In the last year, YouTube comedy duo Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn have amassed 450,000 subscribers, 25 million views of their videos, and have fans stop them in the street.
Their channel Just Between Us (JBU) is described as a weekly dating advice show, which Ms Raskin, 26, readily admits is only a facade, beneath which the two best friends can show off their writing and acting chops.
The format has proved successful, with videos such as ‘Can Boys And Girls Just Be Friends?’ leading to a recent expansion into weekly sketches that have attracted even more viewers.
In videos, the two talk candidly about Ms Raskin’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and nose job as well as Ms Dunn’s bisexuality and polyamory, mixing scripted humour with honest emotion.
The Jewish pair, who hail from different sides of the East Coast but met in Los Angeles, are a study in opposites attracting. Ms Raskin fulfils the role of the uptight, closeted Jewish American Princess whose father paid for a nose job, while Ms Dunn, 27, is the rebellious, sexually free liberal.
They also grew up on different sides of the religious spectrum. While Ms Dunn was in Florida growing up in a strictly religious family, Ms Raskin grew up as a member of the Reform community in New York.
Both have since rebelled against their Jewish upbringing to some degree, but refer to Judaism regularly in their sketches. In their most-watched video, the first to pass a million views, Ms Raskin walks into Ms Dunn’s room, beaming. “I did it. I found the perfect outfit.”
Her partner responds, deadpan: “For what, Rosh Hashanah?”LISTEN: The JC Podcast - Youtubers, Bar Refaeli and the cost of weddings
Ms Dunn said that as a teenager she “hated Judaism because it was the thing to rebel against. I hated it, and I was worried about coming out, and I wasn’t aware that there were other factions of Judaism that were very liberal.”
She has since softened her position, and said that the duo’s religion “colours everything”.
“It covers all the neuroses, all the other stuff that makes comedy such a Jewish space anyway. It explains so much of what we do. You can explain stuff so quickly just by being like, ‘Jews. We’re two Jews’.”
Ms Dunn said their rise to stardom had been “overwhelming. We were both working, both pretty frustrated, not getting the opportunities and recognition we wanted.
“Once we could build an audience that likes and knows us, it’s been so much easier to leverage the things we want to do - longer-form stuff, or working with companies we want to.”
Ms Raskin said that having both been unpopular in school, they found their sudden popularity among younger sections of their audience surreal.
“We saw these fans of ours the other day who were so cool, and they were like, ‘Oh my God, we love you,’ and we were like, ‘They would have never been our friends when we were teenagers.’
But the California-based writers, who alongside their strict schedule for JBU work part-time for BuzzFeed amid numerous other projects, have so many fans because they help people.
Ms Dunn recounted on camera how she had had to come out to her parents twice as they didn’t believe her the first time, and how she needed to tell her grandma as “she asks me if I have a boyfriend every 30 seconds, because she's a Jewish grandmother.”
And she said the pair “can’t help” talking about issues which are so close to their hearts.
“When it's built into your DNA of how you became who you are, it's hard not to. Alison’s whole life has been a mental health journey and that really influences who she is, and I’ve also struggled with coming out.”
Ms Raskin reasoned that “if you’re portraying people with perfect lives, there’s nothing interesting about that. Comedy is so great because it allows you to tackle these topics that otherwise wouldn’t because they make people uncomfortable.
“I didn’t become a selfless doctor, and the way I try to make up for that is in my writing. If we have this audience, we should do something good with it.”
The countless comments of thanks underneath the videos show that this approach is working.
Ms Dunn said: “We get people stopping us and saying: ‘I have OCD and I didn’t know if it was worth it to keep trying, but now I see Allison and it is,’ or like, ‘I’m polyamorous, I live in a terrible town in Iowa, I didn’t know if it’s worth it to keep going, but then I see Gaby and I’m like, ‘Okay, I can do this.’
“I love that aspect of it, because I love these teens who might be isolated or might not have a lot of friends thinking: ‘I have friends on the internet.’ That’s wonderful to me.”
However, the two still want to work in more traditional media such as films and television, and said that they were “weirdly afraid of being pigeon-holed as ourselves” after spending so long conveying exaggerated versions of their own personalities to viewers.
But as with anyone trying to make a living in show business, the pair’s main concern was money. As Ms Raskin said: “That’s the harsh reality, that we’re still not making any money.
“It’d be great if we could support ourselves at some point so I wouldn’t have to give it all up and become my sister’s nanny.”
Ms Dunn chimed in, saying: “You would love that. That child is so cute.”
Without breaking stride, Ms Raskin replied in a completely serious voice: “Yeah, but eventually I think I’d go insane.”
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