The Startup
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The Startup

The Immaculate Appeal of Reviewbrah

YouTube, as we know it, is the Thunderdome of some of the loudest voices on the Internet. Views are king, and YouTubers will do absolutely anything for even a moment of fame in the hopes of wriggling up the ladder of content creators. Shameless top YouTubers, embraced wholly by the platform itself, have even gone as far as to film a suicide victim’s corpse, or paid freelancers to hold up a sign reading “Death to all Jews.” The antithesis to this vile degradation of the spirit, however, also resides on YouTube — and he is reviewing Taco Bell.

Subject wearing sun hat, light polo shirt and tie, holding shortwave radio.

This is John, colloquially known to the internet as “Reviewbrah”. His channel, TheReportOfTheWeek, where he primarily reviews food and energy drinks, has accumulated over 150 million views and 1.5 million subscribers.

The secret? Being a genuine person and doing what you enjoy, it seems. Since 2011, the content of the channel has changed little over the years, an achievement for the staying power of the humble nature of Reviewbrah’s work.

One of the most endearing parts of the Reviewbrah ethos is the principle that he sets. During an interview with CNN, Reviewbrah briefly discusses reviewing fast food in particular. John quips “Is every average American eating a steak dinner every night? No. Fast food though, well, there’s usually a McDonalds every half mile… I want to be applicable to the largest number of people.”

This approach towards his subject matter is a refreshing change of pace from the frivolity of YouTube as a platform. Whereas other Youtubers try to cultivate a distance from the viewer, inundating themselves as special members of society that live in a different world from the layman, Reviewbrah embraces the more mundane, normal sides of life. Despite his slow burn to success and celebrity appearances on Tosh.0 and other shows, Reviewbrah has never forsaken the average person who has managed to give him this opportunity in the first place.

Reviewbrah upholds a value not often encountered within entertainment — a genuine sense of self.

Subject in old-timey grey suit, hands outstretched to display.

A self-proclaimed aficionado of early 20th century fashion, it is almost impossible to find Reviewbrah not wearing one of his many suits. This even predates his YouTube career, the suits have been a part of his life since he was very young. Despite his fears that people would make fun of him, Reviewbrah began wearing his signature suits in high school after he decided he liked the look. As far as dressing and presenting how you’d like, Reviewbrah offers this simple advice: “Don’t be afraid to do it.”

The idea of an uncompromising individual is becoming further and further removed from the frontlines of content creation online. YouTube videos begin to fall into a vague approximation of what sells — the same cuts, editing, close up zooms of funny faces or sayings, there is a definitive “style” to successful Youtubers. Reviewbrah eschews that for a very simple, straightforward presentation of his work. On a site that is plagued by the need to be the loudest and flashiest in order to succeed, seeing someone who refuses to comply is a refreshing change of pace.

In addition to Youtube, Reviewbrah also runs a shortwave radio show. He has always had an immense interest in radio, and despite how deprecated the medium is, he devotes a fair amount of time to doing it simply because he enjoys it. At the end of every video is a short plug for his radio show, where he talks about various subjects and takes music requests from listeners who decide to email the show. Finding an audience for a seemingly dead platform is just something that he is willing to undergo if it means pursuing his passions, and I deeply respect the commitment needed in order to get his show off the ground like he has done.

Reviewbrah’s videos and mannerisms are full of funny little idiosyncrasies, fans will often quote his favorite phrases, “the fact of the matter is”, “it is what it is”, all of his dialogue is precise and planned with no filler words. Fans often playfully joke about his attention to detail on seemingly insignificant things, but he is merely devoted to accuracy in a way that supersedes performing for others.

In addition to food reviews, Reviewbrah has also been known to dip into more personal subjects at times, particularly with a focus on mental health. His openness regarding his own struggles feels different than other YouTubers. Reviewbrah, whose entire gig is being genuine, is able to provide a sort of gravity that is simply impossible with a channel devoted to being outrageous.

Instead of having to take his words with a grain of salt, with the fear that he might simply be mining mental illness for some clicks or views, one can trust that Reviewbrah is being honest and forthcoming in his discussion. Reviewbrah has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of his Youtube career, and has made it no secret.

The subject of mental health online has always been a difficult conversation, even more so now that it is such a hot topic. The barriers to the discussion have been lifted, and as a result, there are more voices than ever. A lot of times, there are too many cooks in the kitchen for a productive or even coherent discussion of mental health to occur. Social media surges daily with different flavors of usually superficial regurgitations of self-care and staying hydrated, usually well-intentioned people simply saturating the conversation more with the same dialogue that we’ve read for years.

The difference between Reviewbrah and the cultural zeitgeist of mental health discussion is that Reviewbrah’s thoughts and offerings are usually simply packaged with the other things that he does. The more grounded approach of keeping mental illness from being put on a pedestal resonates deeply with me, as well as others who have grown leery of the way that discourse has transformed over the years.

This is not to say that anyone is wrong for seeing things in a different light, rather just that Reviewbrah’s very down to Earth approach is a refreshing change of pace in a very stimulated society. He takes it seriously, but does not allow it to overshadow the things he enjoys or what he feels he has to offer his fans, it is simply something he addresses whenever he feels called.

One of my favorite offerings of Reviewbrah, the people’s champion, is an annual video tradition that simply records a day in the food reviewer’s life. These are usually longform, 45 minute long cuts recorded and cut for relative brevity, with very little planning or editing of video. Watching him rise up at bizarre hours, walk through his skincare routine, even just checking emails seems very personal and it is a treasure to be shared with the viewer who he owes nothing to.

The simultaneously mundane but also very personal experience of simply seeing a normal day through his eyes has always been a unique joy, in that for a short time one may simply transplant themselves into his world.

Screencap from My Average Day 2018.

It goes deeper than just a fun video for the fans though, it is more about the vulnerability of someone famous showing the very normal sides of life that celebrities and other Youtubers especially are always trying to subvert in accordance with their larger than life personas. Watching Reviewbrah wake up, put on a suit, and methodically check the chemicals of his pool before the sun rises is cathartic in a way, it shows that totally independent of the success of his channel, Reviewbrah is still a detail-oriented man of routine. He simply wakes up, sees the day for what it is, and does his best.

Reviewbrah’s relationship with his fans is a mostly healthy one, a unique kind of togetherness can be found in the comments of his videos, all from fans who enjoy the idyllic pace of his work. Even in the early days of his channel, Reviewbrah managed to gain organic traction posted in places like 4chan, whose users were surely drawn to his relatively weird and obscure style, and has since become much more famous on the internet. Reviewbrah has managed to somehow find himself as a meme, in that the world does not know how to cope with an outlier, and instead works through the most common lens of the internet: humor.

Reviewbrah memes run far and wide, and he has even featured some of them on a video called “How I Feel About Being A Meme”, where he shows a collection of memes about himself and laughs along with them. Even when people leave mean comments, Reviewbrah will film himself reacting to them in a happy go lucky way, brushing off the anonymous cruelties of the internet and making light of them. This, in my opinion, is one of the most indicative parts of the Reviewbrah approach to things: simply making the best with what you’ve got.

How I Feel About Being A Meme

In this video, Reviewbrah even addresses the darker memes that people have made, putting his image into missing persons reports during tragedies, and he calls it what it is: disappointing. But, as he states, he is simply the subject and has no control over what people say or do, and he has made his peace with becoming a funny character for the greater internet to do what they please with. During the early years especially, being famous on 4chan and other more obscure internet hideouts landed him a lot of edgy and controversial fans, now that he has achieved greater success he is less inundated with the more internet-poisoned parts of society and is able to capture the eyes of a much less cynical fanbase.

Overall, becoming a phenomenon has not affected his output much. Reviewbrah’s focus since day one has been making content for his fans, even before they existed. All of his videos have been filmed in an informative way since he began, and he shows no signs of stopping. Reviewing food and drink is simply the name of the game, and Reviewbrah has written his rules. The tens of thousands of new subscribers every month are simply testament to Reviewbrah’s hard work — but specifically sticking to his guns and making it on his own terms.

As Reviewbrah would say, “It is what it is.”

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