YouTube is probably the greatest anthropological project ever launched. It has managed to expose the multitudes of the human condition more than any other medium ever created, and allowed people to express themselves in more diverse ways than at any point in history. This weekly column is an outlet for me to share with you some undiscovered gems, as well some very well-trodden gems, and discuss just what it is that makes the chosen accounts so intriguing.
WHO: Where's My Challenge
WHAT: Bunch of absolute lads doing deplorable things to themselves
HOW MANY SUBSCRIBERS AT TIME OF WRITING: 1,026,583
WHY SHOULD I CARE: I don't know what kind of people you hung out with at school, but there's a chance you were part of a crew like this if you're a bit of a provincial bod. A bunch of guys getting together, looking in the cupboards of their mum's house, finding the garlic salt and eating the lot of it. Snorting pepper. Tabasco eye drops. The kids who will finger a dog shit for sweet money. 'What happened to those guys?' you sometimes wonder. Well, I'm here to tell you: they aged slightly and now upload videos of themselves doing all that stuff.
Where's My Challenge is kind of like the British equivalent of American gross-out mainstay Wreckless Eating. It's four young men in their twenties who hang out in one of their houses (or mum's houses, it's unclear which) and pit themselves against food, drink, hot sauce, peppers, blood, pain and other assorted disgusting and upsetting things. Why? For the banter, of course. But also for the views.
The lads have just surpassed a million subscribers. This is the holy grail on YouTube; it's the sign that you're ready to join the upper echelons. Before you know it you'll be rubbing shoulders with the YouTube elite, like Pewds and Smosh and The Fine Bros. The big dogs. It also means that you're ready to make some decent money from it. You'll be catching the eye of advertisers and brands who will want you to make them bespoke videos. Sure deodorant asking you to spray it on your tongue, stuff like that. They're on their way, these kids, and I'm happy for them.
The thing is, the Where's My Challenge crew are just a bunch of nice guys. They're slightly nerdy, poorly dressed, sweet natured English boys. The Inbetweeners come to life. They're the type to call things "gay", only to be mortified when someone gently tells them it's not on. For a load of geezers who try to drink 18 Coronas in one sitting and consume edible cow blood in hotel rooms, they're surprisingly endearing.
Their Yank counterparts, the aforementioned Wreckless Eating, are less so. Their outfit is a little more coarse, their characters less palatable. One member in particular, Chris Collins, is a crude, crass, portly, aggressive dolt who posts racist memes on Instagram. The whole operation is just a bit more fratboy-esque. It's more like Jackass, but not even remotely as funny, and the people involved nowhere near as lovable.
That's why Where's My Challenge is better. They're not punch-down types like the Americans are. It's almost as if they're contained in their own microcosm, like they don't leave the house unless it's to buy more dried out bugs to eat from the local fishing shop. All they do is vomit out gummy bears and film it.
Their personality types lend themselves to the popularity, too. You always watched and coaxed your peers at school into doing this stuff, but sometimes it would have a slightly sinister edge to it. There's goading your mates on who are doing it to make you laugh, then there's prodding the lame kids who are desperate for acceptance. Where's My Challenge certainly falls into the former category, especially as the guys have each other as the coaxers and goaders, and not exterior influences (though they do take suggestions in comments).
What is there to say about four young men debasing themselves on camera other than it makes for great viewing? Well, as we've garnered from the Americans, it takes a little bit of nuance to be watchable. A friendliness – a sweetness, even. If I'm going to sit and watch nine minutes of some blokes vomiting into a bin after imbibing a gallon of hot sauce, I want to feel like I could have some small talk with them after they brush their teeth.
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