“Hello internet.” As far as famous catchphrases go, the signature saying of UK comedian Daniel Howell is fairly banal. But for millions of avid YouTube users, to hear Howell say these words after a three-year absence from the platform was equivalent to seeing Radiohead perform “Creep”.
Howell made his return to YouTube in early May 2022, sharing an 85-minute video titled, “Why I Quit YouTube.” The sheer length of the video is a sufficient indicator of the sort of devoted fandom Howell commands.
Howell started uploading videos to YouTube around the turn of the 2010s. His channel, titled danisnotonfire, revolved around sketch comedy, goofy advice, and the occasional from-the-heart confessional.
Early on, Howell struck up a partnership with fellow bedroom YouTuber, Phil Lester (aka AmazingPhil), and the pair launched the self-consciously silly channel, DanAndPhilGAMES. Howell and Lester then successfully adapted their gag-heavy YouTube style to the live stage, conducting two world tours, 2015’s The Amazing Tour Is Not on Fire and 2018’s Interactive Introverts.
But prior to “Why I Quit YouTube”, Howell hadn’t posted a new video in nearly three years. His previous upload, “Basically I’m Gay”—in which he came out as gay and offered a scathing critique of heteronormativity—was itself preceded by a 15-month YouTube sabbatical.
There’s nothing ingratiating about Howell’s comeback video, either. “Why I Quit YouTube” is an ambivalent recap of Howell’s rise to YouTuber celebrity status and the subsequent souring of his relationship with the video streaming giant.
In it, Howell endorses YouTube as an insurgent threat to legacy media, and reflects on the empowering influence of YouTube’s founding motto, “Broadcast Yourself”. But he also discloses intimate details about the psychological woes experienced by popular YouTubers, and the Kafkaesque run-around he got from the company after being commissioned to create a scripted series for YouTube Originals (which was wound down in early 2022.)
YouTube isn’t the only target of Howell’s ire, mind you. In the course of the 85-minute video, he takes a swing at NFTs, corporate manipulation, Big Sugar, the imperative to “monetise your hobbies”, our current “influencer nightmare dimension”, and the manifold evils of late-stage capitalism.
Howell is now 31 years old and acutely aware of the looming threats to social cohesion and the subsistence of human life on earth. This dyad of existential dread forms the basis of Howell’s upcoming world tour, We’re All Doomed!
“I’m a big fan of opening my eyes, looking at a blank piece of paper and just screaming for 12 hours,” says Howell, who’s speaking to Variety Australia from his London home. “So, if I get to wake up and know that all I have to do is roll onto a stage and scream for two hours, I can live with that.”
Howell will launch We’re All Doomed! in the UK in September. He’ll then do a thorough run of dates around North America before reaching Australia and New Zealand in January 2023. For someone who’s spent much of his adult life either in front of a camera or behind a screen, Howell is surprisingly chipper about the prospect of spending close to six months on the road.
“Touring is one of my favourite things to do because it just gives me something to wake up in the morning and know what I’m actually doing with my life,” he says.
We’re All Doomed! is Howell’s first new live show since 2018’s Interactive Introverts, and his first tour since coming out as gay. “[Coming out] was something that I had to do for my personal life, but that had a huge affect on how I enjoy what I do,” says Howell.
He continues: “Even in 2018, everyone was having a great time on this tour, but I felt like I couldn’t really enjoy it. I couldn’t properly connect with the people that came to see my shows because I felt like there was this great lie that was building up this barrier between us.”
Now that he’s out, Howell is eager to engage with his audience in a more authentic way. “I really want to go out there and see the world as me,” he says. “Maybe I’ll experience having fun and enjoying life for the first time.”
It’s a bold aspiration given the subject matter covered in We’re All Doomed! But, like many comedians, Howell adheres to basic principle, better out than in.
“The whole point is, let’s just lay out everything on the table,” he says. “We all wake up in the morning, look at the news, have a bit of an internal panic, and then we all get dressed for work and pretend that everything’s normal while there’s rising sea levels and bees falling on the floor.
“But I feel like we all just need to have a moment of radical acceptance, where we just put everything out on the table and maybe make a few inappropriate jokes—I’m a big fan of humour as a coping mechanism.”
Daniel Howell – We’re All Doomed!
Australia and New Zealand tour 2023
Saturday 14 January
Riverside Theatre, Perth, WA
Tuesday 17 January
Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre, SA
Wednesday 18 January
Palais Theatre, Melbourne, VIC
Saturday 21 January
Darling Harbour Theatre, Sydney, NSW
Monday 23 January
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, QLD
Wednesday 25 January
Christchurch Town Hall, NZ
Thursday 26 January
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, NZ
Saturday 28 January
Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, Auckland, NZ