The year 2020 will forever be known to me as the year of the global pandemic. It shut down my world on many levels. Careerwise I was no longer in a position to put up live entertainment as I had been doing since 2012. Just as they were about to become my primary source of income, comedy theaters in NYC shut down with no sign of a comeback as the cancellations continued. Where was I to go from there not only for creating entertainment but for my own as well?
The simple answer was right in front of me as it was something I had been using since its inception: YouTube.
Since March, I've discovered so many brilliant and entertaining YouTubers who have kept my spirits up and entertained me during isolation. Besides all of the brilliant Retro Replay content, I've watched everything from gaming channels to hardware restoration videos. The rabbit hole of discovery one video can send me has delivered hours upon hours of relief from the way this year has gone. Here are some of my personal favorites beyond Retro Replay.
Kevin O’Reilly is an Irish YouTuber who has described his channel CallMeKevin as a variety gaming channel. In 2016, after making the decision to quit his job in retail and commit full time to his channel, he made it a personal goal to make a video every day. Having kept that promise, he has brought his sense of humor and charm as well as a unique but simplistic rapid-pace editing style that has become the norm for his videos.
Whether it's his hilarious videos of playing god with the digital lives of his Sims characters or his recent obsession with Among Us and the various challenges he gives himself, Kevin can guarantee you a good laugh. The videos rarely exceed 15 minutes and, even at that length, they breeze by because of his comedy stylings. One of the things that set him apart from other YouTube gaming channels is his self-deprecating humor and (perhaps purposefully) poor game playing style. It comes as no surprise that his modesty and earnest nature has brought him such a huge following on his channel and allowed him to make a living off his earnings from Patreon.
Jaiden is an American animator, comedian, and voice actress who creates storytime videos and animations about her life at Jaiden Animations. A majority of these videos are video game-centric. Her quirky personality, natural delivery, and ever-increasing production value in her animation have garnered her a huge audience of nearly 10 million subscribers.
Starting out all by herself and learning to draw from YouTube tutorials, Jaiden now has a team of her own that helps her produce videos, merchandise, and fundraising events. Her connection with her audience is incredibly clear as seen in the credits of all her videos that showcase fan art of her and her pet bird Ari.
You might not think that a video channel dedicated to smashing things with a hydraulic press would be a popular thing to watch, but 2.76 million subscribers to the Hydraulic Press Channel would say otherwise. Operated by Finnish workshop owner Lauri Vuohensilta and his wife Anni, this channel has an incredibly simple but highly addictive premise: crushing things with a 150-ton hydraulic press.
The channel gained popularity in 2015 when the channel published a video of Vuohensilta unsuccessfully attempting to fold a piece of paper more than seven times with the hydraulic press. The video went viral on Reddit and gained the channel millions of views and subscribers. Viewers soon discovered the joy and delight that the couple expressed from the simple yet satisfying viewing of seeing things crushed.
The channel’s longevity comes from its simple premise and the continued expressed desire from their comment sections in videos requesting all sorts of items to be crushed. They have happily obliged and continue to find out if there is nothing that can’t be demolished by their unexpected joy delivering machine.
This one is a bit of a cheat because Caitlin Reilly is technically a TikTok star, but she has uploaded all of her one-minute videos on her own YouTube channel. Capitalizing on making content while in quarantine this year, the 30-year-old actress uploads very specific and hilarious impressions of what some may see as everyday problematic people. Some of them include "The girl who bullied you in high school," "the WASP mom," and even "the co-worker you hate during a Zoom meeting."
All of these inspired characterizations have come from her time living in Los Angeles. The one-minute videos zero in so perfectly on the nuances of people you've most likely met in your own life. A common philosophy amongst comedians is that the funniest things are also the most truthful. There have been plenty of her videos that have made me cringe with laughter from her impressions of people I've seen in real life. The best part is that with her videos only being one minute in length, you can binge-watch her entire uploaded library and still be begging for more by the end.
Have you ever wanted to know what it would take to make Thor's hammer real? What about an actual working lightsaber? Hacksmith Industries is here to answer those questions and turn the most iconic items in fiction into real life and functional items.
James Hobson studied Mechanical Systems Engineering at Conestoga College and received a Bachelors of Engineering. During that time he spent virtually every day in a machine shop, learning by doing and crafting a unique DIY style. A self-described "huge nerd," Hobson had an idea to see if he could make things like Captain America's shield and Tony Stark's gauntlets in real life.
Setting up his own shop and calling himself "The Hacksmith," Hobson went to work. He's made hundreds of items, showing the step-by-step process and putting them to the test in all of his videos. His ultimate goal is to make a fully functioning Iron Man-like exosuit. Only time will tell if he will achieve that goal, but you can guarantee all of his subscribers will eagerly watch and wait.
This last entry was one of the most talked-about YouTube channels as it was lauded for being an unprecedented experiment. Mark “Markiplier” Fischbach and Ethan “CrankGamers” Nestor came together to try something no one had done before on YouTube: make a channel with a different video uploaded every day for a full year. The added twist was that on day 365 the channel would be permanently deleted from YouTube at the stroke of midnight.
The channel gained 1 million subscribers in five days and over 11.5 million views in its first week. On November 14, 2020, one year after the launch of the channel, Mark, and Ethan stuck to their word. Commemorating the end of their experiment with a live stream that peaked at 1.5 million viewers, the channel was deleted permanently live at 12:00 AM PST.
As one of those 1.5 million viewers, I marveled at the sheer guts it took to not only continue an experiment of making that many videos but committing to the premise of deleting it permanently at the end of the year. Mark and Ethan followed through on making sure no videos from their channel would be re-uploaded anywhere else on YouTube and have made a conscious effort to see those re-uploads deleted. It was an event we may never see happen again and did something to bring together a lot of people who otherwise had literally nowhere else to go in this troubling year. Mark and Ethan helped their fans begin to wrap up a year in a positive fashion.
So there you have it! These were my picks for the best hidden gems on YouTube in 2020.
What were yours? Share those in the comments below, and have a great new year in 2021!