When it comes to shotgunning beer, starting a bro fight and sexting, Jimmy Tatro has the rules of the frat life down pat. At least, his character on his YouTube channel “Life According to Jimmy” does. But sitting in the shade of the Santa Monica Pier, sandwiched between the crazy bird man on a bicycle and a keyboard player serenading us with “Titanic” songs on repeat, Jimmy and I swapped stories on a couple of my favorite topics — Vegas and beer pong (a big thank you to him for advice that helped me improve my game).
Jimmy started his second, and most successful YouTube channel, “Life According to Jimmy,” in November of last year after his original channel’s Adsense was shut down. With a fresh start, Jimmy rebuilt his channel on the foundation of consistency and the promise of releasing a new video each week for the fans that would move over with him to his newest channel. While it was his frat life videos that put Jimmy on the radar as an up and coming entertainer in the YouTube community, he is most proud of his videos capturing life’s most awkward social interactions. Since the channel’s launch, Jimmy has signed with Big Frame Studios and made the decision to leave college to come back to L.A. and pursue a career in entertainment full-time. Just this week, Jimmy announced in a video that he will be starring in the movie “Total Frat Movie” which will begin filming this summer. It is this rare opportunity that makes Jimmy one of the few YouTube stars to transition from the computer screen onto the silver screen. NMR sat down with Jimmy to discuss the truth behind the frat life he portrays, his decision to leave college and his upcoming movie role.
Your channel is still pretty young — why did you originally decide to start making videos for YouTube?
I’ve always just loved making videos, like putting together short, funny sketches and stuff like that. I started when I was a lot younger — not a lot younger, but in high school I would just kind of set up kind of like a Macbook camera, and I’d film myself saying like one or two stupid lines, and then I’d be like, “Hey Eric or Kyle. Hey, say something stupid.” And then they’d say something, and I’d just cut it and make the most random little stupid videos, but they were still kind of funny because we were just improving them and stuff. But then in high school I did TV production, and I made like short little videos and stuff that were supposed to be news stories. They were pretty much sketches, but they were supposed to be news stories, so my production teacher and I were butting heads because she just hated me, but that was when I started getting into making [them] little. ‘Cause the whole concept of making short little three minute sketches is relatively new; since the introduction of YouTube that is what really started it, other than like “Saturday Night Live.” I’ve always watched “SNL” as a kid, so it’s just something that I’ve always just really liked doing. I like making people laugh, and I saw YouTube as a good way to just kind of start getting my stuff out there, start getting seen. I would like to be on the big scene one day, and I saw YouTube as a good starting block to get like a fanbase going, and then I found out people were making livings off of YouTube and good livings off of YouTube, and I got more interested about the whole partner program. That was when I started putting out videos like once a week and then got into that.
When was the moment when you first decided to make the transition from doing it for fun to doing a weekly organized video?
That was the end goal to have that. I didn’t know when I started that you are supposed to do a weekly video. I didn’t know how the whole format worked, but I just wanted to start somewhere with like the videos and start working towards building a fanbase so that I could have that, because I didn’t know specific ways that you go about being a partner and stuff like that. So I just kind of wanted to start out and get some fans, and then I was hoping that the partnership thing would just kind of come, which it sort of did. But yeah, my manager when I linked up with her she was the one who kind of gave me the lowdown about how YouTube works and how you need to be consistent and have a weekly show-type setup, so that was how you gain the most subscribers as fast as you can. And so when I started actually making a video a week, it was hard. It was like “Alright, here we go. I’m going to start making a video a week,” and I’m promising a video a week because when you have that many people counting on a video every week you can’t let them down.
Why did you decide to focus on frat life?
I wasn’t ever really planning on focusing on frat Life. I thought that first video that I made would be a good kind of jump start to starting the channel up just ‘cause I knew how viral it could go because it was such a relatable video. Everyone knows that frat douche bag; he’s in every fraternity, you know? And it took me so long — all the quotes in that video I was like composing over the whole semester I was writing them down on like a notepad and those were like the funniest quotes. Then at the end of it I was like, “I can easily make this into a viral video,” and I thought if I do this that could be a good way to get my YouTube channel kind of started and going, and it was and it went viral. I wasn’t necessarily planning on doing multiple frat videos; I was hoping that it would just be the one and after that I would be able to start doing my awkward social interaction which is just funny sketch comedy, but of course you got to give the fans what the fans want: frat videos. But as time’s going on, they’re getting less and less of them ‘cause college is going to end eventually, so I can’t focus on frat videos forever. But for now they’re funny. For now they’re funny, and they’re fun to do.
Are you in a frat?
I am in a frat. I am in a frat just because — well I mean, I guess I technically don’t go to school anymore, but this is just the first semester I’ve been done with school. All last semester I was. I’m still in the fraternity basically just ‘cause I live there. My big bro is the president. Well, I’ve always been involved; I lived in the house last year, and then this year I’m a junior. Not as involved in the whole fraternity thing, but I still go to the events and stuff like that and hang out with all the guys. All my roommates are in my fraternity, so I guess I am still technically in a frat.
The frat character that you play in the videos is the typical frat douche bag. Is he based off of a specific person, or was it just multiple interactions with people in the frat system?
It was kind of based off of a — I don’t want to say specific person — but a lot of the quotes were kind of jokes that I would make about a certain individual in our fraternity who is just so ridiculous. When I was pledging he was just the most — he was insane, he was out of his mind! He was just like what I saw is the typical frat guy, and everyone thought it was funny. Everyone got a big kick out of it, and we’re actually really good friends now me and him. It was just funny because we were pledges. He obviously wasn’t cool with us, so he would leave the room, and we would start joking around like, “Oh yeah, dude. Fuck these little pledge bitches,” and we would just be making fun of him and saying stupid things like “Where are you going to go? Are you going to go chase your shots with muscle milk, bro?” and then I’d just write it down in my notepad like that was actually a good joke. “I’m going to write that down. I’m going to put that in a video later.” Then I would kind of do those kinds of things. A lot of it came from me making fun of the whole fraternity life, ‘cause you got to take a step back sometimes from the fraternity and just realize how ridiculous some of the things that you’re doing are. Like you just look around, and you’re like, “Wow, okay. I’m just going to be aware of this situation and just not just lose my mind here.” It’s very easy to get brainwashed in the whole fraternity thing and get too crazy with it, but you know, just got to find a good balance.
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Is YOLO a real thing?
For some people, but I don’t think it was a frat thing. The reason that video came about was just because I was just over people’s use of YOLO. When Drake was saying it it was cool; it was like YOLO, it’s a cool song, you only live once, I’m down for that saying. But then you got girls posting pictures of them like doing horrible shit, and they’re like, “YOLO,” and you’re like, “Ahhh, I don’t know.” You’re just using it more as an excuse, like YOLO. Yeah, not really. I don’t think you can use it there.
What do you find to be incredibly funny?
I get a kick out of life, you know? I think everyday situations there are just so many funny things that happen that like people just kind of accept it as everyday life, but there are so many situations that are very funny to exploit that just kind of happen so casually. Like all those awkward social interaction videos are based on things that happen all the time, and it just kind of gives people that sense of “Oh my god, that’s so true!” but I never would have made a video about that. Some people are like, “Oh my god, that is so true — I never thought of that,” and I’m like, “Really?” It happens all the time, but I just made a video about it. I think awkward things are really funny, and then it’s just a lot of those things, when something is happening that is just kind of ridiculous, it’s like one guy is doing it or whatever — I’m not really sure what I’m talking about — but like one guy is doing it, you’re just kind of giving those looks like what the hell is going on, you know? It’s those kinds of moments that I like to just exploit and make it into a video, ‘cause most of the time when you look at the person next to you and you guys are like “What!” that is how everybody else feels. Everybody else is looking at each other like “Oh yeah, this is totally relatable,” so I just like exploiting everyday situations and stuff that actually happens to people that I just think is so funny.
You did a collaboration with Overly Attached Girlfriend, and you guys are probably still dating right now — is there anyone you’d really love to collaborate with?
I’ve always wanted to collaborate with GoodNeighborStuff; I’ve always thought they were hilarious since I’ve seen all of those — “My Roommate is Gay” one and all those videos with Kyle. I just thought he was so — all those interviews with those guys — I thought those were so hilarious. They were just talking to like random people at the Lakers games and just being super awkward. That’s one of the few YouTube channels I use to just watch for fun, but I’d like to do a collab with them. But we’ve tried, so we’ll see. GoodNeighborStuff, let’s do a collab, man.
What are your future plans right now?
I’m planning on moving back to L.A. full-time. Even though I live in L.A., I go to school in Arizona, but I’m moving back here full-time this summer. And for now YouTube is a full-time job that I can just have until I have something else that takes the place of YouTube financially and time-wise, but I’m trying to maybe get a show, maybe be on a show. Maybe “Grown Ups 2” is coming out in July, so I’m excited for that, and then we’re working on that “Total Frat Movie” that I was telling you about, so that’s going to be fun. I’m just trying to get as many projects going as I can. I want to hit a million subscribers on YouTube though; that’s a goal I want to hit, but then once I hit that I want to kind of focus on making moves toward next steps and stuff like that. I’ll still do YouTube for as long as I need to, but for example, if I got a show I’d let that take the place of YouTube. But I do like creating my own content, and I like having it be my original vision, and my original vision is the ending product so I’ll probably still — even if I was on a show or I was doing movies or something — I would still probably want to make YouTube videos every now and then ‘cause I’m always coming up with new ideas for stuff. And I love having this outlet where I can just put anything on my channel and make any kind of video no matter if it’s just some random thing I can put it up there, and a lot of people are going to see it regardless. I like that, and I like having the freedom to just kind of create my own vision and have my own work be seen by tons of people. It’s really cool.
When did you sign with Big Frame?
I signed with Big Frame in November 2011, and that’s like right when I got Life According to Jimmy and switched over from the Jimmy Tatro Channel, because YouTube terminated my Adsense account because I found out if you click your ads you make a little more money, so I would just go on all my friends’ computers and just click my own ads and make like 50 bucks a day. Then woke up one morning and looked at my phone: “Google has terminated your Adsense account,” and I was just like, “Alright, well my life is over, so I don’t know anything to do now.” I’m just completely lost. Then Sarah found me and hooked up with a whole new channel and got me partnered up right away, and it was hard to get all those subscribers to transition over, but now I have more on the new channel. It was very frustrating to get the old subscribers of the new channel; it was hard, but it worked out.
What advice would you have for people who want to start their own channel?
Consistency. It’s all about consistency. Even if your videos aren’t like the best, you know if you’re doing them every week there is going to be some people who want to check them out and stay up to date with current events and stuff. It’s very important; that’s how videos go viral. We’re always thinking what’s hot right now, what are people going to share with their friends, what is something that someone is going to take and post on their friends’ Facebook wall, or what is something their friend is going to tweet to all their friends and be like, “Check this video out. This is so us.” I always think what’s the most relatable, what is the most up to date with current events and consistency, because if people know what they are going to get from me, they know they are getting a video every Monday. Everything else is you’re welcome for the extra video, but they can expect a video a week. They respond well to that, especially on YouTube. They also like it when you talk to them, which I found out. Wasn’t sure how they like that, but they like when you sit in front of the camera and talk to them.
Heart to heart it up?
You heart to heart it up with your YouTube subscribers, and they’re real into that!
What is “The Total Frat Movie”?
It’s still in the very early stages, but it’s basically — I’m not sure what I’m allowed to tell you right now — but we’re still working on the script and all that stuff, and promoting it. But it’s called “The Total Frat Movie,” and we are trying to shoot it in August I believe, so we’re just trying to get everything taken care of right now. And I was recently at a YouTube — I mean we’ve been in contact with them for the past couple months, but we had a few meetings as of late that really kind of, I was like, “Let’s do this. I’m down.” So now I’m on board and working towards making that as funny as possible. We’re hoping that it will be the next National Lampoon series kind of thing or “American Pie,” so I’m going to help make it as funny as possible.
Photography by Melly Lee