Lindork’s Lists – Q&A #31: Brittlestar (Stewart Reynolds)
Note: this is the public version of my email newsletter Q&A that gets sent to paid subscriber inboxes first every other Sunday. You can get these Q&As in your inbox first by becoming a paid subscriber.
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on June 19, 2022
The thirty-first person I’m profiling in my newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Social Media Personality Brittlestar
Getting to know Brittlestar:
I am a BIG fan of Brittlestar! If you live in Canada and use the Internet, I feel confident that you’ve watched a Brittlestar video. Stewart Reynolds (his real name is not Brittlestar lol) is a very popular 52-year-old comedic social media content creator and personality (he suggested I call him a “social media darling” lol) who started down this new career path later in life (when he was 43!!)
I can’t remember exactly when I started following Stewart but I know that I now look forward to watching all of his videos.
During the pandemic, he used comedy and his videos to create commentary around vaccinating, masking, and other important topics that I absolutely loved.
Stewart is a creator of family-friendly but irreverent videos that tackle current issues and everyday drama and his production value is SO GOOD. That is something I did notice early on when I started watching his videos—remarking on the high quality of the camera shots and editing (in addition to the funny content).
Later when I saw him doing funny videos with his content creator son Gregor, I was fascinated with that idea of a content creator dad.
Stewart is hilarious, super smart, and to be honest, I would say a national treasure lol. And I think his story is an inspiring one for anyone who thinks maybe what you’re currently doing isn’t what you want to do, or thinking maybe it’s too late to try something different in your life—it’s not!
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Brittlestar:
Can you describe the work you do and how long you have been doing it?
I make comedic videos for social media as a job. Yes, it is ridiculous. I’ve been doing this as a full-time gig since 2013. I started when I was 43 years old, so no excuses for all you people who think they’re past it.
I think you’re really funny. How did you get so funny? lol
Awww, thanks! Growing up it was always the goal to make others laugh. My family is Scottish and a big part of Scottish culture is storytelling. The funnier you can make a horrible story the better. When I started TRYING to be funny in my videos, that was a whole different ball game. I quickly realized that something that is funny in person, might not be on the screen. So, I read up on what comedy is and why people laugh. That helped me understand what things might be actually funny to someone I’ve never met.
- How did you get into making videos and funny content?
Back in 2013 our family was BARELY coming out of an 8 year period of fiscal collapse. Our previous business had been hacked which meant we lost about 80% of our clients in 48 hours. The year after the hack we lost a major contact that was worth six figures annually. My tax bill in 2008 was 5x the amount of my GROSS revenue that year. It was no fun. I happened upon a supercut of The Office outtakes and thought wow… I would love to laugh every day. And then I thought…wait when was the last time I laughed out loud? And I couldn’t remember. That same week my youngest son, Gregor, showed me an app called Vine. It had 6.4 second looping videos that you made on your phone. I started making silly videos and posting on them on the app as a form of free therapy. A way to make myself laugh each day. How did you get into making videos and funny content?
Can you share a super memorable video or collaboration you’ve done? Why did you love it?
Filming with Gordon Ramsay was super fun. He’s incredibly nice and total pro. We were working with Rogers at the time and they set it up for us. We initially pitched a comedy sketch… Rogers loved it however Rogers hadn’t told Ramsay or his staff about it. When they found out, they refused. So on the drive into Toronto we came up with a game of Canadian Trivia vs Cooking Trivia. A friend of mine who’s a chef wrote the cooking questions and I wrote the Canada questions. My wife, Shannon and our two sons, Owen and Gregor and a hired sound man were the crew. Gordon thought that was hilarious.
- Can you share a memorable moment or ‘successes’ in your career / life?
Being invited to the White House for Prime Minister Trudeau’s arrival ceremony by the Obamas was a high point.
It was surreal to think the most powerful government in the world saw value in my little videos and wanted me there.
First highpoint? Going to the Vine Meetup in Toronto in 2013. As I was crossing the street to the event at Yonge and Dundas Square a woman, in her late 50’s, ran up to me and hugged me. She then thanked me and told me my videos had got her family through a dark time. That was my first taste of true success in doing what I do.
- Can you share a challenging moment, obstacles or failure in your career / life? And perhaps what you learned from it or how you overcame it?
Working in social media means failure is a possibility every day. The digital landscape is a rolling angry sea. It’s rarely calm. The good thing is that because the landscape is far from static, you can make mistakes, learn and move on. Redemption is a scroll or a new post away.
- During the pandemic, you’ve used your platform / videos / content to make commentary around things like getting vaccinated, wearing masks, how to tell you’re on the right side of an issue, etc., can you talk about why it’s important for you to speak about those issues / using your platform to communicate social issues?
At the start of the pandemic, in March 2020, we lost a HUGE contract that was essentially a year’s worth of income. We didn’t know what to do. Then I thought, I have this decent platform, maybe I could do some good.
It was apparent to me from the outset of the pandemic that getting through it would be (to borrow a phrase from Rex Chapman) a team game. I saw it as a war effort. All hands on deck for the greater good.
Dr Tam here in Canada is our top public health official. She is AMAZING… but I could tell her messaging might need some help.
So I thought I might try to help out. Millions and millions of views later, hopefully it did help.
- Can you talk about how you manage trolls or negativity online? (And advice for others to do the same?)
There are mainly two types of trolls on social media (excluding bots); the people who are trying to be funny by insulting and the people whose own lives are transparently not great.
I have a policy, that I very occasionally stray from, to never engage. People who leave nasty comments are rarely to be converted. They also feed off of engagement. Not to mention the algorithmic benefit (to them) of amplifying these wienerbrains.
I consider the trolls to be like a belligerent drunk idiot in a bar. Don’t sit next to them, move away from them, ignore, ignore, ignore.
- One of the topics you talk about is how you’re never too old to “start again”—can you talk a bit more about that premise? How old were you when you started making these videos / when your career changed into what you’re doing now?
I was 43 when I started my social media content creator journey.
I would get invited to these social media conferences and I would be excited to meet other creators whose videos I had seen… then I’d meet them and realize they were less than half my age. Then I’d ask where their parents were.
Opportunity doesn’t care how old you are and it’s not very punctual.
- What is your advice for people who want to make engaging content like you?
This will sound cliche but… be authentic. I don’t mean reveal all and have zero barriers. I mean, find a way to be true to yourself in what you create. Social media is an incredibly intimate medium. People are literally cradling you in their hands while they’re in their most vulnerable states… in bed, in the bathroom, on the bus. If you are aware of that relationship and give people content they can use (utility is the secret to virality), you’re off to a great start.
- Your whole family is pretty content-oriented, did this happen because you went down this road? And what is the dynamic like between content creating children and parents!
- Both of our sons are incredibly creative and much more skilled than I am. They were 11 and 14 when we started this crazy job, so it was all around them. It wasn’t always fun but it had a lot of fun bits. I would hope that made an impact. This idea that you can create things that benefit other people. But to answer the question… we had no money and then we found a social media content crop in our fields… so the family did what the family had to do. We worked those crops.
- What does Brittlestar mean?
Haha! It was a band name. I was making an album in 2004 and didn’t want to release it under the name ‘Stewart Reynolds’ because I couldn’t imagine that on a t-shirt. Not cool enough. So, our eldest son Owen, who was three at the time, had a favourite marine life book we’d read before bed. It had a section on starfish and Brittle Stars are these long spindly starfish that can “see” with their tentacles and they defecate out of their mouths… and I thought, perfect.
Can you tell me about your hobbies! What do you do for fun?
Make videos and make music for videos! It’s all-encompassing.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your work professionally, personally, or anything that I’ve missed that you’d like mentioned?
I’m lucky and I’m grateful.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix?
Severance on Apple TV+ for the cinematography alone.
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
What is one of your favourite local restaurants or stores you’d recommend?
What’s something about Canada you love or recommend others check out?
Canada is packed with fantastic spots. I’ve recently returned from the Yukon, so I’ll say Lake Laberge in March when it’s still frozen and snow covered is just about as magical a place I’ve ever been. It was the most natural silence I’ve ever experienced. I even recorded the audio on my phone… which of course, is silent. :)
Thanks Stewart, for sharing your story!
You can connect with Stewart on:
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