"major sass alert"
While 23-year-old Michael Bellizzi may earn a living editing a reality show in Chelsea, he moonlights as the mayor of the wonderfully absurdist Vine account "Valium Village." The town, located at the intersection of '90s-era after school specials, hellish sex ed videos and online ephemera, exists wholly in six-second clips, in which an eccentric cast of characters go on blind dates, discuss music, and endure the mundane realities of teen suburbia. It's both demented and unexpectedly captivating, with teens stiltedly talking about sex and condoms, couples discussing football, and robot-like men giving dating tips. We talked to Bellizzi about the residents of Valium Village, what led him to create the Vine account, and where he gets his material, below.
Could you tell us about the idea behind Valium Village?
Very few people in my life share my sense of humor, so naturally they've been turned off by the types of videos that I watch. I thought to myself that there's no way that I'm the only one that relates to this stuff, and apparently I was right.
As far as what inspires me, or what inspired me to start the account, I would just say, life really -- surviving high school, growing up in a small suburban town, working at the local supermarket. I think I realize that people really like this content because it's so eerily true to life. There's just something to laugh at, and all these situations are so mundane, but they're so relatable at the same time. I always look in the comments; all these teenage girls are saying "oh my god, that's so you," or "oh my god this is just like Tiffany's mom!" It's funny to me that they can relate to the content because it's so bizarre.
"word travels fast"
Yeah there's something kind of uncanny about it, when you start watching them. Valium Village has a specifically Midwestern feel to it -- was that intentional?
Yeah, that was my hope. I always felt like it would be some small Midwestern town. And the reason why I chose the name 'Valium Village', it's interesting -- I originally called it 'Underwater Tea Party,' and it just dawned upon me one day when I was walking off of the subway and was like "no, Valium Village," and I changed the name. Valium, the drug, treats anxiety, so I was watching these videos and looking at the characters, and they're so subdued in the way that they talk -- they talk so slowly. I pretend sometimes that it's an actual town that they all live in.
When did it all begin?
It started in December of last year, and later I got into this high school melodrama stuff I called "Valium High." It's like a series within the series. But I post anything that I feel like matches the general tone, dreary tone.
"gotta have that bling" (aka how to dress hip-hop tutorial)
Where do you find this crazy material?
That's the age-old question. I get tons and tons of messages everyday.
Are you willing to reveal your sources?
Well it all began at my public library, and I thought to myself "gee, I wonder if they have all those awful movies that they made us watch in health class." It started with that, but then I was really just combing through the Internet -- like the public domain -- which has a lot of great stuff, and Chinese streaming sites. It's actually a really complicated process: it takes me hours upon hours of viewing these awful videos until I find something that I think is worth sharing with my followers.
Speaking of which, you've got over 300,000 now! What's your reaction to the massive popularity?
I did not anticipate this at all, but I'm so glad that people are enjoying the content and that I can make people laugh. I'm always reading on Twitter "I don't understand this? What is the point of this?" That's sort of the point to me: there is no point.
Going back to when you said Valium Village could be a 'small Midwestern town', if you had to put a state to it, what state do you think it would be in?
That was quick.
Like dead-center in the middle of Montana. No other towns around it.
"Nina finds the man of her dreams"
Do you have a favorite Valium Village vine?
It's "Nina finds the man of her dreams." It's just these people in this weird room, and this woman -- I named her Nina (that's not her actual name, I don't think they mention her name) -- and she's always going on blind dates with different men. I post her a lot, and she kind of became the star of the account: everyone's always demanding "we want more Nina!" She's the focal point -- I always fall back on her and bring her back into the show.
I love how you have these recurring characters. Do you mine the same series?
I try and salvage as much as I can, and since I'll do like part 1 and part 2 (like with the pregnancy), or people won't expect it and I'll revisit a story that was posted like 3 months ago -- don't be surprised if you see their faces again.
Where do you want to take Valium Village in the future? It's kind of hit its stride right now -- do you want to continue that, or take it in a new direction?
I'm going to continue with Valium Village. I need to give the people what they want and I'm going to release full-length videos, so they get something beyond the 6 seconds. I studied documentary film in college, so -- and this is kind of a tease -- don't be surprised if an all-original spinoff series comes out of this. I have the resources for it -- I have a lot of friends who studied acting in school and I went to an arts college, so I'd be interested in pursuing a spin-off with some of my own original content.