After ten years on YouTube, he’s become known for his unapologetic comedy and his tendency to always speak his mind. TenEighty chats to Jack Dean about offensive comedy, balancing integrity and popularity, and his honest opinion of those he calls out.
“I was going to say talent but I’m not sure how much talent there is in the UK YouTube scene at the moment,” laughs Jack Dean, when asked what he values on YouTube. He’s commonly described as being outspoken in his videos and it’s easy to see why.
It’s this forthright nature that underpins his comedic style, as he tells us that “I don’t necessarily like the way in which the world is going, how PC the world is now.”
As a result, he’s never strayed away from “offensive” comedy and this is certainly reflected on his channel, featuring videos such as MY OPINION ON 25 TOUCHY SUBJECTS. With “honest” being the first word he uses to describe his channel (curiously followed by “overrated and underrated”), he’s definitely not one to hold back.
It’s no secret that this comedic style is heavily influenced by Ricky Gervais. In an episode of The JaackMaate Podcast, Jack and Ricky discuss offensive jokes, with Ricky explaining that “my jokes are thought out and that’s why I can stand by them.”
“I completely understand people getting offended but that doesn’t mean that they’re right, just because they’re offended,” Jack elaborates. “I stand by a lot of [Ricky’s] morals. The whole concept of offense, everything he seems to say I resonate with and I agree with, so when he says that his topics could be deemed as offensive, the way in which he portrays those and the context is so important. This is what he lives and dies by, and I’m the same.”
Jack’s videos have evolved throughout his time on YouTube, culminating in his new series Clickbait, which he co-hosts with Tom Norris, and is also inspired in part by the dynamic between Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
“If it’s two mates having a laugh, people vibe with that a lot more,” he says. Referring to Jack Howard and Dean Dobbs’s series The Good The Bad & The Just Plain Sh!t Parts, he adds: “You can tell a lot of it is improvised, just two mates having a chat,” mentioning that he values comedy that is as simple as “mates taking the piss out of each other like British people do.”
Jack and Tom have worked together for years, on projects such as The JaackMaate Show, which aired on Fubar Radio, and evolved into The JaackMaate Podcast, which featured guests like magician Dynamo, Josh Pieters, and Helen Anderson. The pair met when Jack was asked to present a television series that Tom worked on as the Director of Photography, and they quickly became friends. As Jack puts it, “the first time we met, he used the word ‘cunt’ 14 times in like the first half an hour and I thought ‘well we’ve got that similar’.”
Their current project, Clickbait, is the result of Jack experimenting with different formats and realising that one of the most important parts of his creative process is entertaining himself as much as his audience. “I’m only going to do stuff that I am genuinely interested in. I’m not going to slag off merch every week for the sake of it,” he says.
“If someone’s making a video that they don’t really care about, it becomes a lesser piece of content”
“I did enjoy doing the podcast but if the guests would come up and they weren’t necessarily somebody that I was interested in but I thought my audience would be, I thought it would be good doing it. But then I wasn’t getting much from it myself,” he elaborates.
While he mentions Helen Anderson and Alex Elmslie as potential future guests on Clickbait, he’s not planning to feature many creators, preferring to embrace the natural dynamic he has with Tom.
This approach towards his content comes as a result of his own struggles with balancing integrity and popularity in the past. ”I’ve done videos before that I’m not that stoked about but I know are gonna bang on views,” he admits, using his video in which he reads fanfiction about Alfie Deyes as an example.
However, this is not an approach that he generally condones. “If someone’s making a video that they don’t really care about, it becomes a lesser piece of content,” he adds.
And he certainly doesn’t believe that the effort he puts into making videos necessarily leads to their success. “My most viewed video is that one about the girl who sleeps with her dog,” he says, somewhat despairingly. “Jesus Christ.”
There are some creators that Jack believes are a prime example of integrity on YouTube, most prominently, Jack Howard and his work as a filmmaker.
“I’ve always respected what he’s doing because I like the way he’s done it. He’s always stayed true to himself… like he hasn’t had to stoop to the levels of other YouTubers,” he points out. “I try to keep a level of that integrity. I do veer off it to get the views but I’m very inspired by what he does and how he holds himself.”
He also highly admires Laurence McKenna, who is a co-host on the True Geordie Podcast, describing him as “so clever and so witty…he knows how YouTube works while maintaining integrity and not doing the clickbait shit, and he smashes it every time.”
However, he’s not afraid to call out creators who he believes are on the wrong side of the popularity and integrity balance. More recently, he’s focused on YouTubers who he thinks exploit their fans for money, resulting in one of his most popular videos, an “honest, brutal” review of Zoe Sugg’s £50 advent calendar. The video amassed more than 2 million views on YouTube, and 7 million on Facebook. Following its popularity, he says that “because it was so black and white [that] this is wrong, people got behind it.”
However, he received more backlash when he criticised Oli White’s merchandise in a video and various tweets, describing it as “lazy” and overpriced.
These opinions caused a public disagreement with Caspar Lee in March 2018 after Caspar called Jack a “bully”, inspiring his video My Response To Caspar Lee Calling Me A ‘Bully’. Caspar and Josh Pieters made a reaction video which Jack simply describes as “the worst thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
He refers to it as “incredibly embarrassing and cringey” and adds that he “was so thrilled because it was like you’ve put the nail in your own coffin there.” The video has since been deleted.
“You can joke about anything, but it has to be funny”
In previous years, Jack says he would criticise YouTubers whose videos he didn’t enjoy, as was previously the case with Alfie Deyes. However, he now aims to judge people’s actions, rather than anything they cannot change, and ensures he has valid reasoning to support his opinions, as can be seen in his discussion of Alfie’s £1 challenge video.
In fact, during his ten years on the platform, he believes that this is the main way in which he has evolved. “YouTube’s been great for my own personal development,” he says. “I think about what I say a lot more now and I understand that what I say has consequences. I think it’s only got better, because although I’ve become more honest, I’ve also had to think about what I’m saying.”
Does he ever worry about repercussions from calling out bigger YouTubers? “No, not if the joke comes out how I intend it to…I don’t care about what they think and what they say and they’re entitled to do similar things, to use their channels to give their opinion on me if they want to. They don’t, they’ve got other things to do with their lives!”
He’s the first to point out that the big YouTubers he tends to call out are nevertheless incredibly successful as “I can sit here and laugh about it all I want but they’re still doing it, they’re getting up there and doing it and pulling in big numbers.”
Although he commonly calls out others for their dubious behaviour, he’s been called out himself on multiple occasions. “I post so much online and I am quite outspoken. I am going to slip up along the way, but I learn from those mistakes,” he says.
One instance was when he tweeted a joke that many took as him trivialising consent. Focusing on the main issues with the tweet, he explains: “One, it didn’t come across how I wanted it to and two, it wasn’t funny – that’s the biggest crime there.
“I don’t think I went too far because I know what I was trying to say, but I don’t think I worded it perfectly and I can completely understand that it offended people,” he adds.
Comparing it to other controversial jokes he’s made on Twitter, he says that “if something’s intended to be a joke and it’s worded as you want to word it, which my tweet wasn’t, then you shouldn’t necessarily have to apologise for a joke.
“You can joke about anything, but it has to be funny,” he sums up.
When it comes to creators like Jack Maynard, who have come under fire for tweets they posted before they had an audience, Jack thinks back to his past tweets. “I was an idiot! I used to just tweet anything, the same with a lot of YouTubers, their old tweets. I don’t think you can judge someone based on that,” he says.
“People take it too seriously and…it’s just becoming this big cash cow”
However, there’s plenty that Jack does disagree with on YouTube, as he asks us “how long have you got?!” He asserts that many creators don’t appreciate the luck involved in gaining a large audience.
“Fair enough, you’ve got your Alfies and your Zoes and your Joes that have got millions and millions [of subscribers] and they smash it. But just because they were at the forefront of that movement, and they were the first people to do it, doesn’t mean there wasn’t an element of luck,” he says.
But he certainly doesn’t think he’s exempt from that. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t start ten years ago,” he explains, adding that it is much more difficult for creators starting out nowadays as “every man and his dog’s doing it.”
Aware that his YouTube popularity may not last forever, he recalls his time working in Bella Italia. “People would come in and recognise me and go [YouTube’s] not going how you anticipated, is it mate?’ as I’m serving them some olives!
“My cousin’s the manager there so if YouTube falls through tomorrow and I don’t get this comedy stuff going, I’m just going to be calling my cousin up.”
It’s clear to see that Jack doesn’t take YouTube too seriously. Even at the beginning, he had humble expectations: “I remember someone going up to Jack and Dean and giving them some muffins and I was like, ‘that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. You can get muffins making YouTube videos?!’”
Now, however, he’s unsure about the direction the platform is taking. “I feel like [YouTube is] going in a place where I’m not sure I want to be on it too much longer. People take it too seriously and it’s just getting worse, and worse, and worse now, and it’s just becoming this big cash cow.”
“Everyone’s all a bit too up their own arse,” he laughs.
He reminisces about when YouTube “was just the creator speaking to their audience and video responses were a thing because it got a conversation going,” and disagrees with the platform catering to more mainstream celebrities. “How many times do you see Jimmy Kimmel on the homepage? Like he needs views!”
Regardless of how the platform’s changing, Jack’s relationship with his audience is fun and honest. “They’ve given me this opportunity and this income and stuff I would never have dreamed of,” he says. After ten years on the platform, he can be considered, as he puts it, an “OG”, yet he’s still surprised by his viewers’ reactions when they recognise him in the street.
He mentions a viewer he met that day who was shaking, and wonders aloud if there’s anyone he would “shake over”. After a moment of consideration, he decides: “If I met the West Ham team, maybe.”
“I think I’ll always come crawling back to it because it’s all I’ve known for ten years”
However, the relationship has never been a sentimental one, as can be seen in his series ROASTING MY VIEWERS. “Because I can mug them off in a jokey way, just say ‘you’re no one to me’, they can do the same to me… If I can have that laugh and a joke with my audience, that’s all I want.”
This lighthearted approach also has its advantages when it comes to hate comments, as Jack explains that “it’s a win, win for me, because when I get an actual hate comment, I just pretend it’s a fan.”
Pointing out that ignoring hateful comments is easier said than done, he’s nevertheless “built up the thick skin from being on [YouTube] so long… I think once you’ve been called a cunt so many times, you either believe it or you just think ‘ah so are you’.”
It’s his audience and the opportunities that they have afforded him that make him want to stay on the platform, despite his tendency to “slag off the website”.
“It’s still the best thing I’ve ever had in my life,” he puts simply. “If YouTube were to go tomorrow ‘bye JaackMaate, we’re kicking you off’ for whatever reason (they’ve got plenty, I’m sure) I would have to just say ‘thanks’. I couldn’t cry about it because if they never made that website in the first place, I wouldn’t have had this incredible life that I have.”
Besides Clickbait, we ask Jack what he’s got planned for the future, and he immediately mentions his enthusiasm to try out stand-up comedy. Visibly excited from a meeting he had earlier in the day regarding a student unions tour, he reveals his determination to give it a shot, despite a “horrific gig I did many moons ago”, which he recounted in a recent video.
“When my grandad passed away, that was one of the things I told him I was going to do, so I owe it to myself now. Even if I’m like ‘I don’t want to fucking do that’, I have to because I told that bastard!” he laughs.
At the very least, he considers, “it’ll be good to have people who have watched me on a screen for so long come and shout the insults in the flesh rather than across the screen.”
While some creators plan to eventually move away from YouTube, he doesn’t think that’s likely for him. “I could try and be cool and say ‘yeah, I’m going to get to that next level’, but I think this is my level! And I love it. It’s like a relationship where you fight and argue but you love it at the end of the day.
“I think I’ll always come crawling back to it because it’s all I’ve known for ten years,” he says, adding that he’ll be on YouTube for “as long as they’ll have me!”
Despite this, he doesn’t seem to be one for forward planning, summing up his expectations of the immediate future as “a bit of the same, just chatting shit, doing Clickbait for a little while.”
Ultimately, his main aim going forward is simple: “Say what you believe and stay true to yourself. Just don’t be a dickhead about it.”
Photos by Rebecca Need-Menear.
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