What Makes This Series The Hottest Thing On YouTube

The premise of this sweeping trend on YouTube is simple: ply celebrities with hot sauce and watch them sweat as they answer questions. With an average of 1.2 million views per video, Hot Ones has cemented itself a permanent spot in the trending tab.

Here are the keys to their success.

1. It appeals to the ‘schadenfreude’ in everyone.

Schadenfreude means “pleasure from another’s pain.” There’s an inherent satisfaction that comes from watching famous people subject themselves to spicy food and try to answer questions. Very few are good at it, and for the most part, viewers tune in to see their favorite comedian or musician stumble over questions while coughing into a glass of milk. It’s disgusting, deplorable, and hilarious.

Of course, it’s all in good fun, and the guests always have the option of opting out, but for a 30-second plug at the end and perhaps, more importantly, pride, most stick it out to the end.


2. A wide variety of celebrities diversifies the audience and attracts more guests.

Hot Ones features comedians, rappers, celebrity chefs, YouTubers, actors, and athletes. Due to the unique premise and the growing audience, they seemingly have no shortage of waiting guests.

With 70 episodes over three seasons, Hot Ones is one of the largest celebrity interview shows on YouTube, and they’re tapping into several different markets.

3. Self-references reward deep dives into their videos.

More and more guests come onto the show with a familiarity with the premise,and the previous flops. DJ Khaled, an early guest who made it through two of the ten wings, gets referenced by several of the celebrities who say “as long as I make it past DJ Khaled, I’ll be happy.”

N.O.R.E. went on the show and talked endlessly about how he is interviewer Sean Evans’s biggest fan and cites several previous interviews. This encourages viewers to look back and watch all the videos, which are very binge-worthy.

4. Rewarding fans creates a community.

Hot Ones has had a handful of giveaways, which is a great way to reward loyalty, but they took it a step further. In an incredible interview with Russell Brand, Sean Evans mentions super fan Brett Baker, who creates ranked lists of guests based on their ability to handle the hot sauce. Brand proceeds to sing an impromptu ballad to Brett after demolishing the final, hottest wing.

Sean Evans and the First We Feast team tweets to Brett to record his reaction to the video and then post the reaction on their channel. That’s the ultimate fan engagement, and a strong relationship with the fans always invites more of their kind.

5. Hot Ones is always improving.

Guests on the show often joke about the low production value and the fact that the wings are cold, so there’s certainly room for improvement. Compared to the earlier videos, though, the editing and effects have improved significantly and redefined the style of the show. It wasn’t until season two that the show adopted the neon sign of the chicken breathing fire.

They continually make slight adjustments to how the show looks and operates, keeping things fresh and consistent in quality with the attention it receives. Compare the style of this Machine Gun Kelly interview from season one to the more recent N.O.R.E. interview above.

Hot Ones at its core never changes. Watching successful people suffer is addicting, and Hot Ones feeds that addiction weekly. Create a show with a unique flavor and reward your audience regularly to grow a channel.

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Gabriel Dufurrena is a mathematician, writer, and educator living in Oakland, CA. When he’s not watching YouTube videos or teaching math, he’s riding his bike through rush hour traffic.

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