As a comedian living in New York, I know plenty of people who, during their time between jobs, have turned to making a web series to fill their time and potentially turn their careers around. Now, former Top Gear host James May seems to have joined their ranks with his Unemployment Tube series. In this first installment, May teaches us how to make a “hospital specification” Shepherd’s pie.

So what does May do right and wrong with his web series? As the producer and director of not one but two unemployment-inspired web series, I’m qualified to give a review here.

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Let’s start with the bad news. May really needs to work on his personal branding. He doesn’t have an image associated with his YouTube account, and it doesn’t say his full name anywhere on the page. Also, the title of each episode is a little convoluted and isn’t ideal from an SEO standpoint.

But he does some important things right, as well. For starters, he breaks his long cooking tutorial into three shorter episodes. No one on the internet is going to watch a 15-minute video. While I’d like to see each episode under three minutes, he’s taking a big step in the right direction by breaking it down into parts:

Another thing I like is that May is really making himself the focus of the series. Rather than a series about cooking, it’s a series about James May doing different things. He’s really establishing a strong presence that will help him get noticed by agents, managers, and casting directors. We’re watching for him, not for the cooking. In fact, the series isn’t limited to just cooking. In previous episodes, May played the recorder:

While I would normally advocate that the web series should have a more consistent logline (such as “James May teaches you how to cook traditional English dishes”), I think May is making a strong choice here to make the subject matter more broad so it features him more prominently.

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Overall, I think this web series is definitely one to keep your eye on. If he’s lucky, James May could become the next Jenna Marbles.


Nicole Conlan is a writer and comedian living in New York. She has written and edited for Jalopnik, SB Nation, and Sports Illustrated. Nicole also writes for the UCB Maude team Goodbye Handsome. You can contact her on Twitter right here.