What do you get when NMR makes a tumultuous 8-hour drive up the California I-5 to have lunch with the online geniuses that power Smosh? A hilarious tag-team conversation over Vietnamese takeout at their studio/house, followed by a wacky photo shoot with duct tape and plastic pink flamingos! If you fell in love with the insanity that is Smosh from their videos, you’d love them more in person. In addition to an entertaining Q&A session, the talented duo shared their insight and perspective on new media and how they are constantly working to stay on top. Read on to find out what in the world is the creative process like for Smosh, how Ian could have been a doctor, and see Anthony experiencing Hitchcock’s feathered friends peck his eyes out.
- Who would you start off with: Charmander, Squirtle or Bulbasaur?
- Ian: Obviously Squirtle because the first gym leader had rock type Pokemon.
- Anthony: But then again, you’re going through the grass.
- Ian: You’re going through the grass but you don’t really have your water moves yet. You’re just using tackle and you don’t get the bubble until later.
- Anthony: You’re weak against grass. Grass is strong against water. You have to catch a Ratatat or something and use that.
- Ian: Usually, I caught Pidgey.
- Anthony: Anyway, I’d start off with Squirtle.
- What is your guilty pleasure?
- Ian: I like cars, driving, using up gas.
- Anthony: Comic books and graphic novels.
- Most embarrassing stunt performed for a video?
- Ian: Well, I think Anthony’s most embarrassing stunt was for the sexy Anthony calendar.
- Anthony: I had to rip off my clothes to look like I was a cowboy.
- Ian: A naked cowboy.
- Anthony: Downtown Sacramento is where we shot it. Right when we got there, there’s this HUGE group of kids on bicycles and parents who drove by right when I dropped my pants. I was wearing this little, tiny underwear.
- Ian: It was a flesh colored Speedo, wasn’t it?
- Anthony: Yeah, so everyone was just laughing at me and stuff. Then I went home and cried.
- Ian: I don’t know what’s embarrassing for me.
- Anthony: You had to run down the street in a Speedo with a whip.
- Ian: I guess that was…It wasn’t that embarrassing. I guess one of the most embarrassing things that we had to do was we had to buy adult diapers for a video so it was just awkward going into a store and being like, ‘I’m buying these diapers. I swear they are not for me.’
- Anthony: I don’t get embarrassed about our video stuff.
- Ian: We do way too many embarrassing things to get too embarrassed.
- Why is Anthony the hot one and Ian the dumb one?
- Anthony: I don’t know. If you look at Twitter, people think that Ian is the hot one.
- Ian: People like to choose their favorites. Everybody likes to root for the underdogs.
- Anthony: That’s just kind of how we portrayed ourselves in early videos, I think.
- The longest you guys have gone without sleep and why.
- Anthony: That was when we were editing “Food Battle 2009”.
- Ian: We swore we would never do that ever again.
- Anthony: We release “Food Battle” every year and it’s an annual thing that everyone looks forward to. We promised them it would come out on a Friday at noon and we just didn’t budget out enough time to work on it so we were up for 36 hours.
- Ian: 36 hours, constantly editing.
- Anthony: And we had to do a radio interview right before the video came out because they wanted to help us promote it. So we did that and then we had to go home and finish editing for 6 more hours.
- Ian: I’m pretty sure we smashed a couple of Red Bulls on the drive over to the radio station.
- Anthony: It didn’t help much, so we looked like idiots.
- Ian: We were just like, ‘What? What?’
- How long does it take to make a video?
- Anthony: We kind of have a system down.
- Ian: It’s hard to say.
- Anthony: While we’re writing one, I’m editing the other. We’re always doing something to get ahead, so it’s hard to know how much time it takes. If we were working on just that video, probably 2 weeks. I mean, not constant work, but there’s planning, writing, shooting, and editing.
- Give us a fun fact about yourselves.
- Anthony: I have to wear a mouthguard when I sleep because I grind my teeth really bad. Ian was the first person to hear it because we went on this trip to Hawaii right after we graduated and we were sharing this room with these two beds that were kind of close to each other. Ian kept hearing this creaking, and he was like, ‘Stop!’ and I was like, ‘What?’
- Ian: It was this weird creaking noise. I cannot explain it. I didn’t know what the hell it was but every time I woke Anthony up it stopped.
- Anthony: I had the mouthguard, but I didn’t wear it because I didn’t think I needed it because I was stupid. But now I wear it every single night.
- Ian: I used to be a runner, but not anymore. I always wanted to run a marathon, but my parents never let me because I was underage. When I finally turned 18, I was like, ‘Alright, I’m doing it.’
- Anthony: Here’s a fun fact for you. He (Ian) used to be a chubby kid before he started running.
- Ian: Oh yeah! I was a chubby kid. Well, now that I’m not so much of a runner, I’ll probably go back to being chubby.
- What’s a funner fact?
- Anthony: I would say another tooth thing but I wouldn’t want this to be a dental thing.
- Ian: You mean that time you chipped your tooth in “Food Battle?”
- Anthony: No. Someone hit out my tooth by mistake with a tennis racket in high school but that’s not funner. That’s less funner. I’ve never broken a bone or been stung by a bee — that’s funner.
- Ian: I’ve broken a bone and have gotten stung by a bee. I was so scared of bees for the longest time because I was swinging on a swing – you know, the ones with the plastic over the chain? I guess there was a wasp’s nest in it or something, and I started swinging at it. It was in my aunt’s backyard, and they all came out and attacked me. I didn’t get stung a bunch of times, but I did get stung. I got stung in my mouth once.
- Anthony: So you don’t have a funner fact except that you got stung by a lot of bees when you were young?
- Ian: Yeah, that was my funner fact – that I broke my bones and got stung by bees, and you didn’t.
In a nutshell, what the heck is SMOSH?
Ian: It started as a website that Anthony made for us and our friends.
Anthony: It was a forum for our friends in high school. We got the name because our friend was talking about a mosh pit, and he accidentally said “smosh pit,” and I was teasing him about it. I walked over to my friends, and we were all teasing him about it. It just became this big inside joke. I wanted to make a website for me and my friends so I named it Smosh.com.
Ian: After high school, we started to make stupid videos like stupid lip sync videos. That was just me and him (Anthony) and we were like, ‘Eh, might as well keep the name Smosh’ then it just grew from there. We started pulling in more people to help us with videos.
Anthony: Once YouTube started paying us we were able to put money into our videos.
Ian: We’ve been more and more focused on bringing in more talent into our website and building our website.
Anthony: Basically, just trying to create stuff with the same kind of humor that our videos have.
Ian: Now we’re launching a new channel pretty soon on YouTube that’s going to be all animations.
Anthony: There’s only so many videos that we can make, so we’re trying to get more content and more creators to keep people wanting to watch more of us with the same kind of humor.
Ian: Same kind of humor as teens and young adults.
Before Smosh really took off, did you have plans on a higher education or pursuing a regular occupation?
Anthony: We shot our first video right after we got out of high school, but it didn’t get popular and start making money from YouTube until a year or year and a half of making videos. We were going to a community college around here taking general ed classes. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
Ian: I had no idea either. We just figured that we’d figure it out as we went. As the YouTube thing started picking up, we were just like, ‘maybe there is something here for us.’
Anthony: There’s only one chance to take something that’s growing to be successful, and you can always go back to school. So we slowly started going to school less and signed up for classes that only benefited us like film, acting and improv.
Ian: The acting one definitely helped.
Anthony: We’ve still got a long ways to go. Then Smosh just became a full time job, and we just stopped going to college.
What were the signs of it becoming a full time job?
Anthony: We realized that we had to make more videos to stay relevant.
Ian: We started making money off of it. Oh! There’s a fun fact. I realized that it was more of a full time job was when I quit my job. My job was that I was the mouse at Chuck E. Cheese. There is my fun fact. I was Chuck E. at Chuck E. Cheese. I had to dance at birthday parties. I think if the music started playing, I could probably do it. That was the worst. Chuck E. Cheese always had their own versions of songs.
Anthony: I guess that’s another fun fact for me. I used to make websites in high school. I used to be paid petty cash, like 200 dollars a month. I would just be making websites so I never had a job where I had to show up and work a cash register. I barely held on until we started making money off of Smosh.
You guys have been in the game since 2005. How did you learn to produce content, and in your personal opinion, is it necessary to pursue any education or schooling to succeed in new media?
Anthony: We very slowly learned how to do stuff. If you look at our first videos, we barely knew how to edit, and we barely knew how to write or shoot. It was all done with a tripod without a camera guy or anything.
Ian: We usually left six feet of space above our heads in the shot.
Anthony: It was all really self-taught and by experience. In my opinion, I don’t think you really need to go to school and learn all these things, but it definitely helps. At the same time, it helps teaching yourself because you get a unique style and you’re not learning someone else’s style.
Ian: It’s more important to make your videos and look at the feedback that you’re getting from your viewers. Oftentimes, that’ll help you become a better editor, better actor, a better director, a better writer if someone tells you your joke was stupid. As long as you’re doing a lot of videos, you’ll get better just through the process of doing it a lot.
Anthony: But it takes a long time. If I was just starting, and I saw a Smosh video, and I was like, ‘I want to be like them!’, it would be hard to get to that point, six years so far of just doing it over and over again.
You guys have been friends since 6th grade, and then you guys started making videos together. How do you guys not get sick of each other?
Anthony: Well, we take breaks.
Ian: Take breaks as in, ‘we break each other’s faces.’
Anthony: Timeouts. We spend a lot of time on Smosh stuff, but we both have personal time to go out.
Ian: And we’re not always in the same room either.
Anthony: Yeah, I would be writing here, and Ian would be editing there. Whenever we get a funny idea we’d come out and discuss it with the other person. We have to budget time and personal time away from each other, or else I would stab him in the mouth. Yes, through the cheek and out the other side.
Walk us through the creative process of making a Smosh video.
Anthony: We get a random idea and we usually write it on our board. The idea process is the very first part, and that’s both of us. Ian will throw out an idea, and then I will; sometimes we’d see something. We didn’t do one for “Hunger Games,” but we could be like, ‘People are going to be talking about that. What’s something funny? We’ve never seen it so let’s base it off of what we think it is.’ That would be an idea we’d throw out. Whenever we’re about to write a video, we look at the board and we’ll be like, ‘oh, what ideas did we have?’ It’s better for us to go back to it after we thought of the idea. We throw around ideas, Ian would get out his laptop and starting writing down some basic ideas, we’d brainstorm some stuff, and then we’d try to think of a way to make it a cohesive video with all of our ideas accounted for. I would be editing for a couple of hours and meet up again to discuss it.
Ian: We come to a point where we’re both somewhat happy with it, and then we’ll flesh it out and turn it into a script.
Anthony: When it’s time to shoot the video, we have some friends and producers that will make sure to get our props and location for it. Usually, when we’re writing, we try to make things not too difficult for them because it’s a lot of work to find certain locations, and we’re shooting every week. Anyway, we shoot it for usually 12 hours every Tuesday, and then I’m usually editing something else.
Ian: The process of making the videos is kind of off because we’re never start to finish on one video. While I’m writing,he’s usually editing one video that was filmed two weeks ago. We have some help with the start of the edits and stuff. Anthony talks with them.
Anthony: It’s a lot of back and forth. We just got an editor, and he basically helps me get it to a point where I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m ready to work on this.’ I think the hardest part for me is looking at a blank canvas and having to look through a bunch of clips and choose the best takes.
Ian: Because you know what it’s supposed to look like.
Anthony: I know what it’s supposed to look like, and I just get frustrated when it’s not at a part where I can start tweaking things and building it out so we get help with that. He (the editor) gets it to about 70% with all of my notes I give him because I give him a ton of notes, and then I take it and do the other 30% all by myself. Then Ian would go in and edit the bloopers because we always have bloopers or extra components to the videos.
Ian: So then, I wake up super early in the morning and look through all of the footage and try to find stupid ways to exploit our video. I just look for us acting like idiots or doing stupid faces. Then people seem to love it for some weird reason.
Smosh has a unique sense of humor, like “Pokemon” jokes and “if ‘blank’ were real” jokes. Do you think your audience is in on your jokes?
Anthony: Yeah! Whenever we make a video that people react very positively too, it’s like, ‘cool.’ I thought it was funny, and they thought it was funny too. Let’s keep up that humor and carry it on. We grew up with “Pokemon,” and our first video was lip syncing to that. That’s how we first initially got popular, so we wanted to try more “Pokemon” jokes later and people still reacted well to them. They loved them, so we were like, ‘Oh, cool. We could keep doing these “Pokemon” jokes.’ Our “If Blank Were Real” series, people really loved it, so we were like, ‘Oh cool. How could we make more of these because people enjoyed the first one.’ So whenever people like a video or concept, we think, ‘How could we make a sequel?’ Everything is almost like a pilot for a series of new things we could make. We have a “how to” series like, “How to Be a Cop” and “How to Hide a Boner in Public.” People really like that, so we keep the same formula and make more if people like it.
Ian: If they don’t, then we just forget it ever happened. It’s funny because a lot of times, it’s not so much of our main channel videos, but our second channel videos like “Ian is Bored” and “Lunchtime with Smosh,” where the viewers will start making their own kind of inside jokes with stuff in the video. This one time, we mentioned something about this pole in our garage, a cement and metal pole, like a barber shop pole; we made some random joke about how I slept with my future wife and for some reason, people just grabbed onto that. We go through mail that people send us, and so we started getting all these fan drawings of a barber shop pole. Everyone is like, “Barber shop pole! Barber shop pole!” It’s weird stuff that people will just attach on to. So we bring it back in jokes and it’s back and forth with the audience.
It seems like you have a tight knit community.
Ian: We got the casual viewers that will watch our stuff and then we got the hardcore ones that are into everything.
To what extent do you think cyber culture affects how we function outside of the Internet world?
Anthony: I think that it affects everything we do. We’re always on the computer, and we’re always looking up stuff online. There’s not a day I go without the Internet.
Ian: Do people function outside of the Internet? I mean, our whole life basically revolves around the Internet.
Anthony: If the Internet did not exist, I would be working at Blockbuster, which is closing down, so I’d be homeless.
Ian: I’d probably be a doctor by now. I’d probably still be a Chuck E. Cheese manager!
Anthony: It’s kind of weird when something that’s been so Internet exclusive comes out. When I see people talking about Twitter on E! or whatever, it’s weird.
You guys are relatively from a far, far away land from other YouTubers in LA.
Ian: It’s funny because everyone is not from LA. They all moved there. We all used to live in far far away land.
**Want Ian and Anthony on YOUR own wall?**
You guys are well connected and have done multiple collaborations with talents such as NigaHiga, iJustine, Annoying Orange, Kevjumba, etc. How does social media help cultivate these relationships and collaborations?
Anthony: We go to different events for people on YouTube and the Internet, and we meet those people there. We obviously have a lot in common, so we become friends with them.
Ian: We all kind of share the space, and everybody that’s on YouTube understands everyone’s situations.
Anthony: Everyone benefits from collaboration. We’re only an hour flight away, so “far, far away land” isn’t so far away when you have a plane.
Ian: It’s a pretty friendly community and everybody is looking out for each other, so it’s pretty easy.
How do you guys balance producing content on all of your channels while staying connected to your audience?
Anthony: We have different creators that create the posts for Smosh.com. We have an editor that puts them together and posts them on Smosh.com. He also posts them on Facebook and Twitter. Ian and I just get on and post random funny stuff once in a while so it’s not a full time thing. We wouldn’t be able to keep creating videos if we had to do everything, so we have people to help us out with a lot of it and we just do the videos and some of the other creative stuff.
Ian: Our main goal was to try to get rid of all the mundane stuff that needs to be done.
Anthony: I used to do the website. I used to manage the website and post everything on Smosh.com, but I was like, ‘why am I doing this when someone else can do it just as well while I can focus on videos and create more videos and better content.’
Ian: Our goal has been to just focus on the creative.
Anthony: The stuff that no one else can do.
Ian: The Smosh stuff. So we mostly achieved that a year ago, and I think the quality of the videos have been a lot better.
Anthony: Since we’ve gotten an editor to help us edit stuff and I’m able to just give notes like I was saying before, it gives me a lot more time to focus on getting new ideas and creative stuff. We also do “Lunchtime with Smosh” and “Ian is Bored” every week and that’s hard. We pick Fridays and we just do that. We shoot a “Lunchtime,” and then we upload the video, and then we’ll shoot this “Mail” video. While we’re waiting for our cameras to recharge we’ll come up with more ideas for videos and go over whatever we have to go over. It’s hard to budget time, but somehow we do. For Smosh, it’s just us, but then we have a crew of people that help us shoot the videos during our 12 hour shoots. You know, sound guy, camera guy, and all of the people that would be on a shoot like that. Then we have an editor that helps us edit some stuff but it’s still us running everything. We have a major hand on everything. If it wasn’t for us it wouldn’t be released and edited our way.
We made a tweet to our followers asking if they had any questions for Smosh, and we had a good one from @HollywoodBubble: “How have you not lost your voice from all the constant mega screaming and yelling you do on your videos?”
Anthony: It’s actually hard. The video we shot Tuesday, I had to scream for a really good portion of it because I was trapped in a Porta-Potty trying to get out, and Ian wouldn’t hear me. My voice was not liking it, but it didn’t go out. I think you need to find a certain way to scream so your vocal chords don’t die.
Ian: I remember when I was recording voices for our now cancelled “Ask Charlie” show. He has a really shouty, growly voice, and we would try to record five episodes at a time, and my voice would be lost instantly. That was bad, but I don’t think we scream too much. That is probably one of the things we’ve improved over time: the ability to expand our vocal chords.
Anthony: Every morning, we’re like, (singing a vocal warm up exercise) ‘La la la la la la la la!’
As a relatively new medium for entertainment, the Internet is quickly changing and evolving. How has the Internet culture evolved since 2005? What are things that you do to adapt and stay on top of this in the growing industry?
Anthony: Things have changed a lot if you look back.
Ian: The expectations were definitely a lot lower back in the day. Now, there’s a lot more professional and good content on YouTube, but the thing that we’ve always done is listen to our audience and see what they like. If they like something then we’ll keep doing things like that.
Anthony: I think we’re one of the only people still around from 2005, maybe even a portion of 2006.
Ian: Another thing is that you need to keep creating new stuff and different stuff.
Anthony: You really just have to watch YouTube. We were only uploading once every three weeks back when we first started. People were releasing more and more and saying, “New content every week.” We were like, ‘whoa, we have to do that too to stay relevant.’ It definitely was necessary because people don’t release frequently, and people just stopped caring. Also, we learned that you have to keep creating content to grab new audiences. If you keep creating content specifically for your audience then no one else will like it — like if we kept making barber shop jokes — we wouldn’t be gaining any new audiences. No matter how much they love you, those people will move on and stop watching you or go blind. You have to always be getting new audiences in order to maintain an audience.
Ian: There’s always been certain YouTube shows that are the same thing every week, and we’ve seen this from the beginning of YouTube, and it’s still like that. They would be really popular with a lot of views but there’s always an end to it.
Anthony: You have to keep evolving and listening to your viewers’ feedback.
I think it’s safe to assume that back in high school you’d never expect new media to evolve to what it is now. With the industry changing ever rapidly, what do the two of you expect from yourselves in the next year?
Anthony: We’re launching our cartoon channel, actually. I hope to expand our outlets of content because we’re going to have a bunch of cartoon creators doing Smosh-type comedy.
Ian: We’re overseeing all of the cartoons but we’re not writing them and animating them.
Anthony: We don’t have enough time.
Ian: We’re still overseeing, and we’re giving notes about them. It’s all still a work in progress, but the main thing is that we want to focus on the Smosh sketch videos but also oversee other projects and grow the Smosh brand.
Anthony: We want to oversee stuff and say, ‘Yes, our audience would like this.’
Ian: Give them something that they want to see and give them more of it.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a thousand times over the web, but what advice do you have for those that want to be “YouTube famous?”
Anthony: Don’t seek to be YouTube famous. You need to seek to create stuff that you like. We started doing stuff for fun back when no one was making money. I think people now just want to start making money from YouTube and be able to do it for a living. That wasn’t our goal at all, and I think it helped us to just make stuff for fun and make stuff that we thought was funny. I think people lose the passion if they’re just trying to become famous or make money from YouTube.
Ian: Just always have your ear to the ground. See what other people are doing.
Anthony: Listen to feedback from people that watch your videos. If they say it sucks, then don’t make that kind of video again. Learn from what they say.
Ian: Always strive to make better videos.
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