The advent of YouTube in 2005 created an unprecedented opportunity for average people to create content and share it with the world. Of course, a lot of people took this opportunity to just create cat videos (and where would we be without them). Ten years later though, it has led to the rise of a new kind of entrepreneur and celebrity—the YouTube star. These are creative people who have found a niche and created a following, sometimes of millions of subscribers, by producing regular content of some form, whether that’s makeup tutorials, video-game playthroughs, or humorous vlogs. A rare group of these people have even become successful millionaires, as companies have tapped the advertising potential of their large audiences.
My favorite YouTuber isn’t one of these millionaires. He only has about 840,000 subscribers—which is a pittance considering that the top channel on YouTube has 43 million subscribers. He also doesn’t take advertising deals just for the sake of earning money off his fan base. His name is Olan Rogers.
I don’t remember when exactly I saw my first Olan Rogers video, but I remember that it was one of his storytime videos, called “Ghost In The Stalls.” By the end of the six-minute video, I’m pretty sure I was crying of laughter until my stomach hurt. Olan’s larger than life personality and enthusiastic storytelling ability had won me over. I subscribed and began following Olan’s regular video updates.
Having followed Olan for awhile now, I’ve noticed several qualities about him that I admire and make me wish I could know him better as a person.
The first thing I notice about Olan is joy. When you watch Olan tell a story or act in a comedy sketch, you see an open, childlike wonder and joy about life that is contagious. Olan isn’t exactly hip, or cool, or edgy, but he’s genuine and fun. He’s often reduced to laughing at his own ridiculousness, but in a way that invites you to laugh with him.
The second thing I appreciate about Olan is that he encourages people to embrace themselves in all their awkwardness and weirdness by being his own awkward and weird self, whether that’s constantly referencing his love for 90s cartoons and video games or telling hilarious, embarrassing stories about his childhood.
The third thing I love about Olan is that he seems genuinely interested in connecting with other people. Whether it’s doing a nationwide free pizza party like the Eat a Slice With Me tour, hosting free movie nights in the park, or creating The Soda Parlor in Nashville, Olan has utilized what can easily be an ego-centric medium to foster a community.
The last thing I really appreciate about Olan is that he uses his platform to encourage others. He shares the hard realities of pursuing his own dreams but still has a buoyant optimism about life that is inspiring.
The great Christian author G. K. Chesterton writes in Orthodoxy:
“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.”
To me, Olan Rogers, who is himself a Christian, is one of the best embodiments of this kind of joy. To some, the idea of creating silly videos on YouTube may seem frivolous, but it’s often the seemingly frivolous acts of faithful people in the small corners of life that make or break the world in the long run. As Olan himself has said, “The world will feel like it’s out to get you, and that’s because the world isn’t a nice place. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be nice. And with a little charm, maybe we can make it a little bit nicer.”
If you are an inhabitant of the lands of the Interwebs, check out Olan on YouTube. And if you live in the Nashville area, be sure to check out the awesome Soda Parlor and their delicious floats.
Disclaimer: The author cannot be held responsible if you find yourself having used several hours of your day watching Olan Rogers videos.
Chris is an Associate Professor of English at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, and is an arts and culture writer whose works have appeared in publications such as Tweetspeak Poetry, The Curator, The Molehill, and The Rabbit Room. Chris is also the author of several books of poetry, including his latest collection Winter Poems. In 2018 he helped co-found The Poetry Pub, an online community for poets. He enjoys walking in the woods, visiting coffee shops, and poking through used bookstores with his wife Jen. You can read more of his writing at ChrisYokel.Substack.com.