Within seconds of meeting a reporter outside of a Starbucks in Wellesley Square, Boston-born YouTuber Jason Nash asked, “Do you mind if I vlog for a minute?”
Nash, 45 years old and a divorced father of two children, makes a living by “vlogging” — creating short videos to post on social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. He films comedy bits, surprises, dares, and more with a group of 20-somethings in Los Angeles that call themselves “The Vlog Squad.”
“I know it’s strange, but this is who I am and this is what’s paying the bills,” he said.
The majority of Nash’s income comes from AdSense, a Google program that allows YouTubers to make money by placing advertisements in their videos. Companies that advertise with him include Honda, Booking.com, and Stitch Fix, an online personal styling service. He also gets paid for tours with The Vlog Squad, a weekly podcast, merchandise, and brand deals.
“When I started, all I wanted to do was make $3,000 per month,” Nash said. “And because it wasn’t about the money for me, I know that’s why things worked out.”
According to CelebrityNetWorth.com, Nash’s net worth is $1 million, a figure he disputes. “Those things on the Internet that tell your net worth are wrong for pretty much everyone,” he said. “When I started YouTube, I was pretty broke and it said $1 million then.” Nash said he makes between $1,000 and $3,000 per video, but he wouldn’t disclose his annual income.
In Wellesley Square on a recent morning, he propped his Canon on an upside down plastic cup and started recording. Most of the time — when Nash isn’t visiting his family in Massachusetts as he was last month — he films up to 12 hours a day with his friends to create three 15- to-20-minute videos per week that are posted on his YouTube channel. He also contributes ideas and bits to videos for other Vlog Squad members’ channels.
“I love it,” he said. “I’ve done all kinds of comedy — standup, sketch, sitcoms, reality — this is just the perfect blend of reality and jokes and real life. It’s great when something comes together.”
In December, Nash earned 17 million views for his click-worthy videos, including one in which he surprised his children with a trip to meet social media and Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa, and another in which he handcuffed himself to his girlfriend for a day. But the craziest thing he’s done for his vlog was gamble $10,000 — double or nothing — in a game of roulette last month, he said.
Nash initially wanted to gift his nanny $5,000 for Christmas, but David Dobrik, the brains behind The Vlog Squad, suggested trying to increase the number to $10,000 by flying to Las Vegas.
“I need a vlog for today, and when David needs a vlog for today, good things happen,” Dobrik said in Nash’s video. Nash reluctantly agreed.
The pair flew from Los Angeles to Vegas with a couple of other friends to ensure everything would be captured on camera in the casino. With luck on his side, Nash walked out with $20,000. Later in the video, he is seen giving all of the winnings to his nanny, Susie, to express his gratitude for her services. (To protect her privacy, he doesn’t use her full name.)
Dobrik, 22, said he challenges Nash to take more chances because that is what appeals to their audience, and keeps them coming back. That, in turn, keeps the ad revenue flowing.
“The reason we get to make these videos is because we do things the way we do them,” Dobrik said. “So if it’s a risk where we can lose some money, that’s not that big of a deal because it’s the reason we have any people watching us in the first place.”
Before Nash and Dobrik began filming YouTube videos together in December 2016, they got to know each other as they both gained popularity on Vine, the now-defunct app where users could create six-second looping video clips.
Nash had also written, directed, and acted in a movie called “FML,” about meeting a friend on Vine and road-tripping around the country to make videos. On the same day that the film was released in October 2016, Nash received a text from his co-star that Vine was going to be shut down. The movie tanked.
“It was total sign to me,” Nash said. “I was like I have got to stop doing this, this is awful. That movie took me three years to make. It didn’t have the distribution or the fanfare because I really didn’t have a big enough audience.”
Dobrik helped Nash find more viewers by inviting Nash to appear in his vlog a couple months later.
“I was doing standup and David came into the comedy club and he saw me do some routine about millennials and he was like, ‘Do you want to come do this in my vlog tomorrow?’” Nash said.
It was the beginning of a mutually beneficial content-creating partnership. Nash said he owes his success on YouTube to the work he’s done with Dobrik.
“We were at a great point where he needed something every day and a lot of his friends like to go have fun,” Nash said. “It worked out great.”
Another actor who joined The Vlog Squad is “Drake & Josh” star Josh Peck. One day when Nash and Dobrik were brainstorming vlog ideas, Dobrik said he wanted to meet Peck. Nash knew Peck because he appeared in an episode of the Nickelodeon TV series in its heyday, so he asked Peck if he wanted to do some improv on camera.
“It was almost like being in the greatest acting class ever because there was none of the pomp and circumstance of ‘the biz,’’ Peck said. “But it was raw and fun improv, topping each other, and writing jokes for each other. All of a sudden there was a part of me that just felt like, ‘Whatever this is, I’m in.’ ”
Peck said the immediacy of YouTube allows creators to be in control of every aspect of their content.
“For people like Jason and I, we were attracted to the fact that you could bypass the gatekeepers and go directly to the audience, and create in a way where you weren’t being led by committee.” Peck said. “And you didn’t have to ask permission for the things that you’re inspired by and that make you laugh. In this scenario, from the moment an idea is created, to shooting it, to the delivery to the audience, it can be one day. That’s just very special.”
Dobrik said he feels lucky to be able to work with Nash.
“I always describe Jason as a failed ‘SNL’ cast member who never got picked up,” Dobrik said. “And now we can just take advantage of him and get to shoot with him every day.”
Nash’s experiences as a divorced father of two kids also make his role in “The Vlog Squad” unique, Dobrik said.
“He’s definitely the funniest in our group when it comes to improv and ideas for bits. And he adds a lot to the dynamic, which is really important. “
For Nash, supporting his children Wyatt, 13, and Charley, 10, always comes first, he said. And while he is hopeful that YouTube will continue to grow, he knows the landscape can quickly shift on social media.
“I don’t know how long ‘The Vlog Squad’ will last, but I think for YouTube, as long as you adapt it can last a while,” he said. “I’ve never had a Plan B. I’ve just always wanted to make people laugh, that’s it.”
Abigail Freeman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.