A video or video/audio mashup that combines different source material, often in an attempt to be intentionally annoying and usually in a mood that is more or less parodic, satirical or surreal.
The intentions and effects of appropriation as practiced in poops is a matter of controversy – or sometiems indifference – among practitioners, fans, critics, and those who study the phenomenon. Michael Wesch, an anthropologist who is considered one of the foremost academic authorities on social media has described YouTube Poops as “absurdist remixes that ape and mock the lowest technical and aesthetic standards of remix culture to comment on remix culture itself.”
It’s not quite clear what that “comment” is intended to be. Some see them as drawing our attention precisely to how easy it is to remix other people’s creations now. Clearly they are disruptive of mainstream media, and generally they annoy and offend people with material that in its original form is usually relaxing or seemingly innocent (children’s cartoons and video games, as well as somewhat “higher” stuff, like Spongebob).
The fandom Wiki page on this mode discusses the recurring techniques found in the appropriation of source material to turn it into poops:
Certain techniques are usually apparent in every YouTube Poop video. These techniques have been coined as Poopisms. They do not refer to the source material, but how the source material is treated. The techniques are as follows;
Ear Rape: Volume is maxed out and distorted. The intention is generally to annoy. This genre has also appeared in some MLG montage parodies.
Stutter Loop: A short piece of video is looped in order to call attention or emphasize something.
Stutter Loop Plus: A stutter loop with random effects added.
Stutter Loop Minus: A stutter loop with only audio.
Sentence Mixing (sometimes called Word Splicing): Words are cut and rearranged, often to create profanity or entirely new sentences.
Spadinner: A blanket term used to refer to the outdated and overused sources such as Super Mario World (especially the episode Mama Luigi), Hotel Mario, and The Wand of Gamelon. This technique eventually led to the creation of sentence mixing.
Classic YTPMV: A sample is sequenced to an audio track to vaguely simulate something like “singing.”
YTPMV: Notes in source materials are pitch shifted to replicate music
History and culture of YTPs
Graeme Chandler, who was a student in CULT 2001 in Autumn 2017, provided some nuanced remarks on this mode of appropriation in a private correspondence to me, which he has agreed to let me share:
I think the reason for making YTP’s tends to be different for every user. Originally it was just because people could now make stupid edits with Movie Maker. I was very fortunate to be surfing on YouTube with a good friend of mine back in 2007, and getting to witness this thing when it first started. Looking back, it showcases an evolution in taste, because the original videos I laughed at are all terrible, but they were the best things that existed at that point. The mere idea of having something like Hotel Mario being bleeped out for swearing was unfathomable at that point; just the idea that you could change the original source however you wanted was funny in and of itself.
Eventually, more talented people got involved and started developing a sense of actual comedy, where jokes could be subliminal, self referential, or multilayered and extremely complex. Everyone has their personal favourite sources, and it tends to become a bit of a signature in each video. Sometimes it was funny; other times it got serious. Everyone had their own style and reasons for what they do.
The one interesting thing is that it tends to be kind of like a community (hence why it’s referred to as the YTP community). Every user knows each other, and they are each an actual person. It transcends language and nationality. I know users from Canada, USA, Mexico, Finland, England, and Wales to name a few. It’s taken a hit recently, with most of the really famous users having taken leave for various reasons (chemistryguy had a daughter, Captpan when to write a book, Stu got a job (and then lost it due to a financial crisis in Texas, so he’s back now), MasterofZoroark and DaThings1 started school (although both have said they would like to return when they have time), Fawful came out as trans and then had a sex change, LinkonDrugs had a mental breakdown and deleted everything (also now back and making videos), TimoteiLSD got conscripted into the Finnish army, kitty0706 actually died of leukaemia, MoBroStudios trailed off after his father died, etc. It comes and goes in generations, with new users appearing all the time.
Stu has often been seen as the unofficial head source of what YTP is, mostly because he’s one of the few users who has ever actually looked at it in depth. He’s kind of an obnoxious Texan, but it’s part of his charm. He’s made it pretty clear what his philosophy is on the whole idea, and it’s evolved over the years. The basic idea is it’s whatever you want it to be. It’s your work, no one can tell you that there’s a right or wrong way to edit, and you do it for yourself because you want to.
Personally, I think YTP showcases a forgotten aspect of comedy. I have been told that the route of all comedy is someone else’s misery, but I disagree because, from my perspective, large portions of YTP have nothing to do with that. The humour derives from what I would describe as absurdist comedy, where the joke is the correlation between different sources (the sense of what is being remixed). In the 1800’s, humour could be as simple as a dog riding a bicycle. There’s no joke involved, it’s just the notion of such a thing happening that makes it funny. Jumping back to what I said earlier, Hotel Mario being bleeped (for example) was funny because it was so unexpected. It’s the notion of two completely unrelated sources being composited together that makes YTP funny (usually), because it’s “absurd”, since that would never happen in the continuity of the actual sources being used.
It’s one of those things that is very hard to explain, due to the sheer scope. The best I can do is show the progression of YTP, and try and have people start at the beginning, and move through to the modern stuff. Otherwise, it’s hard to appreciate the early videos, since they are not funny to people who have seen the better stuff. Imagine being able to see a horror film like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari when it first came out in 1920, and then work your way up to something like The Evil Dead remake in 2013. The former would still have significant appeal, but you could have the unique ability to be scared by what your seeing, since it’s not something that you’ve ever been exposed to before. This way, anyone curious about what YTP is can sort of figure it out for themselves, since they may have a different interpretation.
Three interesting terms are Collabs, YTPMV’s, and Tennis Matches. Collabs are when a group of users create shorter YTP’s using a specific source, and then are compiled into a single video. YTPMV’s are music videos using YTP source material to go with a song. Tennis Matches are when a user makes a video, publicly sends it to another user (including the files), and they re-edit it to make it more complicated, then send it back for the original user to edit; this repeats until one of them admits defeat; the longest match I’ve seen was the Eggs battle between chemistryguy and TimoteiLSD, which lasted six rounds.
Chandler also kindly provided a partial history or timeline of the genre’s development.