Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are giants of the internet, whether you know it or not. Hosting the weekday talk show Good Mythical Morning (or GMM) since the start of 2012, the North Carolina natives now have more than 13 million subscribers and average 100 million views a month. Coming to Australia for the first time this month, they’ve easily sold huge numbers of tickets at all three dates of their live show.
Considering that some of GMM’s most popular episodes involve food challenges and blind taste tests – which has seen the duo dig into crayon butter, gelato made from hair gel and birthday cake comprising lipstick and other makeup – they’re understandably keen to dive headfirst into Australia’s unique edible offerings. So do they have a list of food-related goals while here?
“That list is growing,” says McLaughlin. “We’ve had Tim Tams already, but I think having them on Australian soil will enhance the experience.” The pair are each bringing their families, so their Aussie debut will double as a proper holiday. They won’t be shooting anything while here, but they will post Instagram stories from the trip. And last year they devoted an entire episode to Aussie slang.
If McLaughlin and Neal’s fame seems unlikely from the outside, even a quick glimpse of their show immediately teases out their broad appeal.
Now based in Los Angeles, McLaughlin and Neal have been best friends since the first day of Grade 1, an origin story that’s recounted in both the live show and their 2017 book, Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality. The mythical theme comes the fact that the two were kept in from recess on the day they met – after scrawling profanities on their desks – and made to colour in pictures of otherworldly creatures. Fast-forward to today, when their millions of fans proudly call themselves “Mythical Beasts.”
Watch GMM‘s Rhett & Link try ice cream sandwich combinations
If McLaughlin and Neal’s fame seems unlikely from the outside, even a quick glimpse of their show immediately teases out their broad appeal. Though the self-proclaimed “Internetainers” slid through fish guts in one recent episode, their spontaneous banter and contagious laughter is just as important as their conceptual stunts and left-field food play.
“We’re adults, and we’re making a show that adults would find funny,” says McLaughlin. Both 40, he and Link grew up in families where a lot of value was placed on making each other laugh. “So it’s natural for us to do things that are accessible for the whole family,” he explains. “It happened unintentionally at first, but it’s become a real hallmark of our brand.”
Besides cutting across various ages, Good Mythical Morning translates surprisingly well across different countries and cultures. Part of that comes down to what McLaughlin calls “the universal access that people have with YouTube.” He contrasts it with their short-lived terrestrial TV show, Commercial Kings, which aired in the US in 2011 but couldn’t quite crack the global market.
Of course, when you’re eating a scorpion on the internet, that’s fairly universal. “We’ve all been there,” chimes in Neal, who’s famous for his decorative barf bucket on the show. “We’re doing things that are really relatable,” agrees McLaughlin. “Some of our most successful content is physical. Eating food, and not being able to eat it, is something that anybody can relate to.”
It helps that they don’t really touch on current affairs, which keeps the show evergreen. In fact, if you watch any of their 1300+ GMM episodes, the only clue to the specific year might be the opening sequence, which has evolved over time, or Link’s changing hairstyles, which have been closely watched by fans. The pair’s lifelong hair history also shows up in the book and live show, by the way.
“We chronicle our different hair journeys,” confirms Neal. “Our hairas.” The touring show touches on other aspects of their characteristically quirky book, as well as fan Q&A and live performances of their songs. That’s right: McLaughlin and Neal don’t just host GMM. Their entertainment company, Mythical, spans their own YouTube Red comedy series, Buddy System, plus the podcast Ear Biscuits and a deep bank of music videos based on their whimsical songwriting. Spinning catchy tunes out of everything of O.C.D. to brain freeze, their musical output has evolved from simple and folky to more polished electronic pop.
“At first we were writing songs to perform on a stage,” says Neal. “As we developed an audience online, we started to write songs with the videos in mind. The comedy itself [became] more visually oriented, so doing the stage show has actually reinvigorated our appetite to write more songs with the stage presence in mind.”
“We got our start with musical comedy,” adds McLaughlin, “and some of our first videos were based on songs we’d written, originally intended for a live audience. So we’re going back to our roots. That’s one of our favourite parts [of touring], and seems to go over really well.”
The Rhett & Link empire extends into a robust range of merchandise, which includes mugs and clothing emblazoned with GMM catchphrases like “Boiled for safety.” But it surprises the pair that one of their favourite mottos – “Dink it and sink it,” said while cheers-ing before trying some new food or drink combination – might make Aussies think of catching a ride on bicycle handlebars instead.
“That’s why no one in Australia is buying that mug,” cracks McLaughlin, as Neal joins him in a bonding laugh that’s been running, on and off, for around 35 years.
Rhett and Link come to Big Top Luna Park on Sunday, June 29. Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality is out now.