The last few years have seen a renaissance for comedic video content created by and starring gay men, and much of it is coming out of Los Angeles. Like the SoCal city’s sister (or is it brother?) on the other coast, New York City, L.A. has long drawn some of the country’s most talented queer men to its shores, where they’re able to lay out on the beach (read: work multiple jobs), take advantage of the never-ending sunshine (read: struggle to squeeze in auditions between those jobs) and, naturally, go vintage shopping (read: occasionally scramble to pay rent). Seth Daniel, one-half of the duo behind the new web series Bothered, is part of that L.A. comedic glitterati.
Born in Tampa and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, by his parents at 9, Seth Daniel says it was the latter city that helped mold his personality into the actor of many funny one-off videos and web series you’ve likely seen on YouTube. Daniel tells Hornet of his time in Memphis, “I was weird, I was loud, I was flamboyant. And in a small Southern town, that was something that made it impossible for me to make friends.”
But things were different in Memphis the second time around, when he returned to film the gay web series Feral, released on Dekkoo in 2016. He’d auditioned for the series, helmed by his friend and filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox, from New York City, where he had moved after turning 21. “I only lasted a year until I came home with my tail between my legs, broke and lonely, with a glimmer of hope that this little show Feral I was about to audition for would somehow make me feel better about giving up on NYC,” he says.
Feral was a special moment in time for Seth Daniel, who was ultimately plucked to play the role of Daniel, one of its leads. Daniel says the role bore many similarities to himself as a teen. “It’s an incredibly raw account of that internal conflict of discovering yourself within a world that doesn’t truly have space for you,” he says. He remains proud of his work on the series, which not only shone a light on the experiences of many American gay youth — particularly those who don’t call one of our two liberal coasts home — but “brought humanity to our existence.” Daniel says many gay teens reached out to him after the release of Feral to thank him for the accurate representation of their own experiences.
But the Seth Daniel of today — the guy who wrote, produced and stars in Bothered — isn’t the same Seth Daniel of Feral. This latest venture, which he says was shot nearly four years to the day after Feral, finds him in a much different space.
Not only has Daniel since made the move to L.A., where he’s worked on commercials, done improv and appeared in some of the funniest viral videos floating around the web, and not only has he since settled down with a boyfriend of over three years (they moved to Los Angeles together from Memphis), but he’s also much more confident. “I have come so far in learning to love myself and let others love and appreciate me. I can now create things and believe in them and trust that I’m not complete shit,” he laughs.
But despite the small projects, Seth Daniel says, “I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I wanted to show the world what I can do.”
Dark comedy Bothered is the brainchild of Daniel and his friend Catherine McCafferty. In the first episode, a newly fired Seth can’t deal with his roommate’s inability to cope with her dad’s death, so he selfishly makes a plan to distract her by finding “a straight” to pawn her off on. We watch them navigate loneliness, relationships and uncomfortable roommate squabbles. (In Episode 8, Catherine confesses she used Seth’s tweezers on her pubic hair.)
The two met during Daniel’s first week in L.A. — in an Upright Citizens Brigade improv class — and immediately bonded.
“I was getting restless from lack of creative expression and finally reached out to her and said, ‘Let’s make a show about how we deal with stress and life so poorly.’ She lost her dad a few months before we started this process, and she found some solace in creating something funny about a genuinely shitty situation she was in, and it blossomed from there.”
Daniel’s and McCafferty’s characters in Bothered are … a lot. He describes their characters as the “demons” of them both, his being “cold, reactive, aggressive and downright mean,” hers being “depressed, unmotivated, self-hating and pathetic.”
Calling Bothered “a truly cathartic exercise,” Daniel says, “It was a fun way for us to deal with our shit while making fun of it and ourselves at the same time.”
“A lot of being in your 20s — for me — is being told you are too much while also feeling like you aren’t enough. And what does it look like when you have two characters that lean into that?” McCafferty tells Hornet. “Seth is the character who has these big emotions, and that is what takes him through his arc in the series, and Catherine is a shell of a person, an non-contributing member of society, and this is her journey.”
That confidence Daniel had tucked away came in handy while making Bothered. “I think a lot of times people write things and feel like they need someone to make it for them, but I’m a control freak and I was going to make this show or lose all my friends trying,” he laughs. “We sent the script to a few people asking if they wanted to help out, and it was amazing how well-received it was. Pretty much everyone who was asked to help did, and we were both stunned. People have the misconception that no one wants to work for free in L.A., and that’s not true. No one wants to work for free on something that will never see the light of day. Too often projects start and they fall apart, and then everyone’s time and work was wasted.”
Daniel insists he and McCafferty never wavered on the fact that Bothered was going to see the light of day, something he feels had the cast and crew feeling confident, too. “I’m so proud of everyone who came together to make our little show,” he says. “It’s what Hollywood is made of — a bunch of creative people spending 13-plus-hour days on silly projects that make our hearts sing.”
McCafferty says of the audience for the show, all 11 episodes of which are available to watch on YouTube, “Bothered is for people who don’t feel seen. It’s for the people who feel ‘othered,’ and we want to show them two people who try to figure it out, and who might not entirely figure it out but always know they have each other.”
In addition to his good friend and producing partner McCafferty, Seth Daniel is blessed to have found his tribe among the current iteration of gay L.A.’s comedic glitterati. It’s a trail that was blazed by names like Drew Droege, Sam Pancake, Justin Martindale and Jonny McGovern, and its younger generation includes the likes of Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jimmy Fowlie, Navaris Darson, Pete Zias and the perpetually hilarious (and quite prolific) Michael Henry.
“There is a ‘family’ of gay comics here in L.A., and I’m more than flattered to even be associated with them,” Daniel says. “I’m inspired by their work, their dedication and their talent. They’ve all had a hand in keeping me sane and remembering there are others fighting for their place in the industry, and not to give up. I mean, have you ever been in a room with Pete Zias? He’s a freakin’ nut, and I’m obsessed. How are these people not all that’s on TV?!”
A lack of representation of the LGBTQ community in mainstream media be damned; as with Bothered, Seth Daniel is subverting the system by creating and starring in his own (and his friends’) content. So much of queer representation across mainstream channels is lacking in depth, or fails to provide valuable visibility of our community’s diversity. “We come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, and I wish there was more representation of that,” Daniel says.
But until that representation does find its way into mainstream media, Seth Daniel is going to keep on keeping on, forging his own path while continuing to audition for roles he’s right for.
“I’m here, making shows, playing competitive dodgeball and telling my story to any Uber driver stupid enough to accept my ride,” he laughs.
Keep up with Seth Daniel and watch Bothered over on his YouTube channel.
Featured image (Bothered promo shot) by Alaya Turnbough