Definitely a crazy scene.
JS: Okay, well thanks for your time Ed, it’s been a pleasure. I hope to hear big things from you in the future.
EB: Thanks Jonny, I appreciate it.
Follow Ed on Twitter @edbassmaster
Follow me on Twitter @jonathanshrager