Chris Klemens on blue background

Chris Klemens

Comedian Chris Klemens shares what he’s learned after 9 years online

'99% of the time, you know what is best for you.'

 

Grace Stanley

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 16, 2022   Updated on Aug 15, 2022, 5:17 pm CDT

We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.


This week, we spoke with Chris Klemens, a comedian with over 3.5 million followers across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch

Klemens has been making content for over 9 years, starting off as a YouTuber. Today, he is well-known for his comedic street interviews, skits, vlogs, rants and roasts. He is also known for his collaborations with other infamous creators, including Trisha Paytas, Brittany Broski, Tana Mongeau, and Drew Afualo. In addition, Klemens has a podcast called Unhinged with Chris Klemens, which shares his stories and takes on a variety of pop culture, personal, and political topics. 

In an interview with Passionfruit, Klemens described the evolution of his career over nine years; making street interviewees feel comfortable; the anxieties that come with being recognized in public; setting realistic expectations for relationships with other creators; learning from mistakes; building a long-lasting career; and more.  

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

Can you describe the beginning of your career as an online content creator?

The beginning of my career started out of pure boredom. I wanted to be an entertainer and someone suggested that I use the camera that I had for photography school at NYU to make videos. I was already watching so much YouTube at the time and thought, “Well I’m funnier than these motherfuckers” and so I started posting what would be the cringiest skits and sketches. The beginning was not glamorous at all but it was so fun. There were no expectations or letdowns because it was just a hobby. Also at the time, there wasn’t the term “YouTuber” or “content creator”—it was a huge secret I kept from people.

Thinking of where you’re at today, how have things changed?

Well funny enough, I’m doing this from Delaware, which is where I live now but where I tried escaping a decade ago when I coincidentally started all of this. Everything has changed. I can’t think about this for too long because it genuinely trips me out that the dreams I had sitting in my mom’s kitchen that I fully remember envisioning are now reality (there’s still a lot left to accomplish). 

For the first time ever, I have a brand new car that I bought myself, I bought a house and am renovating the entirety of it, but most importantly, I feel so much more confident in myself and my abilities because I turned my life into what it is without connections in the industry (that I didn’t make) or a trust fund. It is a wild feeling to be embraced for all of my weirdness, creativity, and balls to do anything. That’s probably the biggest change. When I used to tell people my ideas or goals, people always looked at me crazy and told me to have a plan B, and just like a Republican’s wet dream, there was no plan B. People thought I was weird and crazy, but I trusted my gut and now people find it weirdly admiring?

For street interviews, how do you choose what questions to ask people?

I just ask people whatever I want and if they walk away or say no, I let them walk. It’s supposed to be fun for everyone, including the people I banter with. I think being selective with what you ask limits what you get out of them.

What are the most challenging parts of filming street interviews? How do you deal with them? 

The most challenging part is just finding people who are down. I’ve been doing these long enough where I really could do it in my sleep, but getting people to be into it is the hard part, and I’m never going to make someone uncomfortable just for a piece of content no one will watch a month later.

You’re on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter. What are the benefits of being multi-platform? Would you recommend other creators do the same?

I don’t have any recommendations for other creators because you have to find what resonates with what you love doing. There are going to be some people who thrive on TikTok but not on Instagram. I think it’s smart to cast a wide net because there are different users on different platforms, but I also think it’s important to not spend a ton of time or focus on a platform that you don’t enjoy or doesn’t make sense for you.

What’s your relationship like with your fans? How do you manage it?

I hate this question because it’s what I struggle probably the most with in all of this. It’s a very weird thing to be anywhere and have people know who you are, what you love, et cetera, but not know anything about them. It doesn’t help that I literally forget people know who I am when I am out and about so it often scares the shit out of me. Then, it makes me so anxious to think about if people are just like watching me from afar and if I fit the mold of what they expect of me. 

I used to resent people knowing who I was—especially in conjunction with struggling with my mental health—because I love privacy and I just wanted to be left alone a lot of the time, but I’ve gotten to the point where I do really appreciate it and can understand it, especially being a huge fan myself of other people growing up. I don’t resent people anymore—I just resent the people who are annoying about it in public—but all in all, I really am so thankful to have fans who challenge me, support me, fight for me, believe in me, see parts of themselves in me, et cetera. I’ve come to appreciate how beautiful of a thing it is to build a community with people you feel connected to. It’s all a journey and I’m really loving where I’m at in all of it for probably the first time ever in my career.

What about your relationship with other creators?

Okay, welp, this I struggle with way more. I never know where I stand with people because I sometimes feel like people just put up with me and then are relieved when I’ve left, but I am 93% sure that is my own insecurities and irrationalities talking. My therapist is probably close to owning an entire state at this point with how much I talk to him about this exact thing. I have a much better understanding of who my friends are and who just wants to make content with me, both of which are great. The key is knowing what the relationship is and not having expectations that are unrealistic for the dynamic. Overall, I try to be really kind, understanding, and genuine with everyone, but that goes out the window when there are so many doucheheads online.

What advice do you have for other creators trying to make a living from their online careers?

I get asked this all the time and never know how to answer it because it’s just such a different game than it used to be. If I started out now, I have no idea how I would navigate all of this. I will say failure is going to be your best friend. You’re gonna struggle with failing publicly for everyone to see and then send to their friends to laugh about, but you learn the most through your failures and most likely, you’ll never make the same mistake twice. 

Also, trust your gut more than anyone else. 99% of the time, you know what is best for you—implement that and don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and fight for yourself. 

Last piece of advice is that there are no two timelines that are the same. The speed at which someone finds success does not mean you have failed or won’t make it because your timeline is different. I have seen so many Alex from Targets have meteoric rises but very short shelf lives. No shade to him specifically—I just remember beating myself up over not getting a million followers overnight and thinking that I must not be good enough. However, I have found that instead, I’ve built a machine that has been regularly fed and has lasted 9.5 years and hopefully much longer. That took me so long to realize and I am so grateful for my individual path. Your chapter 10 is gonna be different from everyone else’s chapter 10.

What are your current goals?

I just want to maintain my happiness. It sounds so fucking corny but I just haven’t felt this content in probably all of my adult life. I obviously have huge goals for my career but I am really working on separating my happiness from my career and what I achieve in it. It’s already hard enough being—and always having to be—so invested in my career and then, on top of it, having my sanity and peace of mind reliant on it is not a good thing. My achievements, of course, will lead to feelings of happiness and pride but I don’t want my worth and happiness reliant on my career. I’ve done it for too long and it’s soul sucking.

Thank you, Chris, for talking with us! 


Are you a YouTuber or TikToker? Email [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter. 


In Body Image

Sign up for our Passionfruit newsletter for creator coverage like this:

After Womblands threw their community into chaos, call-out creators face an existential crisis
Influencers who stutter prove you don’t need fluency to have a voice
Salary Transparent Street is demystifying wages on TikTok
Share this article
*First Published: Aug 16, 2022, 6:00 am CDT