Student a YouTube star at 50 million hits

By The Beacon | September 16, 2009 9:00pm

Freshman Sean Fujiyoshi and friend's channel is most subscribed on site

By Melissa Nip

Sean Fujiyoshi is a freshman majoring in civil engineering. He may seem like a typical freshman, apprehensive about classes and settling into UP. However, what many don't realize is that he is one-half of a popular YouTube duo known as "Nigahiga."

"Nigahiga" is a series of videos made by natural-born comedians and best friends Ryan Higa and Fujiyoshi in their hometown of Hilo, Hawaii. They entertain their audience with their lipsynching, Higa's solo rants on random subjects, parodies of movies and their popular "How to" guides.

They are one of the top channels subscribed to on YouTube and currently have 50,382,607 channel views.

Higa and Fujiyoshi were never aspiring movie directors or comedians. They were just two kids at home during the summer, trying to find ways to rid themselves of boredom. Their YouTube journey began the summer before their sophomore year of high school in July 2006.

"We were really bored at Ryan's house. We came across some videos Ryan made of himself when he was little. Most of it was lip-synching and making parodies of shows," Fujiyoshi said.

After watching Higa's childhood videos, they realized how fun it would be to make their own videos. Their earlier videos consisted of a series of "How to" videos such as "How to be Ninja" and making parodies of songs such as "Crank that" by Soulja Boy.

Their videos were not set in fancy studios with lots of props or special effects. There were no scripts or costume changes. They were filmed with a simple handheld camera in Higa's home.

In "How to be Gangster," one of Fujiyoshi's personal favorites, Higa and Fujiyoshi instruct the viewers on how to become more "gangster" by learning how to rap, making creative handshakes and being rebellious.

"It was really fun to make," Fujiyoshi said. "It was one of our first videos before we started getting serious."

They were pleased with their creations and wanted to show their family and friends, but they didn't want to carry the tape around.

"We heard of YouTube and how you can post videos so that other people can see it," Fujiyoshi said. "So that's what we did."

When they checked back on their account, they noticed that they were getting more views than they expected. Viewers appealed to the videos because of Higa and Fujiyoshi's raw creativity and improvisation, making skits and parodies of music, movies, or anything related to pop culture. They had the ability to take ordinary things such as a big green inflatable ball or normal household items and use it to entertain the viewers.

"We were confused about why we getting so many views," Fujiyoshi said. "We thought that maybe the same people were watching the videos over and over again."

Apparently not. On May 10, 2009, "Nigahiga" passed the one million subscriber mark and became ranked as YouTube's second most subscribed channel in the U.S. Then on August 20, 2009, "Nigahiga" exceeded expectations and become the most subscribed YouTube channel ever.

Their popularity was recognized by a producer named Derek Zemrak, who wrote the script for their first movie ever entitled "Ryan and Sean's Not So Excellent Adventure."

In 2008, the summer before Fujiyoshi's senior year, Higa and Fujiyoshi went to Oakland, California to film their movie for two and a half weeks. Fujiyoshi says it was a completely different experience working on a movie in comparison to making home videos.

"It was very professional compared to what we do," Fujiyoshi said. "We had to read from a script and we couldn't improvise."

The movie was shown in theaters in Hawaii and California, and the DVD was released on July 14, 2009.

Higa and Fujiyoshi currently have 43 videos on their channel, and they plan to keep adding to their collection. However, since they are both away at college, Higa has done some videos on his own. His recent videos are advertisement spoofs on Carl Jr. Portobello Mushroom Burger, ShamWow or the Kids Bop series, all which have surpassed five million views.

Many fans missed Fujiyoshi in the videos and thought that Higa was replacing him. However, Fujiyoshi and Higa are a duo and plan to get together during the year to hang out and make more videos.

Both Fujiyoshi and Higa are recognized often in the Islands and in their hometown, but what Fujiyoshi found interesting was that he was even recognized on the UP campus. Although he is grateful for the experiences he has had from "Nigahiga," he doesn't let his newfound recognition go to his head.

"It's a little weird at times when people recognize me, but it's cool, and I really don't care," Fujiyoshi said.

Fujiyoshi says that he's done interviews before, and they all ask him the same questions over and over, so he's used to it. He sits back on the chair in a relaxed pose and replies to the interview questions calmly. This seems to summarize his overall attitude toward his newfound recognition; he doesn't take his YouTube stardom too seriously.

While Higa is possibly pursuing a career in film, Fujiyoshi only sees his YouTube gig as a hobby. He is worried more about getting through his engineering classes and adjusting to campus, but other than that, he is enjoying his time at UP, meeting new people and hanging out with his friends.

"I like UP, it's really nice," Fujiyoshi said. "It kind of reminds me of home because it's such a small campus and everyone is really friendly."

Fujiyoshi continues to be surprised at the increasing popularity of "Nigahiga's" videos. He hopes that their videos will still continue to entertain millions and that this experience will last as long as it can.

"Why not? I'm just going along for the ride." Fujiyoshi said.