In 2006 a man from Louisiana joined Youtube. Over the years he has garnered over one hundred million views and a following of thousands for his distinctive and often thought-provoking social commentary. He’s expressed his views on everything from sex to politics, from religious conflicts to the Transformers film franchise. Most recently, this man spoke about the rise of atheism in America as a guest on CNN. Born Terroja Lee Kincaid, the Internet knows this man as,
David Luna: What was your first YouTube video about, and what brought you to upload it?
TJ Kincaid: It was really kind of an introduction video, and it was a discussion of how first videos are always awful, and they are. They’re just horribly awkward things, for the most part. No one really knew what to do on YouTube at that time. There’s kind of an expected formula now, but at that time it was kind of like in its very early, punk rock type of stages. No one really quite knew what to do to be entertaining or how to get an audience to pay attention. So it was really a lot of people out there that were just turning on a camera and talking into it, and for most people, it didn’t work. For me, for some reason, it did. The response was pretty immediate. By today’s standards it wouldn’t have been anything major, but at the time it was pretty successful for a first video, but it didn’t really have much of a subject—it was really just very introductory, probably most notable in the fact that I walked into a shadow and said, “I look like a nigger right now.” I said it for shock value purposes, but I kind of wish that I hadn’t because it kind of followed me for a while after that. I took it down because I didn’t want to be associated with that particular joke. It was a very poor video. I really don’t have any sort of affection for it. I don’t look back on it like, “Ah, my first video,” I look back on it like, “Ugghhh, my first video.”
DL: Do you ever feel like you’re not credited as being a pioneer of sorts? You’ve been around for a while and there are other “YouTube personalities” who are much less notable than you, but they have their own Wikipedia pages.
TJ: Well, it’s kind of the price you pay for being the black sheep. There was a time when I was definitely at a crossroads where it was like, “Okay, I can play the game as I’m expected to, or I can kind of still keep doing my own thing, but still use their format to do it in.” And I chose the latter. As long as I’ve been around, I’ve had an audience. I’ve always had a respectably sized audience watching my videos on YouTube, and I’ve seen so many people explode onto the scene, and then I’ve seen the same people fall into obscurity. And yet I’ve had a consistent audience, and I think the reason I’ve had a consistent audience is because I’ve been consistently honest. I still just make the videos I want to see, but I try to put them in a format that I think would be entertaining for others.
DL: The people who are most honest in their work are too often discredited just for being “real.”
TJ: You can’t really complain about it, though. It’s the risk you take when you do that sort of thing. Part of what I do is going to be stepping on toes. I’m not impressed with people in general who have to sit around bitching about how they don’t get the recognition they deserve or anything like that. I get plenty of recognition. I’m fine. My audience likes me. I don’t need a fucking Wikipedia page. I don’t need to be the top “YouTuber.” It would be nice. I wouldn’t turn it down. It would be absolutely lovely. But I’d rather be Bill Hicks than Dane Cook.