Ryan Higa

How To Be Ryan Higa

He landed in the Accident & Emergency room in hospital while recreating the iPhone and Android game Fruit Ninja in reality. No one can accuse YouTube funnyman Ryan Higa of not taking content creation very seriously. “It’s definitely going to leave a reminder to never play with swords again,” Ryan joked with UrbanWire.

With 8.4 million subscribers and more than a billion views on his YouTube channel, Higa requires little introduction. Here in Singapore from 20 to 26 May with other YouTube celebs such as Chester SeeLittle Boots and David Choi at the Youtube Fan Fest, the 22-year-old’s videos on “How To Be Gangster”, or his iconic song, “Nice Guys” must be familiar to most UrbanWire readers.

Only 3 accounts—Smosh, JennaMarbles and RayWilliamJohnson—in all of YouTube have more subscribers than him, unseating him from the top spot in June 2011, despite non-regular updates on his videos. And that’s not even counting the 1.2 million subscribers he has on his second YouTube channel, in response to his fans asking for bloopers and behind-the-scenes footages of his videos.

Ryan Higa goes by the alter ego Nigahiga, a mashup of the words “niga”, but Japanese for rant, and his surname. According to an interview with PBS Hawaii done last year, he started to post his videos on YouTube simply because he didn’t know how to burn them on to DVDs for his friends to watch then.

Talking about what he had to sacrifice for his success on the Internet since 2006, the Hawaiian names dropping out of college, risking an uncertain future in the process.

Ryan Higa

On the other hand, his major in college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas was a far cry from what he’s doing right now. “[For] my first 3 years, I was studying nuclear medicine,” Ryan recounted with a laugh, as if unable to believe it actually happened. Nuclear medicine, in his own words, is “like diagnostic and therapeutic for dealing with radiation and stuff… The easiest way to explain is x-ray, I guess, but a different branch of it.”

If not for YouTube, Ryan reckons, “I’d probably still be in college not knowing what to do, because there is not anything that I love doing other than YouTube.”

Ryan uploaded his first video—which has since been taken down because of copyright infringements—of him lip-syncing to Freddie Mercury’s “The Great Pretender” in 2006. Since then, these videos have grown a lot more sophisticated with proper lighting setup as can be seen in his behind the scenes footages and special effects. His latest one takes a swipe at popular music artistes of today and their methods of music production without leaving wigs, props and music video-like effects out of the humorous equation.

So how does he do it?

“Filming and editing doesn’t take very long for me. Writing is a huge part of it,” Ryan tells UrbanWire, “I write every single day, like literally at least 12 hours a day. I write a bunch of basically crap videos and then I try to select at least 1 out of there.”

And what constitutes a good idea?

“Honestly it just clicks. I’ll write a hundred things [and I’ll] be like, ‘That’s the one’. It just happens. I just have to keep writing. There’s no formula to decide what’s good and what’s not good.”

Aside from making videos, Ryan spends his time with his proverbial fingers in other pies as well. Working with director of The Fast and The Furious films, Justin Lin, and a group of other Youtubers to form the YOMYOMF network, [You Offend Me, You Offend My Family], Ryan has had his taste in executive producing and judging on the internet series, Internet Icon. The second season is being uploaded weekly, as we speak.

Ryan Higa

Internet Icon had been in talks for 3 years before coming to fruition. He and his friend, Andy Fickman, director of films such as Race To Witch Mountain, approached TV stations with their idea to start a video-making talent competition as a television series. Reminiscing, he said, “TV at that time, they just didn’t get it, so they said ‘no’.”

“And then YOMYOMF came about, which is a network I’m a part of, and we said ‘why not just do it here?’” he elaborates, “In a year and a half we knocked out about 2 seasons.”

However, “I will always be faithful to YouTube,” Ryan explains, further emphasising his loyalty by elaborating, “Sometimes I’ll just tweet out some random person’s channel just because I like their content and hopefully give them the hope that they can keep doing this the way I got to.”

His support of new talent on YouTube clearly endeared him to the crowd. When the host of the Youtube FanFest announced the end of his set on stage, an audible boo could be heard from the many fans in the audience, signifying their disapproval of his departure.

This is also not Ryan’s maiden trip to Singapore. Invited by SoulMannaLive for a mass fan meet on 1 September 2012, he recorded snippets of his music video, “Clenching My Booty”, a parody of Bieber’s hit, “As Long As You Love Me”, with his fans.

Ryan is now back in Las Vegas. However on his Facebook page, Ryan raved about his stay in Singapore. “Singapore, you were amazing as always! If any of you have the opportunity/money to go (travel + because Singapore is expensive) I highly recommend Singapore! One of my favorite trips so far.”

Here at UrbanWire, we hope to see this iconic funnyman back on our sunny island in the near future.


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