Make It Work: A force for good on Instagram

An illustration of the instagram logo doing stand up comedy

Istanbul members Bartu Küçükçağlayan and Melikşah Altuntaş on how they started Mücbir Sebepler (Force Major), a series of Instagram lives to bring levity to lockdown

By Elif Key   Illustration by Elena Xausa   Sunday 1 November, 2020   Short read

By the end of March, when COVID-19 hit Turkey, the feeling of loneliness and the unknown of a pandemic affected everyone. But actor/ musician Bartu Küçükçağlayan and film director Melikşah Altuntaş found a way to share their daily routine, news from around the world and Turkish sense of humour with thousands of people. An Instagram live show called ‘Mücbir Sebepler’ (Force Major) became a cult midnight experience for four months and 84 live broadcast sessions, and returned for round two this Friday. Here, they tell the story of how a project that started as lockdown fun became a sensation.
Life in ‘the before’ 
BK: ‘I had 50 concerts on my calendar for my band Büyük Ev Ablukada for the whole summer. And for those days off without concerts, I was planning to finish the scripts I’m working on and write songs for our next album.’
MA: ‘Before COVID-19, I was finishing my ongoing works, including a stand-up comedy show. But before the pandemic – around December 2019 – we were talking about some projects such as a programme for YouTube or maybe a podcast. But the main problem was that Bartu had no clue about celebrity stories or the entertainment news.’
The big idea 
BK: ‘During the first days of COVID-19, while everyone was at home, Instagram live was like an overcrowded subway. Someone is reading poems, someone else is talking about art, someone is singing. I found myself watching even the most boring stuff for hours. Suddenly, this idea popped into my head: not a YouTube channel, not a podcast – we should do an Instagram live programme.’
MA: ‘And also there was nothing to watch on TV. Nothing remained that could be considered entertainment. We realised that any broadcast is being watched despite being unbearable. We thought that if we are watching these boring live videos, there is a chance that people would watch us, too.’ 
Taking the leap 
BK: ‘The first live broadcast on 27 March was nameless and unplanned – a territory also unknown for us – and was watched by approximately 3,000 people. The next morning our mutual feeling was, let’s not do this again. But in the evening, we changed our minds. Our format was a lot like Laurel and Hardy – one of them being smarter, the other being more clueless. Melikşah’s attempts to explain a piece of tabloid news to me became at some point funnier than the news itself, and I insisted on not understanding.’ 
The response
MA: ‘The one-hour show was like a therapy session for all of us. While the number of viewers increased gradually and brands started reaching out to us, we were afraid of placing products in our show and waited until the 40th broadcast. We worked like an agency. When the brands handed us written texts, we had a bit more difficulty. That’s why we created the slogans, as an idea to place the product. People were happy when we placed the products, and the outcome for the products or services was a success.’
Life in ‘the after’ 
BK: ‘We decided to finish the show at the end of June, as life seemed to be back to “normal”. We relaxed a lot the day after the live show ended, but also felt a huge gap in our lives. We decided if the case numbers keep going up again in Turkey, there might be a time for the show to come back — which is why we brought it back this Friday.'
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