Many know him simply as The Disappearing Guy:
YouTube comedy is special. Over the years, it’s allowed many teens and young adults with minimal resources to create realms as complex as any good television show. When it comes to Black YouTubers in particular, even the slightest alterations to otherwise normal ass settings create a completely different world for the viewer to enjoy themselves in. DeshawnRaw (i.e. Supa Hot Fire) and Dormtainment come to mind as good examples of this.
But along with one-off skits and parody songs, Stewart’s comedic universe is more layered than those of his predecessors.
Much of his humor grew in popularity from 30 second clips on Twitter. As stated in an interview with Ebony, he was late to Vine and was quick to utilize Twitter once it fully integrated video.
But Retro Spectro’s comedic themes didn’t stop evolving after those clips.
Stewart’s comedy has grown in ways you wouldn’t expect a recent high school graduate to figure out so quickly. His YouTube videos contain finer details that make his brand of videos a more convincing reality outside of Vine or Twitter.
He’s created a world complete with recurrent characters, inside jokes, and popular spots. Kind of like how sitcoms have characters with memorable quirks, or places in the show that carry some kind of significance.
Here’s a brief synopsis of some of the characters:
- Niles – teenager, high school student, likes to dance to newer trap music and hang out with friends, forever avoidant of beatings from his mother. Struggles with his identity as a geek, which sometimes gets exposed in embarrassing ways. Signature qualities include the Disappear move and the double-time two-arm dab.
- Niles’ mom – Presumably single mother, highly vigilant, short-tempered. Wears same robe and cap in every video. Rival of Niles’ White friend. Beats anyone (usually Niles) with her signature belt when angered or disrespected. Surprisingly good dancer and skilled on a hoverboard.
- Niles’ White friend – Based on the stereotype of geeky, anti-social White boys who clash with authority figures. Always wears a black cloak. Rival of Niles’ mom, and person able to stand up to her because he doesn’t give a fuck. Signature items include dusty black dress shoes, and a silver briefcase he uses as a weapon.
- TheRealBNard (Bernard Clark) – Niles’ friend, classmate, usually appears with Leanandcuisine. Has his own YouTube channel where he’s the main character, overlaps with the world of Niles’ comedy.
- Leanandcuisine (Casey Lawrence) – Niles’ friend, classmate, usually appears with TheRealBNard. Has his own overlapping YouTube channel as well.
Not to mention he plays himself, his mother, and his White friend, and sometimes all in the same video.
I don’t think I’ve seen a Black teen act in Whiteface before, and it’s hilarious.
His musical selection also adds depth to his videos. Instead of opting for hit pop and hip-hop singles (aside from the Disappearing sound effect), Stewart uses songs with similar patterns and lyrics as the hits most of his viewers are familiar with. They’re just as effective in getting the mood right, and you’re not distracted by a song or artist you can instantly recognize.
It makes you attach the music to the name Retro Spectro rather than a certain artist.
For instance, after watching ‘When being sneaky goes wrong’, you can never dissociate ‘Juice’ by Stackztootrill from Niles (at 0:20):
Or ‘Halfway’ by Tbam in ‘The missing Jordans’ video:
In both videos, he plays the song toward the beginning and toward the end. It’s lit because the plots of his videos take such dramatic twists, the song gains a new meaning and feel when you hear it at the end versus the beginning of a video.
For instance, when Niles calls his White friend over to stop his mom from visiting school, the song ‘Double Cup’ (Stackztootrill again) is played twice. The first time, Niles is getting ready and starting his day off hyped.
After his mom gets knocked out by his White friend (spoiler, oops), the bass drops suddenly and you’re left stunned.
His use of instrumental soundtracking is also hilarious. Watch enough of his videos and you’ll see how well he uses dramatic choral and orchestral music to exaggerate things like showdowns with his mom and plot twists.
Overall, Retro Spectro’s comedy is refreshing. Between his social media accounts and his content, the portrayal of his life is a transparent change of pace from what most Black males do on camera these days.
He acts, directs, edits, writes, and is easy to relate to. Niles Stewart’s comedy is a positive product of millennial social life and deserves more serious acclaim than likes and retweets.