While many YouTubers never see the upside of 1,000 subscribers and create content for the same dozen viewers, others see so much attention that their fame stretches even beyond the confines of the World Wide Web. Like many of us, these ten YouTubers had a modest following struggling against the tide of the internet – but they overcame and exploded, earning them a spot in mainstream media.
What’s a list about YouTube without Felix Kjellberg, alias PewDiePie, being mentioned at least once? Apparently, it’s an incomplete list! As the internet’s highest paid Let’s Play star turned-daily-ranter, it’s no surprise that good ‘ole Pews was able to extend his reach far beyond YouTube. From guest appearances on South Park, recognition by TIME Magazine, releasing his own video games, starring in YouTube Red’s Scare PewDiePie, releasing a book, appearing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Epic Rap Battles of History, and partaking in marketing campaigns for the Legendary Pictures horror film, "As Above, So Below," some may think to say PewDiePie went mainstream would be an incredible understatement.
Sketch comedy duo Ian Andrew Hecox and Daniel Anthony Padilla started off small enough on YouTube in 2005 after conquering NeSketch comedy duo Ian Andrew Hecox and Daniel Anthony Padilla started off small enough on YouTube in 2005 after conquering Newgrounds for two years prior. Twenty-two million subscribers and over 800 videos later, the Smosh duo are, to say the least, pretty famous. Beyond YouTube, the duo has expanded into mobile gaming, multiple different YouTube channels and have even found themselves on the silver screen. In 2016, they lent their voices to The Angry Birds Movie, portraying Hal and Bubbles, and in 2015, with distribution through Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox, released Smosh: The Movie. The science fiction comedy also starred Jenna Marbles, Michael Ian Black, Markiplier, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. To top it off, from 2006 to 2016, the pair were nominated for 11 different social media and YouTube-based awards.wgrounds for two years prior. Twenty-two million subscribers and over 800 videos later, the Smosh duo are, to say the least, pretty famous. Beyond YouTube, the duo has expanded into mobile gaming, multiple different YouTube channels and have even found themselves on the silver screen. In 2016, they lent their voices to The Angry Birds Movie, portraying Hal and Bubbles, and in 2015, with distribution through Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox, released Smosh: The Movie. The science fiction comedy also starred Jenna Marbles, Michael Ian Black, Markiplier, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. To top it off, from 2006 to 2016, the pair were nominated for 11 different social media and YouTube-based awards.
Adam Ruins Everything
A year before Adam Ruins Everything launched as a TV series on truTV, it served as one of the many facets of CollegeHumor’s YouTube channel. The web series follows host Adam Conover as he discusses and debunks common misconceptions about everyday items and traditions. On September 29th, 2015, Adam Ruins Everything debuted on TV for 12 episodes, which was then extended an addition 14 episodes by January of 2016. The web series and TV series garnered enough interest to warrant the announcement of a second, 16-episode season in December of 2016.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, then you know about The Annoying Orange and, by relation, Dane Boedigheimer or Daneboe. Dane started his career behind the scenes of MTV’s Pimp My Ride before going his own way in 2005 with his production company, Gagfilms. The Annoying Orange launched in 2009 as a YouTube web series, paving the way for a full TV series on Cartoon Network from 2012 to 2014. From the simple concept spawned apparel and merchandise, video games, and for Dane to present at the 64th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
In September of 2007, a 17-year-old Tyler Oakley launched his YouTube career with simple videos like “Raindrops” and “Dark Destiny.” Who would have thought, almost 10 years later, he would have skyrocketed to over 8 million subscribers; become a major proponent in the LGBT community; made appearances on Insider Tonight, MTV’s Catfish, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Amazing Race; appeared in a video with the United States first lady, Michelle Obama; and even had the opportunity to meet U.S. President Barrack Obama. Tyler’s successes have earned him praise in the form of over 25 award nominations and 14 wins, including TIME Magazine’s 30 Most Influential People on the Internet, and his own show, The Tyler Oakley Show, which will be distributed through Ellentube, Ellen DeGeneres’ online platform.
Known to those closest to him as Yousef Saleh Erakat, this YouTube personality, comedian, prankster, actor, and vlogger launched fouseyTUBE back in 2011 and, from there, earned over 9 million subscribers and quite a bit of attention offline. Only a year after his channel launched, Erakat was given the honor of 3rd of “40 Inspiring Muslims Under 40” in MBMuslima Magazine. In 2016, he joined the casts of Tyler Perry’s BOO! A Madea Halloween, the YouTube Red series Experiment 88, and the Huck Botko film, We Love You. Erakat has been nominated for five Streamy Awards and won in 2015 for Show of the Year and 2016 for Entertainer of the Year.
Epic Meal Time
If you want to find the route to YouTube viewer hearts, it’s definitely through their stomach. In 2010, Epic Meal Time creators Harley Morenstein and Sterling Toth stumbled upon this accidentally while toying around with a 6-beef patty, 18-bacon strip burger at Wendy’s. The video they uploaded, which consisted of Morenstein eating the burger to The Terminator theme garnered thousands of hits, spawning the idea for Epic Meal Time. From then, the high-caloried eats of the channel garnered over 7 million subscribers and appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Discovery’s Shark Week. Some of the show’s many stars, like Josh Elkin and Ameer Atari, appeared on Food Network shows like Cutthroat Kitchen and Chopped. In 2012, the crew welcomed a mobile game app but in 2011 and 2013, saw controversy arise through cast departures and a lawsuit between Morenstein and Toth.
Anyone with a SiriusXM subscription may recognize the name “Jenna Marbles” from the Hits 1 “YouTube 15” countdown. Otherwise, it’s possible you recognize her from her appearances on Ridiculousness, Epic Rap Battles of History, and the coverage she received for her “How to Avoid Talking to People You Don’t Want to Talk To” video in The New York Times and ABC News. Jenna started gaining attention in 2010 with her first video, “How to Trick People into Thinking You’re Good Looking,” which earned over 5 million views in a week. Since then, she’s gained over 16.5 million subscribers and 2.1 billion views.
Eat your heart out, Bear Grylls, YouTube star Coyote Peterson is on the rise as the world’s next best outdoorsman! Peterson’s channel, Brave Wilderness, has been around since 2014 and, over the course of three years, has warranted over 5 million subscribers and a spot on Conan. It wasn’t just Coyote’s personality that attracted viewers – it was the extreme nature of some of his videos, which see him getting stung and bit by the worst of the worst. Our prediction for this online lover of wilderness? A television show or, at the very least, a special on Animal Planet. If AP turns him down, we'll lose all faith in humanity.
Rhett and Link
On December 23rd, 2016, the YouTube comedy duo of Rhett McLaughlin and Charles “Link” Neal III were featured on The Tonight Show, sandwiched between fellow guests Adam Driver and R. Kelly. Now let's rewind to 2006, when the two were just a pair of former engineers looking to unleash their creativity. Through two different channels – Rhett and Link and Good Mythical Morning – McLaughlin and Neal found their way to a combined 15 million subscribers along with appearances on Epic Rap Battles of History and their own IFC television show; multiple sponsorships, commercials, and partnerships with companies like Taco Bell, Hot Pockets and Buick; and, to top it off, guest spots on Lopez Tonight, Conan, and Last Call with Carson Daly. As of 2016, the duo has won a handful of Webby, Streamy and Short Awards.