Why so serious? Hoezaay’s hilarious and heartwarming influencer journey gems
The OG (original gangster) digital content creator and influencer, the ‘funniest person on the Indian internet’, Bandra cyber-citizen José (pronounced as Hoezaay and also better known by that spelling) Cavaco is a former VJ (video jockey) and RJ (radio jockey). He has seen it all, the transition from the yuppie MTV culture of the ’90s to the age when “sabke pass phone hai (everyone has a phone), which means anyone can create content today”.
“I remember telling people back then, please don't even aspire to be a VJ. Back then if you wanted to perform, you either had to get onto stage or television or you had to be on a news debate. But, with the phone and the internet, everybody’s a content creator today, and the best part is you never know what's gonna go viral. Which is why I keep saying that anyone claiming to be an expert on this or that these days, doesn’t really know. It could be anything, a monkey scratching his butt could end up going viral,” says Hoezaay.
The podcaster, YouTuber and Instagrammer, known for this signature video series such as the Weekly Nonsense and Ghost Stories and the fan-favourite viral shows such as Misheard Lyrics and Kaan Masti, was speaking at the YourStory Creators Inc conference 2022.
From YouTube to Instagram, one platform at a time
Hoezaay is seen as the Christian Bale or Daniel Day Lewis in the Indian digital content space. What is the secret to his versatility as a content creator?
“I feel each platform has its own vibe. For instance, Twitter is about hardcore politics, of course, there are jokes but Twitter's mostly about hardcore politics. Instagram is about lip synching to songs and dancing. Honestly, I can’t claim to be an expert on anything. I just use whichever platform I can, and then fool around,” quips Hoezaay in his unassuming style.
The longer format works better on YouTube, less so on Instagram, where shorter, to-the-point content works better, which is why Ghost Stories is on YouTube. “I keep doing the short-format stuff and then I cut it slightly differently, maybe for YouTube and Instagram.”
Smash the trolling
The online ecosystem is as much ‘woke’ as worrisome. The shield of anonymity, the ease of tech and device, the entitlement to one’s opinion and the confidence of putting it out there is anchored in a system of hate where trolling and shaming are a constant.
“I actually don't get trolled badly because, in general, I'm fairly careful with what I say and what I put out. But then there's always somebody who is going to be offended by anything. You can post a picture of your grandma and they'll be like, I'm offended by this. Like what? you're offended by my grandma?” says Hoezaay in his trademark humour, indicating the inherent flippancy or meaninglessness of hate culture.
If someone's sending mean messages, it is common practice to not reply and block them. While that helps, Hoezaay also sometimes opts for an unconventional route.
“I have a slightly different way of doing things. What they hate is when you reply in an extremely condescending way. So, you reply in an extremely condescending way, take the high-road kind of attitude, and then you block them,” comes his savage reply.
People have complained to Hoezaay, sending him paragraph-long messages asking why he is teaching ‘bad’ words to people (with reference to Misheard Lyrics), echoing moral policing sentiments. Hoezaay recalls how one guy once said, ‘Why am I getting these? Why am I getting these videos on my feed? I did not even subscribe to this fool. And I'm still getting his videos.’ Hoezaay just replied saying ‘good’.
The digital content pro points out our own internal biases. “Nowadays, we feel that someone’s really mean even if it’s an innocuous comment on the internet, but they're not, maybe. I like to give people the benefit of doubt if there's a mean comment. Somebody might be trying to be overfamiliar, but they might end up coming across as mean. So, I usually just try to laugh it off. I'm not gonna lie though. I mean, the comments affect everyone. I don't know anyone who doesn't get affected,” shares Hoezaay.
Sadly, it's a part of the way things are online but clean up your feed, block people mercilessly. You should block people, keep your feed clean, stresses Hoezaay.
Boredom’s children, Misheard Lyrics to Ghost Stories
“We're now living in this time in the universe where everybody's already done an idea before me, and there are very few new ideas out there. I have struggled to come up with ideas. Misheard Lyrics has always been around. I felt like finding Indian words in foreign songs, and that was the real kick for me. That’s the difference. Like in this last one, ek BTS gaana mein chikoo bolta hai (the word chikoo appears in a BTS song), and I was like, ‘aah yes’. For me, hearing Indian words, Hindi words, Marathi words, desi slang in songs is what makes the deal. There was this one really old Hindi song where they say, ‘Corona, Corona, Corona, Corona Corona’,” informs Hoezaay about the genesis of Misheard Lyrics. The idea was born out of boredom and is just relaxing.
Boredom during lockdowns, while everybody was sitting at home, also spurned the genesis of Ghost Stories. “We thought of doing live streaming. We had done a couple of live streams before. I sort of wanted to get that old-radio-station vibe. So, a radio station would typically get calls from people all day long, and then, of course, the best calls would go on air. But fortunately on my stream even the worst calls would go on, because it’s live, it's an open phone line basically. People started calling in from all over the country. Everyone bonded around the idea of telling ghost stories, and seeing who could come up with the best ones. Then people started roasting the bad stories," recalls Hoezaay.
Paid partnerships and the promise of ‘real’ content
“It's an age-old debate, the whole content versus paid partnerships or sponsored content debate. I've always felt the more sponsored content you do, it takes away a little bit from the rawness or being organic," he shares. But these are things that you can get around with, if your client is cool enough and they say, ‘hey, let's try to do something organic’, and they're open to it. I've had so many clients who have been really open to the content being nice and organic, he adds.
“Unfortunately, there's always this thing around paid partnerships that make people subconsciously tune out,” he elaborates. "The underlying idea being that the content is diluted, not authentic enough or compromised,” he shares.
However, Hoezaay has a piece of rationale for followers, why they should root for their favourite creator.
“If you have a favourite content creator you should support them completely even through the paid partnership (route) because that's what will keep them going, and that's what will keep them giving you the free content, so to speak. I mean nothing is free as such, it's all a give and take, so I think sponsorships are a great thing. Brands partnering with influencers is a really good thing, because how else will they keep going? Then you won't even get the free content,” explains the creator who works with multiple brand collaborations.
Chloe to ‘Jose’s wife’ Google search
“I remember there was a time when Chloe was born, maybe the first year, which has gone by in a blow. I'd be holding her and thinking to myself, ‘Man, will she like me? Will she be my friend when she grows up? Fortunately, she likes me, I'm her dad, thank God (laughs),” recalls Hoezaay.
For the unversed, Chloe is Hoezaay’s daughter who features in some of his videos and has a dedicated fan following of her own. This begs the question: How safe is the online space for children and where to draw the line?
“Initially, we would post these little bits. I'd get so many messages from people saying, ‘wow this is so great’. I mean it's definitely a conversation all parents need to have: Should you put your kids on the internet? We are aware of how things are like online. We had a long discussion and we eventually decided that for the time being while she was in that cute age bracket of one to four, it was worth it as she was spreading so much joy. We were having so much fun but up to the point where we are not making her do anything, and where she is having fun, until then it’s all great.”
The operational code is not to go ahead with posting if she's not having fun. She’s a little more independent now, and the parents ask her before posting, informs the proud dad.
Interestingly, a random search about the influencer and the first thing that Google prompted was Hoezaay’s wife. Why is the nation obsessed with knowing who your wife is, we asked.
“I think it's because she's never been on camera. Very few people know who she is. She doesn't like the internet, the comment sections. I mean, she likes reading them but doesn't want to be part of it. She wants peace, not problems,” is Hoezaay’s response. But the woman and wife whom Hoezaay calls the “power” and the “boss” is in-charge of all the work off-camera.
Enabling the future
As India is slated to peak as the global hub of the creator economy with its youth capital and Gen-Z generation waiting to take up digital content creation as a viable career opportunity, how does one ensure to keep it sane? How to build an empathetic and empowering entrepreneurial environment?
“Younger people are making amazing stuff online. I love it when people from smaller accounts DM (direct message) me stuff. Sometimes it's mind-blowing stuff. I love sharing that stuff and giving people credit for that,” shares Hoezaay.
As for saturation in the comedy space, Hoezaay disagrees. “We went from vines to reels, and then to stories and YouTube videos. I feel like there's always something fresh happening. There's always someone doing something crazy. I feel this space is not exhausted. There's tons and tons more to come.”
Just have fun and don't take yourself too seriously. Consistency is key, is his parting pearl of wisdom.
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