MrBeast is the world’s most popular YouTuber. He’s sharing his techniques at US university

His online identity took shape around stunts so time-consuming, so physically demanding and so ridiculous that no one would bother trying to match them, yet so entertaining that no one could resist watching. — Getty Images for TikTok/TNS

CHARLOTTE: As the world’s most crowd-pleasing YouTuber, Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson has filmed himself eating a 6-foot slice of pizza, driving a car built out of Legos, riding 1,000 laps on a Ferris wheel and, perhaps most famously, counting to 100,000 out loud without leaving his chair — an exercise in self-torture that lasted 40 hours.

At 24, the Greenville native routinely draws more than 100 million eyeballs to his videos, an online career so successful that he recently passed out iPhones on Halloween and gave US$1mil (RM4.40mil) to the winner of a hide-and-seek game.

He’s been known to pass out US$100 (RM440) bills from an ice cream truck, hand a homeless man a stack of gift cards and offer a Wal-Mart employee US$10,000 (RM44,050) to quit her job — capturing their flabbergasted faces on film.

But now MrBeast is offering what may be his grandest gesture: the know-how for doing what he does.

Along with East Carolina University, he will soon offer an online course to teach the filming, editing and analytical skills required of any YouTube content creator — no ECU enrollment required.

MrBeast’s online empire, with five YouTube channels and a combined 20 billion views, employs more than 100 people — none of whom, he said, came with prepackaged savvy.

“We pooled everything,” he told ECU Chancellor Dr. Philip Rogers, “all our resources, all our knowledge, and just dumped it in this program. You’re not going to get a more aggregated source of knowledge.”

‘10 steps down the road’

And why do this at ECU in Greenville, Rogers asked the man Forbes valued at US$54mil (RM237.87mil) a year?

“I’m biased because it’s right beside me,” he said. “When they graduate, they can take 10 steps down the road and come get a job.”

There is a delicious irony in MrBeast’s venture into academics, considering his youthful aversion to that path.

“I never wanted to go to college,” he said in the episode of “Beyond the Spotlight,” which followed his rise to YouTube stardom. “My whole goal in all of high school was to never go to college.”

He recalled a shy childhood in Greenville, troubled by Crohn’s disease, starting a YouTube channel as an alternative to talking to people, committing himself to making a video every other day for three months.

Those early creations were crude by MrBeast standards, shot in his bedroom without his mother knowing. You see the young Donaldson wrapping himself in toilet paper, bursting out of a cardboard box or declaring his ability to read minds — a green sash tied around his head.

When his mother insisted he go to college, he enrolled at ECU but didn’t go to class, tunnelling deeper down his YouTube rabbit hole. He pledged online to saw a table in half using plastic knives if his Twitter post collected 100 retweets — a challenge that his budding fan base more than met.

And once his YouTube ad income reached US$1,000 (RM4,405) a month, MrBeast left school and got his own Greenville apartment with lifelong friend and video partner Chris Tyson, fully embracing his new vocation.

‘I like helping people’

His online identity took shape around stunts so time-consuming, so physically demanding and so ridiculous that no one would bother trying to match them, yet so entertaining that no one could resist watching.

He watched the video for “It’s Everyday, Bro” for 10 hours straight, mumbling along to the lyrics. He read the entire script for the children’s film Bee Movie, keeping count of the word “bee” and repeating all the previous “bees” each time the word appeared. He submerged himself in a backyard pool for 24 hours, a bucket over his head to provide a few inches of air. He buried himself alive for 50 hours, talking to a camera inside his coffin.

And gradually his audience grew larger than the population of his home state, adding more sophisticated techniques and cameo appearances. The more his fame and wealth spread, the more he gave it away, ordering a glass of water and tipping a waitress US$10,000.

“I like helping people,” he told “Beyond the Spotlight.” “It makes me happy.”

So now the shy kid who blazed an unlikely trail is offering the world a map, opening a door few guessed might lead anywhere special, sharing what he found on the way.

It might be his most entertaining stunt yet. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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