VIRTUAL VIRTUOSO. Internet star and musical sensation Rudy Mancuso shows what real “online talent” looks like
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Nowadays, the internet is awash with “online personalities”— musicians, streamers, comics and performers of all sorts trying to make it big on social media and video sharing services. That being said, it’s usually quite easy to tell the wannabees from those with real talent. Case in point: Rudy Mancuso. The comedic actor and musician made quite a name for himself on Vine and now shares his unique sense of humor with millions of his loyal followers on YouTube. Besides his online endeavors, Mancuso has also shown his capacity for greatness in various offline moments as well—such as when he opened for Justin Bieber’s Purpose World tour in Brazil earlier this year. Still, it would seem that all this is merely a grand opening act to an even bigger success story down the line.
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DA MAN: Hi, Rudy. Awesome to have you with us. So, let’s start at the beginning, when Vine was still all the rage. How did you get started in the video making business?
Rudy Mancuso: My infatuation with telling visual stories has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I remember discovering the world of video production through music. Then through video production I discovered the worlds of theater and improvisation. I then began shooting my own shorts and ads for local businesses. It wasn’t until my classmates physically showed me that I discovered the popular six second video app. I was immediately intrigued. To me, the challenge of having to tell a story in such a short amount of time was so interesting.
DA MAN: What was the video that put you on the map?
Rudy Mancuso: I can’t say there was any one video that put me on the map, but rather a collection of videos. Some were musical, some were comedic, and some were experimental.
DA MAN: What, or who, usually inspires your work?
Rudy Mancuso: Charlie Chaplin and my mother.
DA MAN: Obviously, today you’re shifted to YouTube. What was the transition from Vine-style short clips to full-length YouTube videos like for you?
Rudy Mancuso: I wouldn’t say I’ve shifted to any one place to create content. I simply use whatever platforms that are relevant to showcase my ideas. YouTube happens to be the most prominent of those platforms. It’s a place where I can tell any story I’d like with no restrictions or limitations. You couldn’t do that 50 years ago. Heck, you couldn’t even do that 20 years ago. The transition from short-form videos to longer-form was not only easy, but liberating.
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DA MAN: what, in your opinion, makes for a good YouTube video?
Rudy Mancuso: anything that feels true to the artist’s passion and voice ultimately makes for good content in my opinion. There’s nothing worse than watching someone create something that they’re clearly not passionate about. As rapid consumers of information, we see through it.
DA MAN: On a related note, what are the biggest challenges in making content for YouTube? The comment wars, perhaps? Or the changes in policy?
Rudy Mancuso: I try my best to stay away from reading comments online. It’s easy to get caught up in the feedback of the world, but I’ve found that the space gets too messy and complicated. Once my video is released, it no longer belongs to me, it belongs to the world. So, I let them have it, and proceed to starting my next project.
DA MAN: Your videos often touch on current issues. Do you usually have a specific message that you want to convey through your work?
Rudy Mancuso: I try to bring light to certain social, racial, and even political issues through my comedy. As someone with a very diverse background, I have a lot of inspiration when it comes to the subject of race and multi-ethnic characters. In my other works, though, I use music as a tool to tell stories. Overall, I’m constantly seeking unique ways to bridge the gap between music and comedy.
DA MAN: Speaking of your work, what is usually involved in making a typical video from planning to publishing?
Rudy Mancuso: It varies. There are times when I wake up with a bizarre idea in my head; I quickly write it down, structure it into a feasible script and then shoot it with my crew the next day. Other times, an idea can linger for weeks until I finally figure out how to structure it into a piece of content for the internet. I mostly edit everything myself, so that can take anything between one to five days, depending on the complexity of the idea. I believe my best ideas are always inspired by music.
DA MAN: Okay, so let’s talk about your music. When did your interest for this art form come from and how did it evolve over the years?
Rudy Mancuso: Music has always been my first and foremost passion. My mother told me I walked over to a piano when I was five years old and just started playing. The idea of understanding and composing music was always very natural for me. I taught myself piano, then drums, then guitar. Over the years, I’ve exposed myself to as many diverse sounds as possible, and ultimately came up with the idea of creating a one-man band act. Inspired by Charlie Chaplin, I’ve always been obsessed with the idea of one person doing various things at once. I’ve applied this concept to making videos—by writing, directing, editing and playing multiple characters myself. So, my next goal was to apply that to music and live performances. I asked myself, is it possible to emulate the sound of an entire band with just one person and not by clicking buttons on a computer? The answer is yes. It wasn’t easy, but I figured it out.
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DA MAN: Are there any other musicians that have heavily influenced your musical direction?
Rudy Mancuso: everything from Nat King Cole to Coldplay to Hans Zimmer to Tom Jobim. I love them all.
DA MAN: What would be the best way to describe your style of music?
Rudy Mancuso: My friend Poo Bear calls it “Soccer Stadium Music.”
DA MAN: You opened for Justin Bieber’s concert in Brazil back in march this year. Can you tell us a bit about how that came to be?
Rudy Mancuso: I’ve developed a friendship with Justin over the years in Los Angeles. Through my managers John Shahidi, Sam Shahidi and Shots Studios as a whole, the idea of opening for Justin shows came about organically, and Justin and I loved it. There were three shows in Brazil as part of the South American leg of Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour. As a Brazilian, it was the perfect opportunity to both perform my music in stadiums and connect with my Brazilian heritage in a truly impactful way.
DA MAN: All in all, what did you enjoy the most about the show?
Rudy Mancuso: My favorite part of the experience was the natural high of performing for the most energetic crowd I’ve ever seen in my life.
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DA MAN: Since then, you’ve also performed in shows for MTV, the Villa mix Festival and so on. Do you have any big plans for the future? Release your own album, perhaps?
Rudy Mancuso: I’ve had the strange luxury of having my first few shows be for crowds of over 50 thousand people. Most artists work a great deal for a long time to arrive at that point. I seemed to do things in reverse. Since then, I’ve been in the studio constantly working on original music. An album? Yes. Something like that is most definitely in the works.
DA MAN: Having already established your name as an Internet star, and now as a serious musician of note as well, how do you feel about where you’re heading right now?
Rudy Mancuso: For one, I want to continue working heavily on music. Although I’ve performed a fair share, I still haven’t officially released anything. I want to play more, record more and release more. Aside from music and online content, my team and I have been developing a very special TV show that will soon be announced. I and Shots Studios have partnered with some of the best people in film and television to create something very unique. It’s a project that we’ve been working really hard on and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition.
DA MAN: Are there any new fields or challenges that you would like to explore in the future?
Rudy Mancuso: TV. Film. Stage. Songwriting. Photography. Puppetry. Scoring. I have a solid understanding of what works on the internet, but I’d like to achieve that understanding in all fields. There are those who are good at one thing and those who are good at many. I want to be great at everything. In addition, I want to travel more. I’ve done a lot of work and performances in Europe and South America. I’d love to work in Asia.
DA MAN: What would you say has been your greatest achievement—personal or professional—of all time?
Rudy Mancuso: My greatest achievement has been finding the perfect team and support that allow me to bring my radical ideas to life, every day.
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DA MAN: And what would be the next big thing that you’d really like to achieve?
Rudy Mancuso: I really want to unite the world with a language that everyone understands: music.
DA MAN: A lot of people want to make a living by creating online content. What would be your number one piece of advice for anybody out there trying to make it big in your field?
Rudy Mancuso: Make something. Whether it be using the phone in your pocket, a musical instrument in your band class or your mother’s antique film camera, make something without thought or premeditation. It’s the only way you’ll figure out what you’re great at. The nature of the internet changes daily. The wheel’s constantly being reinvented. It’s a blessing and a curse. Take advantage of it.
DA MAN: Besides video creation and music, what else are you passionate about? What do you do for fun?
Rudy Mancuso: I love traveling, drinking wine, running, and watching movies.
DA MAN: One final question: Do you have a favorite phrase, quote or saying that really sums up your life?
Rudy Mancuso: “You’re the most handsome boy in the whole world.” My mom.
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