Comedians Rhett and Link, also known as Rhett McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln Neal III, have been ruling the internet for several years. The dynamic duo were in the business of making viral video before the world even knew about the concept. They’ve been together since childhood and have only grown stronger together, as clichéd as that may sound.
They’ve worked on several projects together such as Good Mythical Morning, Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings, Rhett & Link’s Buddy System, Ear Biscuits, and more. The pair particularly welcome risky situations, such as trying food that someone else may refuse to touch. As illustrated by Food & Wine, they know that food is universal and a topic that many YouTube viewers can relate to without much effort. "People interact with food at least three times a day, so if we can show them something they’ve never seen before (Like a deep-fried lemon) or taste something they would never dare try themselves (like a crayon ice cream sandwich), they perk up," they explained. In one of their episodes, Rhett and Link even bit into the deadly Carolina Reaper pepper, considered to be the hottest chili pepper in the world.
Here’s taking a look at the lives of the viral duo, including their surprising beginnings, their engineering backgrounds, their triumphs, and more.
Rhett and Link met in school
Rhett and Link’s association is an old one. As explained by CNET, their bond has held strong for over 30 years. They first met as first-graders in school, where they connected over their love for creating new things. Link explained that it surprises them today how despite the passage of time, they still end up cracking up over stuff together. Things are still the same, and they still amuse each other the way they did when they were children, when they experimented with cassette tapes and conducted mock interviews throughout school.
"We’re still doing that as guys in our 40s. It’s crazy, and I am so grateful that it resonates with people," Link said.
They didn’t have it easy, even as kids. Implying that there were times when the pair doubted themselves, they told LifeHacker that when it comes to advice, they wish they could have told their younger selves that things would work out. "In Steve Martin‘s book, Born Standing Up, he said he wishes he could have gone back to his younger self and said, ‘Everything is gonna be okay.’ We tell that to ourselves a lot," they revealed.
Rhett and Link started creating stuff together early on
As children, the pair began seriously working on creative projects together. They produced their first screenplay when they were just 14 years old. While they didn’t finish it back then, years later, when they were famous, they posted a reading of the screenplay on YouTube and asked their fans whether they should finish the project, which was called "Gutless Wonders."
Fans of the duo were actually impressed with their script despite the fact that it was something they wrote as children. A commentator wrote, "This sounds like the intro to an actual 80’s movie. They should finish writing the script and act it out and make it into an actual movie. I would watch it." When their viewers asked Rhett and Link to film it, they decided that it would be better for their fans to make their versions. Fans didn’t disappoint and came up with their versions and interpretations.
Rhett and Link were roommates in college
Rhett and Link both studied engineering at North Carolina State University. They decided to study engineering because they were good at math and science in high school (via NC State). In 2018, they came back to their alma mater and spoke to students. "Engineering is something worth investing in," Link said. Rhett agreed with him, saying that it made sense that his father asked him to focus on a practical degree like engineering before embarking on the career of his choice. Rhett wanted to go to film school, but his father wasn’t convinced. "Turns out, in a weird way, he [Rhett’s dad] was right," Rhett said.
Rhett ended up getting a degree in civil engineering, while Link pursued industrial engineering. In terms of how their education helped them later in life, Rhett explained that they approach their work as problems to solve. Basically, even though they’re in a creative field, they’ve not drastically changed their work ethic and still maintain a technical approach while coming up with creative ideas.
Rhett and Link worked apart for awhile
After getting their college degrees, Rhett and Link tried to give regular jobs a shot and did end up working separately for a few years. They tried to work in the corporate world, building their individual career paths before they realized entertainment was their true calling. Their YouTube channel was founded in 2006, when the duo spotted how popular the videos on their website were.
As Forbes put it, they had a relatively late start in the entertainment industry. Simply put, despite having the talent, the duo didn’t always know that they would end up pursuing entertainment full-time until later in life. The way they began their journey is intriguing — they basically shot a video of themselves "throwing a boulder off the wall of the Cherokee Dam" in Tennessee (via Business Insider). Well, they managed to achieve fame and success early on in their journey and had a solid branded deal in 2007.
Rhett and LInk eventually found success on YouTube with comedy
Despite being popular, Rhett and Link didn’t grow quickly but instead managed to climb the ladder little by little. It must be said that over the years, they surpassed their own expectations. The duo was believed to be making as much as $17.5 million every year, as of June 2020. Their Good Mythical Morning channel on YouTube has a whopping number of subscribers — 16.7 million at the time of writing. By the way, they have other channels on Youtube as well. Their total number of subscribers? Over 75 million.
"YouTube provided a way for us to reach a global audience beyond the friends/relatives we had forced to endure our shenanigans for so long," Rhett and Link told LifeHacker in 2018. They reiterated that they never had a big break and found little triumphs that helped them reach a point where they were able to run a profitable company, Mythical Entertainment.
They tried the most ludicrous ideas and went down an unconventional route, cold calling potential sponsors with ideas while constantly working on content ideas (via Business Insider). For example, one of their ideas involved a song about Cornhole, which featured their products. It clicked, and they were paid for their efforts. What helped the two, according to them, is the fact that they had families when they started on YouTube, which meant that they were strategic and responsible in the way they worked.
Their content is unusual
As a creative team, Rhett and Link have consistently pushed their limits instead of sticking to their comfort zone, a fact that has helped them immensely. For example, in 2016, they worked on a scripted television show called Rhett & Link’s Buddy System that saw the pair act in a bid to entertain their viewers. On the show, the two comedians play themselves and are put in a tough spot when a mutual ex-girlfriend gets her hands on Link’s lost phone. She uses the opportunity to her advantage and promotes her own products on the pair’s successful channel (via Variety).
"We wanted something that put all our ridiculous ideas in one place," Rhett explained, talking about what inspired their show. "The thing that would be most familiar to our fans would be something that revolved around two guys who have an internet show. And it’s not too far from the truth –- we dated the same girls," he added.
Furthermore, they’ve consistently challenged themselves while working on Good Mythical Morning, where the two pull off the strangest antics with panache. For example, Link got a strange hairstyle inspired by peanut butter in one of their videos. As a fan aptly put it, Rhett resembled a Ken doll with his peanut butter hair.
Rhett and Link are down to earth
Despite the fact that they’re celebrities in their own right, Rhett and Link are known to be kind, approachable, and friendly. This is what works to their benefit — they are relatable entertainers, and viewers can identify with them. They told The Wrap in an interview how this approach has helped their careers. "The vast majority of what we are doing is just unscripted stuff where we’re just being ourselves," Rhett said. "The sort of guiding principle is make something for yourself, and you’ll attract an audience that is like-minded and appreciates it."
The duo have also been transparent about roping in other key team players to avoid burnout and help their creative strategy, handing over the reins whenever necessary to keep their videos fresh and engaging (via Business Insider). They believe that they wouldn’t get this far if they didn’t have their team of reliable workers who understand and work with their vision. Doing this allows them to maintain a work-life balance without overwhelming themselves with the pressure that comes with creating viral videos on a daily basis.
Rhett and Link have worked on podcasts together
The versatile duo haven’t restricted themselves to a particular platform. They have a weekly podcast called Ear Biscuits, where they discuss random topics together. For example, in one of their recent podcasts, they wondered whether they’d be friends if they met as adults. Their podcast tackles eclectic topics such as pop culture, personal tales, and offbeat stories. As a description on their website reads, "Ear Biscuits is Rhett & Link’s weekly podcast where life long friends talk about life for a long time."
Rhett and Link have invited prominent personalities on their podcast like Grace Helbig, Julian Smith, Phillip DeFranco, Rainn Wilson, and PewDiePie. The podcast first made its debut in 2013 and managed to peak at No. 4 on the iTunes Charts in October 2013. They’ve also branched out to other projects and podcasts. For example, Good Mythical Crew The Podcast focuses on mythical stuff, as the name suggests. It’s hosted by the company’s senior producer, Chase Hilt, who often works with several crew members every month to come up with engaging conversations. They also have a podcast titled A Hot Dog Is a Sandwich that revolves around funny culinary dilemmas and is overseen by chef Josh Scherer and culinary producer Nicole Hendizadeh.
Rhett and Link also make music and write books
Staying true to their versatile personalities, Rhett and Link have written books together and also have an e-commerce setup in place for fans looking to purchase their merchandise, including hoodies, T-shirts, accessories, grooming products, and more. According to The New York Times, the pair’s first book, Rhett & Link’s Book of Mythicality: A Field Guild to Curiosity, Creativity and Tomfoolery, was released in 2017 and was embraced with open arms as the pair went on a sold-out book tour.
In 2019, the pair also pulled off a second tour, "Rhett and Link: Live in Concert," and performed songs like "First Comment Song" to laughter and widespread enthusiasm. They paid tribute to their time on YouTube with a bunch of other songs, such as "The Sunburn Song," "Middle School Girlfriend," and "Water Dispensing Tab Song." They also hosted a meet-and-greet session for their fans and spent time with them, posing for photos and interacting with them.
The duo listen to their viewers
As highlighted by Fast Company, Rhett and Link offer what they call "internetainment." Their offerings cannot be narrowed down to a single category, as they experiment with food challenges, comedy videos, skits, science experiments, fun anecdotes, and more. They also take their viewers seriously and pay attention to feedback, closely tracking comments instead of only putting up content that appeals to them.
Link explained, "It’s a discipline to comb through comments and find the collective wisdom of people who are impulsive, passive, sometimes negative, but there’s something there that you can always glean that can inform the next thing you do." Rhett added that they’ve learned and gotten better over the years by not getting psyched about a new idea until they consider everything they need to look at, such as the trends on the internet, their viewers’ preferences, and their personal likes and dislikes. "We find the intersection of all those things, and we put it out there but we make sure that it’s purposely not completely formulated so it will be informed by them," Rhett said.
They also try to avoid curbing their content to the extent that it starts seeming too orchestrated. For them, it’s vital to stay true to their roots and original voice in order to ensure that they don’t forget what made their videos tick in the first place, a factor that has probably played a major role in their sustained popularity over the years.
Rhett and Link have been controversial
Despite their popularity, Rhett and Link have courted their share of controversies. A notable example is their faith transition, which drew flak from several viewers. In fact, Rhett addressed this in his blog on Medium in March this year. He wrote that choosing to step away from Evangelical Christianity wasn’t a decision that they took lightly, and they knew that publicly discussing something so controversial and polarizing would be difficult. He further explained that their stories on their podcast have been increasingly personal, as they took on several tough topics like exploring parenthood, dealing with losing loved ones, and understanding the path to self-discovery.
"Given the fact that our Christian faith has played such an integral role not only in who we are today but also in what we do for a living, it was becoming somewhat unbearable (not to mention disingenuous) to keep it to ourselves," Rhett wrote before further exploring how the decision to step away from the church made him realize how marginalized communities are sometimes neglected or overlooked as they try to make their voices heard.
Several Reddit posts have cropped up about Rhett and Link’s controversial choice. A fan wrote about their own struggle when they heard about the pair’s transition. "It kind of felt like a dagger to the gut, and I don’t know why as I am going through my own spiritual questioning," they wrote before asking other viewers to weigh in with their thoughts and opinions on the subject.
Good Mythical Morning was tweaked for the pandemic
Rhett and Link, like other entertainers, were affected by the coronavirus pandemic and had to rethink their strategy as they worked on strategies to keep their show going. They figured out how to work together and brainstormed over producing content while being physically apart. In an interview with CNET, the duo explained how they continued working as they coped with the ups and downs of being isolated. One of the major things that they realized was that while helping out their kids with distance learning, it was important to find ways to stay afloat.
They also were grateful that they had pre-recorded videos that they could share with their viewers while staying isolated. As astute fans pointed on Reddit, the pair found ways to cope with the crisis. They also used the opportunity to talk about how the pandemic could potentially impact the world at large and the kind of changes that they were anticipating in their daily lives.