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The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

McHenry High School's student-written and -edited newspaper

The McHenry Messenger

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Friendship always wins

This summer, Smosh, a duo that defined the early era of YouTube, had an unexpected reunion
Lan Bui / Wikimedia Commons
Comedians Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla pose for the Streamy Awards in 2010. After 12 years, the Smosh brand is back in Hecox and Padilla’s hands

This summer, those of us who grew up in the internet age were treated to an early YouTube nostalgia trip when Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla from Smosh had an unexpected reunion, and announced that they had bought back the brand they created that defined the beginning era of YouTube. 

Smosh, which began as a sketch comedy channel and evolved into a multi-channel content factory, had not been in the creator’s hands since 2011 when they sold the YouTube channel and the Smosh brand.  

Anthony had not been involved in the project since a falling out with the company in June of 2017. With his return, reconciliation with Ian, and their subsequent acquisition of the brand, the two have done a lot of looking back. It is a long and complex story worth a brief retelling so we can understand this example of how complicated life can be, and how people and friends can change. 

Smosh started as a website created by Anthony on November 10, 2002, while he was in high school. While it began as a glorified chatroom for him and his friends, when he and longtime friend Ian released a lip sync video to the Pokemon theme song in 2005, it would be reposted on a brand new website called YouTube. The two saw how many views it got, and decided to move the brand to YouTube, and start posting their videos there. 

Over the next six years, a channel that began as two friends goofing off evolved into a homespun sketch comedy channel, which had been the most subscribed-to channel multiple times in YouTube’s early history. 

The content (some would criticize it as being juvenile) was a perfect symbol of a generation’s sense of humor. With the growth of the channel, digital media company Defy Media sought a deal with the pair of creators hoping to purchase the brand to produce its videos under their banner, and for almost no money, promising that the two would make their money back in stock. 

However, over the years, the promised money began to get less and less realistic. The production grew with new channels, new cast members, and a general increase in production value, but the writing of the sketches began to be overshadowed by Smosh’s other channels like “Smosh Pit,” focused on videos about the cast members playing games, interacting with one another, etc. 

Along with the dissolution of the thing that made Smosh what it was, Ian’s and Anthony’s friendship also began to deteriorate. Anthony himself, in a recent video where the pair sat down and analyzed their past, said that he felt there was some level of resentment from Ian, and also felt the two only ever spoke about work. The job had consumed the friendship that the brand was built on. 

Anthony would have a very public departure from the brand in June of 2017, citing lack of creative freedom, but in reality, tensions between Ian and Anthony pushed the decision more than anything. That would not be the worst of it either, as in 2018, Defy media went bankrupt and without warning, completely shut down. This could have spelled the end for Smosh. 

Without financial support, they could not pay their cast or crew, and without one of its founders, the brand began to sink. Thankfully, the brand would be saved when it was purchased by another iconic internet duo, Rhett and Link of Mythical Entertainment. 

With the brand now under the ownership of two people who made their names on YouTube, Rhett and Link displayed a level of understanding Defy never had. With that, Smosh began a golden era. Fans were coming back, Smosh was regaining popularity. However, a part of it was still missing. 

Ian and Anthony would sit down and talk for the first time in years through a mutual friend. As they began to get closer, Ian recalls, the two had a conversation where they mutually expressed that they wanted to buy back the brand they had created so long ago. Rhett and Link were ecstatic and entirely willing to cut a deal with the pair. After significant emotional repair, maturing, difficult conversations and closing a deal with Mythical Entertainment, Smosh announced their reunion with a video posted on June 20, 2023.  

This serves as an example of how complicated life and friendship can be. Two people who met in high school became roommates, business partners, estranged friends, now co-owners and most importantly; best friends once again. 

Smosh’s story serves as a reminder to the young adults that grew up with them that no matter how hard or how complex the world gets, it is always important to keep the people that matter close. Life can sometimes get in the way, but you can always come back around. 

Since their reunion, the pair has released multiple videos on both “Smosh” and “Smosh Pit” discussing their split, what has happened in the past few years and even diving into a letter Anthony had written to Ian, but never sent soon after leaving the company. It has been an emotional ride, but the two are back to making sketch comedy and receiving more views than they have in years to the delight of fans.

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