John Edwards understands the hearts of Minnesota. "Jokes are important," says Edwards, the founder and creative maestro behind Wedge LIVE!.
Wedge LIVE! is a "hyperlocal news empire." Haven't heard of it? Check out its YouTube channel. There you'll find the reason behind its growing fame.
Edwards delves into the ultra-serious world of local politics. He pulls clips from Minneapolis city council and planning committee meetings, and other goings-on in the area. He infuses special effects and sound bytes. The result is 30 seconds to a few minutes of shtick, in which the humorless is turned into yuks.
The current Minneapolis mayoral race makes for a prime example.
City Council Member Jacob Frey is one four candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Betsy Hodges. During an past interview, Frey said the "Cosby Show" is his favorite sitcom of all-time. Its namesake, Bill Cosby, has since been brought up on criminal sexual assault charges.
Edwards takes Frey's admission along with Cosby's legal troubles and the result is the spoof attack ad: "Wrong on Cosby. Wrong for Minneapolis."
LIVE! started because of a flyer. In 2014 some people in the Wedge neighborhood of Lowry Hill East were handing out literature. It read that residents needed to unite in opposition against a new apartment planned in the area. They were told to attend an upcoming meeting.
Edwards did. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. By sitting in on that one "sad," "vicious," and most importantly "weird" meeting, Edwards was hooked.
"It was very Tea Partyesque," he recalls.
Edwards listened to homeowners carping about their renting neighbors. The experience taught him about the process and policy mechanics of neighborhood politics. "If you're not careful, the loudest people will get what they want," the merits of an issue be damned.
"The dynamic seemed worth documenting," he says. "And it was good material for jokes."
He live-tweeted the meetings using the LIVE! handle in the beginning. He found there was an audience for the information. But Edwards wanted to weigh with a hook that had a broader appeal. YouTube shorts.
Edwards' go-to for material is city of Minneapolis meetings. LIVE!'s videos have starred sneezing, dancing, and ornery Minneapolis city council members. A trilogy from St. Paul mixes sex toys, an anti-bike lanes beatnik dry cleaner, and various city residents, who seem convinced there's a constitutional guarantee to owning lots of motorized vehicles and the off-street parking to accommodate.
"A lot of what I get recognition for now is the weird, absurd videos I make of City Council meetings," he says. "I hope to draw people in with the weird videos and get them thinking about the issues they hadn't considered before."