Creators on the Rise: Brandon Contreras and Matt Curiano are ready to give you the homo sapien experience

By 01/17/2024
Creators on the Rise: Brandon Contreras and Matt Curiano are ready to give you the homo sapien experience

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. You can check out previous installments here.

Brandon Contreras and Matt Curiano are inseparable.

They’ve known each other for half their lifetimes, after meeting 15 years ago in the BFA musical theater program at Pace University. The two of them “quickly became best friends,” Contreras says, and discovered a mutual passion for sketch comedy. They kept in touch after they graduated, and always “talked about making funny videos together,” Curiano chimes in, but never quite got around to it.


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Then, while Contreras was away on a six-month contract in Utah, Curiano decided to give the whole video thing a real shot. “While he was gone, I was like, I’m going to try this out,” Curiano says. “I started playing around with stuff and I came up with the idea of The HomoSapien Experience, and the idea of The HomoSapien Experience, a place where you can tell stories about the human experience with an emphasis on the homo part of it.”

Once Contreras got back from Utah, they “dove right in on making silly, really ridiculous content with some of the most incredible people in our lives,” he says.

That was in 2018, and for a couple years, the two focused on making four or five-minute sketch videos for their shared YouTube channel, which was of course called The Homo Sapien Experience. They netted a few thousand subscribers, and mostly treated the channel as a side gig where they could make art with their queer friends, for the queer community.

Then COVID hit, and TikTok and short-form content started to skyrocket. Contreras and Curiano got curious.

“We made a video about having a bad day because we were having a bad day,” Curiano says. “We were like, this is just cute and funny, and that really took off and we’re like, oh yes, people really need a lot of support right now. It blossomed into a really beautiful thing that we had no idea that it was going to be so wonderful.”

Thanks to that blossoming, content is now Contreras and Curiano’s full-time job. They’re swiftly approaching 1.5 million followers on TikTok, and have big plans to grow The Homo Sapien Experience beyond social media into things like TV (and the Oscars, if Curiano has his way).

Check out our chat with them below.

@thehomosapienexperience♬ original sound – The Homo Sapien Experience

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tubefilter: Very excited to get to talk to the two of you. I would love to start with some background about you, like pretend somebody is reading this and they have no idea who you guys are, they’ve never seen your stuff. Tell me a little bit about the two of you and how you met.

Matt Curiano: It was 84 years ago, the Titanic, Brandon Contreras was in first class, and I was down at the bottom. [laughs] We met–

Brandon Contreras: –at college, over half our life ago, like 16, 15.

Matt Curiano: 15 years.

Brandon Contreras: 15 years ago. Yes. We were just wee children in college.

Matt Curiano: Our skin hadn’t changed at all.

Brandon Contreras: We went to the same college for musical theater, a BFA in musical theater at Pace University, and we were in the same class. We quickly became like best friends and close friends.

Matt Curiano: Goofy best friends.

Brandon Contreras: Yes. It kind of like just jumped off from there.

Matt Curiano: Yes we’ve always been creative, and we’ve always talked about creating things and creating things together. Around 2018, where were you?

Brandon Contreras: I was doing a contract. I think I was doing it in Salt Lake City. I was traveling the country doing a lot of regional work.

Matt Curiano: Brandon was Mormon for a six-month stint. He was out in Salt Lake and we had talked about like making funny videos together. While he was gone, I was like, I’m going to try this out. I started playing around with stuff and I came up with the idea of the Homo Sapien Experience, and the idea of the Homo Sapien Experience, a place where you can tell stories about the human experience with an emphasis on the homo part of it.

After Brandon got back from Salt Lake–

Brandon Contreras: –we were able to like, finally like make our dream happen. I would always come back, and we’d film a few things and then I’d go away, and then finally I was back officially. We just dove right in on making silly, really ridiculous content with some of the most incredible queer people in our lives.

Matt Curiano: We say we’re like a queer space to laugh and love. A lot of the stories that we talk about, or write about, no Matt Curianoer how goofy, they’re like a little love letter to our queer selves. You know what I mean? No matter how goofy and funny they are like, yes, I can’t believe that at this age… If you told like 13, 12-year-old quietly queer Matt and Brandon that we were making this big fun gay content with a bunch of big fun queer people, they never would have believed that.

Brandon Contreras: We also wanted a place for queer people to be authentically themselves, especially with media today, how queer people are perceived and how queer people are played, like people who play queer people.

I think that it was just so important for us to really access the authenticity of us and our friends and our community. We like to say that the HomoSapien Experience is us. It’s what we bring, but it’s also a community of really incredible people who are also wildly creative and who just want a chance to be silly with us and to really not take ourselves too seriously.

I think that’s something that we really love is that we want to just remind the queer community not to take ourselves too seriously. We have done so many random things. This platform has really changed our lives in so many ways and has been able to access us to write for commercials, meet some incredible people and showrunners and businesses, and go to events and galas. It’s been the most incredible ride. Like I would have never imagined.

Matt Curiano: Dare I say, it’s one of the things I’m the most proud of in my life. It’s a baby that we birthed together.

Brandon Contreras: Truly.

Matt Curiano: Truly.

Brandon Contreras: I was in labor.

Tubefilter: Labor was tough.

Brandon Contreras: My body isn’t the same. It isn’t.

Tubefilter: Parenting is not easy. Co-parenting is not easy.

Brandon Contreras: Co-parenting is not easy.

Tubefilter: But now you have this child.

Matt Curiano: I know, truly. It’s one of those things that we are so proud of and it’s morphed into something really beautiful and special and we just like want to share it with the world.

Tubefilter: Very cool. It comes across in your videos.

Matt Curiano: Thank you.

Tubefilter: You said you started in 2018?

Brandon Contreras: Yes.

Matt Curiano: It’s interesting, we have like two facets that we work with. We do a lot of these sketch videos. It’s like long-form, four, five minutes sketch comedies, and then around the pandemic, we started getting into TikTok, which are a little bit more of Brandon and I, and these like shorter videos of your gay hype-up crew.

Brandon Contreras: Your gay besties, your gay best friends, your gay roommates, your best friends. We have created this.

Matt Curiano: I don’t want to say persona because it’s–

Brandon Contreras: What you really see. I don’t know. It’s really kind of what you get.

Matt Curiano: The best is when people meet us in person, they’re like, “Oh my god, I feel like I’m in a video right now,” we’re like, you look fucking phenomenal, you look so good.

Brandon Contreras: It’s just who we are.

Matt Curiano: It is just who we are! There’s almost like these two different facets of the HomoSapien Experience. I think it was beautiful during the pandemic. We didn’t realize we just were us. We made a video about having a bad day because we were having a bad day. Like, we’re having a bad day. We were like, this is just cute and funny, and that really took off and we’re like, oh yes, people really need a lot of support right now. It blossomed into a really beautiful thing that we had no idea that it was going to be so wonderful.

@thehomosapienexperience♬ original sound – The Homo Sapien Experience

Tubefilter: Are the two of you full-time on this?

Matt Curiano: Full-time.

Brandon Contreras: Full-time, all day, it’s on our minds. We just woke up at 8:30 in the morning to post something today. It’s at all times and it’s really fun.

Matt Curiano: Parenting is full-time.

Brandon Contreras: To be honest with you, some of my favorite things are navigating our friendship and our business partner relationship. It’s the best thing in the world. As hard as it is to have a business, it is the easiest thing to do with this person. We like to say, if I’m going to argue with anyone, it’s going to be you. I want to argue with you. You know what I mean? We also love having boundaries. I’m like, this is a best friend day. We’re not doing anything and we’re going to be best friends, and we’re going to go do things and not touch the HomoSapien Experience. It’s a really beautiful relationship that we have with our business and our creativity, but also who we are as friends. It’s this beautiful thing that works.

Tubefilter: What is your production schedule like? Do you like to have a strict production schedule, or is it like what comes, comes?

Brandon Contreras: Yes.

Matt Curiano: It can really depend. First of all, what trends, right?

Brandon Contreras: Like pop culture.

Matt Curiano: Pop culture, you see like, “Oh my god. We have to make a response video about this and therefore we need to do it in three days.” Sometimes, we’re doing longer-form things. Right now, we’re working on a dream of mine, which has been for a couple of years, which is a Pokémon Pokegay sketch. It’s a Pokémon and gay sketch.

Brandon Contreras: Imagine that together.

Matt Curiano: It’s a Venn diagram. You wouldn’t know, James, that the queer community and Pokémon, there’s a lot of mixing in there.

Tubefilter: I absolutely would know. My partner immediately got me into Pokémon Go.

Matt Curiano: What a good partner.

Brandon Contreras: What a good partner.

Matt Curiano: That’s a good partner. That’s a keeper.

Brandon Contreras: It’s funny because that necessarily doesn’t have a timeline, right? That doesn’t necessarily need to be out at a certain time. Right now, we’ll start working on things towards the holidays, towards Christmas, so that we can get these long-form sketches out. Things that happen, like a lot of pop culture references like Britney’s new memoir just came out. Maybe we’ll think about something like that.

There are a lot of things that we kind of have to have our hand on the pulse with. There are things that are time-sensitive. It is one amalgamation of things, and we’ll talk to each other, we’ll brainstorm. It usually is just a text or a voice memo. I’m like, “Hey, we should do this. We should post this that goes this day, this, and this day,” and then we’ll come over, we’ll make a lot of videos. It’s one of those.

Matt Curiano: We’re also big on collaborations. We like to collaborate with different queer artists. We just worked with Willam or the drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race season five.

Brandon Contreras: I have a show with Willam, that’s why I’m always around Willam and Willam was like, I need to do something creative, and I was like, “Well, funny you should ask.”

Matt Curiano: In that Pokémon sketch, we have Yuhua Hamasaki, who’s from season 12 of Drag Race.

Brandon Contreras: So many artists, we have people, we have so many Broadway actors that we collaborate with and it’s just like the most cool experience. We’re  just like, “Hey, what are you doing on Tuesday from 10:30 to 4:00? Do you mind just hanging out with us in the park and filming this?” It’s so silly, but it’s the most fun.

Tubefilter: Very very cool. So you started in 2018. What was the point where you both committed to this as a thing you’re going to keep doing?

Brandon Contreras: I think once, honestly, I felt it once I got back and we were here, and we were doing it, and then bought our one video bottom, was it that one?

Matt Curiano: I think that it’s so interesting when you’re building something this. That’s what I’m always inspired by people who have the gall and the perseverance and the audacity to create something that’s new, that’s different. I think perseverance is the biggest thing, and a lot of times, especially when you’re creating something, you’re writing something, right? It’s just you alone trying to figure it out and being like– Especially those first videos that we did when we were–

Brandon Contreras: We didn’t even have it, we barely had anything.

Matt Curiano: Nothing out, it was just, “Hey–“

Brandon Contreras: Make a video and find them, and not do that.

Matt Curiano: Asking people being who didn’t know, we don’t have any clout or anything, and they’d be like, “Yes, sure.” I remember the first ever video that dropped was about gays coming out of hibernation for Drag Race.

Brandon Contreras: For Drag Race.

Matt Curiano: It was 8 of us and this would be fun. It popped off on Facebook. Now Facebook was back in 20–

Brandon Contreras: In my time, Facebook was accessible.

Matt Curiano: Those little moments, it felt a little bit the universe being like, keep going, you’re onto something. I think always moved by too is not just people who reach out to us that are from America, in the United States, but people around the world. When you get people in other countries where maybe being queer isn’t as accepted as it is here.

Brandon Contreras: That honestly is what keeps us going a lot of the time.

Matt Curiano: Yes, it’s the most beautiful thing, and to know that something can be often ridiculous and hilarious and it means a lot to somebody else. Yes, I think since about its beginning. We knew oh, we have something special and we got to keep going.

Brandon Contreras: We got to keep going and then we officially came a business two years ago.

Matt Curiano: Yes, during the pandemic.

Brandon Contreras: During the pandemic we officially became a production company.

Matt Curiano: LLC baby, and we do pay our taxes.

Brandon Contreras: Do we know exactly what that means? Definitely do, definitely never have questions about a business because we are smart. I literally know everything, ask me anything about owning a business, I totally know, James.

Tubefilter: I’m going to come to you for my taxes. The two of you, so you’d grown an audience before the pandemic, but did short-form really affect you guys in terms of audience growth and that kind of thing?

Brandon Contreras: Yes, actually, it’s so funny. Luckily we have so many different kinds of demographics and they span from Instagram and TikTok and YouTube as well. YouTube is global, people around the world see that so deeply because people are so attached to it.

Matt Curiano: It’s cute, I think of a couple of people from India who are commenting on every single thing that we do and it’s like, I love that.

Brandon Contreras: Brazil too, huge.

Matt Curiano: We love Brazil.

Brandon Contreras: On TikTok, a lot of women and femmes have really grown for us being their best friends and their roommates and their gay best friends.

Matt Curiano: Which is so cute and so sweet.

Brandon Contreras: The sweetest thing in the world. Anytime we get a comment, they’re like, “We wish we were your roommates,” we’re like, “We do too,” it’s the sweetest thing.

Matt Curiano: Meeting them out on the street because you’re New York City.

Brandon Contreras: Oh, my gosh, we meet people every week. Every week, we meet at least one person who’s like–

Matt Curiano: It’s not like you’re out at a gay bar or something like that and some coaches say love yourself. No, I was walking down the street and this woman, I’d say she was probably in her fifties, is like, “Matt Curiano?”

Brandon Contreras: I have a better one. Took a picture, met her daughter, it was so cute.

Brandon Contreras: I have a better one, I was on the Upper West Side and I was with one of my friends; we were getting coffee. This woman, she was babysitting, this grown woman, this 40 year old woman. She was like, “Hold on, I’ll call you right back. Oh my, stay there, stay there, oh my God.” It’s the most incredible. We have that on TikTok, and then on Instagram, we have a lot of queer, gay centric queer people. Individuals that really get the nuance of some of our experiences.

Matt Curiano: I would love to have them all in one big room because it’s a hilarious bunch because sometimes, we do these uplifting videos, which really I feel tracks with our fem female identifying audience or our, 9-5 corporate audience who are like we need something fun. Then we have these quite gay and we talk about sexual–

Brandon Contreras: We talk about sexuality.

Matt Curiano: We’re sex positive here and it’s very funny to see these moms be like, “I had no idea, but I learned a lot from this video,” and then specifically what is a top, poppers are? Okay, I’m learning, thank you so much, it’s cute.

Brandon Contreras: It’s been really fun. When we talk about our audiences, it’s like Matt and I just most recently went to Paris, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. Every single city we went to in a gay bar, we were recognized and that was that. We had to sit off to the side. We’re like, come here. We sit off to the side of the bar and we’re like, AHHH. It was the craziest thing. We just live in abundance.

Matt Curiano: Because you think back in 2018, we were making stuff with popsicle sticks, glitter glue, a prayer and like to have it now, five years later really be something that we’re so proud of. It’s been a really beautiful journey.

@thehomosapienexperience Seasonal depression gotcha down bbs?! US TOO! 🥲☀️❄️🌧️🍂 Don’t worry, we’ll be here every step of the sleepy way! 💪🏽👏🏻 #seasonaldepression #gaybesties🏳️‍🌈 #winterishere #hypemeup #sleepyday ♬ original sound – The Homo Sapien Experience

Tubefilter: Amazing. The community of people you make things with and the community of people you make things for are one of the most significant parts of this whole thing for you.

Matt Curiano: Oh, wow, yes. The first, the people we make things with, some of these people have been our friends.

Brandon Contreras: Our best friends for 15 years. Some of our, we call them series regulars. You’re like, you’re a series regular. Most of our series regulars are either our roommates or our best friends that we’ve known for, they either went to college with us. We’ve known them for equally as long as 15 years. Then also, sometimes people who are in our lives that are like staple human beings. It really is a gift. Like most of the people are a chosen family.

Matt Curiano: Especially, I always think of those, the first people. The people who did the videos when we weren’t even like, for a second, I was like banking videos where I was like, I want to do five or six so they can start posting them. There was no, it was just me like, do you want to do this? This is the idea. Gay’s coming out of hibernation and we’re going to be like fans and stuff.

Brandon Contreras: We were like, at that point we would pay people in bocadillo sandwiches and wine and hugs. We’d be like, “We’ll get you a drink,” and that’s how it works. That, I think, is the special part of creating. It’s like meeting people and having friends that also just want to be around you and also want to create with you. That’s the biggest gift.

Matt Curiano: Then, I would say the people, the community of people that watch our videos are some of the, we love fun, goofy, stupid stuff that makes you feel good and so they’re the same boat and they are so funny. Some of these little comedians in there in the comments are literally killing us with their hilarious face. Or being like, you should do this and this, and I’m like–

Brandon Contreras: “We should do that. Gosh, darn it. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Matt Curiano: They’re beautiful and so fun and amazing. That’s why I would love to see them all. We talked about, people approached us about doing a live show and it’s in the–

Brandon Contreras: It’s in the ether. It’s in the ether. We definitely like have access to like, let’s say we were going to do like a live show at a bar, at a gay bar. We have access to that. It’s something that is in our rep. We have a lot of different schedules. I’m in a show right now so my schedule is always, I’m always booked six days a week.

Matt Curiano: We’re figuring it out but we’re excited. Also, there’s like a, oh god, if we built it, will they come?

Tubefilter: If you’re getting recognized in every city you go to, I feel like people will definitely show up.

Brandon Contreras: It’s still, it’s that impostor syndrome. It is, even though we can say that we met these wonderful people in Paris who loved us, but I’m like, but do they like us? Everyone faces that. Every person faces, not even creators.

Matt Curiano: Listen, it’s statistically known, gays and moms are the busiest people on the planet. For them to take time out of their schedule to come see us, I’m like, will they do it? They are some of also the biggest stans in the world as well.

Tubefilter: Obviously, a live show would be amazing. Any other kind of plans or goals you guys have?

Brandon Contreras: We dream big, James.

Matt Curiano: TV, TV, James.

Brandon Contreras: We dream big. We want to have our own TV show for sure. We have a bunch of like scripted things that we love.

Matt Curiano: We’ve been working so a lot. There’s never been a queer sketch comedy show on mainstream television. There was the, what was it, the Big Gay Sketch Show that was like with Kate McKinnon that I think it was on Logo TV, which we love. We wonder why there hasn’t been. I think the world is ready for it and we could use it.

Brandon Contreras: Also like a scripted series that I really talk about, I think the really beautiful part of like platonic, best French, gay, best friendship. Let’s talk about that. I think, and just about our love for each other and the things that we would do for each other, and the things that we would do for love and for comedy, and things like that. That’s a huge dream of ours.

Matt Curiano: That’s our goal, has been almost like these videos are a proof of concept of what we can do and to create an audience.

Brandon Contreras: Who we are.

Matt Curiano: This is what we can do and this is what we can bring. This is the people that would come and watch us.

Brandon Contreras: Also look at the people in our periphery. We have so many diverse, incredible, different kinds of human beings.

Matt Curiano: That are ready to go.

Brandon Contreras: That are ready to go. That are just looking for a shot. That are just looking for an opportunity, and no one can tell us that we don’t have anything ready or prepared. Because we are, and you have so many people that are ready and prepared too, just for opportunity. I think that’s the best part of this is that all we are is just a little lifeboat for people to create things with and to be ready for these wonderful opportunities that hopefully we’ll get one day.

Matt Curiano: That is why we are here for your consideration, Streamy Awards, Webby Awards, everything, Academy Awards.

Tubefilter: Perfect. Excellent. Best of luck to you. Is there anything else that you would want people to know about you or the stuff you make? Anything else you want to say to people who are reading this?

Brandon Contreras: Yes. I’m in a show called Titanique right now, off Broadway, and it’s a really stupid gay hit.

Matt Curiano: So fun, so great.

Brandon Contreras: It’s really fun. It’s basically a parody on Titanic. If Celine Dion was on the Titanic and told the story through her eyes. It’s hilarious with all the songs of Celine Dion.

Matt Curiano: It’s so fun. It’s so gay. It’s so stupid.

Brandon Contreras: Also Matt does incredible acting as well and it’s incredible. We just love it.

Matt Curiano: Thank you so much.

Brandon Contreras: We love that. That, please, it’s so much fun to do. If anyone’s in the tri-state area, they should please come check it out. 

Matt Curiano: That’s it.

Brandon Contreras: Also, I think that like a letter to the people who watch our stuff, it means the world to us.

Matt Curiano: It means the world. Literally means the world. Couldn’t do it without y’all. That’s it.

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