- - Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hank Green is the arguably the most famous/popular person I have ever interviewed. No small feat considering I have sat down with hundreds of celebrities ranging from Josh Groban to Ice Cube to William Shatner to Dolly Parton and Eddie Van Halen. And while those individuals have sold millions of records, had No. 1 films and toured the world, none have been able to accomplish the level of fan success Mr. Green has, garnering over 1.5 billion views on YouTube.

Alongside his brother, best-selling author John Green (“Fault in Our Stars” “Paper Towns”), Mr. Green has created a brand of respected, smart and funny videos that fans can’t get enough of — known as vlogbrothers.

And don’t feel bad if you don’t know Mr. Green; it just means you’re probably over 25. Just ask your kids about him. 

Question: What is the best part of touring?

Answer: Everybody coming together collaboratively to do this one thing together is a wonderful feeling. Getting that connection to my audience is wonderful. Hearing things directly from people instead of in comments or on Twitter. Experiencing that in real life is extraordinary helpful in the creation of content.

Q: I read on the internet that your combined number of YouTube views is 880 million?

A: If that is overall for all the projects me and John work on, then that is a low number.

Q: That’s a low number?

A: It’s more like 1.5 billion. I’m not bragging, but for accuracy’s sake. [laughs] It’s not very much different in the scheme of things.

Q: Does it blow your mind that what you created has got that many views?

A: Oh yeah. We’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s been a linear increase. There was never any giant thing that happened. There have been lots of little moments where we go, “This is amazing!” But never any “My entire life just changed” kind of moments. All little incremental things until you can’t go to the grocery store without saying hi to fans.

Q: Are there places you can got where people don’t know you?

A: If I went to a retirement community in Florida, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Q: How many unique people are in that 1.5 billion views?

A: It’s certainly not 1.5 billion people. This is over the last 10 years. Oftentimes people will come up to me on the street and say, “Oh I USED TO watch your videos.” But we get more views now more than ever. We take some of that data, and we know that only 10 percent of our audience has been watching for more than five years [so it’s] new people coming in and out.

I sort of think of my audience of being 200,000 people because that is sort of the floor level, the foundation of our views. But then there are far more people than that who have at one point been part of that foundation but maybe now aren’t anymore.

Q: Do you see it plateauing at any point?

A: We’ve had those. It doesn’t bother me. At this point it has become very clear that having a large audience should never be the goal. Making content for the kind of people you want to watch your videos is way more important than making content that everybody wants to watch. I’m not BuzzFeed. And I don’t wanna be Buzz-feed.

Q: No Kardashian 10 ten lists from you?

A: No. We’ll do some science top 10 lists. Economics top 10 lists.

Q: It seems you’ve mastered the internet to the point you don’t need mainstream media.

A: It’s not necessarily that I’ve mastered it. It’s just that’s where the internet is now. For everybody. We were very lucky we got into it when we did. We were older than a lot of people that were doing it. So we sort of had more support in our lives, and we knew how accounting worked. We were lucky in 5,000 different ways. I feel as if I am coated in “luck juice.”

Q: Luck juice?

A: No, don’t move away. Come closer. Get some luck juice.

Q: Is there any competition between you and your brother John?

A: There certainly was competition at first — as children. And when we started doing videos, it was, “I’m gonna make a better video than you.” But that was more creative competition than success competition.

It’s kind of a foreign idea for me to feel jealous of John’s success. He obviously makes more money than me. But we are both creatively fulfilled.

Q: You’ve never said to him, “Hey, I’ll stay away from the writing if you stay away from the music”?

A: [laughs] That’s not a necessary deal to make. I have some temptation to write books. That does not bug him at all. But he cannot hold a tune. He does not know what rhythm is. [laughs]

Q: Are your fans as intense as they seem, and what is the strangest interaction you’ve had with them?

A: Oh, God! [laughs] Back in my old house, before we moved, we would have people come by. One time somebody brought an Easter basket with a baby doll that had a Hitler mustache painted on it. Because “Baby Hitler” was a thing in our community for a while. The whole, “If you could go back in time, would you kill Baby Hitler?” Our solution was, “No you would just kidnap him and raise him in a loving home.” So somebody knocked on my door and left me this creepy baby with a Hitler mustache.


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