The live podcast recording took place on Saturday 16 February at VidCon London, with Jana Hisham standing in for John.
The podcast opened with an impromptu chat about sports when Hank asked Jana if she knew how AFC Wimbledon were doing. We discovered that Jana doesn’t watch football but is a big fan of American football.
The two discussed what would happen if local sport teams had to be made up of local people. “If all the players on the teams from New York had to be from New York, like, the Yankees were all New Yorkers and they’d be like, we’re not very good, we’ve got a lot of people to draw from but they’re mostly in finance,” Hank joked.
The pair then began discussing faking accents, from Hank’s “English” accent in high school to Jana changing her accent to fit in better.
She explained that after moving to London from Saudi Arabia she learned English from the Disney Channel and American TV shows and thus developed an American accent, often using American terms for things.
She only discovered this was odd upon starting a new school at the age of eight and then began teaching herself to speak with her current accent. She did admit that she and her sister still talk in American accents.
After this questions from Twitter were taken, with the first question coming from Karly: I’m about to start using a wheelchair, should I warn people first or should I just rock up wheels and heels?
Jana stated that she didn’t understand what there was to warn about, which led to a wheelchair user in the audience to say she ran over people’s feet when they made her angry, to which Hank suggested maybe Karly should take this advice.
Getting more serious, Hank pointed out that a conversation would likely happen either way. In Jana’s words: “It’s not like getting a hair cut.”
“I think this is really what Facebook’s for,” Hank stated.
“For people who have just had a baby and people who are about to get a wheelchair?” Jana queried. The discussion turned to that of how one singular announcement may lead to reduced questioning and concern but that overall the people in Karly’s life were likely good people who will continue to love and respect them.
The next question was from Cassidy: Dear Hank and Jana, I have woken up with a Queen song stuck in my head every morning for the last two to three weeks! Not always the same song, but always Queen. Are the Carls messing with me? What do I do? I want to break free.
Hank began by informing everybody he had woken with Baby Shark stuck in his head for the past few months. Jana received a brief explanation of Baby Shark when she said she was relatively unaware of it.
“I feel like Baby Shark is the most significant cultural occurrence of the last few years.” Hank informed her.
Jana then explained that in her job at Universal Music she often gets Ariana Grande songs stuck in her head as they are constantly playing all over the building and that it’s pretty much her job to have songs stuck in her head. This led to the perfect advice from Hank: “Get a job that involves Queen.”
Hank’s actual advice was to have a list of songs you don’t mind having in your head to listen to when a song is stuck in your head and to go and listen to them instead.
The next question was specifically for Jana: As a young creator from a diverse background, what was her recipe for dealing with fame, creative mental blocks and cyberbullying?
Jana said she feels that being from a diverse background increases the number of opinions thrown at her, as well as the fact that a lot of people from Saudi Arabia feel she is attempting to represent them despite not being an average Saudi woman. She said she does, however, feel that any online harassment she receives is worth it.
“If there’s one eight-year-old Saudi girl watching my YouTube being like, ‘oh, so you don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way to fit in with society’, I can be who I am. If being from Saudi Arabia makes you a little different than other people, then that’s worth random comments from strangers.”
The next question was from Cassidy: At what age should you make the grievous transition from YA books to adult books? Jana, seemingly loved this question.
“I felt like for a really long time I was asking myself that same question. You go into a book shop and you’re trying to pick out what you’re gonna read next and you’re like, ‘I do wanna read this but it’s meant for 16 year olds’.”
“In general YA is a marketing distinction, not a content distinction. It’s a way of dividing up a book store not a way of deciding which books someone can read.” Hank added.
The pair then discussed how if The Catcher in the Rye was released today it would fall into the YA category, before both admitting that neither of them understood it as a young adult.
“If you hate Catcher in the Rye you haven’t grown up yet,” Hank said. Both felt it was an important period of life to explore and can inspire you to change your own life rather than become complacent in adulthood.
The discussion then turned to Twilight and the idea that more popular books will eventually be more widely criticised. “We sometimes criticise things because we want to identify ourselves in opposition to them rather than because of problems we have with them,” Hank explained.
With that they moved on to the next question: Can you do your famous British accent?
Hank explained that when he was in high school he watched too much Monty Python and developed a British accent for a year, and that it is now the second most embarrassing thing he has ever done (he refused to tell everybody what the most embarrassing thing was).
He then said that he is now aware that there are a lot of accents in Britain, saying that “some of them are deeply unintelligible”.
Jana then added that she adapts her accents depending on the people she is spending time with, before Hank eventually concluded with “all accents are fake”.
The final question from Twitter was: we keep looking for life on other planets but how do we know that there’s no intelligent life on the bottom of the ocean? Like, entire civilisations?”
Jana went with yes, because there’s a lot we don’t know about the ocean and so it’s possible. Hank pointed out that whilst intelligence has evolved a lot, it usually evolves in vertebrates – with the notable exception of octopuses which appear to retain knowledge in their tentacles.
“It’d be like if you cut off my foot and I forgot the words to thank you, next,” he said.
This devolved into a discussion about relative pain and whether any kind of suffering is worse or if it depends entirely on perspective, and the idea that people who have suffered a lot are thought to be able to withstand more suffering and so protections are lessened.
Hank’s actual answer to the question was that octopuses may have underground civilisations with air sacs to do chemistry outside of the water they live in. The questions were then opened up to the audience.
“This is my first time in London from the United States and I went for a walk through Regent’s Park and I walked to London Zoo so, my question is what is your favourite way to get lost? In a healthy way – not to the point where you are lost but to the point where you don’t fully know where you are?”
“You can look at your phone and it’ll tell you roughly where you are.” Hank gave as advice to not get truly lost. Jana said she is very good at getting lost because she is bad with directions.
Her advice was to not look at signs and be bad with your bearings. Hank suggested the idea of an app that allows you to visit a random spot in a city.
The next question was then taken from the audience. “I’m Dutch and one thing that I do subconsciously is that I pick up accents but not of people around me. I will talk in British like they do in BBC Sherlock.
“Now that I’m here in London, I’m speaking like the Queen. How do I pick an accent to lock on to, because I actually live in Ireland.”
Both Hank and Jana said she should go with Irish, before Hank admitted he didn’t actually know how to solve the question. Jana suggested changing it up and just determining your accent based on who you are with.
The next question followed: “So this is my first time at a convention, how do you deal with all the different stuff and crowds with it?”
Hank admitted that sometimes it can be hard to decide what you want to be doing and consequently forgets to eat. He added that he deals with crowds by looking at individuals and wondering about their lives, thus reducing the potential anxiety of being in a crowd.
Jana said she often struggles with imposter syndrome at YouTube conventions and the process of pitching yourself to someone if you attend such events alone.
It was announced that this would be the final question: “This year I’ve got philosophy, and we actually watch a lot of Crash Course videos in class, but how do I deal with the constant existential crisis and not die?”
Hank’s response was simply that it’s unavoidable and a part, if not the point of, studying philosophy.
Jana said that she finds an existential crisis very comforting because she was raised to believe everything was unquestionably black and white and existentialism makes everything seem a lot more comfortable and less scary.
Hank agreed, saying that it made his decision-making easier and mistakes less horrifying and he appreciated things being a human endeavour rather than a universal endeavour.
After that, there was only one more thing to say: And as they say in our home town, Don’t forget to be awesome.
The recording of the podcast can be listened to online via WNYC Studios.