Jimmy Tatro is the creator of the popular YouTube channel “LifeAccordingToJimmy,” which has approximately 2.2 million subscribers. Tatro writes, produces and directs each of his sketches and has recently starred in the film “22 Jump Street.” Tatro talked with The Triangle to promote his upcoming stand-up comedy tour.
The Triangle: So, when did you start LifeAccordingToJimmy?
Jimmy Tatro: I started in February 2011— well actually November 2011. I started the Jimmy Tatro channel in February. I actually had to switch to LifeAccordingToJimmy for AdSense reasons. … I got my AdSense account shut down when I first starting doing videos on the Jimmy Tatro channel because I figured out you can make money by clicking on your own ads, so I would click my own ads on all of my friends computers. Then I got an email from Google one day saying my AdSense account has been shut down so I had to switch over to LifeAccordingToJimmy and in November started profiting from AdSense.
TT: That’s hilarious.
JT: Yeah, It was pretty bad when it happened, I was pretty upset. I thought it was the end of my YouTube career. Luckily, I signed with a manager and she got me tuckered back into YouTube, back to getting ads.
TT: Did you lose any of your fan base because of that?
JT: Not really, at that point I only had about 45,000 I think. Once I switched over to LifeAccordingToJimmy that was when I started doing it for real and putting out videos every single Monday. Before, there wasn’t really a schedule or anything like that. Once I switched over that was my marketing ploy, that’s what I sold people on and what incentivized people to subscribe to the new channel. I was able to get all of my old subscribers to the new channel pretty quickly. Once I started releasing videos every Monday the fan base kept growing and growing.
TT: Why did you want to start the whole YouTube thing?
JT: It’s something I always wanted to do. I’ve always loved entertaining and making people laugh. I’ve always loved creating and writing. Entertaining is something I always wanted to get in to eventually, and once I found out that people were starting on YouTube… Andy Samberg was a great example, he started with “The Lonely Island” videos and got onto [Saturday Night Live] and started doing movies. That set an example that I wanted to follow. I didn’t realize that if I started a successful YouTube channel I could a) make good money doing that and b) it would be a good platform or stepping stone to eventually getting where I wanted to go.
TT: Is that why you started on YouTube? As a stepping-stone?
JT: Yeah, I didn’t think I would really get to the point that I’m at with my YouTube channel right now where I have 2.3 million subscribers, and I’m still putting out new videos every Monday. I kind of thought at this point I would have just been satisfied with just moving onto doing stand-up comedy or writing movies. I’m working on all the things I want to do right now, but now that I’m at this point, I see value in keeping my YouTube channel going. It’s a valuable asset to have. I do love making and writing videos.
TT: So what was your favorite video to make?
JT: I did a “22 Jump Street” promo video. It was called “The Rise of the Rooster.” Sony actually funded that for me, produced it and gave me a legitimate budget, and I was really able to direct the whole thing. It was my first experience directing a production, and I had a ton of fun with that. That gave me the first taste of doing what I really love doing, which is directing.
But my favorite video to make … we used to have too much fun in college doing all the videos where we partied. We would provide all the alcohol for all the extras and that’s how we got them to stay. We would do a little video shoot and then it would turn into an actual party after we wrapped. Those were always a blast to film. Parties, drunk or sober … those were always a blast to film back in college.
TT: You seem like a party animal; you’re basically the poster child for what it means to be “frat,” how does that feel?
JT: Maybe in the videos, but that’s not really who I am in real life. I do have a wild side when I’m with my friends and we’re having a great time, but a lot of what you see in the videos is modified based on the environment that I’m in. If you meet my crew of friends, you’ll realize they’re a lot crazier than I am.
TT: Let’s talk about your show, “Memoirs of a College Dropout.” How did you come up with the idea?
JT: I wanted to do a stand-up tour since I dropped out of college. What I used to do was … well, colleges would have me come speak to their film departments or just get me at their school. They essentially just wanted to hear my story and how I got started and how I’m doing the things that I wanted to be doing right now. I would tell them my stories and it kind of turned into what was almost a 45-minute to an hour-long stand-up set. After one of the shows, my manager was like, “Jimmy this is basically stand-up comedy, you should start doing this.” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what I want to do.” I didn’t really ease in, my first show was like an hour-long set in front of like 400 people, and I just dove in. Like I said, it was something I’ve wanted to do, and once I found that first way to go about it, it just made a lot more sense to me. I think this is really the first tour or stand-up set for me to use because I have all of these stories that I want to talk about that are still in my mind. I’m going to say this is probably the last year that I can do “Memoirs of a College Dropout” tour.
TT: Is that just because the stories are going to get old?
JT: It’s because I feel like I still have a pretty accurate view of what college is even though I dropped out two years ago. You know, all these stories are still fresh on my mind and I need to get them off my chest while I can.
TT: Do you have any stand-up artist you look up to or find inspiration from?
JT: I grew up watching. … I don’t watch as much stand-up as I should. … I don’t watch as much anything as I should. I grew up watching “Seinfeld” and “Saturday Night Live.” … I didn’t have cable so those were the only two shows I watched consistently. A lot of my influence came from those two shows. I’ve seen every episode of “Seinfeld” and watched “SNL” every week. Recently, I’ve checked out some old Dane Cook and Kevin Hart. It just kind of helped to watch them do it.
TT: What about acting?
JT: I always wanted to act. Actually, not always. I started wanting to act once I saw Jim Carrey in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” I wanted to play a character like the Grinch. It was the first time I wanted to act. My mom tells me I’ve always had a problem with listening. She doesn’t think I should be an actor and she says, “Jimmy you shouldn’t be an actor because you don’t like listening, you should be a director.” So I’m always like, “Alright mom, if you say so.”
TT: Do you prefer acting or stand-up more?
JT: It’s hard to say, two completely different things. I like stand-up a lot. I like stand-up more than acting. I like writing more than stand-up.
TT: So you’d say writing is your favorite?
JT: Yeah, I love writing. It’s hard to say that even, because you have to write your stand-up. Stand-up is more nerve wracking to just get up on stage. Stand-up is definitely more fulfilling; it gets your adrenaline pumping a lot more than filming a sketch. It’s hard to say which I like more because I have a blast doing both.
TT: Lastly, what do you see yourself doing in five-10 years with your career?
JT: I would like to have my version of what Adam Sandler has going for him. Writing and starring in his own movies and producing his own movies. I would love to do an independent film version of that where I can kind of have a couple million dollars for a movie and write in it then star in it. I’d also like to have a show.
Jimmy Tatro will be performing at The Trocadero Theatre April 3.