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Content creators upload videos to YouTube at such an astonishing rate, it can be easy to forget where some of the most popular ideas originated. But if you’ve ever watched a popular reaction video on the streaming site, you can rest assured knowing the creator likely took cues from the Fine Brothers, who pioneered the art form as we know it with their signature React video series. With this popular and often-imitated template, the hopeful filmmakers from Brooklyn, New York, amassed millions of subscribers and billions of views, overcoming several major snags to build a YouTube empire.
The Fine Bros’ path to stardom wasn’t always easy or clear. Here are some other facts you may not know about the YouTube personalities.
18 fascinating facts about the Fine Bros
1) Yes, they’re actually brothers
Benny and Rafi Fine were born and grew up in an Orthodox-Jewish family in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
2) They’ve been making videos for most of their lives
The brothers got their first video camera when they were adolescents, using it to shoot comedy sketches and full-length films. One of their live-action features made the rounds on the comedy film festival circuit in 2000, and the Fines planned to continue making one feature a year until one of them broke into Hollywood.
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3) The Fine Bros started pursuing YouTube 24/7
Benny and Rafi created their first website in 2003 and uploaded their first video to the internet the following year. They lived together in the early days of their video career, as “every waking moment is dedicated to creating content,” they told YouTubers Rhett and Link on their podcast, Ear Biscuits.
4) The Fine Brothers uploaded their first YouTube video on June 4, 2007
The video features the Burger King busting a move and flipping the bird to the tune of “The Safety Dance” in front of various fast food establishments. It’s racked up more than 552,000 views, so clearly anything is possible.
5) Their early work bears little resemblance to what they do now
The burgeoning YouTube stars cut their teeth making TV and movie parodies, along with mature social satire, as seen in their Prop 8 webseries (admittedly not their strong suit).
6) The Fines partnered with Maker Studios in 2009
The collaborative enterprise, which included other YouTube stars Philip DeFranco and Shane Dawson, promoted Benny and Rafi to head of production and creative. Maker swelled into a multi-channel network that accumulated more than 1 billion monthly views at its peak. Maker sold to Disney in 2014 for more than $500 million.
7) The brothers didn’t stick around for Maker’s greatest success
Benny and Rafi left Maker in 2010 and embarked on their own full-fledged YouTube career after the company “stopped matching up with what we believed in,” they told Rhett and Link on Ear Biscuits.
8) The Fine Brothers uploaded their first React video in 2010
Oct. 16, 2010, to be exact. The clip shows kids reacting to other viral YouTube videos, including “Double Rainbow,” “Obama Fail,” “Twin Rabbits,” and “Snickers Halloween.” Crisp editing and an easily recognizable structure earned the video nearly 6 million views, laying the groundwork for the Fine Bros’ most popular series and turning them into genuine web stars.
9) Their videos evolved with their cast
In November 2011, the Fines introduced the Teens React series, featuring some of the original Kids cast members who outgrew the show. Teens React incorporated more mature content, such as reactions to the Newtown school shooting and drunk driving accidents.
10) It’s not all just kids and teens
Shortly after introducing Teens React, the Fine Brothers also launched the Elders React series. Just as kids reacting to outdated technology and pop culture references guarantees laughs, watching senior citizens groove to Skrillex or recoil from Jersey Shore fights warms the soul.
11) Kids React won the Fine Bros a 2012 Daytime Emmy for Best Viral Video Series
They took the victory in stride. “Not a lot has changed, other than realizing that there are shows on YouTube like React that can get similar if not better viewership than mainstream entertainment can,” they told the Daily Dot at the time.
12) It also earned them a TV show
React to That aired 12 episodes on Nickelodeon from Dec. 15, 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015. The Fine Bros also created and hosted Six Degrees of Everything, which aired on TruTV for 10 episodes between August and October of 2015.
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13) Kevin Hart reacted to his own memes
Kevin Hart joined the brothers in 2016 for an episode of “React-ception,” where he watched teens react to his rollercoaster fiasco with Jimmy Fallon. The actor handled their reactions like a champ, laughing off the constant jabs about his height.
14) Maise Williams has appeared multiple times on Teens React
The Game of Thrones star is no ordinary teen, but her cameos on the Fine Bros’ show, especially the one about the original Nintendo, is a good reminder that she’s much softer than the Stark she portrays.
15) Their most popular video is also the most meta
The Fine Brothers enlisted several of their fellow YouTube stars—including Shane Dawson, Harley Morenstein from EpicMealTime, MysteryGuitarMan (born Joe Penna), and PewDiePie (born Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg)—for “YouTubers React to Try to Watch This Without Laughing or Grinning.” Most of them blew it within the first few rounds, but Dawson, CaptainSparkles (born Jordan Maron), and iJustine (born Justine Ezarik) held their ground throughout the whole challenge. The video has earned just shy of 50 million views.
16) Other people have copied and parodied the React format—and the Fine Brothers were not happy about it
They’ve called out a number of creators for doing so, from small YouTube channels all the way up to BuzzFeed and Ellen DeGeneres.
If it is, a shame to not have @thellenshow reach out to us vs. just fully taking it as their own. This happens too often.— FBE (@thefinebros) September 19, 2014
17) They even took one insulting parody video down themselves
YouTube only allows a handful of top creators to remove other people’s videos, and the action should be reserved purely for intellectual violations. Instead, the Fine Brothers abused their power and removed a video they found unflattering.
18) The Fine Brothers tried to trademark the word “React” for their online videos—and it cost them thousands of subscribers
The brothers insisted they wouldn’t use the trademark to take down videos from other creators, nor would they charge a licensing fee for other videos with the word “react” in the title, but they had already betrayed YouTubers’ trust with their parody takedown. It was an ill-advised legal move in the first place, as it’s nearly impossible to trademark a single word in the name of intellectual property.
Toxic rhetoric painting the Fine Brothers as greedy, power-hungry content police soon emerged on Reddit and in YouTube comments. A condescending update video from the brothers did little to help their case. At one point, their channel lost tens of thousands of subscribers per hour, and more than 675,000 users unsubscribed in total.
On Feb. 1, 2016, the Fine Bros wrote on Medium that they rescinded all “React” trademarks and applications, discontinued the React World program and released all past Content ID claims for YouTube videos that looked or sounded like they violated their copyright.
The Fine Brothers regained their pre-controversy follower count by May 2016. Their channel now boasts more than 15 million subscribers and 5 billion views.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated for relevance.
Bryan Rolli is a reporter who specializes in streaming entertainment. He writes about music and film for Forbes, Billboard, and the Austin American-Statesman. He met Flavor Flav in two separate Las Vegas bowling alleys and still can’t stop talking about it.