As popular as the TV show Friends remains, have you ever wondered how Ross and Rachel would get to know each other if they met each other today? Would Phoebe, Monica, Joey, and Chandler even meet in a coffee house to talk about their love lives and problems at work? “2022 is very different from 1994, when Friends first debuted,” says Jesse Brooks, who co-founded Phony Texts with his brother, Simon Brooks, in 2019 in LA. “While we still want to form relationships and really connect with other people, how we do that has changed. Today, we develop our personal relationships through screens. Simon and I decided to explore what would happen if we created original stories in the spirit of Friends, Cheers, and Senifeld but told them through text messages. When our first Phony Texts video received 10M views, we knew we were onto something.”
Simon explains that Phony Texts is resonating with so many people because text messaging transcends age groups. “Yes, we were born out of Gen Z’s familiarity with digital technology, but really, it goes far beyond that,” he says. “Remember that almost everyone texts – even your grandmother. Individuals who swore they would never send a text message are now sending and receiving them every day. It has become a vital form of communication here in the United States and around the world.”
Texting, Jesse continues, is also not nearly as impersonal as it was once considered to be. As people of all ages have grown more accustomed to it, they have developed their own texting personalities. “We all have the dad who sends really long messages or the little sister who abbreviates everything,” he states. “Some people can’t stand making a grammatical mistake in texts while others don’t mind misspelling everything. We immediately know who someone is and what their character is simply by looking at their texts.”
Every message, Simon adds, tells a story whether we realize it or not. It could be something mundane, such as why we were late to work, or something more exciting, like what happened at that graduation party. “Phony Texts is an extension of what everyone is already doing: telling stories to their friends. We are simply fictionalizing and scripting them and making them even funnier.”
Interestingly, an element of escapism factors into the success of Phony Texts. It is, of course, taboo to look at someone else’s phone, and going through their text messages is definitely not welcome. By allowing viewers to eavesdrop on conversations this way, especially when a character gets caught in an apartment belonging to the mafia, Phony Texts is helping them to escape the pressures of life and to have much needed laughs.
“We definitely focus on comedy, whether we are writing thrillers, horror stories, or something different,” says Simon. “Out of all of our genres, the stories about families and relationships perform the best. I think it’s because they are so relatable and feel honest. No, most of us are not going to hide in a closet from the mob, thankfully, but it still feels only one step removed from our own lives.”
Through Phony Texts, the two brothers are working to shift the entertainment industry’s culture towards one that incorporates mobile texts. They have already adapted Break In, which has received 15M views, into a short film, and they are interested in telling longer form stories or adapting them to other mediums, including TV shows.
“We definitely want to improve and discover new plot devices,” Jesse states. “What if we can develop characters through these videos and let them live in multiple stories? Perhaps there can be a series that focuses on a character much like the Harry Potter novels. It is a completely different way to tell stories, and that’s what makes it so exciting – we are pioneering a new form of entertainment.”
Jesse and Simon invite anyone, Gen Z or not, to check out Phony Texts when they need a few minutes to relax and have a laugh. “The best way to view our stories is on your phone, so you can tune in no matter where you might be,” says Simon. “Remember: we write one or two new stories everyday, so if you like situation comedies, you will never be without entertainment at Phony Texts.”
Phony Content was founded in 2018 by two Gen-Z brothers, Jesse and Simon Brooks, who realized that the old coffee shop and bar banter they grew up with now happens in group chats. With this in mind, the two decided to take the same formula of a situation comedy and reimagine it for mobile audiences. Jesse and Simon launched Phony Texts, a chat fiction network that scripts text message conversations. Together they have built a team of writers and editors that produce 1-2 stories every day. Since 2018, they have expanded Phony Texts and now have six different Snapchat shows and an audience well over 14M across all of its social media channels. Phony Content gets over 170M minutes watched per month and over 70M video views per month across its network.
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