YouTube Stars: How Fred, LDHS, Hotz and The Lonely Island Broke Out

Lana Turner was wearing a tight sweater and sitting at a drug store counter when a talent agent spotted her. These days, YouTube stars are getting discovered in a whole new way. Here’s the story about how Fred, LDHS, Hotz and The Lonely Island trio broke out of YouTube and hit the big time. Cover art by aNewDomain’s Viki Reed. — Hollywood legend Lana Turner was, as the story has it, wearing a tight sweater at the counter of a Schrafft’s Drug Store. A director discovered her and made her a star. The days of drug store celebrity discoveries are probably over, but now there’s a new kind of drug store counter for talent hunters. It’s YouTube. And bonafide stars are emerging. Here’s my list of the top four of major celebs you started out, in part, as YouTube stars.

FRED: I bet you know Fred. Born Lucas Cruikshank, the Nebraska teen in 2006 created a unique character — a 6-year-old boy with anger management issues and a digitized helium voice. He posted his series on a YouTube Channel he started with his cousins. It went viral in a spectacular way. As it turned out, Cruikshank was unable to get a YouTube Channel called ‘FRED,’ so he turned his nemesis into an enemy on his series. His channel was the first to hit the 1 million subscribers mark. And his digital fame translated into a a channel on Nickelodeon and a series franchise. Cruikshank eventually converted the Fred character into an older boy in the hit Nick sitcom, Marvin, Marvin. At this writing, the star is just 20-years-old.

Here’s an early version of the FRED series, an episode called Fred Goes Swimming. More than 59 million people have viewed it — and counting.

Video: YYouTube Fred Channel

Live from Daryl’s House: This singer made it big in the 1970s, but he’s been invisible for decades. No more. Hall converted his historic Upper NY state farm into a recording and TV studio; inviting new acts and old friends to jam on classic covers and their own tracks with a killer House Band. First streamed weekly onto his own TV-ready YouTube Channel, Daryl’s House is these days a hit on the HD music cabler Palladia, replete with behind the scenes industry gab and goofiness. Not incidentally, Halls’ recent solo album also nabbed decent airplay and downloads on Apple iTunes, too.

Here’s a video from LFDS featuring Jose Feliciano.

Video: LFDH on YouTube

The Lonely Island: This comic trio comprises Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Shaffer. Its breakout videos on YouTube generated so much noise that Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels took notice. And that changed everything. You can’t even watch it the classic Lazy Boy or Lazy Boy 2 on YouTube anymore from Lonely Island. It’s all copyrighted up via NBC.

Fusing hip-hop, gross- out and expert=level parody, The Lonely Island trio is responsible for the viral video, Lazy Day, plus edgier online hits like Junk in a Box and I’m on a Board. One of the trio, the comic Taccone, ended up as a recurring character on HBO’s “Girls” this season. hired him to fire-up a rap song in Nairobi, too. Schaffer is the go-to director on Samberg’s vanity projects and debuted as a solo director in 2012, for Night Watch. Check out the Lazy Day video that started it all, below.

Watch Lazy Boy on Hulu here. 

Kenny Hotz: He’s been comedy’s hot secret for a decade in the U.S. And in Canada he’s legend. Co-host and creator of one of the most rabidly — and illegally — reposted TV shows — Kenny vs. Spenny — he’s got a writing credit on South Park, too. Hotz found it hard to repeat his success. Hollywood attentiont cooled once the Kenny vs. Spenny series ended in 2010 . But Hotz hustled.His first YouTube Channel went Premium in 2012. Hotz addicts get exclusive content from his TV shows, personal life and wild ‘found’ viral videos. Recently his weekly stint on Sirius Radio has become the No. 1 radio show in Canada after just its first broadcast. Unless you’re up in Canada, his show is YouTube only. Here’s show one from season one, embedded below.

youtube discovery artt

Image: Viki Reed for