Texas summers are brutal. It’s a sizzling Saturday afternoon in July, and somewhat irresponsibly, I’m standing outside with My Drunk Kitchen creator and star Hannah Hart. The view from the second-floor balcony we’re standing on affords us a pleasant view of the hazy and lethargic downtown streets below, but it can’t distract either of us from the oppressive heat. The breeze is more punishing than refreshing, the air roasting our lungs with every breath.
Despite the imminent heat stroke, it’s a nice respite from the moist, sweltering assembly inside the Austin Convention Center. 5,000 people are crammed inside for the Rooster Teeth Expo, and it feels like most of them are jammed up against the wide glass facade to look out at us. Texas prescribes a healthy diet of barbecue and margaritas to fight the heat, but nary a smoked rib or salt-rimmed glass was in sight. They were all there for her.
And why was she there? Why for the fans, of course.
If there was ever any question as to whether or not Hart loves her fans (which she affectionately refers to as Hartosexuals), you can look beyond the standing around in 100-degree Texas heat and the getting drunk for videos and find a longstanding unrealized dream of hers: Hello, Harto. Hello, Harto is a tour that will take the popular YouTuber across the world to visit her fans and do good for—and with—them and, of course, get drunk.
The idea for the tour has been rolling around Hart’s head for quite some time. Since she began as “just me and my laptop” in her sister’s darkened New York apartment, fans have been clamoring for her presence all over the country. Though no longer just her and her laptop (she has an iMac now), people ask for Hart all the same, but you know, louder and more frequently.
During our chat last week, Hart said, “Ever since My Drunk Kitchen started, people wanted me to do it in their kitchens, obviously, and also to do it across America’s kitchens.” But it wasn’t as simple as getting up and just going. “I was a person who was a little girl traveling solo, so obviously I was not comfortable with the idea of going around to strangers and traveling across America by myself.”
It wasn’t, however, about her fans; though she’s never met most of them, the trust and the community is inherently there. “I consider my Hartosexuals to be really just topnotch people, you know? So it’s not that I don’t trust them, it’s just that it’s not safe,” she said. So then the question becomes how do you make it happen?
Serendipity. Well, serendipity in the form of a woman named Pearl Wible. After moving to Los Angeles last year, Hart found a roommate in Wible. What she also found, as it turns out, was not just a partner in crime but the last necessary ingredient to her dream: an impetus.
“I met my roommate who I later found out to be an incredible director and an incredible producer,” said Hart. “I kept talking to her about my dream to do this, and I kept telling her about how hard it was to find money and all these things, and she’s like, ‘You know, I’ve produced tours before.’” Hart, still hesitant, vacillated until Wible said, “Let’s do it! Let’s just do it!” And then, in Hart’s words, “we just did it.”
So starting this April, Hart, Wible, and their cameraman Sam will “get an RV, batten down an iMac into the center of the RV, and go on the road, and each of us is going to be editing and shooting and doing all this stuff, and we’re just gonna be like a little traveling production company.” The RV part, however, will have to change. That is, unless Robin Williams shows up to get it across the Atlantic.
As it turns out, those sweaty throngs of people in Austin weren’t the only Hartosexuals in the world. To fund this tour, Hart turned to IndieGoGo. She initially asked for a scant $50,000 to get her vision on the road, and after six hours of drinking and waiting (and running and screaming), her fans made it happen. Two days later, they would double that. As it stands now with just three days left, the Hello, Harto! IndieGoGo is over $188,000, and just as her funding has grown, so has Hart’s ambitions.
“It was gonna be $50,000 to do America, and we’re gonna do 10 to 12 cities in America,” said Hart, “but now that it’s blown up to [$150,000], we’re gonna do more cities in America, we’ve incorporated Canada, and we’ve incorporated Europe.” Since then, she’s also now included Australia and New Zealand and, contingent on hitting $200,000, Japan, the thought of which still makes Hart become both excitable and emotional. But who wouldn’t get a little teary-eyed knowing that 8,500 people want to help you make your dream a reality?
Those 10 to 12 cities (and more abroad) will be determined by a map. This map shows all the zip codes of the backers of the tour and the highest concentrations will earn that area a stop from Hello, Harto. This will include major metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Austin but also some surprises.
“Ohio is killing it! It’s so funny,” said Hart. “Me and Pearl keep making this joke that, ‘Ohio! Bringing it to the table!’” Finland is also on the table. One person is holding it down in Estonia and a soldier donated from Iraq. The tour will still be largely based on the biggest pockets of fans, but it will also hopefully include the smallest city in America and “some surprise cities where there’s two Hartosexuals, you know, in Wichita, Badookiedook!” You can be sure that wherever her fans are, Hart won’t be too far behind.
The problem, then, is what to do once they get to those cities, and that’s where Hartos come in. Hartos are little printouts of a smiling, anthropomorphic heart that fans will stick to whatever they want the tour to see. “That’s what I like to call doodlebombing,” said Hart. “I just love the idea of walking down a city or walking down a street in a town in America and seeing like a little Harto stuck on the side of a wall and being like, ‘OH MY GOD SOMEBODY THOUGHT I SHOULD GO HANG OUT AT THIS WALL!’” In that little way, Hart gets to connect with fans that might not be able to show up to her meetups.
Those that make it, though, will find that these aren’t the meetups they were expecting. Following her Have A Hart charity event in December, Hart will have her fans come do volunteer work with her all across the world. From food banks to dirty highways, hundreds if not thousands of My Drunk Kitchen fans will emerge from the Internet woodworks to do hours and hours of manual labor. Well, that and meet Hart.
Describing the past event, Hart said, “It was incredible and I really got to meet people and they really got to meet me, I guess, and we really got to do some good. So instead of doing meetups at bars and instead of doing performances, what would really make me feel happy—and like, we were doing something positive with this with all this potential energy—is that on the road, during the show, all of our meetups are going to be charity/volunteer event-based,” and that will be the touring aspect of the tour. That’s not to say, however, there won’t be drinking.
My Drunk Kitchen will continue as Hart and company travel the world. A fan will be selected at random for each tour stop and the tour will invade his or her kitchen for a “respectful culinary experience.” The schedule, per se, will be based on those three tenets of charity-based events, Harto-based landmarks, and alcohol-based depravity. “Let’s say if I spend three days in a city, I’ll spend one of those days completely shit-faced but the other two doing some good.”
It’s those three things that make Hello, Harto! unique. As a self-described child of the Internet, Hart is “all about new media being actualized in the realm of the living,” which is part of what drove her to the decision to crowd-fund the tour in the first place. Other YouTubers have done this before like Freddie Wong for Video Game High School and others for tours, but none have done it for this combination recording show and charity event.
The other part was not necessarily wanting to be sponsored by a corporate entity. Though having worked with a sponsor before and finding it a perfectly fine experience, it was more that this was an event for the fans, so she wanted it to borne from the fans as well. Not looking for a “Safeway presents Hello, Harto” or “Hello, Harto presented by Coca-Cola,” this allows fans to be involved from the ground up. With the fans being the most important part of this to her, Hart wants the feeling to be folded back into all those inebriated kitchen dwellers.
Sitting on my park bench, littered with wires running between my phone, my laptop, and my headphones, I ask Hart one more question: would you consider expanding your presence beyond My Drunk Things?
“It’s hard because—and I’m gonna tell you this really, really, really honestly—everybody says, you know, ‘What’s next? What are you gonna do next? Looking forward blah blah blah.’” I’m obviously not the first one to ask about her future plans. But then a sentimentality takes hold. “Between you and me, right now is pretty amazing,” Hart says, “and I want to be in right now for as long as I can.” And I don’t even really need to ask why.