We found out how 25-year-old YouTube superstar Tom Ridgewell (aka TomSka) made a killing from posting funny videos online...
When I was a kid I wanted to be something generic like a vet or an astronaut. Or an impressive combination of the two. That didn’t really work out.
The life-changing moment came when I was 12. I found a really rubbish animation on the internet of a guy on a skateboard making stupid noises. And
I thought, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
I downloaded every piece of dodgy video software I could find. My computer was filled with viruses – although that was probably something to do with all the porn I watched as well. I was a teenager, after all.
Growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness household complicated things. My parents worried about what I was seeing online – rightly so. My early animations featured guns and exploding heads. I got sent to a lot of doctors.
I once showed some porn to my grandma. Accidentally, of course. She came up to my room to watch my latest cartoon, and my virus-infested PC displayed some graphic pop-ups. You try explaining that to an old woman.
I gained my popularity by growing up online and understanding the language. Wanky as it sounds, I watched, I learned and I applied. I accepted
I was going to make a lot of mistakes.
I fuck up a lot. And not just in my job. I once accidentally sent a sext to my accountant, a 60-year-old Indian man. It pretty much ruined our relationship.
A lot of YouTubers don’t really create anything new. They just play off their personalities, and the fans lap it up. My audience, by and large, are more interested in my creative stuff, and I’m much happier that way.
I sleep better knowing kids aren’t idolising me. I don’t want to be worshipped. Some popular YouTubers are like cult leaders. They could easily form armies if they wanted to. We should definitely be scared.
When my friend and creative partner died in 2012, I learned a lot about legacy. Hundreds of people uploaded videos talking about how he’d influenced them. I realised it’s not just about making popular videos, but about making a positive change. I keep his ashes in a Coke can in my house.
The most amazing feeling is being told that my videos helped someone beat depression. We don’t get to truly help many people in our lives, but being on YouTube increases the chances.
Do I get along with other YouTubers? Hell no. They have the power to influence an entire generation, but they refuse to address anything edgy or controversial. I’ve put a lot of effort into tackling sexual abuse. I’ve got a young male audience and it’s my responsibility to address these issues.
Chances are I’ll probably never know who my videos have inspired. Maybe my name will be mentioned in some director’s commentary I’ll never hear. But it doesn’t matter – that’d be good enough for me.
I think I’d be pretty good at stand-up comedy. But it’s easier with video.
I might do 100 takes before I’m happy. You can’t do that on stage.