Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal have gradually turned into one of the biggest partnerships in show business thanks to their YouTube show, “Good Mythical Morning.” Referred to as Rhett and Link, the duo has over 15 million subscribers and frequently surpass one million views per video.
Rhett and Link recently spoke with Gold Derby contributing editor Matt Noble about becoming a success, the process of going on tour and what they like and dislike about each other. Watch the exclusive webchat and read the complete interview transcript below.
Gold Derby: What’s been your favorite thing to talk about?
Link Neal: We talk about lots of stuff. First of all, greetings from the set of “Good Mythical Morning.” Five days a week we upload an episode where we’re talking about all types of stuff, sometimes eating weird stuff, many times having guests on the show to promote their own stuff but we always have a good time.
Rhett McLaughlin: We started as just the two of us talking about whatever we wanted to talk about. In fact, it would be a conversation that we might be having when we were coming into work and we’d say, “Nope, let’s not have that. Let’s have that as part of our show.” It started very, very small. It was just the two of us having that 10 to 15-minute conversation and then slowly over a few years it began to eclipse everything else we were doing so it became this thing that was the most popular daily show on the internet and something that people actually wanted to come on to promote their stuff. We do a lot more than just talk at this point, like Link was saying.
LN: Yeah, it’s pretty humbling to be able to work with your best friend since first grade. We’re still friends. It could end at any moment. I think an Emmy would definitely help keep our friendship intact. It’s really developed from just being two guys talking in your converted garage to us having a studio in Burbank with over 70 employees. I think because we have a show that’s on YouTube, we feel like we need to say that because a lot of people think of YouTube as just two best friends still in their basement, basically. That is where we started and we’re proud of where we came from and we’re astonished where we are that there’s 15 million subscribers, 100 million views every month. Living the dream, man.
GD: Do you remember the first video you ever uploaded to YouTube together?
RM: Actually, someone else uploaded it. We had a website. Back in 2005, we’ve got a website rhettandlink.com, we hear about YouTube and people are like, “Why don’t you have a YouTube?” We’re like, “We don’t need YouTube if you’ve got a website.” Then, when people started taking the videos that we were putting on rhettandlink.com and putting them on the internet and they were getting more views, specifically one that we did called “My Stroller,” which was a parody of MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” where we took a double stroller and we had kids… We still have kids.
LN: We still have children.
RM: My son who was basically an infant and his daughter, who was basically a toddler, we put them in the stroller, we pimped it out, we put it on our website. It probably got a couple hundred views and we were like, “A couple hundred people.” Then, when somebody took that and uploaded it to YouTube it got a couple thousand views, at that point we were like, “Maybe we should do that on purpose.” I think that was the first video we uploaded to our channel but it has since been deleted automatically by YouTube because we didn’t understand copyright at the time and it had a bunch of real music in it.
LN: Yeah, I don’t know if you know but Google representatives come to your house and they lash you. So we learned our lesson.
GD: Will you ever do another “Pimp My Stroller”?
LN: No, I think that’s the last time that we can honestly say we used our engineering degrees. We were college roommates, we both studied and got engineering degrees. Turning a double stroller into basically a Batmobile with ground effects and spinners and a chocolate milk dispenser, that basically sucked us dry when it came to our engineering abilities.
RM: Maybe when we have grandchildren.
GD: And then you can do a “Pimp My Walker” as well.
RM and LN: (Laugh).
GD: Doing five shows a week, how do you think of what content to put out and how to go about that?
RM: Like we were talking before, when we started, everything was coming from the two of us. It was something we wanted to talk about. We’re over 1,500 episodes in at this point so somewhere around a few hundred episode mark, we were like, “We really should get some help from this.” That’s when we started to build our team.
LN: Producers, writers.
RM: We have a team of five writers who are constantly trying to come up with original content that people on YouTube want to click on. The name of the game at this point is there’s just so much stuff that is uploaded every single second to YouTube that in order to stand out, pop out, be something that’s clickable, something that would trend on the homepage, which we gratefully are able to do on a regular basis, you gotta have people who are constantly coming up with original ideas.
LN: We’ve learned to gamify a lot of our content. We’re friends with Jimmy Fallon. He’s had us on “The Tonight Show” five times. We basically do our show within his show as a segment called “Will It,” where we combine different foods together and then taste them to see if the bizarre creation actually works. In the same way that he does a lot of games with guests, we do that, too. I’m not gonna say that Jimmy and his team copied us but in parallel fashion, we developed that aspect of what we do, gamifying things. It’s cool to see when you look at the ratings and compare us with late night, even though our show is a morning show, it’s kind of a late night show too ‘cause you can watch it anytime, our numbers are very comparable ahead of… I was gonna say [Stephen] Colbert but that ain’t the truth.
RM: You can say ahead of [James] Corden.
LN: I’ll say Corden and “The Daily Show.” We’re ahead of them if you compare the numbers, which is pretty crazy.
GD: I guess it could also be a mid-afternoon show. Really anytime you want. What do you think the best time is to watch the show?
RM: We think that there’s something to watching it in the morning and making it a part of your daily routine but we’ve heard from so many people, first of all, because there’s a very big international audience. We were talking before the interview about our tour down in Australia. We went down there because we had heard from fans in Australia that they wanted us to come down and take our tour through because anybody with an internet connection can access the show. A lot of people watch it right when it comes out, whenever it happens to be in their part of the world and then some people say, “You know what we do? We take all five shows from the week and we binge them together as a family on Saturday night or Friday night, so we can watch all five together and have an hour to an hour and a half of the show together.” Like Link said, any time can be a good mythical morning for you. I would say the average person watches it in the morning. 60% of our audience or so is based in the U.S. and most of them are watching it.
GD: Link, what was it like going on tour with the show and how was that experience different to the response you get from putting out web content?
LN: It’s really cool to finally be able to meet fans in person and get their response in a room. I actually hear them laughing as opposed to just typing, “LOL.” We’re continually amazed by how much our show and content is shaped by the comments but it’s a totally different thing when you’re onstage. When we do the tour, it’s not the show. It’s music and standup comedy and us just riffing with each other since music is such a big part of what we do. We wouldn’t have the ability to tour at all if we didn’t have that daily relationship with our fans where in the comments, we’re having that conversation and that constant feedback. “Oh, they really like that. Let’s do that again. Let’s take this one idea we were just gonna do as a one-off and let’s make it a series.” “Will It” is a great example of that. We just started putting weird things in tacos in order to see, will it taco? And now many years later, millions of views later, every month we still do a “Will It” episodes within the context of the show. That’s based on audience feedback.
GD: With the tour, Rhett, what was it like putting something together not in a 15 or 10-minute segment but something that would go more long-form?
RM: It’s interesting because our background before we got into making YouTube videos was live comedy. The idea of putting together a show, and a lot of our initial YouTube content back in the day were funny songs that we had written and performed for crowds and we created music videos for them. It was actually a bit of a returning to our roots and doing something long-form whereas YouTube and doing something that was 10 to 15 minutes that felt short, was more webisode length, that was something we did in response to the environment of YouTube and what people wanted. We love being onstage with people for an hour, hour and a half. Who knows what’s gonna happen? Sometimes the shows go two hours ‘cause there’s a lot of improv that happens based on how the crowd participates. It was a lot of returning to our roots.
LN: As far as “Good Mythical Morning” goes, I think one of the other exciting aspects of the show is we are able to bring in celebrity guests who have things to promote and we’re a part of that circuit now. Being here in Burbank, we have our own talent booker and we’ve had a lot of success with that and with personal connections we have. It’s been bizarre to see, “Okay, Jack Black is on the show, Tony Hale, Kobe Bryant, Amy Schumer, Bill Hader.” The list goes on and on. To get to a point about a year and a half, two years ago, where we could become part of that promotional circuit helped evolve what “Good Mythical Morning” is in being a legitimate stop when it comes to TV stars, movie stars, that type of thing. “Weird Al” Yankovic is one of our heroes. He’s a hero of ours so having him on with his accordion was flooring.
GD: Who’s been the most fun guest to have in the studio?
LN: Jack Black has come back a couple times. He’s awesome.
RM: Jack Black destroyed parts of the set last time he was here but it was all in good fun. He can come and destroy the set anytime he wants.
LN: We had Daniel Radcliffe on the show and my daughter came to set that day as a big Harry Potter fan. To get those cool points was pretty great. To have Post Malone on the show, that got us a lot of cool points because he’s pretty cool.
GD: You’re on the set right now.
LN: We live here. They don’t allow us to leave. They bring us food if we’re really nice and water if we beg.
GD: I imagine on YouTube Premium you can get the live stream or something like that.
RM: Pay $5 a month and you can see that.
GD: Do you have a favorite item on your set dressing or anything like that?
LN: This guitar here, I mentioned to a friend of mine, Louis, that I wanted to start playing guitar more. He said, “Well, you can borrow my guitar.” I haven’t seen Louis in three years.
RM: Longer than that.
LN: Okay, four years.
RM: At least five years.
LN: I see his guitar every time I turn around. Louis, if you’re watching, I don’t know if you’re an Emmy voter but if you are I definitely wanna apologize.
RM: I think this guitar, the gold one, the first thing we ever did formally to entertain people together besides making stupid videos and doing speeches and stuff like that in school was we started a band called the Wax Paper Dogz. When we started the band, no one could play instruments. Literally, everyone picked up an instrument except the two of us and we decided that we’re going to be dual lead singers and about three shows in, I had the wherewithal to realize, this was not sustainable, this was not cool, this was weird, one of us needs to start playing an instrument. So I bought that guitar and started playing and taught myself how to not be embarrassing.
LN: I kind of think I had the wherewithal to know you were gonna have the wherewithal to feel that way, then allowing me to take all of the spotlight as lead singer and not have to learn how to play an instrument.
RM: If I hadn’t gotten that guitar, how long do you think that dual lead singer band would’ve lasted? We would not be sitting here today. What would we be doing? You’d be a hairdresser. You’ve talked about that.
LN: Slash masseuse. Use one hand to cut hair, the other hand to massage.
GD: You would’ve revolutionized the industry.
LN: It’s the simultaneous thing like the cutting and the massaging.
GD: The Wax Paper Dogz, did you do original hits or were you a cover band?
LN: When we started, we did original but I wouldn’t call them hits.
RM: Because no one knew how to play, that also meant no one knew how to write music so the bassist’s dad, who was 45 years old, named Benny, he had a bunch of songs that he had written in the ‘70s and very much like John Denver style. He was like, “I’ve got some old songs y’all can sing!” We were like, “Well, the only way this is gonna work is if you actually joined the band.” So the bassist’s dad was in the band and we played all his music until we got to where we were bold enough to write our own songs.
LN: (singing) He was born in the summer of his 27th year.
RM: That’s not Benny. That’s John Denver but it sounds similar.
GD: Fair enough. Having been friends for so long, having worked together for so long, what gets the most old about working with each other?
LN: (Laughs.) What are you trying to do, man?
RM: I’ve made it very clear publicly that I have a high level of disdain for Link’s chewing. Incidentally, one of the most popular things that we have done is eaten weird foods on “Good Mythical Morning.”
LN: I chew a lot on the show.
RM: There’s actually a lot of chewing at this point.
LN: I’ve never choked.
RM: This incessant drip, like a drip from a leaky faucet that you can’t ever fix unless you get surgery. I’d pay for you to get some kind of surgery to cushion the amount of noise that your mouth makes.
LN: The thing most annoying about Rhett that I can’t stand is that he goes on and on about my chewing. I will say, if we did get that surgery, we would make it an episode. Speaking of which…
RM: We did make a surgery an episode.
LN: I’ve got three kids, Rhett has two, and we both reached our limits so we decided to get vasectomies. I was gonna say get fixed but that’s what you do to a dog.
RM: We turned that into an episode of “Good Mythical Morning.”
LN: We were in the room together getting vasectomies together.
RM: We called it the brosectomy because we got them together and bonded.
LN: I highly recommend it, not your friend being in the room with you but just the procedure when the time is right.
RM: And coincidentally, the doctor’s name was Dr. Hyman. Not making that up.
GD: To wrap up, guys, you’ve worked so long, what has been your favorite thing about working with the other person?
LN: Now we’ve gotta be positive about each other? Rhett, go first. Take your time.
RM: We get this question quite a bit. If you follow the world of YouTube, it’s a totally different thing. This independent entertainment thing is very different than your typical traditional entertainment. In traditional entertainment, you’ve got somebody who’s in charge and then they hire someone to fill a role. It’s a big machine with a lot of moving parts but the ownership is some network level. With independent entertainment like you have on YouTube, it all comes back down on us. It’s only as motivated as we are to keep doing this, to continue innovating. Of course, we have an incredible team that is now enabling us to keep going but a lot of times it comes down to the motivation and the insight and the vision that you need and it helps having a partnership to do that.
LN: I take 100% all of the credit for that.
GD: So Link, what’s your favorite thing about Rhett?
LN: You’re really gonna make me do this. I think he’s got a nice beard. If it wasn’t for that beard, you’d be ugly. It’s a really good looking beard. I’ve seen him without a beard.
RM: I’ve shaved it for entertainment purposes and it was not entertaining for me personally.
LN: Is this a backhanded compliment?
RM: A little bit.
LN: You’ve got good ideas, man. You’ve got really good ideas, sometimes. I have to shape them but you’re a good ideas guy. He’s a big picture guy. He’s a futurist. The bottom half of his body is AI. Don’t ask me to prove it. Don’t ask me how I know that. It’s gotten weird.
GD: Rhett and Link, it’s been fantastic to chat. Thanks for making the time for us.