YLA recipient Rollie Williams is a Brooklyn-based comedian, video editor, and guy with both student debt and a Climate Science & Policy degree from Columbia University. He is the creator and host of the digital comedy series Climate Town which has been described as a low budget Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Over the past two years, the channel has amassed 421,000 subscribers, over 10 million video views, and has won a handful of digital video awards. Rollie now leads a team of 4 as they seek to expand their climate communication footprint in 2023. When he's not creating climate media, Rollie enjoys playing billiards, and recently achieved his dream of commentating at the World Cup of Pool in England.
Rollie's Project: Climate Town
Climate Town is a YouTube channel that makes rigorously researched journalistic comedy videos about climate change to educate and activate, and get people more comfortable talking about the issue.
We recently checked in with Rollie to learn more about hi background and plans for the conservation and regeneration of our planet.
Walking Softer: What brought you to your work in climate and environmental justice?
Rollie: I was doing improv and sketch comedy in New York around 2018 and I decided to write a comedy show about the life of America's handsomest grandfather: Al Gore. The venue that picked up the show required all shows to be at least a little bit educational, so I built in an expert interview segment, invited a climate scientist or climate journalist to be one of the guests, and began a monthly run of "An Inconvenient Talk Show." Every episode featured some comedians from places like SNL, The Daily Show, the UCB, etc. and at least one climate expert, and after each show we'd go out to the bar and have a few drinks with the climate experts. I had a bunch of climate scientists on my comedy show, and inevitably the questions of 'just how bad climate change really is' would come up. Let's just say once you hear a half dozen separate, unconnected climate experts tell you the same bleak answer, you start to get a little worried. I decided to quit my day job and go back to school at Columbia to get a graduate degree in Climate Science and Policy, and it just so happened that I did that at the exact same time as a certain global pandemic showed up. I can't remember which pandemic it was but it happened around Feb of 2020 and it turned my grad school experience into a very expensive University of Phoenix online degree. Since I couldn't keep doing a live comedy show on account of the pandemic, I made it a YouTube series instead and called it Climate Town.
Walking Softer: What do you do for self-care and fun?
Rollie: I absolutely love playing billiards, so when I'm not working or hanging out with friends, I like to drop by one of New York's pool halls. Since my job is writing and editing, I can sometimes get lost behind a keyboard, so I've found it's helpful for me to make commitments to see shows or go on trips with friends WAAAAY in advance.
Walking Softer: Who or what inspires you?
Rollie: I'm really inspired by people like Jon Stewart, Natalie Wynn from Contrapoints, John Oliver, and Amber Ruffin. I really like watching people build up arguments with supporting evidence and mixed media and build it waaaay up to a final point. YouTube is full of fantastic creators who do this and I try to be like them as hard as I can.
Walking Softer: Any people or organizations that you would like to thank?
Rollie: Climate Changemakers, Fossil Free Media, Clean Creatives, Documentary Educational Resources, and many more.
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