Yo reddit! We are the team behind Thug Notes (http://www.youtube.com/thugnotes), the illest literature show on the web. You have Greg Edwards (aka Sparky Sweets, PhD.), Jared Bauer (show creator, co-writer), Joseph Salvaggio (researcher, co-writer) and Jacob Salamon (producer, co-illustrator) ready to answer your questions. AUA!

PROOF: https://twitter.com/SparkySweetsPhD/status/433400980890066944/photo/1

UPDATE: Well this has been fun, y’all. Thanks for taking the time to come ask us questions. We love book suggestions, so tweet at us or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter. New episodes every Tuesday on our YouTube channel! Check out our Oedipus Rex episode for Valentine’s Day which dropped today (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMD18ZF0MLo). Peace!

Comments: 439 • Responses: 63  • Date: 

ScottPIlgrim42268 karma

Just a funding idea for you guys, you should make audiobooks of Sparky Sweets reading books. Cause holy shit would I pay for you reading 50 shades of grey in the same way you talk on the show

thugnotes1276 karma

Greg: call me and I'll read you a story. 281-330-8004

atlasthebard146 karma



thugnotes1127 karma


lostintime2004146 karma

Seriously, what is your background Sparky Sweets? I love your show and what you do; please tell me you have a degree in English or Literature of some kind. Where did you go to school?

Also where did you get the idea?

thugnotes1218 karma

Joe happens to have a degree in English, but in academic circles, that's far from making you an authority. One of the points of the show is to call in to question: "What does it mean to be an authority?"

rezips119 karma


thugnotes1248 karma

No, there's nothing we're not willing to review in the long term. It's just a question of time and right now we're prioritizing the popular high school books.

In the future we'd love to do HP Lovecraft, Watchmen, Calvin & Hobbes..

pacmanswang116 karma

As a film studies teacher I have to ask, now that you've managed to establish your channel with the literature deconstructions would you ever consider doing film criticism? There's a lot of cross over between literature and film criticism and it'd be interesting to get your take on the medium.

Also thank you personally, your videos are part of my weekly English Lit. class. and my class love them.

thugnotes1163 karma

Jared: A film studies channel would be a DREAM. But someone who works at YouTube has advised against doing that based on over saturation. But I find that most existing Youtube channels about film are pretty weak. They think that because they can list plot holes they are being "analytical."

channelmasta63 karma

Hey Jared, guy that works at YouTube checking in - a film studies channel would be a great addition to your lineup, either on your existing channel or on a new channel. (I would also personally really like to watch it!)

thugnotes165 karma

Jared: Hmm. Joe and I were thinking of writing a special episode on Breaking Bad but haven't gotten around to it yet..

Prathik32 karma

I hate those 'everything wrong with this movies in blah seconds' bs.

thugnotes129 karma

Jared: Me too.

Thejim67112 karma

Is this your only source of income, or do you all have other jobs?

thugnotes1226 karma

Between the 4 of us, there are 7 jobs.

SireSpanky213 karma

Pimpin' ain't easy

thugnotes1372 karma

But it sho' is fun.

erichwanh103 karma

Is the Thug Notes / Reading Rainbow collaboration still in the works? That would make my whole year.

thugnotes1157 karma

Still waiting to hear back from LeVar. Help a brother out and spam his twitter.

JustinIsFunny83 karma

Greg has stated publicly most of his inspiration in life comes from his hero, Justin Harrison. What is that is so awesome about him?

thugnotes1122 karma

Greg: Fuck you, Justin.

kinght680 karma

Do you all read the books? Do any of you have a phd?

thugnotes1180 karma

The "character" of Sparky Sweets has a PhD in classics. None of us have a PhD IRL, but Joe has a masters in classics. Joe reads every book cover to cover.

miggsmagge98 karma

Sparky got his phd Pimping Hard Daily

thugnotes156 karma

Jacob: Sup Mikey?!

zomgdavidbowie72 karma

Do you guys have anything big planned for the future? DVD release? Other educational material? What are all y'all's educational background?

I'm a big fan of y'all. Thug Notes is easily my favorite YouTube channel.

EDIT: And have you guys thought about branching out into other fields? I'd pay with my own limbs to see a series on world history or chemistry.

thugnotes1147 karma

We are currently writing a Thug Notes book.

squirrelpanic105 karma

Will you then do a Thug Notes on the Thug Notes book? That would be the best.

thugnotes1149 karma

Yes. if my brain doesn't explode first.

Ms_Anonymoose66 karma

I love Thug Notes so much! How long, on average, does it take you guys to write each episode?

thugnotes1102 karma

Jared: Joe and I are often surprised how sometimes the shortest books take the most time to turn in to an episode. For example, Heart of Darkness completely kicked our asses. Plays, especially, are hard to condense. It takes about a week and a half of intense work to pump out four scripts- which is the number of episodes we film in a single day.

cerulean_crayon59 karma

Heart of Darkness kicks my ass every time I read it. That is one DENSE book.

thugnotes162 karma

Jared: That's the only script in which I had to completely start over THREE TIMES!

LGramlich23 karma

To be honest, I often wondered how you crank these out at this pace. Thank you, though. I SO enjoy your work (and I even learned something about myself with the Frankenstein episode.)

thugnotes135 karma

Joe: Thanks. And that's one of my favorite things about literature. You can learn so much about both yourself and other people.

mastapp62 karma

What are your "day jobs"? Greg, are you recognized on the street often?

thugnotes1126 karma

Greg: a barback at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and stand-up comedian by night. Yeah, people come up to me saying "Yeah. Excuse me, sorry to ask- are you Dr. Sweets?"

420shibe78 karma


Mr. Edwards' standup is fucking hilarious

thugnotes153 karma

Greg: Thank you, Sheba. Let's hang out. Hit me up!

emma-stoned54 karma

Hi guys, I'm a huge fan of Thug Notes, thanks for doing this!

Where on earth did the idea come from?

thugnotes1169 karma

Jared: I was standing in line to see Barry Lyndon (My fav. Stanley Kubrick movie) at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and I started joking with my friend how Barry was the REAL OG- squandering away fine family fortunes, swindling his way in to the upper class, getting rich and blowing money quick, etc. A woman behind me got very offended that I was comparing such a "elegant, sophisticated" film to things I had heard in rap lyrics...

I realized that there was technically nothing inaccurate in what I was saying- it was just different perspective. It made me think about other things that are stuck in this stuffy, overly-pedantic "ivory tower." I knew I wanted to create a Youtube Channel, and literature was something that I both enjoyed, and thought particularly suitable for the medium.

wubike36 karma

I'm a huge fan of the show. The analysis in each episode is on point!

My question has to do with the accessibility of your videos. Your ability to break down classic literature into a form that the general population can understand is uncanny, and particularly to populations of color and the black community. Are you at all afraid of some viewers seeing Thug Notes as a minstrel show, rather than a vehicle to generate discussion of literature they would otherwise shun?

thugnotes1105 karma

misinterpretation concerns us, but it doesn't scare us. Are we using a racial stereotype? Yes. Racial exploitation is present in everything- TV, sports, news, etc. We are turning this stereotype on its head and in doing so, trivializing it, as to make the point "Don't judge a book by it's cover."

Our hope is that people take a look at these stereotypes being used in other instances, think critically about HOW they're being used, and opt to formulate thoughts of their own. Just because race is an element of the show doesn't mean it's racist.

veggie-bacon34 karma

My art teacher in high school is Jacob's mom :-) (Hey hey Ms. G!)

Would you do any college campus tours and be a guest speaker one day?

thugnotes129 karma

Jacob: What up? My mom being a teacher is a huge inspiration for wanting to teach online. My mother taught me everything I know about art appreciation. That's why I fell in love with design and so I'm applying every skill I have to this show.

trollercoaster6925 karma

Did you expect Thug Notes to explode like it did?

thugnotes161 karma

First of all, if it weren't for Reddit, the show would not have gone on as long as it has. Thanks to the community, we had our first big surge about 5 months ago that still drives new subscribers.

Did we expect it? We've always been confident in what we were putting out, but there's no formula for finding an audience on the internet. so we're just grateful that somebody found it and people have been sharing it.

springfieldmonorail24 karma

How was Greg cast? What was the audition like? I'd love to hear some 'behind the scenes' stuff of how the show came together.

thugnotes158 karma

Jared: I was a coordinating producer on the pilot for the show "Totally Biased w/ W. Kamau Bell" which was on FX for a short stint. I became friendly with Kevin Avery, the head writer of the show. When I came up with the idea for Thug Notes, I asked Kevin if he knew any comedians who might be interested in a project like this. He and Greg came up together in the San Francisco comedy scene so he put me in touch with him. As soon as I saw Greg's Vampire teeth, I knew he was the one.

fransisco423 karma

What are some of Greg's favorite books in real life?

thugnotes1125 karma

Greg: Great Expectations, Huck Finn, The Autobiography of Malcom X, The Count of Monte Cristo, and any book written by yo mama.

1nf1d3l23 karma

Hey, firstly, just wanted to say that I really like your videos and anticipate Tuesdays every week.

Now for the question: Why do you feel your delivery is better than "traditional" learning when it comes to literature?

thugnotes139 karma

Jared: Jacob and I are filmmakers first and foremost. We think that the dynamic between entertainer and audience is not that different from teacher and classroom. A class will not volunteer their attention. The teacher has to seize it using whatever means they can.

A_Hollywood_Summer19 karma

Hey, just wanted to say I love the show-for real, I love it so much! My mom is a high school teacher, and the English department at her school has started showing Thug Notes in class. So, making an impact. Keep it up!

thugnotes127 karma

Glad to hear it. We're in the middle of a research study w/ english teachers. hit us up if you want to join. http://goo.gl/v9zN7I

CrackOnTheHead19 karma

I just wanted to say that the illustrations are fantastic. Keep up the good work!

thugnotes125 karma

Thanks. These days we're getting help from a wonderfully talented illustrator in Ohio named Trish Phelps.

grizzlysharktopus17 karma

Have you ever received feedback from people in the literary community? How has the show been received by academia and ivy tower hoods in general?

thugnotes148 karma

All the time. We get lots of informal feedback via email from teachers, professors, students, literary enthusiasts, etc. They're all really supportive and flattering.

The National Association of Scholars seems to like us. Rampart http://www.nas.org/articles/celebrating_2013_in_education

AuhsojSivart14 karma

What's a way I can directly support the show besides sharing videos or buying t-shirts? I'm a huge fan and have used the videos in my classroom countless times.

thugnotes116 karma

Truth is the more people that see it, the more episodes we can make.

MST3Kimber14 karma

First of all, THANK YOU for inspiring younger people to read classics, think of them deeper than just words and characters, and analyze what they read. I wish you were around when I was in high school!

My questions are, what is your favorite book of all time? What is your favorite children's book? If you could meet any author living or dead, who would it be? (I'm not expecting you to answer all of these. Maybe one each?)

Bonus question for Greg Edwards: How has the growing attention of Thug Notes affected your stand up comedy crowd? Are you noticing more people attending, or has it not changed?

Thanks for doing this AMA!! Wishing you all great success!

thugnotes122 karma

Greg: I'm a huge Mark Twain fan, so anything by him. My stand-up presence has definitely changed. Thug Notes fans are coming to shows and it's great! I'd love to meet James Baldwin or have a couple shots with Mark Twain. That guy got some stories.

Joe and Jared: Both of us agree that The Brothers Karamazov is the best book ever. We're both angsty Dostoevsky existentialists at heart.

Jacob: children's books- The Giving Tree FOR SURE. Lolita is up there. The Corrections by Franzen. And I've read Murakami too many times.

Kododon13 karma

How the hell did that guy get a spear in Harlem?

thugnotes117 karma

Scholars have been debating that for decades...

cozzpuch13 karma

Not a question, I just want to thank you for helping me pass my Animal Farm test.

thugnotes124 karma

Did your teacher actually test you on the Soviet allegory?

Peetzaman13 karma

Don't really have anything insightful to ask, but this has been bugging me - Does it feel good to be a gangsta?

thugnotes128 karma

"And everythings cool in the mind of a gangsta cuz gangsta-ass n****s think deep"


a lot of the time you skip some things in your reviews and i understand that its in the interest of time but have you considered making the videos a bit longer because sometimes you skipping around does not do justice to the book.

thugnotes112 karma

That's something we're exploring in doing the Thug Notes book. It pains us every time we have to skip over something important, but we're doing our best to meet different attention spans- especially considering it's a Youtube show. And if your Youtube video is over 5 minutes, people tune out.

theloneronin82712 karma

What does Greg enjoy doing with his time when he isnt reprising his role as Sparky?

I love the show by the way guys! I tell all my friends about it, keep up the great work!

thugnotes118 karma

Greg: painting abstract art (Keith Harring Basquiat kind of shit), writing jokes, hang out with the old lady, you know.

misterboo8411 karma

How do you decide which books to do? Do you just pick out random classical literature or do you just choose your favorites?

thugnotes135 karma

There are a lot of factors.

First, we try to cover books that are widely assigned on high school reading lists. Depending on the time crunch we find ourselves in, we might do a favorite book of ours that we're more familiar with so we don't have to spend a lot of time researching. Third- requests are really important to us.

Valuska11 karma

Who do you think the most gangster writer of all time was? Bukowski? Hemingway?

thugnotes154 karma

Nietzsche don't give a FUCK

MayIforceoneinu11 karma


thugnotes115 karma

Jared: Haell yeah. City of SYRUP!!!

iarenotamused10 karma

What kind of tea do you like to drink?

thugnotes145 karma

Greg: The only tea I like is T and A.

NattyBumppo10 karma

What's the usual process like for creating an episode, from start to finish?

thugnotes119 karma

It starts with the decision of what book to cover (obviously)

Then Joe starts reading the book. During this time, Jared familiarizes himself with the story and writes a first draft of the summary. After Joe finished the book and conducts some research, he sends Jared a document with key passages from the book as well as information pertaining to the analysis. Often times this will include a rough outline of the analysis section. Then Jared will compose a full draft of the summary and analysis and Joe and Jared finish it together over Skype. And yes, that Skype session is just a ridiculous as you might think.

We shoot once a month. We cover 4 episodes every shooting day. We cycle between two locations: one is jared's ex-girlfriend's best friend's house, and the other is our accountant's office. The day before the shoot, Jared and Greg will go over the scripts and rehearse.

Also, shout out to our awesome crew- Richie Yau, Kate Steinhebel, Noah Trevino, Arik Cohen, and Kevin Chang.

Jacob usually does all illustrations and Youtube Title art. Jared edits it. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

winlandm10 karma

What book do you wish you could do a thug notes on, but cannot for whatever reason?

thugnotes127 karma

Ulysses is a phenomenal work, but one of the things we always try to provide viewers is a short, concise presentation. And even though we can shorten them considerably, some would just require too much time: War & Peace, Infinite Jest, etc.

fransisco49 karma

What's the researcher role exactly? What kind of information do you need to research for each episode?

thugnotes119 karma

The researcher role for me is three-fold: a. my interaction with the primary source, which includes reading it and analyzing it b. the second part consists of going through various secondary sources to determine what's likely to be helpful or interesting to someone in the audience 3. some (but not all of the time) structuring the flow of the analysis

BetaRayRyan8 karma

I don't have a question but after watching the Oedipus The King video all I wanted to say is...his momma...HIS MOMMA! That killed me.

Thank you all for doing what you do.

thugnotes16 karma

You got it, man.

LincolnHawk797 karma

How much influence do your fans have in your book selection?

thugnotes127 karma

Considerable. We try to cover the most requested books, except in cases like Twilight, 50 Shades, and other bullshit...

louisac247 karma

When can we expect the Thug Notes tour? I would pay money to see Greg come to our Town Hall and give us an analysis of a new Pulitzer Prize, other literary prize winner....that do book tours.

thugnotes18 karma

Greg: Gregcomedy.com rampart hit me up!

fransisco47 karma

Do you write your own analyses or look for what others have written about the books?

thugnotes15 karma

Joe: Both!

hiremejonstewart7 karma

Whats the other chair for in the studio? Ever considered having a guest on the show? If so, who?

thugnotes115 karma

Waiting for LeVar.

vannao6 karma

Why have you remained anonymous up to this point, Greg? Please keep up the videos, I have read all books you have covered. Nothing has inspired me to read as well as you have.

thugnotes115 karma

Jared: It's important for us to maintain the suspension of disbelief. We want the focus to be on the content, not on us. Plus, one of my biggest inspirations is Die Antwoord. I love how you don't really know where the line is between reality and performance.

Sketchylamb6 karma

What books can we expect for upcoming videos?

thugnotes155 karma

50 Shades, Twilight, RL Stine... no, just kidding.

We've got Slaughterhouse 5, Catch-22, The Stranger, Grendel, Things Fall Apart, and The Brothers Karamazov coming up.

tacoshell986 karma

What college or university did you attend to?

thugnotes116 karma

Jacob and Jared graduated undergrad from University of Texas at Austin

Joe graduated undergrad from Texas A&M and recieved his Masters in Classics from Texas Tech.

Greg graduated from Thomas Nelson Community College.

Winterchoi5 karma

Hey Thug notes! Would it be possible for Greg to record a voicemail for me? :> I am called by my initials, TK

thugnotes110 karma

Greg: What's the phone number? I'll call you right now!

Mrs_Damon5 karma

Oh man, I was hooked ever since the first episode of Thug Notes and was extremely jealous you guys weren't around when I was in high school!

Out of all the books you've analyzed for the show, if you could pick one character from any book to spend an afternoon with, who would you pick?

thugnotes114 karma

Not Humbert Humbert.

rodo1115 karma

Sparky! I don't really have a question but thanks for keepin' it real and literary up in here. You're definitely my favorite youtube channel of 2013 and beyond. I'm always looking forward to your videos. Thanks for the laughs (and the educating).

thugnotes18 karma

Thanks for da love!

Badluck274 karma

Is how you talk in your video actually how you talk?

thugnotes114 karma

Greg: It's an exaggerated version of my real voice.

sjbnjeb4 karma

Do you have a limit as to how many episolds you plan to cover?

thugnotes114 karma

There's virtually no limit to the amount of episodes Sparky can cover. As far as how long will the show go on? We're gonna stay on our grind and keep it going for as long as we can

Vic_tron4 karma

You get a lot of positive feedback from people out there, but there's got to be some playa haters as well right? What kind of blowback have you gotten from all those uptight bitches in the world?

Also for Greg -- are you gonna be doing stand-up at Brew-Ha-Ha anytime soon? Caught you there a few months ago and you were hilarious.

Thanks for all the knowledge, gangstas!

thugnotes114 karma

Jared: When we went in to this project, Greg and I KNEW there were going to be haters, but I'm quite happy that people in general are "getting" the satire. Sure, there's the occasional "you're going straight to hell." But haters gonna hate.

TheBigVitus4 karma

Any reason you guys only ever put an ad for another site (I think it was audible?) in one of your videos and quickly dropped it, never to do it again since?

thugnotes115 karma

Greg: Cuz you motherfuckers complained!!

Mister__Pickles13 karma

I think that most people did not appreciate the ads because they were in the middle of the video. I have seen the minutephysics channel do quite well with ads that are put at the end of the video for websites that pertain to the subject manner (mainly education, reading, science, etc.) and they don't receive complaints as far as I know. I think Thug Notes could successfully put ads in the videos as long as they are somewhat relevant and at the end of the video. I personally am all for you guys making more money so you can make more bomb-ass lit reviews, just a thought from a good fan

thugnotes19 karma

I think you're right. We need to focus on Audible and things like that.

irish693 karma

Which characters do you find more appealing? Benedick and Beatrice, or Claudio and Hero?

thugnotes16 karma


AgentsOfTheValley3 karma

Hey Greg and Team Thug Notes, big fan from day one!

I heard you are doing something with school, what's the plan there?

thugnotes15 karma

JACOB: We are conducting a research study with over 200 teachers and 5,000 students around the world to test the efficacy of Thug Notes as an educational tool in the classroom. If you don't mind assigning Thug Notes as homework or using it in your classroom, you should consider signing up for the study. http://goo.gl/v9zN7I

rabelaishasrabies3 karma

Ever plan to have a female co-host for a he said/she said take on books where cross-banter might add extra context or comedy to the analysis?

thugnotes112 karma

Jared: Nope. Haven't thought of that..

Greg: Stop trying to take my gig! But I love da ladies!