WEST PITTSTON — Luke Berti can make you laugh in six seconds.
His ability to do that on the social media app/website Vine, in which users make continuously looping six-second videos, earned him tens of thousands of fans, street cred among top “Viners,” and more opportunities than most 27-year-olds have had in their lives.
What kinds of opportunities? In October 2014, Berti was hanging out backstage with “Saturday Night Live” performers Leslie Jones, Pete Davidson and Kenan Thompson during a live taping. He met Jim Carrey. He created a Vine with Jon Hamm, of “Mad Men” fame.
“It blew my mind,” said Berti, of West Pittston. “Here I am rubbing shoulders with these people like they’re my peers. And it was all because of Vine.”
Though his life significantly changed in the past two years, the goal of making it in the comedy world has always been on Berti’s mind.
A funny first
His first foray into performing was when he made his peers laugh during a Class Day skit at Wyoming Area. He imitated actor Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Borat, a journalist from Kazakhstan who has some interesting world views.
“I was the first act, and when I walked out on stage there was an ocean of people,” he said. “I started and everyone was cracking up. I was overcome with tranquility and thought, ‘OK, I can do this.’”
Berti attended Penn State University for three years majoring in communications, but came back in 2011 to help his dad, Louis, with his electrical contracting buisness. After his dad’s retirement, Berti started his own electrical service company.
It is the perfect job for someone who spends a lot of time making six-second videos.
“I’m my own boss, so I don’t have to adhere to any rules,” said Berti, who described some of his Vines as “lewd and crude.” “… I don’t think I could do (Vine) if I worked a 9-to-5 job. Vine takes up a lot of my time.”
A new hobby
Berti began to dabble into the social media/art form in 2013, not long after it launched. It started as a way for him and his friends to make each other laugh. Thirty thousand “followers” later, Berti is taking his filming more seriously.
“I did a couple of series that were popular,” he said. “I brought a bat into my apartment and started chasing it around and yelling.”
Berti said those Vines went “viral,” or gained popularity extremely fast on the internet, and his confidence grew.
As of Dec. 11, Berti has 72,210 followers, a number that continues to grow. He’s posting videos to the site just about every day, always looking for inspiration .
Though there are Viners with more followers — currently the site’s top user, whose handle is King Bach, has about 14 million — Berti loves what he does and isn’t letting the numbers dictate how he uses the service.
Berti tries to interact with every person who comments on his videos. And he’s made some of his best friends through Vine.
“My mom had a pen pal when she was in elementary school, and we’ve actually gone to Ireland to visit her ,” Berti said. “I explain it to (my mom) that I have at least five pen pals in each state across the country. I have friends all over the world, real, genuine friends, through Vine.”
One of those friends is a British stand up comedian named Jeff Leach, with whom he attended the “Saturday Night Live” taping last year.
Berti is friends with popular Viners who made a career from making short videos — a goal he is also pursuing.
He said he would one day like to make money creating Vines, break into comedy writing, and perform standup comedy.
Though some Viners do make money from the site through advertising, Berti said he would not compromise his creativity or integrity for the sake of earning cash.
“I’ve had offers from companies and have turned a few down because I know people would look at my Vines and say, ‘He’s a sellout,’” he said.
Life of a Viner
Berti always on the lookout for Vine ideas, and he’s gone to some pretty extreme lengths to get the right shots.
“I’ve stopped traffic for a Vine,” he said. “I’ve been chased off of private property … Sometimes I am standing there, looking like I’m taking a selfie, and I know people are wondering what I’m doing.”
Berti describes Vine as a “unique medium” in which users can pursue any kind of art or entertainment form they want, from the intricacies of stop-motion animation to the comedy in a well-timed prank.
Though Berti typically likes to create humorous Vines, he enjoys creating visually interesting videos or performing on piano for his followers.
And he doesn’t use fancy, high-tech gadgetry, either.
“The tools the apps gives you are incredible,” he said. “You can trim the videos, add music, change the order of your clips, you can even upload videos from your computer, but that’s a little tricky.”
He’s not always alone when he’s recording from his phone. Berti enlists the help of his friends, who he said “get sick of it,” but are supportive of his goals.
His family is also supportive of his filming, though his mother, Charlene, a teacher at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, is sometimes less than thrilled when she appears in the videos.
“Because my mom’s a teacher, sometimes she holds back because she’s like, ‘I don’t want my kids to see it,’” he said. He said his mother is often recognized as “Luke Berti’s mom” by younger students.
Berti’s dad is on board and willing to put himself in compromising situations to make others laugh.
“He loves it. He doesn’t mind getting tortured and made fun of,” said Berti. “He loves to read the comments.”
And since his face is all over the internet, Berti tries not to let it get to his head when someone recognizes him on the street or gushes to him in the comments section.
“A lot of people who interact with me treat me like a celebrity,” he said. “In my mind I think I just have a knack for making funny videos. I try to stay humble … When someone says to me, ‘You’re that guy from Vine,’ my friends (remind me) I’m not a celebrity.”
Berti has an older sister, Luisa, who lives in Florida.
Reach Sarah Hite Hando at 570-704-3945.