Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where—in partnership with global creator company Jellysmack—we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth.
Imagine you meet someone on a dating app. Imagine your first hangout goes great! Dinner’s good, drinks are good. They’re funny and attentive. But just when the two of you are about to part amicably for the night, a twist: They’re the infamous Brooklyn Butcher, and you’re their next victim.
Except…that’s not the mood killer (pun fully intended) it could be! Because as it turns out, you’re the Sunset Park Slasher, you’re a huge fan of their work, and prospects for date #2 just got a lot more interesting.
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This scenario is one of hundreds from the mind of Stanzi Potenza, a self-described “sketch comedian from hell” whose YouTube channel has gained more than half a million subscribers and 150+ million views in the past two months.
Like several other Creators on the Rise featurees, Potenza got into making content during the pandemic. They’re an actor by trade, and first got onstage 20 years ago thanks to their mom, who’s also an actress and brought them along backstage when babysitters fell through.
In late 2019, Potenza had just wrapped an intensive acting course in New York City, and had plans to move back to their home state of Massachusetts and put their newly sharpened skills to work. Then the pandemic hit, venues shuttered, roles dried up, and Potenza was stuck at home.
That was when they got on TikTok. To them, YouTube was the “final boss” of content creation, the platform of platforms where the battle to establish yourself as a creator is won or lost. But TikTok seemed like a good testing ground–a place where they could blend their skills as an actor, comedian, and writer, and, as they put it, “see what happens.”
What happened took them by surprise.
Within a few months, their dryly and often darkly funny sketches about everything from a Civil War lesbian love affair to the daily trials and tribulations of God and Satan’s personal assistants generated enough interest that TikTok became much more than a way for Potenza to stay busy during the pandemic. It had become their new full-time job.
As their TikTok following grew from hundreds of thousands to millions of people, Potenza began leveling up their editing skills and investing in more production resources. But their friend and fellow creator Hassan Khadair urged them to also make another critical move: expand their content off TikTok and onto YouTube Shorts.
Potenza still considers YouTube the final boss, but they took Khadair’s advice and started crossposting their TikTok videos in February 2021. At first, their videos didn’t do as well on YouTube as they had on TikTok. Potenza’s channel netted a few thousand views per month, and by December 2021, they’d brought in around 5,000 subscribers.
December is when everything changed. Potenza says it was a boom moment–all of a sudden, four or five videos took off, netting millions of views each. It hasn’t slowed since. That serial killer meet-cute we mentioned above? Potenza posted it less than two weeks ago, and it’s already the third most popular video on their channel, with nearly 4 million views. Their other top-viewed vids include one where a 911 operator roasts a subpar criminal (5.7 million views) and one called Heartwarming! This murderer is appalled by your relationship (5.3 million).
Over the past two months, Potenza’s channel went from 5,000 subscribers to more than 500,000. In January, their content netted more than 100 million views. In the last two days alone, it’s brought in more than 5 million views.
Check out our chat with them below.
Tubefilter: First, tell us a little about you! Where did you grow up? What’s one weird fact about you?
Stanzi Potenza: I grew up in Massachusetts. I moved around a bit, but landed in a town south of Boston called Braintree.
I would say one weird fact about me is that I’ve been slightly obsessed with sharks since I was a kid, and Shark Week actually featured me on their page once as a “Shark Week super fan.” It was an exciting moment for me.
Tubefilter: What kindled your interest in acting and comedy? Did you have a lightbulb moment as a kid and realized that was what you wanted to do, or…?
SP: When I was around five, my parents split up. When our babysitter fell through, my mom, who had decided to get back into theatre, brought me and two of my sisters to the theatre where she was performing, and we sat in the green room and watched all of the actors getting into costume. It became a second home to me, and eventually we started performing too. It lit a fire inside of me and I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to the arts. Twenty years later, I’m happy to say I make a living off it.
Tubefilter: You joined TikTok in 2019, and started a YouTube channel last year. What made you want to get on TikTok? Why did you expand over to YouTube?
SP: I had just come off of a six-week acting intensive at William Esperanto Studios in New York and had planned to move back, but as you know, the pandemic hit and, like most people, I was stuck inside my house for months. TikTok seemed intimidating, but I decided to take what I knew–acting, comedy, and writing–and take a chance with TikTok and see what happens.
Over 2 million followers later, I met a fellow content creator online named Hassan Khadair, who was pushing me and some other creators to start posting on YouTube. YouTube is like the final boss of content creation platforms, so I was very intimidated at first, but I kept posting like he was telling us to do and all of a sudden I had a platform with half a million followers. It really blew my mind, and I decided to change gears and put a lot more attention on YouTube content.
Although I’m happy with my other platforms, I feel a lot more valued as a creator on YouTube. Holding my first Play Button plaque was a surreal experience.
Tubefilter: Did you have a plan when you started TikTok, or were you just seeing what would happen if you made some videos? How have your videos changed from 2019 to now?
SP: When I started TikTok, I just started posting to see what would land. Eventually I created my first ongoing series called Civil War Love Saga, about two queer women trying to navigate their romantic life in the 1800s. After that came Heaven and Hell, which is now my most popular series, which consists of Satan and his assistant Joanne navigating the problems that arise in the underworld.
As my platform grew, I started to invest in better lighting, recording equipment, and costumes. The editing in my newer videos is so much better than it was in the beginning. I had to teach myself how to be a better editor, producer, lighting designer, costume designer, director, writer, and actor, but any investment into my career is a good investment. I’m really proud with how far I’ve come.
Tubefilter: Your YouTube channel has recently seen a big boost in number of views and subscribers. Do you know if there was one specific video that took off, or did numbers go up across a bunch of videos simultaneously?
SP: With YouTube, I was posting about six videos a day basically because I was trying to see growth and get a video in the algorithm. I was at it for months, but knew if I stayed consistent it would happen. Then one day, boom. I had like three or four videos take off. One month ago, I posted a video that got 5.7 million views, and I’m sure that video had a lot to do with it. Since then, my channel has been growing consistently, and I have a wonderful and supportive community.
Tubefilter: Do you think you would’ve started a YouTube channel if YouTube hadn’t introduced Shorts? What role has Shorts played in the growth of your channel?
SP: It’s hard to say if I would’ve made the leap to YouTube if Shorts weren’t available. I’ve always wondered about YouTube and what types of long-form videos I’d post, but having the option to post Shorts helped me build a community with videos I already had handy and with a format I was already familiar with.
Now that I do have a decent-sized platform, I do want to give my subscribers longer videos to enjoy, so they have a unique experience that they don’t get on other platforms.
Tubefilter: Are YouTube and TikTok a full-time job for you? What else do you get up to? Walk us through the average day!
SP: I am happy to say I am a full-time content creator! I used to be less organized with my schedule, but now I have one to two filming days per week where I film between four and ten videos I have written scripts for, and then I edit those videos throughout the week. I spend a lot of time scriptwriting and jotting down potential sketch ideas. Aside from that, I’m usually in meetings with my agent or merch team, and also recording episodes for my podcast.
Tubefilter: How long does a video generally take you to make, from conception to upload?
SP: Depending on the sketch, it can take anywhere between a few hours to a week. Sometimes I can bang out a script pretty quickly, and other times I need to take some time to flesh it out and rethink lines or situations. Sometimes I actually write sketches that I don’t think will do well and then I’ll record and upload them if I feel like I don’t have enough scripts for that week, and those videos will end up being super successful. Sometimes your “flops” are your greatest works.
Tubefilter: Has your recent engagement spike changed anything for you? Do you have any new plans or goals for your channel?
SP: Honestly, having a platform on YouTube has changed everything. I have so many ideas for YouTube-specific long-form videos, and I’m really looking forward to giving my subscribers something that’s just for them.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite thing about being on TikTok and YouTube?
SP: It is a very validating experience to go on your platform and post your work and have people tell you how much they love it. Knowing that I’m making someone’s day better by posting a silly video is actually very meaningful to me. It’s also given me a way to combine all of the things I love into one. I get to write, direct, and act in my own 60-second sketches and share that with the world. I can’t imagine anything better.
Tubefilter: What do you hope people take away from your content?
SP: I want people to see my content and feel like it’s okay to be unapologetically yourself. Sometimes people comment on my videos and say, “I wish I could say this,” or, “This is what I wish I could be.” Be that person! Live your life for yourself. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I was thinking about what everyone else thought of me.
Tubefilter: What’s next in the immediate future for you? Where do you see yourself in five years?
SP: Well, I’m currently planning on moving to New York City! I’m very excited to enter the next chapter of my story. I am also launching a podcast called What Fresh Hell Is This?, where people can enjoy even more silly content.
I have a lot of exciting things happening, and ideally I hope that I can expand my reach beyond the internet and become more involved with film and television, which is what I was planning to do before the pandemic hit. I’m very much looking forward to everything.
Jellysmack is the global creator company that detects and develops the world’s most talented video creators. The company’s proprietary video optimization technology and data drive social audience growth, unlocking new revenue streams and amplifying monetization.
Currently home to over 150 influential Creators including PewDiePie, MrBeast, Brad Mondo, and Bailey Sarian, Jellysmack optimizes, operates, and distributes creator-made video content to Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube. Jellysmack-managed content boasts 10 billion global monthly video views and a cross-platform reach of 125 million unique U.S. users, making it the largest U.S. digital-first company in monthly social media viewers.
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