Casey Neistat: 'Nobody gives a s*** about concise political arguments' (Interview)

Casey Neistat’s latest video on bike lanes as gone viral, with more than three million views in the first week since it was added to YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, go here, and while you’re there, check out the comments.

You’ll see in the comments that I pretty much became the standard bearer for the humorless schmucks who have taken issue with the video. I hate it when I do that.

Casey NeistatBefore I could step back for some perspective, I realized that I was not only defending my opinion of the video, but my opinions about Neistat, his motives, and his character were congealing.

Based on a three-minute video, I was starting to decide that I didn’t like the guy, and I noticed that my comments were getting slightly mean.

Now, you can’t really develop a relationship based on a three-minute video filmed for no one in particular. (You guys out there happily married to your Russian Internet brides, of course I don’t mean you.)

So I asked Neistat for an Interview. He said yes.

I said, Really?

He said, Call me.

I asked, But have you seen all the trash talk I’ve been dishing out over here?

He said, Yes I have.

That was all paraphrased, but the point is that he was already making it harder to not like him.

Take note: I censored the s-bomb in the title of this post, but that’s the only thing I’ve censored.

When Neistat and I spoke, I asked him about the motivation behind the video.

It was a culmination of things. I think it was that fact that New York City has been doing a pretty great job of promoting cycling here in the city. And I think it’s been paying off. I don’t know what the numbers are, but cycling is way up in the city.


But something they’re doing here in the city that I think is incredibly misguided is they’re selectively going after the cyclists for various traffic infractions. Some of which are I think are absolutely warranted, and some of them are far more frivolous, and are kind of the subject of the movie I made, and fall into the category of being frivolous.

Neistat had read all of the comments on the original post about his video here on Commute by Bike, and felt that the dialog was “esoteric” and that some of us were missing the big picture.

But what I think this [comment] thread is overlooking–somewhat naively overlooking–is the fact that, right or wrong, whether I was justified in getting that very specific ticket, or even more so, whether or not I should have [gone to court] and fight it.

YouTube views
YouTube views as of 6/15/11. Yes, I'm envious.

I think what this movie’s done, is it’s opened up a dialog. And it’s forced people to start talking about bicycling in the city And to dig in a little deeper, Ted, whether or not New York City, and the New York City are helping this town to become better, more welcoming place for cyclists, a safer place for cyclists or not.


To discount the reach of a movie like this, and a movie would not have a reach if it was just a very concise political argument, ’cause nobody gives a shit about concise political arguments.

There are far more important–and I say this with a little sardonicism–but there are far more important injustices in the world that nobody’s paying attention to right now. And my stupid bike video–because this video is whatever it is, funny or silly, or people like it for whatever reason–it’s forcing a dialog.

I think it’s disappointing that a lot of your thread is missing that; discounting the fact that this is creating a dialog, and creating an awareness.


My sole expressed [intent] was to make the most palatable funny video possible. And as a result of that, I’ve created a reach and an awareness I think that goes way beyond anything that a more political, concise, well-rounded argument would have done.


I think that’s kind of the triumph of the video. Again, it wasn’t my expressed goal, so it’s tough to really take credit for it. But now that it’s happened, I’m excited about it.

A lot of the criticism I’ve been getting is people saying, “Why didn’t you just go fight it in court,” which is such a naive and fucking stupid argument, because, I don’t know how many times you’ve been to court to fight a ticket, but I’ve been to court to fight a ticket about 100 times in my life.


It’s ineffective. It doesn’t start a dialogue beyond yourself. Would three million people ever give a shit about me losing a ticket or paying a ticket in court? There’s no way.

Michael Bloomburg, the mayor of New York City, was questioned about this very subject. In fact, they referenced my movie in that interview. I just don’t see that happening if I had just bitched about getting a ticket. To overlook that is some of the shortsightedness of some of the criticism of the video.

The police officer and he have become “friends”–not the Facebook kind, the in-person kind. He said the officer left him a message via YouTube, and then they met again the day before this interview.

[Y]esterday morning he hits me with his lights. I pulled over and it was him, and I was excited to see him. I jumped in the car, and gave him a handshake He was a totally cool guy.

There’s so much real crime going on here, that [the police] don’t really give a shit about harassing people. I’ve never been harassed in a way that’s really upset me. I think the cops in New York are fairly cool, even though this guy pulled me over. I don’t really understand his motives there, but even when he pulled me over, he was cool about it. I mean, I’ve never had a cop let me film him before. So, he had me go on the record after running into him yesterday and say that he and I are friends. I have his e-mail, he has mine, and we’re in touch.

I suspect that there’s a little narcissism in anyone who puts himself in front of a video camera when not absolutely necessary. In the end, my impression was that Neistat is someone who doesn’t want to self-aggrandize, or polish his persona. He was likeable, and not any different in his opinions about cycling from many people who frequent cycling blogs and forums.

His “stupid bike video” has unexpectedly given him a bigger soap box than a blog or a forum. He seems to be wanting to seize the moment that his video has handed him, and try to make a difference. If he’d known that this video would exceed three million views in its first week, he may have made a different, less funny, less effective video.

The full interview is nearly 20 minutes long, and was recorded off of Skype, so Neistat’s voice get’s a little weird at times. Sometimes it sounds like anesthesia is kicking in as he’s speaking, but that’s the network latency. But when he uses language that is not safe for work, that’s not the network, that’s New York.

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