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LISTEN to the audio podcasts:
00:00 - START
01:47 - Hank Green is My Boss
04:30 - Reflecting on Ze Frank’s “The Show”
06:32 - Why bigger communities become more disconnected
08:39 - Success is a Drug
11:20 - Rich or Famous?
11:39 - BUY JOHN’S BOOK!
17:58 - What was your childhood like?
21:44 - Can Parents Still Grow?
24:37 - How has 2020 impacted your life?
28:23 - Feeling hopeful during a pandemic
31:48 - I would do anything to take away the pain from my kids...
35:47 - What is the secret to your success?
41:28 - What is something your parents taught you that you now know is wrong?
45:21 - What’s your biggest regret?
47:38 - When do the Green kids get social media?
49:41 - If we went to high school together would we have been friends?
52:27 - Describe the first that your perspective has changed significantly on something
56:36 - Did Hank come to you when he wanted to start writing?
1:03:38 - What’s your greatest fear about getting older?
1:05:38 - How do you deal with conflict?
1:20:50 - John’s questions for Phil
1:28:22 - How Phil’s 14 years on YT changed him
1:34:32 - Goodbyes
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Edited by:
William Crespo

Executive Producer:
Amanda Morones -

Art Director & Motion Graphics Artist:
Brian Borst -

Production & Photography:
Zack Taylor -

Production Team: Luke Manning

#JohnGreen #PhilipDeFranco #AConversationWith

 (00:00) to (02:00)

P: Hey!  Welcome to A Conversation With... My name is Philip deFranco and possibly our final conversation of the year, we might change it up, but possibly, is the fantastic John Green.  Hello, sir, how you doing?

J: Nice to see you.  I'm doing well, how are you?  

P: Good.  I mean, I think it's...I'm glad we were able to get you on.  I think, I feel like you've sent Hank to the podcast first to just like, to feel it out, to make sure it's not a gotcha podcast.  

J: Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

P: How is--actually, if you don't know who John Green is, how dare you?  But uh, John, I mean, at this point, what--do you consider yourself an author first or -- you and your brother have so many different jobs.  

J: Yeah.  Just as you do as well, but I was an author before I was a YouTuber.  My first book came out before YouTube even existed really, and so I think of myself as a writer first, because that was my job before being a YouTuber was part of my job, but I also think of myself as a YouTuber and for those of you who don't know, my brother Hank and I started making YouTube videos just a few months after Phil started, I think, back on January 1, 2007, and so over the last 13 years, my brother and I have had a conversation back and forth on YouTube, but we've also expanded to do lots of other different educational video projects like Crash Course and SciShow and Eons, The Art Assignment, lots of other shows.

P: You guys have--but, you've done so much and I'm like, it's weird, 'cause I'm always like, I'm proud of you and then 10% of me is like, I resent you, 'cause you've done such an amazing job.

J: That's very kind of you to say.  I feel that way about all of my colleagues.  About 90% amazement and wonder and really proud fo them, and then 10% like, why can't I do that?  My brother is the driving force.  I'm really the tail to the comet, to be honest with you, even though I'm the older brother, like, he's the CEO and I literally report to him and I have my annual, you know, check-ins where he tells me the parts of my job that I'm bad at and everything, so.  

P: I can see him doing that, I can see him doing that for you.  

J: I'm just following his lead really.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

P: I uh, but I think y'alls relationship obviously, I'm, like most other people, I look at it from the outside in, but it feels like one where no matter how much time in between you guys have in conversations, it feels like you guys probably keep yourselves in check.  Like, humble each other.

J: Yeah.  Yeah.  It's huge for both of us to have the other person to lean on, both for context, you know, the--as you know, this can be a little bit of a disorienting career because there aren't a lot of other people who do it, and I mean, at least there aren't that many people in Indianapolis or my brother lives in Missoula, Montana who do it, and so, you know, I don't necessarily have that daily interaction with colleagues in the same way.  Like, I have interactions with people I work with on projects and that's wonderful, but it's not the same as with my brother, and just, the level of trust that we've built up in each other over the years is just really, really valuable and I can't imagine, like, I wouldn't make YouTube vidoes if it weren't for Hank.

P: Well, 'cause I was gonna say, at this point, 'cause you've hit in so many different areas, different levels of success, whether it be starting a VidCon or with the videos themselves or with obviously the books, I mean, specifically, The Fault in Our Stars, I mean, before we started filming, you were like, that was like, the most insane moment.  I was talking about how it was on my radar because I saw that you beat out Edge of Tomorrow when that movie was released.  Like, why, for you, why do you still create?  Is it still related to why you wanted to be an author in the first place and why you started making YouTube videos?  What is it, because it's obviously at this point not money?

J: No, but it--it really wasn't ever money, I mean, we started out just like you on YouTube before there was even a way of imagining it ever making money.  

 (04:00) to (06:00)

I mean, it didn't even exist on our radar as a possibility.  We did it because it was thrilling and it was exciting and you know, 2006 YouTube was such a exciting, weird, eccentric place.  There's this great Gertrude Stein essay where she talks about the difference between art that is interesting to people and art that is really thrilling to people, and YouTube felt really thrilling to us.  Not the videos themselves so much as the stuff being built around the videos.  I know you, like us, were big fans of Ze Frank's "the show" and the show was great, but the community around the show, the stuff--

P: Right.

J: --that people did with Ze or in response to Ze's work was so interesting and so powerful and that's why we started making YouTube videos, and on some level, like, that's still what I find interesting about it.  It's still for me a very community driven enterprise and so, every Monday when I sit down to write a video and work on a video, I'm always thinking about that sense of connectedness that I feel, and I, writing books is a very different sense of connectedness, because it isn't as quick.  It isn't as intimate, it isn't, especially because I write fiction, so like, I'm not writing about myself and I'm not really writing for myself, but when I make a YouTube video, I make it for Hank, but I'm also making it for the people who I know are gonna watch it, and on some level, like, I'm making it so that I can be part of a conversation with those people and that is still really exciting to me, and if and when it stops being exciting I think is when we'll stop making videos.  

P: Have you hit one of those moments where you were like, I'm just not gonna do this, and what kind of sparked that?

J: Oh, there've been a bunch of times over the years.  I mean, now I see it as like a sine wave, you know.

P: Yeah.

J: The motivation comes and goes and once you understand that like, oh, this is a trough not an emergency, you start to think of it differently, because the first couple times you experience the trough, you're like, this is an emergency, and then eventually, you're like, oh, no, I'm just like, bored with this and if I keep going it'll get interesting again. 

 (06:00) to (08:00)

I--there have definitely been times when I was like, I'm really tired of doing this and it's really hard and I don't know--I don't know if I have anything left to say, I don't know if I can be of use to the people who we're trying to make stuff for.  I've actually felt that a lot less in the last few years, I think because I've felt a lot more connected to the audience.  I mean, there's this weird phenomenon, and I don't know if you've experienced this, I'd be curious to know your thoughts on this, but we've felt like there was this weird  phenomenon where, when our community got bigger, it almost got less interesting and less powerful.  It was harder to do stuff together and even like, projects like our big charity projects, like the Project for Awesome, like, even if five times more people were watching our videos, we weren't having five times the impact in terms of fundraising, but also in terms of like, community engagement around our philanthropic initiatives and stuff, and so it getting  to a like more, the last few years it's just felt really lovely again.  It's felt almost like 2007 again, and that--so I've felt really motivated during those years, but there was definitely a period in the 2015-2016 era when like, partly because my mental health wasn't good and partly just because I was really tired, it was a struggle.

P: Yeah, I mean, I--I was gonna say, I say this, no, it just popped in my head right now, I think just, I think positive emotions don't scale.  I think negative emotions scale.

J: Yeah.  Yes.  Yes.

P: That does, but yeah, at a certain point, you're just like, am I hitting a mark, and I'll find myself having, getting more, more--and obviously, it's a little bit of a content difference, I find myself getting more joy out of a secret livestream that I do with like, my textline, where it's like, 30,000 people might stroll through or you have 7,000 concurrents or something like that, than if I'm doing something and it's getting a million views.  It's just, it's different.  You can actually see, and you hope to interact and like, there are probably like, eight people in the community that continually like, Tweet something at me and I'm like, I recognize them, and that makes me feel happy because yeah, it is, it's hard, I think the positive emotions don't scale, especially after you do it this long, right?

 (08:00) to (10:00)

J: Yeah.  Yeah, for sure.

P: It's the, one, like, it's such a "good" problem to have, but it's one of the bad parts of having ultra-success, even if it's momentary, because I feel like our brains fry, where like, it's a drug.  

J: Yeah, it is very much a drug and like, it's an intoxicant, literally.  Like, I found, you know, the kind of fame where I was relatively near the, you know, the center of pop culture for a hot second intoxicating, but like, just as--there's a thing called marginal utility, like, if you drink one beer, you feel like quite a bit better than you did before, and then if you drink two beers, you feel like, somewhat less better but still better, and then if you drink like 5 beers, the curve begins to invert and you start to feel like significantly worse than you did at 0 beers and uh, yeah, I definitely experienced that where there's a marginal utility to celebrity or whatever.

P: Well, I mean, even--

J: Or after a while, it becomes--it does sort of fry your brain.  It becomes intoxicating in the sense that like, you can't help but want more of it, but like, it isn't actually making, like, your life or your core--or in my case, I should only speak for me, it wasn't actually making my life or my core relationships better. 

 (10:00) to (12:00)

If anything, it was pulling me away from that stuff.  More travel, more having to like, do stuff, you know, outside of my family, outside of my core friendships and, and even outside of my core work, you know, like, I wasn't doing my core work then.  I wasn't writing, I wasn't making CrashCourse videos, and so, that was bad for me, even though it was like, kind of what I had been told was the dream.  

P: Right.

J: So that was something that I had to reckon with.  Again, this is a leading edge problem and I was always aware of the fact that it was not, you know, it was my problem but it wasn't a proper problem.

P: No, and let's understand that I'm the one pulling this out of you and you're not just complaining.

J: Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I don't wanna sound--I'm very, I am genuinely really grateful that all that happened and that, and that that book reached so many people, you know, that's something that I never ever imagined would happen with my work and so, it was wonderful.  That part of it was and remains wonderful, because the book is still reaching so many people all the time and that's just lovely and strange and I'm extremely grateful for it.  The fame part of it is, in some ways, separate from that, though, and yeah, there--it was--it was not as enjoyable as it had been portrayed in the media like a lot of things.

P: So if you had to choose between being rich or famous, you're choosing rich?

J: Oh, yeah, well, just, I think financial security allows you to a lot of, just, yeah, I mean, financial security is hugely, hugely valuable.  

P: Yeah.  

J: And I think sometimes people lose sight of that, people who have it.

P: But so like, on the emotional end, 'cause we were kind of touching on it and--

J: Yeah.

P: Like, so right behind you, you have over 100,000, probably maybe 150,000 pages that you're going to sign with a Sharpie.  

J: Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

P: In your head--

J: For my new book, The Anthropocene Reviewed, which comes out in May.  

P: Get it!

J: I'm not afraid of some promo.  

P: Get it!  Do it.  Do it now.  Most people wait until after two hours.

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