'My Fake News Interviews Have Been Viewed More Than 70 Million Times'

Comedy started for me at school. I didn't want to be bullied, and I was naturally funny I guess. People would laugh at things I did, and if you were funny you didn't get bullied as much.

As time went on and I got into my teens, I was seeing people making videos on YouTube. I thought that if other people could do it, I could do it too. Me and my cousin started making videos and didn't get many views at all. If we got a hundred views, it was cause for celebration. I stopped doing that because life got in the way. I had to go out and make some money. But when I was studying psychology in college, in around 2017, I started making comedy videos again

I started with reaction videos. Where people watch you reacting to something else. People started coming to my channel, so I started sliding my own comedy content in there.

I used to see a lot of weird news interviews that were real and I missed them. So I decided I was going to recreate them in comedy form. I just wanted to tell my fans: Do you remember when people used to act crazy on the news? Look at me doing that.

I was at work when I wrote my first comedy news interview. It was a janitor at a dialysis clinic and I was in there pushing the mop when I thought of it after seeing a segment on the news about protecting your home from thieves. If I laugh at a joke in my head, I write it. Every video you see is there because I laughed at it too. That first video went viral and got almost 8 million views on my YouTube channel alone. It just took off; I didn't know that would happen.

The idea of doing a fake, comic news interview isn't mine, people have done it before me, but the writing, filming and editing came from me, and I got all this attention. People were making songs and different edits. I was like, wow, that's me! I didn't know what to do.

Before I made the Alfredo Rivera video on August 5, I was scrolling through social media and I kept seeing this guy on a plane going crazy and yelling at people. I remember thinking that it might be time to do something else. When I write these things I can be in any state of mind. At that moment, I was just driving around and it came to me. I found a quiet location because I have to make sure nobody is around when I'm filming, because I'm talking all kinds of crazy and I don't want anyone shouting that I can't be there.

I set my camera up on my car and filmed it a couple of times just to make sure it was perfect. My catchphrase is "hold up, wait a minute, something ain't right!" so I found a way to put that in there and then I uploaded it, just like usual, thinking I'd get a few thousand views.

I got a couple of text messages from people I know asking if it was me. When I started getting messages from people I didn't know and messages flooding my social media inbox, I realized I was going viral again. So many famous people shared my video, including Dan Levy and Beyonce's mom Tina Knowles, I can't even keep up with it.

My fake news interview videos have had more than 70 million views in total now. People take my videos and share them on their platforms and my YouTube channel, The Real Spark, has seen around 20million views in total and had almost 5 million views on the Alfredo Rivera interview video now.

I do get recognized all the time. When I go viral, I can't really go anywhere. I was in the hospital with a mask on in a wheelchair—I had twisted my ankle—and this guy was looking at me. I thought he couldn't possibly know it was me. He and his wife were nudging each other, then he walked over and said, "Hey is this you, bud?", showed me his phone and asked if he could have a picture.

I don't mind it. When I'm out, I just want to make people feel good and happy anyway— that's my natural state of being. It just depends on where I am. If I'm in the bathroom and someone taps me on the shoulder, it's like—what are you doing man?

But I don't really feel famous at all. If you say Beyonce, everyone knows who that is. But if you say "The Real Spark" you'd have to show people who I am. So I'm not famous yet, but I'll take whatever people want to call me.

I don't feel bad when people think my interviews are real because I never post the videos and say that they are real news interviews—I am posting them on my comedy channels. I would hope that when people watch a video they tap the creator's name and see what they do.

I think people are in a time where, particularly with COVID, where perhaps they want my video to be real. Even if they know that people aren't going to talk on the news about taping people up and whooping their a**, they want it to be real for some type of excitement. I'm here for that. Nobody is harmed in my videos and I generally try to avoid stories that involve people being harmed.

James Bates is The Real Spark
James 'The Real Spark' Bates has been making fake news interview comedy videos since 2017. James Bates

I might have five videos that get 20,000 views and then one about a flight attendant gets millions. So it is always a gamble. If I knew exactly how to get a million every time, you would see nothing but videos with millions of views! I have made more than 30 of these and only one TV station has ever said to me that they didn't find it funny. It was kind of a vulgar sketch so they asked me to take it down. YouTube actually took it down for me.

My full time job is making comedy videos. But of course, side jobs are essential, I have to maintain paying my bills. I've signed up with companies like Lyft for my downtime. It can be comical in the car, because I meet some crazy people. But I make the most money from YouTube videos. In the future, I would like to learn how to act and do cameos here and there in TV and films. I'd even be the boom microphone guy; I'll soak it all in.

Whatever happens to me, all the legal stuff that might come later, I'm just happy that I put a smile on someone else's face. I'll continue doing it. Because if a person who was having a bad day is smiling now, because of me, it's all worth it.

James Bates is a comedian living in Louisiana. You can follow him on YouTube at The Real Spark or on Instagram @the_real_spark.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.