YouTuber Spotlight: Rhett and Link
Exploring the ever-expanding field of YouTube artists, I’ve noticed that some of them are easy to define: French musician Trudbol, who I profiled two weeks ago, is an a cappella performer. Philip DeFranco is all about news. Rhett and Link, on the other hand, have built so many genres into their work that it’s difficult to pin them down to one type of video – still, there’s no denying the quality of the videos they produce.
Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal (Rhett and Link) are a pair of self-proclaimed “Internetainers”, who over the past 5 years have built an audience of 827,000 subscribers and regularly bring in hundreds of thousands of views to their videos. Read on for more on this duo, including some embeds of their work!
Originally from Buies Creek, North Carolina, Rhett and Link have been friends since first grade. They studied engineering in university, but after brief careers as engineers, they decided to launch a YouTube channel to pursue their interest in filmmaking. Rhett and Link’s early videos featured original songs they wrote and performed, along with humourous commercials they produced for local businesses.
The endearing, low-budget nature of their early commercials helped them find an audience, and their channel expanded to include sketch comedy and “branded entertainment” they created for companies like Dentyne Gum, Taco Bell, Cadillac and others.
The big break came with Rhett and Link’s video “T-Shirt War”, a stop-motion animated video they worked on with fellow YouTuber MysteryGuitarMan. This video got them noticed by corporate heavyweights McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, who commissioned an ad in the style of “T-Shirt War” for Coke products in McDonald’s restaurants. Check out the original “T-Shirt War” here:
I can’t remember how exactly I came across Rhett and Link, but I do know the first video of theirs I found was a music video for their song “2 Guys 600 Pillows”. They actually shot the video backwards, later reversing the footage to get the look they wanted. It was that kind of creativity that led me to subscribe to their channel. Rhett and Link have ability to see the creative potential in almost anything, and it’s that kind of approach I like to see in my subscriptions box on YouTube.
It’s interesting that Rhett and Link don’t run a daily “vlog channel” like many other YouTubers. They do have a second channel where they post behind-the-scenes content, but Rhett and Link don’t post videos there as often as other YouTubers with vlog channels, like Toby Turner and iJustine.
Rhett and Link did launch a fun series on their second channel several months ago titled “Good Morning Chia Lincoln”, a daily show where the duo shared anecdotes and improvised. Because the videos aren’t as time-specific as vlogs usually are, if you’re a fan, it’s worth going back to hear some of the stories they share about their time in high school, etc. (Click here for the Chia Lincoln playlist)
Many aspiring filmmakers on YouTube work their way up to directing feature-length films, but Rhett and Link already have a feature documentary to their names. Back in 2006, they used only word of mouth to seek out the teacher who taught the first-grade class where Rhett and Link met. Rhett and Link made a documentary in 2008 about the experience called Looking For Ms. Locklear, which made the rounds at a number of film festivals.
The duo has also broken into mainstream TV. Their show Rhett and Link: Commercial Kings debuted this season on IFC, one of four original series the channel launched. Commercial Kings follows Rhett and Link as they travel the country making more of the funny local commercials that helped establish their Internet careers. Here’s an example of one of the ads they produced for the show:
The “Chuck Testa” commercial seen above actually launched an Internet meme. The Fine Bros., another pair of YouTubers, posted a video in their well-loved “Kids React” series. That video was subsequently “songified” – i.e. AutoTuned – by YouTube musical act The Gregory Brothers. It’s great to see this kind of cross-pollination on YouTube; as with many of the artists I feature in YouTube Spotlights, it helps elevate the reputation of the site beyond a silly place to waste time watching cat videos.
As I said, Rhett and Link’s style is a bit difficult to define, but I think that’s why they appeal to such a wide spectrum of YouTube users. While they’ve drawn a bit of criticism from the pretentious members of their audience who object to Rhett and Link “selling out” and getting a TV show, I believe the duo will be around for a while yet. I’d love to see them shoot another documentary or a narrative film, just to see what they can do with a longer runtime and/or professional actors.
Are you familiar with Rhett and Link? If so, which of their videos is your favourite? If you’re new to their work, what did you think? Post a comment in the forum below! If you liked this YouTuber Spotlight and you’re new to my site, catch up on the rest of the series here: