Corrections: Weird Paul is 49 years old (we stated he was 42) and the wall of tapes mentioned below is not a wall in his parents house but in his own home.
Will Work for Views is one of those truly random documentaries that one finds on a streaming service late at night after looking at the recommended movies on several other films until you find the one odd one that makes you go, “Sure, why not.” Little did I know that I was entering an interesting world where the 1980’s lives on.
Who is Weird Paul?
Weird Paul, whose real name is Paul Petroskey is a 42-year-old man who has recorded most of his life on VHS. Weird Paul is the original vlogger and his tapes fill an entire wall in his parent’s house. He sports a unique look (which we get into!) and his voice isn’t half-bad either. His songs (as you’ll see) have some interesting topics including a Hello Kitty Necklace and a desire to change his clothes. Radio-ready? Probably not. Ready for Youtube? Absolutely.
When you watch the documentary, you get a feeling from Paul that he is still that quirky teenager that you see in his older videos. The kid with tons of ideas a couple of lamps and a highly-prized video camera. He still has that young energy, and although his body has reached middle-age, his mind certainly has not gotten the memo. His videos are simple, there are hard cuts, and he still seems like he’s just an interesting teenager talking about the things that he loves. If YouTube had existed in the 1980s, Weird Paul would blow today’s stars out of the water. It is hard to imagine a world before YouTube opened up the possibilities of what people would watch. Weird Paul takes us back there in the most 21st century way possible.
Like many Xennials (those folks in between Generations X and Millennials) Weird Paul has seen the rise of computers, gaming systems, the internet, and other things that the rest of us take for granted. People like him have a strong sense of the world before the internet. A world before CGI, fancy graphics, and other digital effects that are uniquely modern to our age. For those of us old enough to remember that world, Weird Paul is a blast from a welcomed past.
The Dream Lives On
I asked him about his love of nostalgia (see his answer below) and I have to say that it is easy to get sucked into a time where the world seemed full of possibilities and was far simpler. It would be easy for Weird Paul to be some sort of weird anachronism. He could seem out of touch, out of time, and out of place and yet somehow he doesn’t. In his world, the 1980s are still alive and they are still vital. He bridges a gap from the world of the late 20th century to today without making it seem weird and somehow that’s comforting. I think that’s why Weird Paul is so important and popular, he provides a certain amount of nostalgic comfort that those of us in the over 35 crowd definitely need in these tough times. Weird Paul is the guy who had a dream and never gave up and somehow is existence makes the rest of us feel better. He’s that guy in your hometown who had a dream and never made it out but never let the dream die. He is doing exactly what he needs and wants to be doing and somehow in the chaos of the world around us, Weird Paul is still out here being himself and producing truly great content.
What is it about video that attracted you to recording things in the first place?
I wanted to document things, I wanted to make films and music videos. I had a tape recorder when I was a pre-teen and I used to record myself talking about what I was doing that day and also made little scripts that my sister and I would act out. I thought it would be really cool to be able to make actual movies instead of just sound. Also, in the early 80s, I was obsessed with movies and music videos. So, I wanted to make my own.
What is your favorite video?
Out of all the movies that I made, my favorites are:
“A Phone Call To My 14 Year Old Self” (2016)
“We’re Not Gonna Take It Twisted Sister Homemade Music Video” (1985)
“Suburban Disillusion” (1989)
“The Summer of ’85” (1985)
“1984 McDonalds Breakfast Review” (1984)
Where do you get your inspiration for your quirky music videos?
From all the music videos that I watched growing up. I was obsessed with music videos from 1983-1989. We didn’t even get MTV until January 1987. So for years, I would watch every strange channel in the UHF band to find all the obscure music video shows. Which was great because I saw some really strange stuff. I watched so many videos…I had a list at one time back in 1987, it was over 2,200 videos. I threw the list away but I still have notecards with every video that I knew about listed on them. So, I still think about all the images I saw back then and ways of moving the camera and placing it. I definitely don’t like making videos where there’s nothing going on. I want the videos to be as interesting as I can. Cinematic.
What did you plan to do with your videos before Youtube and other platforms came along?
I tried showing them to my few friends and I was allowed to show them at my high school a few times in classes. I saw other people’s videos shown on television (this was long before America’s Funniest Home Videos) and I hoped mine could be shown on TV, too (though I had no plan on how to make that happen). In 1989, I put some of the music-related ones on a VHS tape that a few people bought. But very few people understood them or what I was trying to do. I had to wait until YouTube came along, now they are found to be entertaining.
You seem to really lean in on the nostalgia of childhood, why is that?
I think there are lots of reasons. One is that it’s an area that I actually have interesting things to talk about and present to other people. Most people don’t have their old home movies (if they ever did), journals, toys, artwork, etc. I have lots of it. It helps other people to get their memories back when they see it, it’s like getting back a part of who they are. Apart they lost. For me personally, my family was not rich (we were very lucky to have been able to get a video camera) and I rarely got new toys, magazines, comic books, records, etc. So those things that I did get became very important to me. Now I am trying to catch up on all the things I never got. Watching movies that I couldn’t see, listening to music that I couldn’t hear, reading magazines I didn’t have, collecting toys we couldn’t afford. Better late than never!
How did the documentary come about? What was that like?
There was already a documentary about me, that came out in 2006. “Weird Paul: A Lo Fidelity Documentary” was an official selection at a couple film festivals, including the Leeds International Film Festival, that year. So by the time I was approached about doing
another documentary, I had been waiting for someone to make another one for awhile. Now I am waiting for the third one to be made. “Will Work For Views” came about when the company Interesting Human Media contacted me. They found my YouTube videos and saw that there was a story to be told.
What is your favorite toy/franchise/movie from the 80s and 90s?
I loved my Star Wars figures in the 80s, like a lot of kids. That was my favorite franchise for sure. My favorite 80s movie is Caddyshack, I saw it in 1983 on TV, watched it hundreds of times. It was only many, many years later that I finally saw it uncensored and was surprised to hear all the original uncensored dialogue. By 1990, I was almost 20 years old, so I wasn’t really into the 90s toys much…I was going to rummage sales and buying old 80s toys and 80s videogames. The 90s weren’t a very happy time in my life. I did watch thousands of movies in the 90s though. I’ve never even thought about what my favorite 90s movie is…maybe John Woo’s “Hard Boiled”.
How have you managed to do this for so long?
It’s my destiny. Anytime I stop doing it, I feel miserable. It’s what I am supposed to be doing with my life.
Do you think what you do is art?
What do you think about the latest trend in vaporwave/80s aesthetics?
I think it’s due. The right amount of time has gone by and now it’s considered cool, we’ve got all kinds of books, movies and TV shows taking place in the era. I would think that what I do could be very popular. The audience that’s consuming all the stuff that’s trending just needs to find me.
Do you miss the 1980s?
There are some things that I miss for sure. But of course, having grown up then, I miss them because they were an important part of my life. And I also miss discovering things – television, movies, music – it was totally random to find things, in many cases back then you had to go looking for it, it felt special to find something really obscure. Things aren’t as obscure now that so much is on the internet. A lot of my favorite things are things that still barely exist on the internet. Of course, having the internet now is something you wouldn’t want to lose. We didn’t have the ability to reach people all over the world back then…especially if you weren’t a famous actor or musician. I also don’t miss a lot of things about being a teenager. Especially being bullied in school, not having friends, etc. Middle school and high school in general. It’s hard to think about going back to a time when nothing is on-demand though, I can listen to any music I want now at any time.
Is there a special story behind your haircut?
I talk about that in the “How I Do My Hair” video, which is my most-watched YouTube video. My favorite band, when I was 17 years old, was the Ramones. I asked my mom to cut my hair like Johnny Ramone’s hair. It is a haircut that is perfect for me.
Please click on any of the above videos to visit Weird Paul’s channel and subscribe!