SMOSH : HOW TWO BEST FRIENDS CREATED AND DESTROYED A YOUTUBE EMPIRE

Back when social networking first emerged, 
There lived two stupid, silly boys.
They never attempted to make sense 
They made no sense at all.
Breaking free from the restrictions of politics and discrimination, 
They rose above all forms of correctness to amuse people.
Back when memes and trolls were not a thing, 
They defined ‘fun’ and ‘funny’.
Smashing, not even tickling the funny bone, 
Here comes the story of Ian, Anthony and SMOSH!

A couple of days ago, I was having a conversation with one of my friends about our childhood heroes and inevitably, the name SMOSH came up. I felt a chill of nostalgia while reminiscing about the iconic duo who constituted a sizeable fraction of my childhood. In fact, to this date, I still owe a lot of my personality traits to them, including my seemingly lame sense of humour and the famous ball-cut hairstyle adorned by Ian in the initial golden days of SMOSH. Now those of you who’ve never heard about them, I don’t blame you, but I can certainly assure you that you got robbed of some of the funniest and finest content growing up.

On the 17th of May 2006, just 153 days after YouTube came into existence for the very first time, a bizarre channel by the name of SMOSH became the most subscribed channel having more than double the subscribers of the channel placed second in the list. It would foreshadow what would become an incredibly successful career for two Californian boys cum best friends who had created this strange comedy channel with nonsensical, lame yet extremely funny and relatable content for its viewers. These two best friends who are also the co-founders of the now-turned ‘brand’ – SMOSH went by the name of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox

It came about after the two high school friends began uploading bizarre lip-syncing videos to the platform, the first of which was uploaded on the 19th of November 2005, 26 days before YouTube was even officially launched, and was still in beta testing mode. Before YouTube even happened to be a thing, they had a website smosh.com which had been running since 2002.

“It started as a website that I made for me and my friends to hang out and talk to each other after school. Smosh became a youtube channel where Ian and I made videos together just because we liked to make each other laugh.” 

Anthony Padilla
First Ever Smosh Video!

When Smosh uploaded their first video over 16 years ago they could have never predicted that their channel would go on to become YouTube’s most subscribed channel on three separate occasions. Although their goal was to simply make each other laugh, they quickly realized that their videos also made their audience burst into laughter. Before one could realize everyone got addicted to their content. Eventually, the lip-syncing videos would shift to well-thought-out sketches creating satire out of relatable life situations. 

Their humor kept growing better and better, becoming increasingly absurdist and juvenile. The yelling and screaming got louder, but it never felt like being forced and intruded upon the audience. With their creative thumbnails, quirky titles, and the ability to retain an audience through plots where you wouldn’t get the joke unless you watched the entire video, Smosh was undoubtedly on the cutting edge of youtube in the early 2010s. At the time, there were hardly any other creators having a similar level of creative knowledge and skill.

As a dominant force in the early days of YouTube, Smosh was once seemingly unstoppable. They became the single most subscribed channel on the platform multiple different times, in 2006, 2007, then again in 2013, 6 and a half years after first having achieved the title. Throughout 2014, 2015, and 2016, 100 million views in a month had become business as usual. Smosh would go on to become the first channel in YouTube history to hit 10 million subscribers.

One of the main reasons for this was that Smosh got sold out or so-called “acquired” by a company known as Alloy Digital (later changed to Defy Media), resulting in a 40% increase in viewership. It was almost too easy for them. The hits, the views, the viewers, and the numbers, had everything going their way. But what goes up must come down and that’s exactly what happened. Smosh was on the verge of crashing down into a bottomless pit in years to follow. 

It was around late 2013 when the feel of their entire show began to change, and things started going downhill. The company (Defy Media) started expanding the regular cast beyond Ian and Anthony. They even stopped filming in their house (a common sight in most of their best work) and began using sets. The style of comedy sketches and the humor started changing too. Their quirky, absurdist humor slowly morphed into typical sarcastic millennial humor. As it turned out, Ian and Anthony stopped writing their sketches and instead hired interns to continue writing. The overall quality of their videos slowly but visibly began to decline. Smosh had gone from a YouTube channel all about two best friends having fun making silly videos to a cynical money-hungry company.

Finally, in 2017, Anthony decided to cut all ties with the ‘brand’ SMOSH. After Anthony left, there was a palpable sense of confusion and conflict among the fans. Everyone thought it was because the best friends got into a fight leading to a cold war. But that wasn’t the case. He quit because he wanted to execute his ideas but stated that everything needed to go through a company filter. It was now someone else’s decision as to whether or not his ideas will make it to his very own youtube channel. 

Anthony announced his departure in a video on his channel titled “Why I left Smosh” explaining in his own words the reason for his resignation. 

“I’ve been holding on to these memories and hoping that someday smosh would be like how it was when we first started before smosh was a brand owned by a company smosh being part of a company has put all of my creative decisions through a filter of what’s appropriate for the smosh brand as deemed by the company.”

Anthony Padilla

This video was uploaded alongside the main channel video titled “Anthony is leaving Smosh” in which they explained that his leaving was not a result of them fighting or anything along those lines.

“I know a lot of you guys are probably gonna assume he’s leaving because we got some sort of big fight or because we hate each other but I can guarantee you guys have nothing to do with that.”

Ian Hecox

The fans were left divided after this episode. Anthony alone had a separate massive following among the Smosh fans, but at the same time, they just couldn’t let go of Smosh because of Ian, who was now the sole star cast of SMOSH. It was a difficult transition period for everyone. Not just for Ian and Anthony but for the fans as well. Now you might think that losing Anthony must be the beginning of the end of Smosh. As a shocking matter of fact, after Anthony left, their popularity and numbers didn’t fall but skyrocketed! But every Smosh fan would unanimously tell you it was not the same anymore.

Anthony would then go on to start his own YouTube channel, and not so slowly and steadily, managed to regain his fans and viewers on his new venture as a YouTuber. On the other hand, Ian continued to remain part of a sizable new ensemble cast having performers come and go throughout the channel’s run, turning it into an unfunny YouTube SNL. He alone continued single-handedly pulling off numbers for SMOSH. 

But that was about it. It was only about the digits and traffic after the iconic duo parted ways. Smosh lost its soul. The funniest YouTube channel was not even funny anymore. New cast members came into their videos, and with no sense of disrespect, they never could have possibly pulled off the same magic effect Anthony and Ian created.

A year and a half after Anthony left, Smosh was plunged into a state of chaos when their parent company, Defy Media, announced bankruptcy out of the blue. Since that point in time, their viewership has dropped from over 100,000,000 views per month to around 15,000,000 views per month, a trend consistent across every one of their channels. 

As of now, Smosh continues to remain a lost cause. I wish more people knew that this is one of the channels that made YouTube what it is today because of the chemistry, excitement, originality, and naivety in their earlier videos. Not the corporate “Smosh” puts out these days. I’m talking about the videos lan and Anthony used to post. You can still see the glimmer in their eyes, even in their most recent videos where they react to their earlier ones. Just two guys making funny dumb videos, not thinking about money or politics. 

Personally, for me, it feels more like a personal loss. They were my heroes growing up and I looked up to them as a kid. I’m glad and grateful that I was a part of their channel (and YouTube in general) when it was still good. 

I hope Ian and Anthony can collaborate again in the future on projects that aren’t for Smosh. As a die-hard Smosh fanatic, I wish they leave everything behind and start afresh. Just Ian and Anthony, doing stupid crazy stuff without any layer of corporate filter like old times.

Till then, I’ll continue watching their old OG videos and SHUUTTT UPPP! (iykyk)

About the author

Vishal Kumar

A not so cool guy with colossal dreams yet fighting to accomplish the impossible. Prefer being an all-rounder than a perfectionist. Currently pursuing Civil Engineering from NIT Jamshedpur. Hopefully you'll get to know more about me in years to come.

View all posts

1 Comment