Q&A: Prankster Roman Atwood

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From the November 28, 2013 edition

For not having a “real job,” Roman Atwood works harder than most people. The 30-year-old professional prankster has turned his gift for causing mischief into a lucrative business, gaining more than 2 million Youtube subscribers and a coveted Youtube partnership. He’s worked with prankster hall of famers Steve-O, and The Dudesons, and flown all over the world to cause chaos. Though his teachers said he’d have no future if he skipped out on college, it looks like Atwood is getting the last laugh.

I actually learned to make videos so I could edit them. I love the creative control of editing, so I started filming videos so I would have something to edit. The editor has all the power. I have taken some crappy videos and made them into goldmines with my editing skills.

I posted a video on Youtube every week for a year before I got any real traction. I started out posting comedy sketches, but they didn’t really get that much attention. I started to post pranks on my channel and I’d get more views on one of those than I would on all my sketches combined. After a while, it got to a point where my subscribers only wanted to watch pranks. I couldn’t even post a sketch video without them saying, “I didn’t sign up for that! You suck! Post a prank!” So, I decided to turn it into a full-blown prank channel.

The turning point for my Youtube channel was the pee prank I pulled on the cops. On that video alone we got, like, 2 million views in a week. That cop video sky-rocketed us from 40,000 subscribers to 180,000. To my knowledge, I’m one of the only people who has pranked the cops legally and filmed it. Apparently they sent out a districtwide email about me. One time, a UPS guy told me he was delivering stuff to a state building, and he saw my picture hanging on the wall, and underneath it said, “Attention law enforcement: Roman Atwood preys on unsuspecting police officers.” If that is true, I need to steal that picture.

My parents encouraged me to quit my job and focus on making prank videos. I was working at a rope factory my family owns before I started doing pranks full-time. I absolutely hated it. It wasn’t for me. Once my videos started getting traction my parents encouraged me to take the plunge and quit my job. They are the two most supportive people in the world. My mom checks out all my videos and will call me whenever one of them goes viral. In fact, she just called me today about my “cheating” prank video that backfired, and told me it was on the front page of Yahoo news.

When it comes to pranking, I like to keep things original and simple. The simpler a prank is, the better. People like when you mess with their minds more so than pull off some intricate prank. I remember one video we had, I got some of those mailbox stickers of the letter “B” and would stick them on people’s backs. Then another guy would go up to them and say “Hold still! You have a ‘B’ on you!” The people would freak out and rip off clothes. Then the guy would pull it off and show them the letter. It’s so simple but it’s so funny.

Consistency is key. I think I gained such a following on Youtube because my pranks are original and I post them consistently. I never take two weeks off. My subscribers know that every week there will be a new prank. I work extremely hard.

I really just like making people laugh. When a person I prank in a video finds out it’s a prank and starts laughing, that is the best feeling in the world. I’m a pretty goofy guy and I just want to make people smile. In fact, I started a clothing line called “Smile More” because that is what people need to do.

I’ve been flown all over the world to do pranks. Egypt was one of my favorite places. It’s so amazing, and it isn’t how the news portrays it. Everyone was so scared for me to go over there thinking I’d get shot. But we acted like we were peeing on the pyramids, and it was hilarious. I really like travelling all the time, but at the end of the day I like to be at home with my girlfriend and two boys. You got to love where you grew up.

I am working on some big celebrity collaborations and a feature-length prank film. Up to this point, there was basically no over-head to my pranks. I can’t wait to see what I can do with a huge budget. It’s my first time directing, so I’m a little nervous but I’m more excited than anything. Also, I have some prank collaborations in the works with some major celebrities. I can’t wait to post those videos. It’s going to be huge.

Photo by Meghan Ralston