If you had five minutes with a legit YouTube legend, what would you talk about?
We could ask about his musical and comedic inspirations, how it feels to have four-and-a-half million subscribers, or how he comes up with his iconic viral Disney parodies. We could find out what it was like for him to tour with some of our UK faves and perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Alternatively, we could have a weird and directionless conversation about Charlotte Church, the Teletubbies, and whether or not it’s ethical to put sparkly gloves on a small primate.
Guess which one we went with.
JON: “I’m notoriously bad at this specific thing. Just, like, coming up with things off the top of my head.”
That’s fine. Do you prefer the way to an exciting event or the way back?
JON: “To. After something’s over, it’s kind of sad to me. I’m a very nostalgic person, and it weighs really heavily on me when I think back to better times. I paint the past in a really beautiful colour, so I can be unrealistic. So going to something is always more pleasant, rather than leaving.”
“I paint the past in a really beautiful colour” is the most poetic thing anyone has said in one of these interviews, you’re going to be fine.
JON: “Oh, gosh, and I also included my channel name in it – that is really embarrassing. I’m going to come across as so pretentious in this thing, and it’s a British magazine. I’m outdoing you guys.”
What did your teachers say about you at parent-teacher conferences?
JON: “America has a terrible education system, so we never had parent-teacher conferences. But my theatre teacher hated me, because I was not a good kid. I was a good performer – I was really good in the arts – but I was not a good student, so she referred to me as a ‘little shit’. Often. That was really fun. We had a contentious relationship. But I deserved it, too.”
Did that ever improve?
JON: “No, it was always like that. I had a weird adolescence. I was just very immature. I guess all kids are immature, but I was pretty bad! I had to go through college to gain self-awareness in any kind of way.”
If the human race ran out of conventional food, but discovered a way of transforming YouTube content into edible pellets and had to eat them in order to survive, what would your channel taste like and how nutritious would it be?
JON: “If you had to rely on YouTube to survive, good luck! [laughs] How nutritious would my content be?”
Yes. If it was turned into edible pellets. It’s a pretty standard question.
JON: “Sure. I don’t think what I make is necessarily deep or intellectual, so it’d be probably carb-heavy, so it makes you feel full even though you’re not. It’s not healthy, but it will make you feel full!”
Who’s your favourite Teletubby and why?
JON: “I didn’t watch it! It was weird. It was too experimental.”
They’re giant babies with TVs in their stomachs, what’s not to love?
JON: “It’s weird! I don’t know – when you grow up in the Bible Belt in America you just don’t have a very open mind. It seemed almost sacrilegious. I don’t know what was going on with the sky and all that shit – the sun had a face? Yeah, I’m not into it.”
They’re basically national treasures here. You take that back.
You can have any animal you like as a new pet, on the condition that it’s dressed up as a different animal. What do you choose, and what is it dressed as?
JON: “It would be a golden lion tamarin, which is a primate. But I think he looks great. I wouldn’t subject a pet to any costume.”
You have to, it’s the premise of the question.
JON: “What a shitty question, then. [laughs]”
JON: “What’s the least egregious thing I could put on a golden lion tamarin? Probably some gloves, so he doesn’t get his little fingers hurt. They could be sparkly, I guess. Maybe shoes? No, they need that to grip the damn branches. They’re very social animals. They would pull anything off if you put it on them.”
If it’s going to immediately remove anything you put on it, does it matter what you dress it up as?
JON: “Well in that case, it’s like a stripper primate. So I’d put him in a suit. A monkey in a suit – very cliché.”
What was the first song you ever bought?
JON: “I think it was Josh Groban – the song with Charlotte Church called The Prayer, which I loved.”
Charlotte Church! That’s a throwback. She had a chat show where the theme tune was her singing “This is my theme tune”.
JON: “I love her. She’s in some rock musical movie where she sees her dad for the first time. He’s a rocker, and he’s like, ‘I have a daughter?’, and it’s really funny. You should watch the film. I actually haven’t seen it for 15 years, but when I was really young I loved it.”
What other celebrities that nobody else remembers do you lowkey stan?
JON: “I love Ben Folds, and he doesn’t get… Nobody goes to his concerts anymore, but he has a rabid following. Same with Regina Spektor, but I guess she’s a little bigger. I love Toni Collette – ever since Hereditary came out I’ve been really obsessed with her. There are these comedians, John Early and Kate Berlant, who I’m obsessed with, but they’re not old-school. There are smaller comedians around LA that I just really get behind. I love Ian McKellen, but that’s not an [unusual] thing here – mentioning him to Americans, they’re like, ‘Who? Is that Dumbledore?’ But I love him.”
Do you get on well with other people’s moms?
JON: “No, I was never… Because I learned to respect authority beyond all means or reason, I would be really uncomfortable and couldn’t be sociable around adults, so I never learned how to woo anyone’s mother. And a lot of moms didn’t like me because I destroyed their daughters’ lives.”
If you were trapped in a restroom with no means of escape, who would you call for help?
JON: “Ghostbusters? I don’t know, probably my brother. I would never… I would probably just die. I would rather die than be embarrased.”
What’s your least favourite episode of your most favourite TV show?
JON: “Oh, gosh. Mad Men is my favourite TV show. My least favourite episode… You know what? I hate that little boy neighbour in Mad Men, who’s actually the creator’s son. The creator of Mad Men, Matthew Weiner, put his son in Mad Men for all seven seasons. And the kid is horrible. He’s a horrible character, terrible actor. And so anything revolving around that kid, I’m like, ‘Shoot me!’ He sucks.”
Finally, what do you think when you look at trees?
JON: “I love trees. I think about how plants were here before animals were here, and how all of our oil is plants and shit. I just think it’s cool. Trees are cool.”
Photos by George Yonge.
And come back late next week for our interview with Elle Mills!