Ralph Nguyen’s celebrity is spreading. He’s been approached at Mardi Gras and Coachella, and the barista at Pete’s Coffee in Town and Country gave him a free drink when he recognized him. Some people even ask to take pictures with the Stanford senior, creator and star of popular YouTube videos like “Shit Stanford Students Say” and “Shit College Freshman Say.”
He’s been making money on the Internet since the sixth grade, but began his YouTube career making videoblogs with, in his words, “really inane commentary on the 2008 election status” which earned him a couple thousand dollars in ad money. Currently, Nguyen has ten YouTube accounts that he regularly uploads with content.
“Some of them are funnier than others; some of them are informational,” he said. Others are “so bad” that he does not want his name associated with them, hiding them under about five different pseudonyms.
For inspiration for new content, Nguyen looks to the news and to Internet trends.
“I’ve always been a part of Internet culture, but I think that now Internet culture is becoming more mainstream,” Nguyen says of his penchant for adapting Internet trends to Stanford-specific phenomena.
Nguyen is the creator of the popular MemeChu Facebook page of Stanford-themed memes, now run by him and six other students. His Stanford videos and the MemeChu page have involved a lot of collaboration to refine his ideas and create the content. Apparently, there is a lot of shit Stanford students say that hit the cutting room floor, as his initial script was eight minutes long, and his actors helped him choose the best two-and-a-half minutes of content. As far as other campus celebrities go, Nguyen turns to a co-collaborator on “Shit Stanford Students Say,” declaring: “[Senior] Mary Glen Fredrick is the funniest girl on campus.”
Nguyen believes his Internet fame has been a positive experience. He encourages people who recognize his meme-star face to approach him, especially if they can offer him a job. One of the most surprising things to Nguyen about this whole experience is that other people will ask for advice on their YouTube careers or for feedback on their comedy scripts.
“Like I have some sort of authority over them,” he laughs.
Nguyen might do one last video aimed at the Stanford community, but otherwise is trying to adapt his online career to target different audiences, especially women and “tweenies,” which he thinks are untapped, but viable, “money making hotspots.”
In less than two months, Nguyen will graduate with a co-term in sociology, a major in computer science and a minor in psychology. After graduation, he is headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career as a comedy writer and performer, with a long-term plan that includes becoming rich and famous, getting married and divorced, having three children and losing his house. But in the meantime, he’ll continue making videos, writing scripts and performing stand-up – all the while trying not starving or become homeless.