Cody Ko has devoted a considerable amount of time lately to thinking about clichés—and wondering whether any of those truisms might be false. Things “like, ‘Nice guys finish last,’” he says, rattling off a couple more. “‘Don’t shit where you eat.’ ‘Play hard to get.’ ‘Opposites attract.’ ‘Fake it ‘till you make it.’”
After that last phrase, he pauses, having reached a conclusion on that one. He generally thinks it holds up. “I feel like I’ve been doing that my entire life: You have to be a little prepared, but other than that, just f—ing try. You know?”
If you don’t, you can listen to Ko confront these types of thoughts on The Pleasure Is Ours, a new iHeartRadio podcast launched earlier this month. The limited-run, eight-episode show dispenses advice about the advice we’ve always been given, and Ko’s new gig does seem to incontrovertibly defy another cliché: That fame is fleeting, especially on the internet.
Ko, 29, is one of the web’s original stars and has done something that has stumped many others: successfully hopscotch from platform to platform—in his case, from Vine to YouTube to a scripted drama to music to now podcasting. It’s merrily low-brow stuff. Ko’s body of work is constructed from humor equal parts crass, whimsical and referential, layered in other jokes from across the internet. Much of it is unabashedly capitalistic in nature, and marketing sponsors have gotten prime roles alongside Ko in his content. Survival online demands such tradeoffs between art and commerce.
“Cody probably has the most engaged following I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s pretty crazy,” says Jimmy Tatro. Tatro should know: He has his own hit YouTube channel and cast Ko to play his brother in The Real Bros of Simi Valley, a longform video series satirizing reality TV that he made for Facebook Watch. “He keeps it pretty real…the things he talks about in his vidoes are what he’d talk about with his friends.”
Ko, née Cody Kolodziejzyk of Calgary, Canada, was set on this route to digital stardom after quitting a job at a mobile ad startup in 2014 and joining a friend for a backpacking tour of Asia. On the trip, he and the friend posted funny six-second videos to Vine; unexpectedly, they were a hit, accumulating millions of views and catapulting Ko to be one of the app’s most popular figures. When Ko got back home and Vine went under, he refocused himself on YouTube, where he currently has 5.1 million subscribers and puts out a video once a week or so.
His most successful thing on YouTube has been his “That’s Cringe” segment, where he and cohost Noel Miller lob pot shots at something dumb. It started when Miller “sent me this video of a blowjob robot,” Ko says. “Super funny. And I was like, we could do this for a video—watch it, and rip it on for 20 minutes” “That’s Cringe” now accounts for nine of Ko’s 10 most-watched YouTube videos and some 153 million views.
Apart from YouTube, Ko has had his three seasons on Real Bros, launched a video podcast with Miller called the Tiny Meat Gang and tried his hand at music-making, an endeavor that Miller has also joined in. Last year, they released several singles, including “short kings anthem,” an ode to the woes of guys who aren’t very tall, and got themselves signed by a record label, Arista. Earlier this year, they broke industry conventions with the music video for their single “Broke Bitch.” The video was sponsored by SeatGeek, which spends heavily on marketing with influencers like Ko. And while companies have long paid to put themselves in music videos, the collaboration between SeatGeek, Ko and Miller is a singularly new form of commercialistic cringe: Half way through the five-minute video, the pair stop singing and spend time chatting with a SeatGeek employee clad in a blue SeatGeek-branded t-shirt.
Commercialism and conversation further mix together on Ko’s new podcast. A new guest star—or stars—join him in each episode of The Pleasure Is Ours. YouTuber Drew Gooden appeared in the debut to discuss the concept of faking it ‘till you make it. Stand-up comedian Tim Dillon swung by to talk about whether nice guys can eke out a victory, while Emma Chamberlain, another YouTube star, offered her opinions about playing hard to get. And the two mononymously styled comedians know as Chad and JT, a pair officially billed in the podcast’s episode summary as “two benevolent SoCal bros with a shared love of house parties,” broke down the idea of opposites attracting.
As with SeatGeek and the “Broke Bitch” music video, the podcast has a very public sponsor, Trojan condoms. In the episode with Chad and JT, the guys sat around and tried to come up names for new products that their corporate patron might sell—none of which, really, are republishable here.