The NYT Is on It: Zendaya Is Meechee Is a Post-Vine Vine

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Vine was all about the economy of seconds: How much physical humor, how many comedic turns, how satisfying a story arc could be squished into a six-and-a-half second video?

Gabriel Gundacker had mastered the medium (and earned more than 800,000 followers) before Vine shut down in 2016. Since then, he’s largely reverted to more traditional, offline venues to practice his short-form comedy. But a video Mr. Gundacker posted last weekend is an exception. It played on the silly names of the characters in the animated movie “Smallfoot.”

“I recognized that I couldn’t just bring these fans I had established on Vine over to YouTube because the content I was making wouldn’t perform in the same way,” he said this week by phone.

“I had seen the Zendaya is Meechee poster every morning and I thought that was really funny,” Mr. Gundacker, 27, said. “Two words that, to my father, would be equally unknown. But the poster is announcing them as something we’re supposed to understand.”

The single poster might have been enough to merit a Vine of its own. When Mr. Gundacker came across others like it, though, he had enough content to make a song, which he planned to sing “as if ‘Zendaya is Meechee’ is almost a Christian worship phrase.”

(His friend Mia Vicino alerted him that the name was pronounced Zen-DAE-a, not the common mispronunciation, Zen-DIE-a, which later earned him props from the actress. Another friend, Mike Aviles, shot the video.)

While “Zendaya is Meechee” brought him attention from comedians he has long admired, including Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman and The Lonely Island, his old Vines, on a month-to-month basis, can still bring in enough money to pay his rent in Los Angeles. (A company called Collab recovers revenue for him through their “asset protection” work whenever his intellectual property is posted online, by anyone.) He is also a writer for the Showtime program “Our Cartoon President.”

Mr. Gundacker and many of his friends who used to make Vines are profiting from nostalgia for the platform’s most popular clips, many of which have been uploaded to YouTube. Some Viners, including Lele Pons and Jake and Logan Paul, brought their audiences over to YouTube as well and tailored their shticks for the new platform.

Mr. Gundacker, on the other hand, was part of a group of former stars who had been frustrated by Vine’s lack of direction and stopped posting before the platform went dark.

“What is this app for when so many of the other ones have such a clear purpose?” he recalled wondering. “Like Twitter, for the president’s tweets, or Instagram, for recording your meals. Vine didn’t have a distinct purpose; it had many different purposes that weren’t making anybody any money either.”

The platform’s closure might have slated his videos to be lost in an endless sea of content. But when Vine was shut down toward the end of 2016, what had been an unlimited universe was transformed into a content vault that could be explored for every last worthwhile clip. Former users uploaded nostalgic compilations to YouTube with titles like “Vines that were there for me when no one else was” and “Vines that I think about everyday.

Mr. Gundacker started to notice last year that his old videos were finding new viewers.

“There’s gold in there now because there are things to be found that if they are not found will be lost,” Mr. Gundacker said. “If vine was still around I don’t think these specific compilations would be so popular.”

Mr. Gundacker said that even when a video like “Zendaya is Meechee” goes viral, it still does not hold the same potential on every platform.

“It performed very well on Twitter but it did not have the same response on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook,” he said. “It’s interesting to think that an internet video doesn’t just belong on the internet — it belongs on specific social media sites.”

In fact, he said, a Tumblr user had somehow recognized where Mr. Gundacker developed his chops. “‘Wow,” they wrote. “This is a really long Vine.”

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