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her ones being, in descending order, RihannaVEVO, OneDirectionVEVO, TaylorSwiftVEVO, KatyPerryVEVO and EminemVEVO. But go the other way, up the list, and something strange happens. You pass through a kind of YouTube-fame singularity where the rules of normal real-world celebrity no longer apply. At No. 4 is the online sketch-comedy duo Smosh (22 million subscribers). No. 3 is YouTube Spotlightnew and trending videos (24 million). The No. 2 channel belongs to HolaSoyGerman, a Chilean comic and musician with 28 million subscribers. The top spot is owned, and has been since 2013, by PewDiePie. PewDiePie had, at press time, 44,426,617 subscribers. PewDiePies real name is Felix Kjellberg. Hes 26 and lives in Brighton, U.K., though he grew up in Sweden. Most people over 30 havent heard of him, but he is a bona fide gl六开彩包中连码 obal celebrity of an entirely new kind: if you track his numbers on Google Trends, which is admittedly a very rough metric of fame, he ranks only slightly below Tom Cruise. He has no easily defined talenthe cant sing, cant dance, cant actbut over the past six years Kjellberg has uploaded around 2,800 videos to YouTub
e, which collectively have amassed more than 12 billion views. Forbes estimated that in the 12-month period ending in June 2015, he made around $12 million before taxes. Get The Brief. Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know right now. Thank you! For your security, we've sent a confirmation email to the address you entered. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters. If you don't get the confirmation within 10 minutes, please check your spam folder. In person, Kjellberg is affable, articulate and low-key. Like a lot of Swedes, he speaks near perfect English with an American accent, only occasionally betraying his Swedishness by enunciating slightly too well, the way they do in ABBA songs. Also like a lot of Swedes, Kjellberg is really good-looking, with prominent cheekbones and ghostly pale-blue eyes, though on the day I met him, at a coffee shop in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River, the effect was somewhat mitigated by a big comedy Viking beard. I should trim it, he says. But the thing is, my fans wanted me to shave so badso bad. And I just dont want to give them the satisfaction. In spite of the beard, a bunch of passing middle-school students recognized him. They asked to have their picture taken with him, and he agreed very graciously. As popular as he is, its hard to explain exactly what Kjellberg is famous for. His videos mostly show him playing video games and talking about them, andas he would be the first to admithes not even that good at playing video games. It might
help to look at an example. On April 13, Kjellberg uploaded a video called Kill yourself in VR?!(HTC VivePart 03). (If youre curious, HTC VivePart 01 was Teabagging in VR, and if you dont know what teabagging is, do yourself a favor and dont Google it. As far as I can tell there was no HTC VivePart 02.) Lights up on Kjellberg. Hes in his kitchen. He has on headphones and VR goggles pushed up on his forehead. Hes wearing a sheer, flesh-colored one-piece bodysuit with nipples drawn on it. Well, hello there! he says. Why do I always sound so creepy? Hows it going, bros! My name is PewDiePie! (He has a signature style for pronouncing his name: in falsetto, with something approximating a Southern accent, while closing his eyes and wiggling his fingers. Its his impression of a minor character in South Park called Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.) Spotlight Story Kobe Bryant Had a Singular Impact on His Game and the World Bryant died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday, along with his daughter Gianna Kjellberg grandly announces the topic for this video: hes going to play a horror game in VR. Im a little scared, he says. Im a little shaky. Im a little sweaty. But thats all right. The ladies like it. The camera zooms in, and he winks, deadpan. Then he adds, with a very slight trace of pleading in his voice, Please keep watching. Its actually kind of complicated what Kjellberg is doing here. Hes pleasantly confident (Hows it going, bros!), but then he takes it too far (The ladies like it); then he shows a little desperation (Please keep watching), which is also a joke (thats the confidence again). Hes self-assured but not arrogant, vulnerable but not pathetic, handsome but not vain. Hes totally unpolished, but at the same time his timing is consistently spot-on. Most of the critical literature about PewDiePie focuses on the bad language and crude physical humorand admittedly there are a lot of bothand the fact that he is, at the end of the day, just a guy playing video games and yelling. But they tend to ignore the fact that PewDiePie is actually very funny. The rest of the video, seven minutes of it, is mostly split screen: on the left is in-game footage of PewDiePie shooting monsters and shrieking in terror and yelling slightly Swedish-accented action-movie taglines (You want some?). On the right is in-kitchen footage of Kjellberg flailing around looking ridiculous in the way that only somebody wearing VR goggles and a skintight onesie can. For the big finish, Kjellberg dies on the floor, in slow motion, with stirring movie-soundtrack music and stock footage of a white dove fluttering. Then the music stops. He scratches his crotch. Kjellbergs parents are both successful professionals. His father is the CEO of a Swedish company; his mother is head of IT at an accounting firm. He grew up in Gteborg, which is Swedens second largest city. As a kid Kjellberg was, according to him, pretty much the same as now, though a bit shyer and more introverted. He was always into games. I wasnt allowed to have a Nintendo, he says. Only when I was sick, we would rent one. So I was sick a lot. Kjellberg buckled down in high school and got into a competitive college, but it didnt take. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, and I did, but then I realized when I did that its not what I wanted, he says. I couldnt relate to any of my classmates. It was a very strange period. It was around then that he started making videos. Kjellbergs videos fall into a category thats known online as Lets Play, in which people play games and provide running commentary over them. At their best, Lets Plays combine the fun of MST3K-style comment tracks, vicarious entertainment, thoughtful analysis and chill couch banter with a friend. Lets Plays are insanely popular nowtheres a whole community and a whole subculture around thembut back in 2010 not a lot of people knew about them. I remember when I did my first video, Kjellberg says. Id sit alone in my room just looking around like, I hope no one sees me, because this is the weirdest sh-t ever. Over his parents horrified objections, he dropped out of college and started working at a hot-dog stand. I would get notifications on my phone, he says. Literally every single interaction on my channel, I would get an email, and I would read every single one, every comment. I was so hooked. An interesting note about Kjellbergs rise to fame: he never really had a video go viral. He just ground it out, slow and steady, growing subscriber by subscriber. It helps that Kjellberg lacks that air of glittery-eyed narcissism that afflicts many YouTube starsthat sense that they wither into lifeless husks when not on camera. Kjellberg just has a naturally infectious good humor that pops right through the
screen. Its the kind of thing you could never teach. Having come up in the music business, theres a few artists I saw that level of instinct with, says Courtney Holt, head of Maker Studios, a producer and distributor of online videos, which partners with Kjellberg. Eminem had really good instincts about who his audience was and what art form he was making. Felix has that. As PewDiePie grew, he evolved. Somewhere in there he started calling the monsters he was killing bro, and that evolved into calling his fans bro, and that became an official thing: PewDiePie fans are Bros, collectively the Bro Army. It started off ironically, Kjellberg says. Now its somewhere in between. Kjellberg has also matured, up to a point. In the first few years, he would regularly say things that were genuinely offensive. In 2012, he apologized for having made jokes about rape and swore off them. In April of this year, he posted a video in which he apologized for having used words like gay and retarded in pejorative ways in his early work. He doesnt do that anymore. He does still push and frequently, gleefully crosses the bounds of good taste in matters of profanity, sex and violence. But he has also mobilized the Bro Army to raise over a million dollars for charities like Save the Children, the World Wildlife Fund and, most recently, Charity: Water. The business model evolved too. At first Kjellberg collected revenue from advertising, then from merchandise. Now he also gets money for brand dealsbasically a game company will pay him to play its games in his videos. Its not something Im trying to hide, Kjellberg says. He holds up a bagel. Its not like I have to be, like, This bagel is delicious, I love it, its my favorite. (He adds politely: It is good though.) Its part of a larger cultural shift: audiences have learned not to care as much as they used toif moneys changing hands, eh, it doesnt have to taint the whole affairand companies have learned not to ask for as much. I remember five years ago if I was approached by a brand then it would be like, I would have to say a specific line, and that completely removes the authenticity. What started off as a furtive hobby has turned into something that suspiciously resembles a job. In the week before this article went to press PewDiePie uploaded 13 videos, including Eating toilet candy!!, pewdiepie dating simulator and regrettable porn (Animated). He works six days a week. I take Saturdays off, he says. Gotta reset somehow. Its funny because I always viewed YouTube as something where I can wake up whenever I want, I can work whenever I want and have all this freedom. But the more I get into a traditional lifestyle, the happier I am as a person. Over the past year, Kjellberg has been taking PewDiePie out of YouTube into other, more conventional media. Last September, he collaborated on a mobile game called PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist. In October, he published a book of aphorisms called This Book Loves You. (Sample aphorism: To fly, you must get rid of the things that weigh you down. This is why all your friends left you.) He made appearances on Colbert, Conan and the Today show. Kjellberg also starred in a 10-episode series called Scare PewDiePie for YouTube Red, YouTubes premium subscription service. The showwhich has Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, as an executive producerstages real-life situations inspired by horror video gamescreepy mental hospital, etc.complete with actors and gory props. It began airing in February. Scare PewDiePie was produced by Maker Studios, which is owned by Disneyit was acquired two years ago for $675 million. (Its a notable fact that Walts vision has now expanded to include an aggressively bearded Swede who makes videos called things like Giving Head to Senpai, which is actually even worse than it sounds.) In January, Kjellberg and Maker jointly launched Revelmode, which is a kind of YouTube-celebrity collective, led and curated by Kjellberg. He and his chosen YouTubers will collaboratively produce shows and video games and charitable initiatives. The idea was, lets build infrastructure around him so we can realize all of his creative ideas, Holt says. The space is moving really quickly, and I think he is one of the smartest people Ive ever met in it.
So far, none of Kjellbergs forays into other media has proved, definitively, that he can replicate his colossal online success elsewhere. The numbers are certainly goodThis Book Loves You was a New York Times best seller, and Legend of the Brofist has sold extremely wellbut not good enough to suggest that Kjellberg is building a new audience rather than just leveraging his old one. Scare PewDiePie, despite being vastly more effortful and expensive, is distinctly less fun than his regular videos. The scares feel a little forced. (It currently has a user rating of 2.9 out of 10 on IMDb.) YouTubes superpower as a medium is its incredible directness and authenticityit conveys a realness and a sense of connection between entertainer and audience that is utterly unlike, say, the faux authenticity of reality television. You watch someone in a different way, a closer way, just because youre watching a person, Kjellberg says. Youre not watching someone behind a show. Its more raw. The challenge that YouTube stars like PewDiePie face is that there are contexts in which authenticity isnt an asset. Some of the appeal of movies and TV lies precisely in how glossy and unreal and inauthentic they are, and Kjellberg doesnt do inauthentic. If youre a movie actor, youre playing a part, Holt says. Whats interesting about Felix is, hes extremely successful at being an authentic version of himself. When you see him, youre seeing him He can adapt and change, he can try new things, but hes always PewDiePie. Its the secret of his success but also, so far, its limiting factor. Not that Kjellberg particularly needs to be a star outside of YouTube. He doesnt have to prove anything. He may be Internet famous, but hes getting real-world rich. He personally dominates an entire medium, which is a lot more than most celebrities can say, and unlike most celebrities, he does it single-handed. Nobody directs PewDiePie, nobody writes his lines, nobody handles him. Hes pioneering a new kind of fame that never existed before: its not manufactured by a studio or a network, its handmade, at home, subscriber by subscriber, view by view. Alone in his kitchen, wearing his flesh-colored bodysuit, Kjellberg has personally rewritten the rules of the game. And while he was doing that, he was also winning it. This appears in the June 06, 2016 issue of TIME. Contact us at email@example.com.