Joe Sugg may be one of YouTube’s biggest stars (and the brother of another – Zoella), but he still doesn’t see himself as a celebrity.
“You could probably ask any YouTuber in the UK if they’d class themselves as a celebrity, and I guarantee they’d all say no,” he tells BBC News.
“And I think that’s because we never knew it would get this big, we never knew it would become this scale, at all.
“If you’ve got someone who wants to be a singer and actor, they already know the pros and cons of that job, whereas we never knew we were getting into something this big, so it’s been harder for us to sort of deal with and go along with it.”
While he may be slightly embarrassed to admit it, Joe is one of countless YouTubers who have reached the big leagues of fame.
Earlier this year, he, Zoella and her boyfriend Alfie Deyes had to leave the launch of a pop-up shop in Covent Garden because the sheer number of fans that had turned up caused security concerns.
Joe’s own YouTube channel has more than eight million subscribers, who watch the 26-year-old do impressions, pranks and dares. His most popular video to date sees Zoella applying his make-up.
Today, Joe is speaking to the BBC at Forbidden Planet in London as he launches his new book Username: Uprising – the third in a trilogy of graphic novels (the first became the fastest-selling ever for a debut writer in the genre).
He talked to us about writing, vlogging, roof-thatching, and trying to perfect his Donald Trump impression.
1. Joe hasn’t written the book on his own
There was a bit of a palaver when Zoella released her debut novel Girl Online under her own name in 2014, only for it to emerge later that she had co-authored it with a ghostwriter.
Joe is avoiding any such issues by being open about the fact that he works with a team on his series of graphic novels, including a colourist and illustrator.
“I would’ve liked to have drawn it myself obviously, but time wise, because I’ve got so many projects going on, three channels to run, I knew it would be impossible, but the great thing with a graphic novel is that it’s a collaborative process,” he says.
“We’re all in contact, they’d send me over a few pages at a time and I’d go through and be like ‘This is great, but can we change this slightly, or change the expression on this face’, and it’s been great going back and forth and getting a feel of it being a team effort.”
2. He thinks it’s sensible for YouTubers to branch out of YouTube
“I think a lot of YouTubers will go into different avenues because I think that’s the smart thing to do – you can’t just rely on the one thing,” he says.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen to social media, it could be all shut down one day – not that it will I hope, but you never know.
“So I think it’s important to try out different things. So if you’ve ever had an interest or a hobby, like me with the graphic novels, explore that, see what you can do with it.”
3. He’s got his sister to thank for getting into vlogging
“Zoe started off as a blogger, didn’t want to be on camera – and that eventually turned into vlogging. I was aware of what she was doing at the time, but I was still working five days a week as a roof thatcher,” Joe explains.
“So she was starting to get bigger on YouTube and she showed me a lot of the male YouTubers, like Alfie [Deyes], Marcus [Butler], Jim [Chapman], and I’d watch them and think ‘This is the sort of stuff I can do, and have been doing throughout my childhood’.
“I appeared in one of Zoe’s videos, that was my entrance to YouTube, and the majority of the comments were saying ‘Joe should start his own channel’, and that for me was like, okay yeah, if they want it, I’ll do it.”
4. He has no plans to release an autobiography
YouTubers have been cranking out books almost as quickly as videos in recent years, many of them autobiographies – but Joe doesn’t have any plans to join them just yet.
“I would love to release a memoir at a later date. I don’t think it’s right for me yet,” he says.
“Although I’m 26 now, I just feel like I want to make the book thicker. But I can understand why a lot of YouTubers have done that – because we don’t have ordinary lives.”
He jokes: “I’ve got lots of fun stories to tell but I think I’ll wait it out, wait until I can grow facial hair, so could be quite a while off yet!”
5. He misses working as a roof thatcher
Joe’s YouTube channel – Thatcher Joe – isn’t a tribute to our former prime minister, but rather a reference to his pre-vlogging days as a roof thatcher.
“It was very much an arty job, making the ornate ridges, the patterns, I did genuinely love the job,” he says.
“It was such an important part of what I do now.
“There are a lot of YouTubers who have always thought ‘I want to be a YouTuber’, and they’ve gone into it and gotten carried away with that side of it, whereas because I’ve worked and know what it’s like to do a normal job…
“I don’t know what it is, but it kind of helps you keep it real, and know how good you’ve got it.”
6. Joe’s musical talents are no threat to Ed Sheeran
“A lot of my audience wanted me to sing, and I was like, why not give it a go – because you never know.
“But nobody heard it,” he laughs.
“Which is great; it’s been done and dusted, had a go, decided it’s not for me, moved on to the next thing.”
7. His impressions are both the most popular and most unpopular videos he does
One of Joe’s most popular series of videos is his impressions – usually of fictional characters from shows like Family Guy and Sesame Street.
“I like to think of ideas which can become a series,” he says.
“I think it’s really important to create structures and formats within my videos; things I can to return to later on.
“It’s almost like a safety net of having a string of ideas which have more longevity than just a one-off.”
But impressions are also some of the most difficult to get right, with Joe describing them as “my most criticised videos”.
“There’s always one saying ‘Oh that was a bit dodgy’. I never really get that much criticism on my videos, but on the impressions videos, you do get a lot of people that are like ‘That wasn’t as great as it could be’, because it’s something where they can compare it to something else.”
8. But there’s one impression he still hasn’t been able to perfect
“I really wanted to learn how to do Donald Trump properly, purely because of that space of time [when he was elected],” Joe says.
“I thought, there’s so much comedy you can get out of that, mastering people who are in the ‘now’, whoever’s got big exposure in the media at the moment, to learn them, but it takes time.
“By the time I’ve mastered them it’s like ‘Great, they’re irrelevant now’, so by the time I’ve mastered Donald Trump he won’t even be president anymore.”
Username: Uprising by Joe Sugg is out now