How Ridiculous uploaded their first video in 2009. Back then, Brett Stanford, Scott Gaunson and Derek Herron just wanted to have fun attempting backyard trick shots on camera. However, since their early videos went viral, How Ridiculous has evolved into much more than a trick shot video channel. Their impressive feats, endearing friendship and unwavering perseverance now inspire people around the world.
We had the chance to chat with co-creator Brett Stanford about How Ridiculous, how they got started and what it takes to keep the channel going.
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Channel Type: Entertainment
USER CREATED: Sep 9th, 2009
The early days
Brett, Scott and Derek met at church and often hung out together shooting basketball in their free time. It was a natural progression to trick shots and posting videos online. In the beginning, production was simple. “We basically got a digital camera and started throwing basketballs around,” says Brett. Soon though, the guys became enamored with the challenges they were capturing on video. Brett continues, “We realized with enough attempts and perseverance, we could do some pretty cool stuff.”
From 2009 to 2015, How Ridiculous was a hobby. “We were all working and studying during that,” Brett recalls. Brett was working as a physical therapist as well as a youth pastor. It took some time before the team realized YouTube could provide a full-time salary. “There weren’t really many examples to follow of people who were doing it as their career,” Brett says about online content creation at the time.
Getting How Ridiculous off the ground
Even in those early days, the guys made efforts to get more people watching their stunts. Instead of relying on YouTube recommendations, How Ridiculous aimed to get their content embedded on news sites like ESPN and Yahoo to attract more views. As Brett tells us, “The actual idea of getting organic traffic from YouTube’s home feed was non-existent.”
In 2010, How Ridiculous did a video story with a local news crew. This video ended up getting picked up on traditional media around the world. Instead of getting views in the thousands, How Ridiculous was suddenly getting views in the hundreds of thousands. Brett cites this as one of the few key moments that spurred the crew on, encouraging them to continue with the channel. He tells us, “I supposed there was no one exact moment where we thought ‘Now we can make a career out of it.’ We just had to keep going.”
Throughout the first six years, the guys at How Ridiculous continued to up the ante. They pursued world record trick shots and frequently saw their videos go viral, like their collaboration with Brodie Smith on an epic frisbee catch. By 2015, things were going great for the channel, but the guys were also busy — being married, working full-time and with little time to spare for this particular hobby. “We had to decide,” Brett recalls, “We either have to probably give it up, or we have to give it more time by making it our job.”
The guys decided to give it a year and see where that got them. In that year, How Ridiculous earned particular notoriety for their world record shot of a dam in Tasmania as well as their Magnus effect experiment. Fortunately, that year of dedication was enough to start earning all three of them a full-time salary. Now, Brett tells us, “It’s grown into far more than we’ve ever dreamed, but we work super hard and try to make the best content we can that stands out.”
Working toward a common goal
As rewarding as it is, it can be tough to constantly keep the content fresh. “We find that it’s the most draining part of our job, coming up with ideas, the creative component,” Brett tells us, “because it’s not like it’s something that you can just make happen.” Brett says it can be frustrating sometimes, but overall, the process of coming up with ideas as a group is absolutely necessary. “Our ideas are our currency, really,” he says. “If you can’t come up with good ideas, you don’t have anything at all.”
Fortunately, the three friends have hit on a healthy creative dynamic. “We all had, I guess, the strength of character — and the humility, I suppose — to feel like,” Brett pauses, “it’s not all about me.” He concludes, “If you can get a team that’s full of humility, it’ll go a long way towards being a healthy team.”
According to Brett, you probably couldn’t find a word that describes the team less than “ego.” Brett attributes this partially to the team’s mutual foundation in church. Brett explains, “In the Christian faith, y’know, there’s no room for ego. It’s not about you. I think that’s why in the early days we didn’t show any personality.”
Revealing the team behind How Ridiculous
On that front, this ingrained humility actually held the guys back from connecting with their fans. They had to find balance: “In reality, we learned over time that you can still remain humble but include people on the journey of what it takes to do our videos.”
As their stunts expanded in scope, the trio included more of their banter in their videos. This helped their audience get excited along with them, in turn growing their audience. As more people subscribed to their channel, the team brought in more members to help with the larger productions. Currently, the How Ridiculous channel supports six full-time employees, including the three main guys.
Brett explains, “As you grow, you’ve only so much time in the week and you need to try and find some people who can do some jobs better than you can, so you can do the things that only you can do.”
Beyond just making an income for the production team, How Ridiculous uses their reach to support several charitable causes, including the recently trending #TeamSeas. There’s one organization in particular that Brett highlighted: “We’re really passionate about an organization called Compassion, who aim to release children from poverty. We’ve been doing a lot of advocating for them, and that was part of our passion for doing videos as well.”
How Ridiculous adapts to change
Over time, the guys have shifted from strictly trick shots to a more vlog-like approach to allow fans to enjoy more of their personality. By 2016, the guys were branching out and doing different kinds of content. Not only were they choosing to include more of themselves in their videos, but the scale of the stunts also increased massively. “Instead of bowling balls, we’ve dropped a plane. We’ve done all sorts of really absurd things that people have never seen before,” Brett says.
“As time goes on, we’re trying to be more and more creative, Brett continues. “We’re trying to invest more in our videos to do, not always bigger things, but things that are maybe more effort or have a greater production quality.” Brett gives their recently acquired Phantom high-speed camera as an example: “For us, we really saw it as an important part of taking of videos to the next level.”
Preparing for the future
“People don’t really know what it means to become a YouTube creator or a social media creator for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years,” Brett reminds us. “Continuing to adapt is so important. You’ve gotta continue to innovate.” How Ridiculous looks for data where ever it’s available, from YouTube Analytics to polls on Instagram. They’ve recently put in specific effort toward increasing watch time. “Not trying to add filler content,” Brett assures us, “but just trying to make them better for longer.”
“Ultimately,” Brett says, “you’ve got to keep being excited about what you do, and if not, you’ve got to find some content ideas that you are excited about.” He concludes, “Do it in a way that you love it and you’d do it even if you weren’t making money.”
How Ridiculous summed up in one video
As our conversation comes to an end, Brett reflects on his favorite How Ridiculous video: “We Spent 6 Days Attempting a 200m Basketball Shot in Lesotho, Africa.” For him, it’s a prime example of the team’s core values, both on the channel and in life: determination, dreaming big and being willing to do whatever it takes to pull off something.
“No matter what you’re doing, you gotta push yourself,” Brett says. “You’ve gotta set goals that are maybe bigger than you ever dreamed possible and work your way to it.” Brett concludes, “Hopefully, it inspires [viewers] to have a crack at something that’s really epic and go for it.” If there’s one thing we can take from watching a How Ridiculous video, it’s that ‘epic’ is a goal worth going after.