“Dear Future Children,
If you wind up existing I want you to know I was 41 years old when I wrote this song.
I am that immature. I hope you will be too.
In the last 30 seconds of zeFrank1’s hilarious song dedication to the work of Sigmund Freud, the screen goes blank and the above message appears. If you’re even the slightest bit inclined to toilet humor, you’ll find yourself snickering, liking the video before delving down the expansive rabbit hole that is Hosea Frank’s YouTube channel. One moment Ze Frank enlightens us on the tongue physiology of geckos, the next there’s deep contemplation of our existence as people on a floating rock in the great expanse of space, and before you know it, there are tears in our eyes as he narrates the intricacies of trust in the human condition as two Cirque du Soleil gymnasts hold each other in dramatic poses.
Digital content creation is especially common today, but as with everything, there were the pioneers that came before everyone else to gauge the risk and take the plunge. The steady performances and comedies of Hosea Frank over the years substantiate his long-earned place in the world of digital creation.
If you’re unfamiliar with the person behind the content (or if you don’t know of anything Ze Frank-related), Hosea “Ze” Frank is a jack-of-all-trades and a long-time digitally skilled professional. With a neuroscience degree from Brown University and a music history with the band Dowdy Smack, Frank’s knowledgeable background and adventurous personality equipped him well for his vast career as an online entertainer. Embracing a wide range of interests, Frank’s endeavors have produced a broad creative repertoire over the past two decades, including songwriting, cinematography and educational videos. His efforts have seen him in big corporate positions, such as the ex-president of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, and as a relatively regular TED Conference speaker since 2004.
Overall, his focus in the past few years has been zeroed in on YouTube, the new home of his earlier video content — including “the show” and “a show” — as well as where he uploads his latest projects. As of now, his channel zefrank1 has over 3.5 million subscribers and a well-curated selection of videos: Some personal favorites include Fitting In Cardboard, Teddy Has An Operation, True Facts: Mudskippers and Thanksgiving Etiquette. The “True Facts” saga currently predominates in his recent content line-up, featuring caricatured yet educational commentary over cinematic shots of several mammals, fish and insects.
These videos are sometimes done in collaboration with various animal biologists, offering an homage to Frank’s scientific background. His quirky narrations prove the point that sometimes the use of humor in harder subject matter such as scientific literature and research makes the learning process a lot more memorable and enjoyable.
The ease with which Ze Frank presents facts and makes educational content catchy and compelling may attest to his personal education: Frank attended Montessori school, an institution known for constructive teaching methods that use a more hands-on approach to education. The value of a more personalized, straightforward experience with knowledge is very important, especially for harder, perhaps more intense subject matter such as the sciences. Education should not only inform, but INSPIRE.
However, sometimes the sheer size of educational institutions — of K-12 and colleges alike — tends to exchange a more distinctive, personal experience with knowledge, for a more generalized dissemination of facts. Gone are the days in Western society where trades and professions required an apprenticeship or some sort of interaction with a mentor where various nuances and tricks of the trade could be passed down with practical experience. Instead, the norm is to repeat a list of bullet points five times to make sure they are easily recalled on an exam paper. While Ze Frank’s YouTube channel might not be an explicitly educational channel nor does he intentionally engage with the intricacies of present-day pedagogy, his True Facts videos keep you wanting more — even if you’re not an animal buff.
Moreover, Frank’s existential musings that pepper his mostly comedic repertoire give his audience a glimpse into his inner workings, offering a point of relatability for those intense moments that draw us away from our daily preoccupations and deeper into our humanity. The Human Test brings out the best in us — a laugh, a cry, a sober moment of clarity and the wistful emotions of grief. Ultimately, that is Frank’s message: We are all still human amid our busy and cluttered digital world, and we should never lose sight of that.
Ze Frank’s natural manner and ease as a performer and entertainer make him both an icon and an influence. Through his extensive 20-year career, one can draw inspiration to embrace a wide range of interests in a world that oftentimes tries to box a person in or define people by one-dimensional labels.
His unintentional demonstrations of functionally humorous education inspire and entertain, showing that knowledge should not become a flat, lifeless experience. Rather, it should draw people in and function as an asset especially valuable in a world that will soon be dominated by scientific interest. From the heights of his humor to the depths of his most deeply existential thoughts, Frank demonstrates the value of humanity in its wholeness, with a side of childishly hilarious jokes and gags that bring us down from our busy lives of authority and solemnity to an even playing field where any bad fart joke is hilarious.