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Uploaded:2014-09-05
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Hank Green, all-round Renaissance man and half of famed vlogging duo the Vlogbrothers, sits down with Rhett & Link this week to talk about the awkward circumstances surrounding meeting the love of his life, his personal take on sexuality, religion, and "nerdom," and the surprising way that he and his brother, John Green, have dealt with John's mainstream success with "The Fault In Our Stars."

 (00:00) to (05:00)


Rhett: Welcome to Ear Biscuits. I'm Rhett.


Link: And I'm Link. It's time for another conversation with someone interesting from the internet. This week at the round table of dim lighting, finally, our guest, one half of the famed Vlogbrothers, Hank Green. Of course John Green, who we talked to a few weeks ago, the author of Fault in our Stars was on an Ear Biscuit. Now we get Hank.


Rhett: Well he sends most of his time in Montana, that's where he lives, so...


Link: That's right.


Rhett: I've never been to Montana. I heard it's got big sky and moose up there. I want to go, but I haven't made the trip up there; so we have to catch him when he comes out here on the west coast.


Link: Now we were humbled to find out that Hank said that he was a fan of Ear Biscuits; and we were like "All right we want you to be on Ear Biscuits." I mean we've always looked up to Hank for what he's done in so many ways that I think will become evident. When we sat down to craft this intro to kind of clue you in on who he is if you don't know, or don't know everything, we were just overwhelmed with the amount of achievements he's had.


Rhett: You don't really understand it until you just see it all listed out, so just really quick, just to remind you, what he's accomplished -- he's a humble guy, he wouldn't want us to sit here and go through these accolades, but you need to know just so you can appreciate who he is and who it is we're talking to. He started the EcoGeek website, that was his first online thing that because really well known, but then he went on to start just a few YouTube channels, you know the Vlogbrothers, CrashCourse, SciShow, SciShow Space, Lizzie Bennet Diaries, The Art Assignment, Brain Scoop, How to Adult, his personal channel, Hankschannel- it's called hankschannel, he doesn't have one called "personal channel," it's hankschannel. There's probably more that he's done on YouTube--


Link: Well, he also started VidCon, the largest online video convention in the world. He created Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck, which then creates the annual online charity event Project for Awesome, which has raised millions of dollars for various charities.


Rhett: He also co-founded the record label and merchandising company of which we are a part, DFTBA, uh, he's released five albums, musical albums, including his latest Incongruent with his band Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers.


Link: and he created Subbable, one of the first crowdfunding sites for online video projects


Rhett: He-- this is one thing I didn't know, he even invented 2D glasses.


Link: That sounds like a joke.


Rhett: You can-- (Link laughs) It's not. It's glasses for people who get wigged out when they're watching 3D movies, like it makes their head go crazy-- like his wife--


Link: So he converts-- he converts--


Rhett: You can watch it in 2D, he invented that!


Link: OK. Well he's truly a renaissance man. That is definitely evident in our conversation on this week's Ear Biscuit show.


Rhett: We talked to him about the awkward circumstances surrounding the first time he met his wife, Katherine, in a story that she herself has never heard.


Link: and we talk about Nerddom, sexuality, and the surprising way that Hank and John chose to deal with the success of John's novel and the movie.


Rhett: We finally get to complete the one-two punch of talking to the other Vlogbrother, Hank Green. Here it is. Our Ear Biscuit with Hank.


(intro music)


Rhett: (rapping) We- we- we are live.


Hank: We're live!


Link: Well we're not live.


(laughing)


Rhett: This is streaming out. (Hank laughing)


Link: To nobody. Has this been live the whole time?


Rhett: I didn't tell you? Yeah.


Hank: Well, the conversation is live--


Rhett: I do it on Ustream.


Hank: --in that we are having it live.


Link: Right


Hank: To each other.


Link: We're all really here.


Hank: We are living humans, currently. Though, someone may be listening to this after one or all of us has died.


Link: If this comes out in the next week or so, as it should-- 


Link: --that's a sad thought. But if someone's listening to it like--


Hank: Yeah.


Link: --eons later--


Hank: Right.


Link: -- that's a really good thought.


Hank: Yeah! People could be listening to this Ear Biscuit in the year like... 4020.


Rhett: That's an interesting thought.


Hank: If you're listening in the year 4020, please leave a comment.


Link: Please leave a mental holographic comment which is laughably commonplace.


Rhett: That many years from now, there will be no differentiation between a digital experience and a physical experience, I mean-- and it won't even be digital, it'd be quantum.


Link: A quantum experience.


Hank: Sorry you can't reach out and literally slap our face right now.


Link: Right!


Hank: Which you could probably do in the future.


Link: Just to present the other side of this, we're dead.


Hank: But they could interact with our-- (stammering)


Link: Cadavers?


Hank: --our captured bodies, not our literal bodies.


Rhett: I think they might be able to pick up on the DNA signature just by the sound of our voice, two thousand years from now.


Hank: Whooooooooooooah


Rhett: Think about that for a second, boys.


Hank: Probably. Think about how much is gonna happen--


Link: Whoa whoa whoa, are you subconsciously trying to prove to Hank that you're actually smart? (Rhett laughing) Is that what's happening here.


Hank: Aww.


Link: If there's some sort of--


Rhett: (laughs) a little bit.


Link: Wait a sec--


Hank: I don't hate the idea. I don't think that you could fingerprint the genome--


(talking over each other)


Rhett: I'm not comfortable with the idea.


Hank: I've listened to plenty of Ear Biscuits, I know how smart you are. You're both engineers.


Rhett: Oh.


Link: Well, I'm not gonna say I'm smart, but I'm just going to say I'm interested.


Rhett: Interesting or interested?


Hank: InterestING.


Link: I'm interested.


 (05:00) to (10:00)


Link: I'm interested in you. How is LA? Do you still smell of Missoula? How long have you been here?


Rhett: I did see, on your Instagram, the evidence of two trips to In-N-Out in the first day in LA. 


Hank: I did. We went to In-N-Out the moment we landed. I got a cheeseburger the first time with grilled onions, and the second time I got a cheeseburger animal style.


Rhett: Oh, and which do you prefer?


Hank: I preferred the animal style. 


Rhett: Oh yeah, that's the best.


Hank: Eh, yeah.


Link: I'm off the animal style. The burn the mustard into the bun and it can be a little much.


Hank: I picked--I picked--


Link: I mean, when you live here, you can be really picky.


Hank: You know what I am glad of? That we don't have In-N-Out in Missoula, because if we did, I would eat it all the time, and instead, it gets to be a special thing, so it's a treat.


Link: Yeah, twice in one day is pretty special. I've never done that.


Hank: I haven't been back since the first day.


Link: Now, I will say I have a weakness for it myself. If I go a week without it, that's a bad week.


Hank: I try not to eat a lot of red meat, so like, it is bad in that way, where I'm like, you know I probably shouldn't be, (messy chewing noises)


Rhett: Have you done the 23andme thing?


Hank: Oh, the genome? Yeah.


Rhett: Yeah.


Hank: No, I haven't.


Rhett: Yeah, my wife got me that.


Hank: I don't want my genome on record.


Rhett: Oh. Really? 


Hank: Yeah, 'cause you know what they're gonna do to you now?


Rhett: Give me targeted advertising?


Hank: I'm just messing with you. Targeted advertising targeted to your genome, I love it!


Link: That's the worst thing you could--


Rhett: Oh, you're interested in a sailboat, huh? I can tell by looking at your genes. My wife got it for me as a Father's Day present.


Hank: Yeah, cool, no, that is very cool.


Rhett: And I'm apparently going to get colon cancer.


Hank: Oh, I'm gonna get colon cancer, too. High fives.


Rhett: Yeah, so I've cut seriously down on the red meat, and I'm trying to cut down on meat a lot in general.


Hank; Yeah, I have ulcerative colitis, so I like, very almost definitely will get colon cancer at some point in my life.


Rhett: Really?


Hank: If I live long enough, yeah.


Link: Describe that in a little bit more detail.


Rhett: We just high-fived over colon cancer, by the way.


Hank: High five, colon cancer brothers!


Rhett: Just so you know what happened in the room.


Hank: It did happen.


Link: So, I mean, what is pooping like and how long have you known of this problem?


Hank: I have had UC for-- I was diagnosed about 10 years ago, and it's painful and urgent is the technical term.


Link: Like, cramping?


Hank: Yeah, so like, if-- when I have to go to the bathroom, I have to go to the bathroom kind of thing.


Link: Like, run to the restroom.


Hank: Yeah, like if I'm on an airplane and it's like, during the times when you're not supposed to go to the bathroom--


Rhett: Do you have a special badge for that?


Hank: And like, one time, I actually had-- my wife did this for me, I did not do it, she had the plane stop on a taxi so that I could go to the bathroom.


Link: Oh really? You can't hold it?


Hank: They can't--no, there's no holding. I mean, how deep do we wanna get in the gross, 'cause I'm like, perfectly comfortable with this, I've dealt with a lot of poo problems in my life. For example, it would be very difficult during certain points of my life to fart without pooping, which is a really sucky, like, way to live, and then, like, I remember when I first got over that, I was like, so excited about farts.


Link: How did you get over it? Medication?


Hank: Medication, yeah. And just, like, the feeling of farting without having to worry about--


Link: Of sharting--


Hank: Yeah, and my wife, who does not typically enjoy my farts, was like, really into it with me, which I really appreciated.


Link: Yeah, that's pretty cool.


Hank: Katherine was like, "Yeah, yeah, that one sounded real good." and I'm like, "YEAH!" 


Rhett: It was all air!


Hank: "Oh YEAH!"


Link: That one didn't sound wet at all.


Rhett: It was all methane!


Hank: Just oh, that feeling was-- and, like, you know, like, I have come to appreciate farts in a very new way.


Link: Was there a fear of being in those situations where, oh, I'm just gonna crap my pants?


Hank: Yeah. Absolutely. It's like, business meetings can be really weird when you're like in the middle of a conversation, and you're like, "I have to go." And sometimes you want to sort of like, lead with that, and be like, "Hey, just so you know, I have a medical condition where sometimes I have to run screaming out of the room."


Link: Because that's still the case sometimes?


Hank: Yeah, though, it's fairly well controlled.


Link: Like, even now, is there like a part of you that's like, "Well, okay, we're sitting here having this conversation, I know it could be an hour."


Hank: There's always a chance, there's always a chance, yeah, but like--


Rhett: Talking about it does not induce it, does it?


Hank: No, though, like, weird things do, like, stress does. Which is like, great. It's like, oh yeah, you know what I'm stressed out about? The possibility that I might poop myself. That's making me feel more likely to poop myself.


Rhett: Right, mhmm.


Hank: So I'm lucky to have a great job and I have great support in my family and--


Link: So is that how you've dealt with it, with just positivity?


Hank: Um, I'm a pretty positive guy, in general, but I would say that I dealt with it with medication and also you know, just sort of accepting that life has to be the way that life is, like, you don't complain about the snow, you don't say, like, "Man, snow, if we could only get rid of snow, we wouldn't have as many car accidents and it would be cheaper. We wouldn't have to have so many plows all the time and we could drive and you wouldn't have to scrape your windshield off, if only we could stop the snow, how do we do that?"


Link: But there's an obvious bright side to snow. Have you found that with this condition?


Hank: No. It doesn't really have a bright side. 


Rhett: You can't, like, sled on it.


 (10:00) to (15:00)


Link: Oh, gosh. I would think maybe character building or something?


Hank: No, not really, I mean, like, yeah, I made a--


Link: I mean, you seem--


Hank: --popular video about it once, so there's that.


Link: You got some views.


Hank: There's always that with anything in a writer or YouTuber's life, you're always like, 'well, at least this is a good story'.


Rhett: Yeah, get a little ad revenue.


Hank: If there were-- If I had the choice, 100% of the time, I would choose to not have ulcerative colitis.


Link: Well, I mean, I know that, I'm just saying--


Hank: The other scary part of it is that like, the longer it's active, the higher your chances of getting cancer, and you know, you have to get colonoscopies all the time, and those are no fun, and then if you get cancer, then you have to get your colon removed, and having your colon removed is really unpleasant.


Link: A colonoscopy is a video.


Hank: It is.


Link: Have you thought about maybe posting that? Will they give you a copy?


Hank: I think they probably would give me a copy.


Rhett: Katie Couric did that.


Hank: Katie Couric did do that. Yeah, 'cause she wanted to encourage people to get colonoscopies, because colon cancer is one of the leading causes of death and it's very treatable.


Link: Right. How nerdy are you? I mean, 'cause you've built a community around the word 'nerd,' 'nerdfighteria'.


Hank: It's weird now, and I, like, I have a hard time with it, when like, I come to Los Angeles and I get to hang out with the cool kids, like you guys are pretty cool.


Link: Okay, thank you.


Hank: And, like, Tyler Oakley is very cool, and Grace, like, Grace is like, specifically like, not only are you very cool, but you're also like, clearly the hot girl, you know? And so it's very strange to me that like, our like--are you guys --do you really want to hang out with, like, it doesn't seem right, and I'm 34 and I'm still thinking this, so that's one quantification, that I'm still like, "I don't think the cool kids should want to hang out with me." And so I'm-- I have a hard time accepting that they do, despite the fact that it is clear that they do in an irrational sense.


Rhett: I get that.


Link: Being a nerd is not defined by relative social strata.


Hank: It is a little bit defined by exclusion, like, that's how I--I felt it when I was in high school, like, I was a nerd because I was not allowed to hang out with the people who were of the higher social strata.


Rhett: And you feel like, in that sense, it's been corrupted a little bit with the trendiness of nerdiness?


Hank: I don't mind that. There's a little bit of like, uh, you know, like, you didn't go through what I did to get that label, so why should you have it and like, now it's cool and suddenly you want it too, but I get that, but that's-- it's not a good thought. That's not something that I want to feel.


Link: You're a legit nerd.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: You own that.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: But if you're calling me someone in a-- that's cool, then is it not something that you wear as a badge? Is it s-- is there still some insecurity associated with me calling you a nerd and saying, "Oh, you own that," my assumption was that it was a badge of honor at this point.


Hank: Yes. There's very little insecurity associated with the label now, but the thing that was once called "nerd" is a thing that's still inside me and that still is self conscious, so, but as far as quantifying that, I think that there is the bit where you're quantifying like, okay, to be clear, like, people punched me for no reason, because like, I was the person who looked like the person you should punch, you know? And then there's like, the positive ways to quantify your nerdiness, like, I can tell you an awful lot about Star Trek: The Next Generation. And I'll-- and, like, weirdly, I have been self-conscious about being able to identify as a nerd because I'm afraid I don't know certain nerdy things well enough. I don't know very much about Dungeons & Dragons, for example. I never played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, I have only played it as an adult, and so I kinda feel weird about not having that D&D street cred.


Link: Who's the supreme-- what's the standard who wears the biggest badge of honor of being a nerd, and do you wrestle with being somewhere on that spectrum of "oh, I'm less than nerd and I want to be more"?


Hank: No, I don't know that I'm afraid of not being nerdy enough, but I'm sometimes afraid of being found in a situation where I don't have street cred in that particular bit of the nerd realm.


Link: 'Cause you feel like you should know, you gotta know those things.


Hank: Yeah, which is why I was like, I made my friends play D&D with me a few years ago, 'cause I was like, I need to know how this works.


Rhett: Got a lot of catching up to do.


Hank: I was like, I need to be able to participate in these conversations.


Rhett: Which is just the irony of nerdiness being characterized in your youth, in feeling kind of left out like you're not part of something, but then feeling the same way about nerd culture now.


Hank: Yeah. Yeah, crazy. 'Cause it's not really about nerd culture, it's about the human condition.


Rhett: Well, yeah.


Hank: You're always gonna feel left out of something. You're always gonna, like, inadequa-- like, feeling inadequate is like, if you don't feel that, you're probably a little broken.


Rhett: Yeah.


Hank: It's gonna come up every once in a while.


Rhett: Right.


Link: And there's nothing worse than feeling left out of a thing that you feel like you should be in.


Hank: Yeah, I do, like, sometimes find myself reading more young adult novels than I would otherwise do, in order to, like, be into the nerdy things that my audience is into.


 (15:00) to (20:00)


Hank: But mostly I read sci-fi novels, because that's what I like.


Rhett: You enjoy it.


Hank: And it's not-- I'm not reading sci-fi novels to look like a cooler nerd, a more nerdy nerd, I'm reading them because, like, I freakin' love it.


Link: What about below you on the spectrum, though? There's people that you see that aren't really nerds who are like, trying to get in on the nerd thing, right?


Hank: Yeahhh.


Link: How do you interact with that?


Hank: I just sort of say more power to it. The thing about being a nerd is it's more than just a cultural identifier, it's also, like, there are things about being nerdy that are good for humans, like, being enthusiastic and excited, and if you're enthusiastic and excited, that's good, because I'm tired of people being all cynical and ironic all the time. The-- you know, like, nerdiness is about knowin' things about the world, and I think if more people know more things, more objectively true things, that's a good thing for everybody, but I do see sometimes I'm feelin' a little bit like maybe this person just wants to like, look the look and--


Link: Bandwagon.


Rhett: Nerd poser.


Hank: --not really feel it, but you know, who am I to tell who that person is or how they're feeling and like, what they actually experience, 'cause a lot of that's just going to be based on what they look like, which is not-- has very little to do with anything.


Link: True. 


Rhett: Well, and for you, what part nature, what part nurture is your nerd? Your parents nerdy?


Hank: My dad's-- can't see two inches in front of his face without his glasses, his glasses weigh more than a small dog.


Link: So his neck is huge.


Hank: He's got a great neck.


Rhett: Your dad is one of the nicest people I've ever met.


Hank: He is so nice.


Link: Yeah, we just-- we just met him in passing at VidCon, right?


Hank: Uh, yeah, he-- I have great parents. My mom is also amazing. She's a little bit less nerdy, but we did-- me and my mom watched X-Files together, which is a pretty nerdy show, and she was super into that. My dad and I watched Doogie Howser, MD together. Doogie Howser was an important role model for me.


Rhett: Okay.


Link: Did you have a computerized journal before anyone else had computerized journals?


Hank: I did, I did have a computer journal, I think starting in 1995, maybe?


Rhett: Could you give me just a paraphrase of something that you might have written in a journal in 1995?


Hank: Would have been very angsty. It would probably have read something like, "People are so fake. They say hi to each other in the hall like it matters."


Rhett: Oh, wow!


Hank: 15 was a tough year for me.


Link: Is that hypothetical or are you actually accessing a thought?


Hank: No, I'm remembering write-- like, I'm not--


Link: You remember typing that?


Hank: I'm not remembering writing it, I remembering reading it later and being like, wow, dude, chill out! Yeah, I'm remembering reading it once I got to college and like, found those files.


Rhett: Poetic, man.


Link: Yeah, I was curious if you still had the files.


Hank: No, I don't. I don't. I lost a great deal of my terrible, terrible ramblings.


Link: Which, there goes the rationale of doin' it that way at all. You should have printed it off on that printer with the dots on the sides.


Rhett: Well, but the transfer of information is different now, you know? Back then, it was a floppy disk, right? I mean--


Hank: It was on a hard drive.


Rhett: It was on a hard drive, but still, how do you connect anything else, right?


Hank: Yeah, nowadays, you know, you're basically trusting Google not to lose your e-mail and they better not, or else we will be very angry. So if they don't lose your e-mail, then you can probably say most of your data is safe in Google's hands.


Link: So do you remember the first time that you were slapped with the label of nerd and it hurt? Because that's what I seem to have been accessing earlier.


Hank: I remember when I hit middle school that suddenly I wasn't cool anymore, and that like, the thing that I was, it wasn't just that I wasn't cool, it's that the thing that I was in elementary school, which was cool, which was smart in knowing stuff and doing well on tests, was suddenly not cool anymore.


Link: And was this still in-- was this in Montana?


Hank: No, I grew up in Orlando.


Link: Did you do the boarding school thing?


Hank: No.


Link: You stayed back.


Hank: Yeah. I stayed.


Link: In a couple of videos when you talk about sexuality, sometimes on Vlogbrothers, okay, I'm talking about this, and then you kinda give more of, "this is what's behind this for me personally," so you would talk about trying to reach a conclusion about your own sexuality, sexual orientation, and then you said that, "I might be a little bi."


Hank: Yeah.


Link: But so, was that-- I mean, was everything up for grabs at that point, just a bunch of confusion?


Hank: I remember, so--so--my sexual journey, I'm pretty damn straight when it comes down to it, but I was, for a little bit, terrified that I might be gay, which I knew was a bad thing, which of course isn't, but I knew that it was, because I liked to ice skate and I liked the Village People, and so I thought that that meant that I might be gay. Having--


Link: Well, as long as you don't like them together.


Hank: Having-- no, I liked to ice skate to the Village People.


Rhett: Well, then, yeah. You were gay. (they laugh)


Hank: And I was like, remember like, I broke out in a cold sweat, 'cause I was like, yay, (?-19:30), and I was like, huhhhhh. Maybe I'm gay. 


 (20:00) to (25:00)


But this had nothing to do with being attracted to a man. But I did-- I did-- the men that I have been attracted to, I think that it requires two things--one, for me to be pretty-- what's the good--randy? And be like, well, that guy. But I was really--it's like, well, really anything. And two, it had to be a fairly effeminate man.


Rhett: Yeah, that guy looks like a girl.


Hank: That guy looks like a cute girl. No breasts. Then I can totally see it, you know. So I think that like, during middle school, I was just terrified that I might be gay, and during high school, I was just like, well, I'm outcast, so I might as well embrace the outcastness in whatever way is available to me, so if some guy wanted to make out, I'd try that. I went to a very large high school, and so there were a lot of social groups, there were a lot of different groups of people you could be a part of that had very different aesthetics and very different values, and so the group that I was-- ended up being a part of was very weird and silly and nontraditional and really into that, and this only happened in senior year of high school, when I was able to, like, embrace this stuff, and the silliness was really an important part of it, but so was not the, like, the traditional way of looking at things. We want to see what parts of the world are just made up and what parts are real, so that was actually really great for me.


Link: What parts of the world were real, and what parts were made up, so, so, what did you discover was not real?


Hank: Well, I mean, I was 17, so meh. But, you know, you start to realize at a certain point in your life that the world doesn't have to be the way that the world is, and that's sort of like a 16 year old, 17 year old realization, and I think it happens earlier when you're more outside of culture, like, we listened to Hanson, which was, for high school students, crazy, right? Like, Hanson was for kids. We were like--


Link: So, it was intentionally ridiculous.


Hank: Yeah, we were like, "Hanson, that's weird, like, that would be a weird thing for high school kids to listen to," and then like, after the Hanson song, you listened to a Marilyn Manson song, like, let's be-- like, intentionally ridiculous for sure. We named-- we renamed all the days of the week, we went and hung out at like, you know, 4 in the morning in cemeteries one night, and the next night we'd be in a playground at 4 in the morning, and one of the group had a very non-supervisory dad, who just sort of always stayed in his room and never came out.


Rhett: There's always one.


Hank: And then we would just dance and sing and stay up and play vacuum cleaner fights and nobody ever made out with anybody, which I think was like, hugely important to the success of this social group.


Link: I thought you were getting at that you, one time you made out with one guy to see if you were gay.


Hank: No, we never made out. I was in-- I was ready to go there, but it didn't happen.


Link: But you said in that vlog, which I found to be interesting, I can't remember the guy who, he has helping you edit something--


Rhett: Stefan?


Hank: Oh, Stefan, yeah, yeah.


Link: And it seems like you really put him on the spot about his sexuality. But then you're the one who came out and said, "I'm a little bi," and I couldn't tell if you thought that was a joke or if you were just being honest.


Hank: No, you know, like, I think I'm a little bi in that like, sometimes I think guys are kinda cute. I think we might probably all be a little bi, but like, I think the idea of there being three labels for what your sexuality is is kind of ridiculous, insofar as like, if you're gonna give me one of those three labels, I think it's ridiculous to give me the label of, like, 100% one thing all the time forever. Culture is full, it's constantly whispering rules into your ear about what you should want, about who you should want, about how you should live your life and like, how you should fill the holes of need inside you, and like, strip it down and maybe say, like, not just like, how do I fill those holes, but like, where did they come from? What are they? Like, why do I want, asking why do I want is far more useful in the end than asking what do I want, because there's a lot of freedom there, when you realize, like, this thing that's driving me nuts, really? And yeah. Orlando is not my favorite place, no offense to people who live in Orlando, but I'm glad to not live there anymore.


Link: When did you get out of there?


Hank: I moved to, like, when I went to college, in 1998, I went to St. Petersburg, and then in 2003, I moved to Montana.


Link: Okay, so St. Petersburg, college, and what did you study there?


Hank: I studied biochemistry and also liberal arts, because you had to. I had an art minor, actually. When I-- looking back on that, I'm very glad that I did science, like, that I got a degree in science, and I'm also very glad that I went to a liberal arts school where I could learn a lot of different weird things, and like take a class on economics and take a class on religious studies and you know--


Link: Did you find a group of people there kind of like that formative group senior year in high school where you were asking and answering questions and determining who you were and what you were gonna believe about yourself and life and people?


Hank: Yeah, I definitely found a very good group of people at college really quick, and our experience was one of like, silliness.


 (25:00) to (30:00)


Like, silliness is like, one of the most important attributes to me.


Link: What's the silliest thing you remember from the college years? I mean, this is still before videos, right?


Hank: Yeah, I mean, though we did make some videos in high school, which, uh, hopefully will never see the light of day.


Link: Oh yeah?


Hank: I would love to see them, but I would not love for the internet to see them. Uh, yes, silliest thing we did in college. Uh, we did Rocky Horror a lot, we went to see Rocky Horror Picture Show and like--


Link: So you would get dressed up--


Hank: Yeah. We actually--


Link: And--as the characters.


Hank: --did a Rocky Horror show at school, I was in the cast. I was Rocky. Katherine, my wife, was Janet.


Link: So that's where you met Katherine?


Hank: Yeah, yeah, we lived very nearby each other Freshman year.


Link: What was that first meeting?


Hank: The first time I remember meeting Katherine, like, actually like, remember seeing her, this is terrible. Was at night, and she was wearing a t-shirt and no bra.


Rhett: Well, that'll do it.


Hank: It may have been a little chilly. That is something I've never told my wife, that this is like, my earliest memory of her.


Rhett: My first memory of you.


Link: Really?


Hank: Yeah, and she was just like, out in the hallway, she had just come out of her room and I said like a few words to her.


Link: What did you say, like, uh, I like your shirt?


Hank: No, no! I don't know what we were talking about.


Link: Nice shirt.


Hank: All I remember is her boobs, okay, fine? That's what I remember.


Link: So now you realize--you've never told her this, but you're telling us that?


Hank: I've never really admitted to myself either.


Link: We're gonna have to get you some brownie points, some way to make up for that. Now, okay, so then what, you started dating?


Hank: Uh, not immediately, no. We had a weird early relationship, you guys.


Link: How so?


Hank: Her roommate was excitedly in a new relationship upon getting to college, and that made things a little uncomfortable for Katherine, and so I offered, or she asked, I think, if she could sleep in my room, and she slept in my room for weeks with nothin' happening and then one night, something happened.


Rhett: Did you have a roommate also? 


Hank: Yeah, Derek.


Link: So then Derek had to leave?


Hank: No, we were more subtle than Katherine's roommate.


Link: So then you guys shacked up as friends and then hooked up and it's all history from there?


Hank: Well, there have been many things that happened since then. We broke up, like, twice.


Link: Whose fault was that?


Hank: Well, she was going back home, I was going back home, and it was like, "Well, let's just--"


Rhett: Mature decision.


Hank: Yeah, and then we came back and we weren't together for a while 'cause it was weird, and then we were, and then we broke up for a little while while we lived in Missoula which was really hard, after we moved to Missoula together.


Link: What moved you there, and then tell us when the--just, clue me in to when the video--when the Vlogbrothers 2.0 started happening. So, um, was it after that?


Hank: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Link: Okay, so what moved you--you graduated and moved together, you guys were like, a couple.


Hank: So we graduated for--I got a job doing chemistry, I didn't love it, and Katherine had a job, too, in Florida, and then she got accepted into the University of Montana in their Environmental Studies program and she got a full free year there, you know, we had been living, like, doing sort of a long distance thing, and she was going to go over there and I was like, well, either this relationship is over, which I don't want it to be, or I move to Montana, and I was like, well, I don't like my job and I don't really like Florida and Montana sounds weird, so let's do that. And that was like, a, such a, like, looking back, like, crazy decision, but I have always been a little bit of a whatever kind of person, like I--decisions don't seem that important to me, you know, like, options available, x, okay, go.


Link: So it wasn't as much a testimony to your relationship as it was to--it was just a viable option?


Hank: I mean, I loved her a lot.


Link: Okay, 'cause those could have been your brownie points right there, Hank, you could have been like, 'I loved her madly, deeply, forever, and I had to be with her, it was a done deal, I'm not a whimsical guy--


Rhett: --but Montana, here I come'


Hank: I'm not a whimsical guy, I love silliness.


Rhett: I love this moment in so many peoples' story. Knowing who you are and knowing what you do and how many things you have done and how many things you are doing right now, to know that there was a time in which you were moving to Montana without an idea of what you were going to do, was that mentality, which now I feel like you're the guy who has to be doing something or else you'll go nuts, right?


Hank: Well, yeah.


Rhett: Was that emerging at that point?


Hank: Oh, yeah, I was already doing that. I was already, like, all the time, coming up with ideas and doing weird things. When I like, during that period of time after college, when I lived in Florida, working at that lab, I started a website called IHateI4.com, I4 is the road that runs through Orlando and it's terrible and everyone hates it. And so I was like, let's start a website, we're gonna talk about transportation policies, IHateI4.com, and I like, stole road signs, like political campaign road signs, and I spray painted IHateI4.com on them, I had a stencil. And then I put 'em out like, on the on-ramps and exits of--


Link: A marketing campaign.


Hank: Yeah. And then, like, literally within the day, the local news was calling me.


 (30:00) to (35:00)


We had a sponsor and we made like, $200 and like, the server bill got really expensive, but like, to me, it was like, 'Yeah, doin' a thing!' and I--and I--


Link: And it was a political thing, it wasn't just a forum for people to vent.


Hank: Well, to be clear, on the website, really it was mostly just people yelling about different genders or races or age groups that were worse drivers, and I was like, not really what I was going for, guys!


Rhett: Yeah, I hate I4, too!


Hank: Yeah.


Link: But you fostered a community and you found yourself a spokesman for something, I mean, this is certainly a template that carries on. This may not have been the first example, and it certainly won't be the last. So you had to abandon that when you moved to Montana.


Hank: I did! I moved to Montana and I remember being like, oh, I go--I have to like, leave IHateI4.com behind! And like, I got--I had so many emails, I haven't thought about this in a decade, but I remember, like, getting to Missoula and thinking, I'm still gonna run IHateI4 in Missoula, like, and then, and then within like, a week, realizing that it--but like, it's always been important to me to have something that I'm doing to keep my brain occupied, and so like, that site was good for doing that in the space between figuring out what I was going to do in Missoula.


Rhett: And so when you got to Missoula, a) what did you do to make money, and b) what did you do that was the next IHateI4.com?


Hank: At first, I applied for jobs, which was a long process. I also just walked into a couple television stations, and I was like, I have experience doing TV stuff and camera stuff and graphics stuff if you need that, and one of them put me on as a contract--like, occasionally camera operated, which I did. Camera operation is super fun in local markets, because you just get to go to weird things, and they're like, you be here this time, then you're like 'okay' and then you watch as weird things happen, whatever thing is newsworthy that day.


Link: Through a lens.


Hank: It's a good way to like, get to know a community because you get to go to all the things that you would never go to, like all the community events, and then I started to think probably I should go back to school, so the second semester we were there, I took a couple classes, I took one environmental writing course and one microbiology course and I decided to go the non-science route and like, really, like, at that point, I was thinking I could set myself up to write about science, which is something I'd always wanted to do, like, I have always been a huge fan of science communicators like Carl Sagan and the writing staff of Star Trek: The Next Generation and, um, you know, Beakman's World and Bill Nye and that sort of thing, Mr. Wizard, all really cool things to me, and I had a subscription to Scientific American, thanks to my dad, from the time I was like, twelve, so, then I was always like, found that to be unquestionably very cool in whatever that cool word means. So I really enjoyed that class I took, and then I took the GREs and I did well, and then I got into the program with no problem and I, like, was a year behind Katherine in the same program she was in, but I focused on writing while she focused on policy, and then in the graduate program I went in for environmental writing, I started EcoGeek.org, which was my environmental technology blog.


Link: This seed for the cause of environmentalism, was that something that your dad fostered from a young age?


Hank: Yeah. Probably because my dad was actually the Florida State Director of the Nature Conservancy for a long time when I was growing up, and that was obviously an important household topic and, I mean, Florida is a beautiful and wonderful place to attempt to protect, and a very difficult place to actually protect, because it is also a wonderful place to build houses.


Rhett: And theme parks.


Hank: And theme parks and Targets and, you know.


Link: But for you, starting EcoGeek, this was a big thing for you, right?


Hank: Well, that kinda came from going through the environmental studies program at the University of Montana, which was a big pile of like, here are the worst things that are happening in the world and we have to activate ourself to fix them, and me feeling powerless and terrible, and like, we can talk about this all day like, but like, I'm into science and a lot of this conversation is about how bad the things that science has brought us are, and so I feel like we're sort of fighting against maybe one of the greatest tools that we have in this fight, like, we're pushing against science, when science could easily be--it's like the most effective possible solution to the problems we're facing, and I, like, as a person who was into that, seemed very uncomfortable and angry and annoying, which I still deal a little bit with in the environmental movement, so I found myself going home and like, Googling, you know, what's the future of paper? Are we gonna use trees in 20 years? What's the future of energy? What's the future of cars? What's the future of air travel? Like, and feeling better about the world.


 (35:00) to (40:00)


Hank: Like we can fix things, we've done it over and over again, we reach our carrying capacity and then we push through it. We are finally starting to see an end, a potential end, to the growth in the human population, like, not in the next year or anything, but it's probably going to happen, and at that point, we can find a balance potentially, if we continue to develop technology, but if we don't do that, we will actually be in trouble. If we fight against the only tool that we have to make it all work.


Link: But these are the type of things that you are moving from just reading about and becoming encouraged to then saying, "I'm gonna be a part of writing about this and create a forum and a solution', I don't know if it's technically a forum, but you know what I mean.


Hank: My professor at the time, John Weber, said, you know, the class was called 'Starting a Magazine', and it was like, you wanna find something you're obsessed with and that you're really into, 'cause you're gonna be thinking about this 24 hours a day, and I was like, well, what's that thing for me? And then I like, looked at my Google search history and I was like, this, environmental technology, technology that will make our impact on the environment less significant. So that's what I started my blog about and it became a thing that was like, my job for a while.


Rhett: And at that point, I guess you were experimenting with web video and so there was this natural evolution into YouTube?


Hank: No.


Rhett: How did that start?


Hank: Nope. There was no natural evolution. I was getting bored with EcoGeek, I was getting bored with writing sensationalist headlines to try and get clicks, to try and get ad impressions, to try and get money, and I didn't want to do that anymore, but I also saw like, if I don't do that anymore, will I be able to pay the bills? So I was feeling like probably I was going to have to have another thing, and John, my brother, was like, 'What do you think about the idea of maybe doing a YouTube show of like, videos, and editing videos and we'd talk to each other on the camera and we--' and I was like, 'Yes! A thing! A new thing! Yes, absolutely! We should get Dad to buy us cameras for Christmas and these are the ones we should get, and make sure we both have iMovie on our Macs, and I've tested it out and--"


Link: So Dad gave you both a camera for Christmas?


Hank: Canon Elura 100's.


Link: So then, January 1st, your video goes up first.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: And, of course, we talked to John, his video went up the day after, but he put it up on the wrong channel.


Hank: Wrong channel.


Link: So it was a little confusing.


Hank: We're not quite sure how YouTube works at this point, but.


Link: Yeah, but so, in your first video, I find it interesting that it's kinda presented as if it's your idea. I don't think that was intentional.


Hank: No, I did not mean to imply that.


Link: But you were very gung-ho. I mean, when John posts his first Brotherhood 2.0, it's like, 'I don't know what I'm doing or how this is going to be"


Hank: "I'm going to be very bad at this," He said something to that effect.


Link: Yeah.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: But you seem to be much more gung-ho and--


Hank: I'm sort of a more excitable guy than John. I get really into new ideas, like, really into new ideas.


Link: And you were kind of fostering--there were kind of prompts at the beginning, like, okay, we gotta get this thing off the ground, you were kinda giving him some tracks to run on, helping your brother out, "Well, you should probably post it on the right channel, and let's talk about our differences, here's something we can go with" kind of a thing.


Hank: Yeah, and I mean, he did that, too. I mean, and it was clear to me watching those videos that we wanted other people to watch them. It's not like we just were making a YouTube show where we were gonna talk to each other. John was like, 'You know what we should do? We should eat toilet paper while talking about the political situation in Nepal.'


Link: Right.


Hank: And it's like, that was John--


Link: As a punishment.


Hank: No, that wasn't a punishment.


Link: Oh, right, just an idea.


Hank: John decided that that would be a good idea, and like, you know, we can talk about how we didn't really think that it was going to be popular, we didn't think that it was going to be popular, of course we didn't, like, YouTube as it exists now is unthinkable to 2007 YouTube, but we did think about--


Link: But you were thinking of an audience larger than yourselves.


Hank: --how do we get people to watch this?


Link: And did you assume a character?


Hank: I think, as soon as the camera turns on, and you're not a professional performer, you're a character. Like, you immediately start acting different when there's a camera on. So yeah, there's a character there, in that, like, you're being self-conscious and you're thinking about your thoughts more and you're thinking about your face and your presentation and you're talking more and then you're nervous and like, so there's a difference. But if you watch the early videos, it's a very different character than the way I have now, which is more similar to me, actually, 'cause that guy was like, putting on a thing, 'cause obviously, me as I am is not interesting enough, so let's try something else.


Link: Well, he was funny. And you're still funny, but I mean, it's, you know--


Hank: It's different.


Link: --we c--we're very different than the videos we made and a lot of those, like you said, are not anywhere for anyone to see.


Rhett: What--you know, and it's interesting how so many things have sort of synthesized with your interests and your passions and your knowledge with this medium and it seems like one of the things that characterizes so many of the things that you do, you really want people to know things, not in a preachy kind of way or like, "i'm gonna teach you guys or i'm gonna take you to school", but I think about it in the context of, you know, with what we do, it isn't that you don't ever learn something from Good Mythical Morning or whatever, there is a fascination factor, but our primary objective is to entertain, and I think people kind of get that.


 (40:00) to (45:00)


Yours is equally entertaining, but I feel like you have a passion for people to get things. For things to sink in.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: To enjoy the ever-present game of knowing.


Hank: Oh, yeah, that's a good Hank Green quote. Yeah, I am super into that, 'cause I love it when people do that to me. I love it when someone explains something to me in a way where I finally get it. This is now a thing that I will always have in my head, a greater understanding of how the universe works.


Rhett: Knowing what is actually true about something is empowering. It seems like everything that you touch on, you're trying to get people knowledge so that they can be equipped to then do what?


Hank: I think understanding the world is its own reward in a lot of ways. In the past, we got to have that provided for us, like a certainty, which I think is just really inaccessible now. You know, religion provides for a lot of people, and I'm often envious of this, that kind of certainty, that kind of like, "I understand not just what the world is, but my place in it and what I should do and how I should operate", and when you break that down, when you don't have that, it can feel like you're lost and you're sort of tumbling and when it comes to like, why you're here, we don't have a great answer for that, 'cause there really, like, in my opinion, isn't one, like, there's no cosmic purpose to any individual human life, but if you understand your connection to other people and if you understand yourself, not just sort of like, how I think and how I feel, but like, why I think and why I feel and that, for me, has really allowed me to like, understand that like, I have a reason. At any given moment, if I feel lost, I can touch on that reason and be like, that's still there. And like, that's a weird thing to come to from a place of like, I want people to understand all of the universe and I want people to understand, like, why shoes fall when you drop them and I want people to understand like, what wood is made out of, to like, I also want people to understand that they have a thing called humanity that has not just cultural needs, but like, real, objective, intrinsic needs.


Rhett: This quest for knowledge, do you think that there is a point in which we attain the knowledge from an objective standpoint that then answers some of those questions so that you don't feel upside down or out of place or you find purpose in this knowledge?


Hank: Yeah, I mean, I think--I don't think that like, necessarily science does that, but I think that under--like, observation can lead an individual human to find that for themselves. And like, that's happened for me.


Link: To find purpose?


Hank: Maybe not purpose, but to find the thing that shows you which way is up, that like, you can always touch on to say, here is the thing that makes sense for why I'm here, and like, I guess purpose is an acceptable word.


Rhett: And this is an interesting difference between you and John.


Hank: Yeah, yeah.


Rhett: You know, he's been relatively open about his background, we talked with him and the interesting thing is that you guys are so in lockstep about so many things and when we asked him this question about wh--how does this, you know, he considers himself to have faith in God, and you don't, but yet--


Link: So you call yourself an atheist, right?


Hank: Th--see, this is an important--so I don't believe there's a God. But I'm not comfortable saying that there is no God, 'cause I've had people ask me, "Is there a God?" and I'm like, we--like, I can't--like, wow.


Rhett: So agnostic.


Hank: That's a very different question than I do--than do you believe there's a God.


Rhett: Right.


Link: But where were you going with your question?


Rhett: With John, we asked him how you guys interact about that. His answer was, "Well, we don't, really, specifically about that issue, because we care about the same things." You guys are oriented in the same way, you want to decrease worldsuck in the same way, and the motivation seems to come from maybe different areas, but y--when you--when all is said and done, you're doing the same thing.


Hank: Yeah, and I think that we, like, we have the same values. It--I mean, it's like, not important where the values come from, it's important what the values are.


Rhett: So do you have a--sort of a pact that's like, "We're not going to discuss that?"


Hank: Nah, no, no, we don't.


Rhett: Or is--


Hank: We talk about it all the time.


Rhett: You do? Okay. And what's the tone of that conversation?


Hank: I--yeah, I mean, usually it's more like curiosity. And like, you know, like, maybe a little bit of like, what is that giving you. Like, I find myself oftentimes being jealous of religion, like, it's an amazing community organizer, it's the reason why Republicans give more to charity than Democrats.


 (45:00) to (50:00)


And I'm like, we--like, obviously, secular people need something to make them give money, because, like, that's frustrating to me, like--


Link: Right, I think people would maybe ask you, 'Why do you want to decrease worldsuck if you're not doing it for God?' Well, I mean, what--


Hank: I find that question very funny.


Link: So who are you doing it for?


Hank: Other people who are suffering. I mean that seems--


Link: But there's certainly people who would think that, I mean, I think, that's what--


Hank: Right, but it seems like such a terrible thing to think! Like, like, the only reason I wanna help people is so I don't burn forever. What a terrible way to look at the world. 


Rhett: Well, let's talk a little bit more about your brother, because it has been obviously an incredible year for him.


Hank: Yeah.


Rhett: We talked a lot about that on his Earbiscuit, and we want to get your perspective on some of the same questions.


Link: 'Cause even in that--I guess it was your second video post, you were talking about how people compared you to him. 


Hank: It's true.


Link: You know? That was--


Hank: Wow, I'm always impressed by how much research you guys do. 


Link: Well, that was the first thing you chose to talk to him and the audience that you were just starting was, let's talk about how we're different, because people always talk to me about what I'm not that you are, or vice versa, you know?


Hank: What did I say?


Link: You said that he was pudgy and that you--


Rhett: You would become pudgy over the next few years, that's what you said.


Hank: Ah, right, right, oh, that's a good joke.


Rhett: You said that you were--


Link: Right, it was a good comedy bit, it really was.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: And then you turned it into, basically, it was your confession of spilling coffee on Katherine's computer. He wouldn't--


Rhett: Beer. Beer.


Link: He would never do that--or, a beer? 


Rhett: Yeah, it was a beer.


Link: And then not telling her, and then waiting 'til the next morning and just replacing the battery and hoping that it works, because you didn't want to have to tell her what happened. John would never do that.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: Insinuating that you did do that just that day.


Rhett: Yeah, right before.


Link: So I mean, what happens when your brother has this monstrously successful novel, which turns into a monstrously successful movie.


Hank: And you're saying I'm not monstrously successful, is that what you're implying? You're saying, 'what does it feel like to be the inadequate brother?' 


Link: I'm not saying that at all.


Hank: And you're--and you're--


Link: When you haven't done those things specifically--


Hank: It impacts me not at all. Like, I don't see--like, that doesn't feel like a thing in my life, that tension doesn't feel like a thing in my life. John's success is like a thing to deal with that we have to think about and that changes maybe some of the ways that he thinks about our projects, there are often times when John's like, why would we do that? And I was like, because of money, and he's like, hah, I forgot about money. Oh, which is--I'm not there. 


Rhett: That's amazing. I forgot about money. 


Hank: So there are ways that has changed John, and like, and so I have--like, I have to think about that, and I wouldn't say any of it is negative, I don't think that it's changed John in any negative ways, except that he's possibly maybe a little more anxious, but as far as the tension of success goes, I have people ask me about that a lot, and my parents have it as well, like, they're like, how does Hank feel about not being, you know, about being in his brother's shadow and like, on Vlogbrothers, I'm not at all, I don't feel at all in my brother's shadow, I don't think Nerdfighteria thinks about it that way at all, I don't think people come in to it and they're like, "Well, I like John's videos, but Hank's just, yeah, you just have to wait through those", frankly, my videos are more entertaining and I'm better at making video than he is and he will agree. He's a better writer than I am, but also at the same time, he's focusing more and like, I can tell he's doing this intentionally, on the boring stuff, and he's letting me do more exciting videos to make sure that people, like, they'll watch John's videos 'cause he's John, but then they get to be like, oh, thank goodness, a Hank video, I get to not have to think about Ethiopia for like, ten minutes.


Rhett: Right.


Link: But you say you can tell, like, when he posts a video, there's no coordination in terms of like, I'm tackling this, so don't--you can leave this one.


Hank: There's a little coordination. Someti--I mean, on the average day, I have no idea what John's video is gonna be about.


Link: And you watch it along with everyone else?


Hank: Yeah.


Rhett: I love that.


Hank: I--so, for example, the one that went up today, the day we're recording this, I did know what it was going to be about, but that's because he wanted me to look over the script, because it had science in it. 


Link: Are there days when, for both of you, it would be a surprise if you just don't get around to watching your brother's video?


Hank: There might be a day when that happens.


Link: You'll catch up.


Hank: In fact, today is a day when that happened. I haven't watched that video yet. One, I've read the script, so I know what it's about, but I will watch it, it's just that I've been driving around LA all day.


 (50:00) to (55:00)


If ever I get to the point where I don't watch one of John's videos, that's the day I just--we might as well not have the channel anymore.


Link: Why?


Hank: Like, that--like, because, like, that's the thing. He, like, he's making a video for me. And if I'm not watching it, one, that's just bad brother right there, and two, like, it's like it abandons the idea of what it is, and the idea of what it is remains very important, that we are making videos for each other. Even though, of course, we recognize and communicate with the broader audience, like, I will say something that John already knows and I won't say it to John, I'll say it to the audience, but John remains the most important member of the audience, and I think that that's like, that's the way it has to be for Vlogbrothers to be what it is. 


Rhett: When you guys decided that you were going to--when you realized that the success was happening with The Fault in Our Stars, who instigated the conversation to be like, alright, we should probably talk about this and how we're gonna manage this?


Hank: I don't know. It was definitely a conversation we had, but I think that it was--I think it might have just come up early when were like, this is turning into a movie and the movie might be very successful, and like, that sort of came up in conversation, and if it is, then what's like--the way--John and I don't have agendas, we call each other on the phone, like, we don't like, right down bullet points or anything. Occasionally, but not usually. Yeah, I mean, we knew that there was a chance that this would be something that we would have to manage and it turned out to be something that we did have to think actively about, and it was definitely a conversation that involved both of us.


Link: And concluded with?


Hank: We do not want to capture the wave. This is not a wave we want to ride.


Link: To not see it as, "Okay, this is the opportunity to take Vlogbrothers to a whole new level"


Hank: This is not a level up, yep.


Link: "This is what we gotta do"


Hank: I think it was too big. If we caught that wave, it would change our community, it would have changed our community very fundamentally.


Link: What would you have had to do?


Hank: To catch the wave?


Link: Yeah--it's not immediately obvious to me what you would change.


Hank: We would have had to--right. Oh, yeah, I mean, like, we were encouraged on several fronts to have The Fault in Our Stars sort of become the narrative of the Vlogbrothers channel for a long time before and after the movie came out. 


Link: Just to--you guys were each just talking about the whole experience.


Hank: And that would have been, maybe, yeah, and also, I think sort of more demographically aimed at making that kind of content and collaborating with those, like, people who have that demographic. Watching their shows and I think if we had used that strategy, had, you know, a tremendous amount of subscriber growth, and we didn't do that very intentionally because we didn't want--we didn't want to have our audience double, but have our audience double with entirely--an entirely new kind of viewer. 


Rhett: Right.


Hank: 'Cause that would have been just terrifying. We wouldn't know what our channel was anymore, 'cause the--like, the people who are watching the content are just as important as the people who are making the content, in terms of what kind of content ends up getting made, so we want to keep making the same kind of content we've always made, so we, not only did we avoid creating content specifically for fans of the movies who might be coming in for the first time as Vlogbrothers viewers, we sort of doubled down on what Nerdfighteria was, and on what our kind of content was.


Link: I mean, there's a number of things that you've invested in that are equally as phenomenal as the success of the novel or the book, and those things are--


Hank: Ehh, maybe not equally as phenomenal. 


Link: Well--


Hank: There's a phenomenon in like, a mass-cultural success of a story that is very difficult to duplicate in any other way, and that like--that cultural importance is so awesome. I'm very proud of John and like, that's an accomplishment that very few people get to have, and I think that he doesn't--either he doesn't recognize it or he doesn't want to, because of how important it is for a lot of people, and of how, like, important it will be for their whole lives, like, John has a number of authors that have impacted him tremendously, and he is going to be that for a lot of people, and I think that that's true of Vlogbrothers as well, but it is not, like, not in the same way as The Fault in Our Stars, at the same magnitude.


Link: But I mean, when you look at things like how much money has been raised through Project for Awesome or the benefits of an event like VidCon, they're so instrumental to shaping a whole genre of entertainment, and so, I guess I make the point that these other things that you've created are extremely--


Hank: Yeah, and I'm super proud of the things that like, I've done personally, and like, and also like, it's not really about pride, it's about doing something that I think is important and interesting and like, that is hard--


Link: But you do so many things, I mean, what's the thing that, if you had to have only done one of them, what was the thing you couldn't let go of?


Hank: My marriage. Points!


Link: Okay. There you go, you got it.


Rhett: Top of mine, that was good.


Link: Got it, but professionally, not personally?


Hank: Vlogbrothers. Vlogbrothers, Vlogbrothers, Vlogbrothers, Vlogbrothers. All the other things don't--like, wouldn't have been possible and wouldn't matter without Nerdfighteria, I mean, like, that channel is the coolest thing that ever happened to me. Do you guys agree that the thing that you do for a living is so cool?


Rhett: Yeah!


Link: Yeah, it's--


Hank: It's so cool!


Link: Yeah, it's living the dream, it is, it really is. It's great. 


Hank: So I'm just, I'm infinitely grateful to all the people who care about that channel and also who care about the institution as a community and care about us as individual creators and care about each other as members of that thing. So cool. So cool.


 (55:00) to (1:00:00)


Link: Because of VidCon though, what you've done is that you've--you've aligned everyone who's trying to do anything that makes them a YouTuber, which is such a broad term, you're like, the friendly uncle of every YouTuber.


Hank: I'm glad you think so.


Link: Because of VidCon. Do you watch everyone's content, because it seems to me that you really know and care about YouTubers, like, oh, Jenna's getting flak on Good Morning America, who's gonna write a blog post about it to set 'em--to put 'em in their place? Hank Green's gonna do that. Friendly VidCon uncle. How do you see your role in that capacity?


Hank: I would love to be Friendly Uncle. If--and like, I am really into online video. I think a lot of people came into this with like, the sort of aspirations that involved entertainment. I had none of those. I had a little bit of a maybe I wanted to do science communication, but that world continues to be boring to me and at that point, it was just opaque, or like, I hadn't even considered it existed. So, like, being a part of the early days of YouTube is like, that's like, I think one of the coolest things that will be a part of my life, and I thought from like, day two that YouTube was gonna be a--not was gonna be, was already a huge deal, like, a huge culturally important deal, because I mean, I was always obsessed with the culture of the Internet, and YouTube was a big part of like, early YouTube was a big part of the culture of the Internet, so I've always been obsessed with it, and I've always thought that it mattered, and it seems like only recently, even the people who are involved in it, even the people who do it for a living, only recently have they come--a lot of them, come to accept that it is important. Whereas, from like, 2010 when I started VidCon, I thought it was late for a conference. 2007, when I started making YouTube videos, I thought I was late to YouTube. Like, I'm looking at the (? 57:51) of the table here, and I'm like, I see all these names, and I like, to me, what this looks like is not a table with a bunch of signatures on it, it's like, a thing that's gonna be in a museum someday. I believe completely irrationally in the deep importance of online video culturally. Like, I think it's as important as like, the printing press, which I know it's not, but I think is.


Link: And it's interesting that you--but you find yourself being the champion of people who--YouTubers--who are just in it to scratch their entertainment itch. I mean--we have--


Hank: That's not what it's about, it's not about like, "Am I just getting--using this as a stepping stone?" It's about they're making great content. I don't care if they're using it as a stepping stone, I care if they're making great content. I care if they're doing something interesting, something different, something cool.


Rhett: What trends do you see in online video that trouble you?


Hank: The thing that makes me the most angry in all the world is watching people who suck get really rich off of people who are cool.


Link: Like who?


Hank: Yeah, uh-huh. And then the other thing that really pisses me off is that people are too nice to call them out on it, which I am doing right now.


Rhett: Right. Can't say anything bad about anybody in this industry.


Hank: Yeah. Yeah.


Rhett: Doesn't work. Doesn't go over well.


Hank: It would work if we all did it. I ask that question all the time, like, when I'm like, sort of getting into a new area of YouTube, like say, Minecraft gamers or, you know, a cappella musicians, I'm like, so just to--like, just tell me, who's the d*ck? Like, who's the *hole? 'Cause I know that there is one.


Rhett: Right.


Hank: And I know that you all hate them, but you're not gonna tell me.


Link: Well, first of all, you're assuming you're not talking to 'em.


Hank: That's true, but I pick carefully.


Link: Okay, yeah.


Hank: The person I ask that question to.


Link: And what do they--no one ever says or do they say privately?


Hank: People--no. They won't. They're too nice. And they know. And they don't just know that that person is you know, only motivated by money, they know that that person has done bad things to people, and I feel the same way. I know people who have done bad things to people, and I don't talk about it. Because it's not something you're supposed to talk about. And I find it very frustrating.


 (1:00:00) to (1:05:00)


It's--and it's a thing, like the snow that I feel like this is a problem that we have to work around, but boy, does it make me want to not have that problem anymore. I so want that problem to go away. 


Link: I guess I'm a little surprised that that's what you said. I mean, I really thought your answer was gonna be related to, "Well, you know, the established entertainment industry is gonna come in--"


Hank: You asked me a really great question and I answered with the thing I hate the most in the world, which I probably shouldn't have done, but I maybe just really wanted to have that rant I just had. 


Link: But let's go with that rant, then, because I mean, you Tweeted, "I suppose I feel somewhat alienated from the idea of what a "YouTuber" is and it makes me wonder if that's something I want to be."


Hank: That was a moment of weakness, I shouldn't have Tweeted that.


Link: But you did Tweet it, so explain it.


Hank: And that is--that the word YouTuber means a different thing to different people, but I had, at that moment, heard the word "YouTuber" used probably twelve times in a row in describing teen idols. And I have nothing against teen idols. I'm not saying they make bad content. I'm not saying that they like, that the enthusiasm of 12 year old girls is like, a problem, like--


Link: But that--that--but that's a YouTuber is, is a--


Hank: Like, I kept hearing it used in that way.


Link: Good looking guy vlogger that girls swoon over.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: Equals YouTuber, period. 


Hank: Yeah, and like, I think that is what that word means to a lot of people, and I worry that that's gonna be what that word means to the mainstream. Like, that would not be fun for me. 'Cause then we'd need a new word, you guys. But I think that I'm still like, absolutely 100% YouTuber. The other thing is that people who work for YouTube, YouTube employees, call themselves YouTubers, and I'm like, oh no, you guys. No, that's ours. You can't have that. I am very proud to be a YouTuber, and I think I'm a YouTuber and I think I'll always be a YouTuber. Maybe the word 'Creator' is sort of like, le--like, it's certainly more vague, but maybe more appropriate for use in certain situations, but I think that online video is the thing that will always be a thing, like radio is a thing that will always be a thing, like plays are a thing that will always be a thing. I think it's a new form of media. It isn't just a--it's not a genre, it's as different from TV as TV is different from radio, and it's weird to have a word for that thing that's the name of a website, but I'm perfectly happy with it, like, to me, when I say YouTuber, what I think of is people who make content on YouTube and people watch it, and like, that's anybody. People who don't know you watch it. Like, that's what a YouTuber is. 


Link: And you're concerned about making content that's actually good. I thought your concern was gonna be that the power will be taken from the individual and would just wind up in the hands of the gatekeepers of traditional entertainment, we were gonna go down that path. 


Hank: I guess I am, but only insofar as it is something that is going to happen and I'm not going to enjoy it. 


Link: If you're not gonna give us hope that the 'You' in 'YouTube' is gonna--


Rhett: Friendly Uncle Hank is not gonna give us hope!


Link: I mean, when I was on the panel--


Hank: Well, okay--


Link: Let me say, when I was on the panel at VidCon called 'The Future of Online Entertainment'


Hank: Oh yeah, I wasn't on this panel.


Link: A weird thing happened to me sitting in the seat on the panel.


Rhett: You wet yourself, I remember that.


Link: I peed myself. At one point, I thought my eyes might be welling up.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: And I'm being serious, I'm not joking, I felt like, 'Wow, we have enough success as YouTubers to maybe be able to help affect what the future of this is' and yeah, you kind of think, we're helping invent this, and we're racking our brains constantly to, yes, to be successful, yes, to be entertaining, and we did know this, but it kind of hit me harder for some reason at that moment, that we have power to help shape the opportunity that other people have to follow in our footsteps, to live their dreams.


Hank: Yeah.


Link: So I'm hoping that you would give us some positivity, Uncle Hank, associated with keeping the 'You' in 'YouTube', right?


Hank: When the man comes in to take the power, they can't take all of it. Like, that--the cool thing about YouTube is that there is no barrier to entry, I mean, there is, you have to have a camera, and an internet connection, and ideally, a way to edit a video, and as long as that's the case, people will be doing things that mainstream media will not get, but will be very popular, and that is going to cause media to evolve far more quickly than it has in the past. Genres are created now as fast as television shows used to be created.


Link: And it's a beautiful thing, but so is that threatened?


Hank: It's not. What I mean when I say that this is a foregone conclusion is that, in the future, there will be YouTube channels and there will be YouTubers who are basically run by Hollywood, and the--it's gonna be less magical than it is now, and it already is less magical now than it was a few years ago, and I have always wanted to, and will always, use the power of VidCon to encourage what I see as legitimate online video.


 (1:05:00) to (1:10:00)


But, at the same time, I think that it's important to like, recognize the path of power and the path of--and like, people will follow money, people will do things for money, and money will be easier to come by when you're talking to a Hollywood studio that is used to throwing down ten million dollars on something. There's a funny thing that people in Hollywood will say, this phrase that I hear frustratingly frequently, "Real money", and real money is implying that the money that you and I use to buy our cars and houses and gasoline is not real. Real money is when like, you can no longer breathe because of all the hundred dollar bills that they've stuffed around you.


Rhett: Well let's, let's shift in on a positive note. What are you most excited about?


Hank: I think online video is going to continue being like, super huge and super big and super diverse and lots of interesting new things will keep on happening, and I think that the mainstream will always be a step behind, and I think that is the cool part. And I think that like, right now, what you're doing with Good Mythical Morning, that, to me, seems like the mainstream is a year or two behind this, and this kind of format is going to be popular, like, it's going to be a genre. I think right now, you guys are making a genre of video that has never been created before, and I think that that's amazing, but I don't think it's at all unique. It might not even be exceptional. There's so many things happening and like, it's easy to forget that like, five years ago, there wasn't anybody doing this who had an employee. And now, finally, we're starting to get to the point where, you know, like, there was this weird moment where YouTube was like, dump money on people and see what you do, and it didn't work, because they went from--we went from like, having just me doing the writing and directing and editing and talent and--and, you know, graphics and everything.


Link: Right, but it turns out dumping money on people actually hurts.


Hank: Yeah, it's physically painful, especially if you use coins, which, I don't know why they did that. So instead of going from just like, one person doing all those things, you went to having ten people and one person did each one of those things, which was a bad decision. What we should have done is had two people instead, which, I think, is one of the reasons why so many popular YouTube channels are two-person teams who started out as either brothers or whatever the heck you guys are. 


Link: Friends.


Hank: Not quite. Little more than that, but that sounds weird.


Link: Old married couple.


Rhett: (?-1:07:46)


Hank: And so, it's only ver--ooh--it's only very recently that we diversified, we like, moved on from having just one person doing everything to two people doing everything, and then three people doing everything, and it's--you can do so many more interesting things but you have to let it evolve naturally. You have to let that--that progression occur in order to see how that changes what can be done, because what can be done with three people is very different from what can be done with one person, and the kind of content you end up making is very different, but that doesn't mean that the one person vlog is gonna go away, because that's a legitimately interesting format. It's a legitimately interesting genre. It's like stand-up comedy. It's like a mix of like, essay and video and stand up and you get to do all kinds of different things, you can play multiple parts, like Natalie or Superwoman, or you can be talking about, you know, like, the complexities of the marriage equality debate in America.


Link: You're exactly right. The--just the rapidity of genres being created is amazing and is fascinating and you're right that there's this wave of content that is being created in this digital realm that is the future of so many different things and it's fun to be riding that wave, and I know that when we look forward and we see what those next things are, that you're gonna be there, you know? We're just committed to being able to look around and be in that space and be able to see people like you, so.


Hank: Oh, you guys know you're, you guys know you're ahead of the curve. You gotta know you're ahead of the curve. You do such cool, innovative, interesting things. I'm proud to be in your studio right now.


Link: And this has been a great Earbiscuit, all you gotta do is sign this table, man, so--


Hank: Heck yes.


Link: Whenever it's--whenever we get it put in that museum you're talking about. I guess we'll rent it out.


Rhett: Well, for the person who's listening to this in the year 4020, is that what we said? 


Link: Sure.


Rhett: Who's looking at this Earbiscuits--


Link: Feeling our flesh.


Rhett: --in the Smithsonian.


Hank: Yeah, listening to it while looking at the table.


Rhett: Yeah, it's in an--in an exhibit. You press a button--well, you probably don't press a button, you probably just think and it starts. 


 (1:10:00) to (1:13:28)


Link: I think Hank can say that our table's in some museum, but I don't think we're in a position to say that.


Rhett: Well, he said it first! I'm just going with that!


Link: Just sign it and let's try to end self-deprecating, okay?


Rhett: Okay, alright, yeah.


Hank: I'm gonna start a museum and the first thing I'm gonna put in it is this table. If you guys ever move out of the studio, this is it. The museum is here.


Link & Rhett: Okay.


Rhett: Undisclosed location. 


Link: Thanks, Hank.

Hank: (to the music) boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop-boop


Link: Oh, you're adding that yourself. You don't have to do that.


And there you have it, our conversation with Hank Green.


Rhett: I feel like I could talk to that guy forever. There's so much that he's done that we didn't even touch that. We could do a series with Hank Green.


Link: Well, and just his perspective, you know, on the state of online video, the future of online video, got lots of respect for what he's done for the good of not only online video, but for humanity, I mean, it's just cool to be in a space and like we said, living our dream, and part of that is getting to rub shoulders and to become friends with people like Hank who are not taking lightly the responsibility that we find ourselves in in shaping this whole form of entertainment.


Rhett: Yeah, and I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for Hank, and you know, it only increased in talking to him. I think, to pinpoint one thing that was just so impressed me was his perspective on the way that they thought about John's success as a wave that they didn't want to ride. And to understand the value of what they have created and what they are cultivating as the Vlogbrothers, as Nerdfighteria, he's just got so much insight into that, I don't know. It's--there's almost a re-centering when you do what we do for a living, you talk to a guy like Hank, there's this re-centering that happens, and you kind of remember that like, just it's inspiring, you know? That--to see it in such a pure way, what we're doing here in online video.


Link: Yeah, thanks, Hank, and you should pass along what you think to Hank. His Twitter account is @hankgreen, it's pretty intuitive. That's hank, if you were to make the sound honk, but with an a, not an o, that's Hank Green on Twitter. Tweet at him.


Rhett: Haaaank.


Link: #Earbiscuits.


Rhett: Haank.


Link: Show him your appreciation.


Rhett: Show him your love in the internet way.


Link: Whoa, you know way. Also show us your internet love, that can be an iTunes review or just general gushing about Earbiscuits to people whose opinion you respect.


Rhett: Strangers even.


Link: Yeah, we appreciate that.


Rhett: Strangers. Tell strangers about this.


Link: People on public transportation that, you know, like, that you're awkwardly close to.


Rhett: Tell somebody right now, if you are in a public place, tell them, "I'm listening to Earbiscuits", just say it, just scream it out.


Link: Check it out. Like, add that. See, I'm doing it right now.


Rhett: Hopefully you just did that, and thank you for that, we really appreciate it.


Link: See you next week.