Legends of YouTube take the stage

The Try Guys translate their viral web presence to an electric show at the Beacon Theatre

| 05 Aug 2019 | 05:19

“We’re gonna turn this beautiful theater into a synagogue of fun!” Zach Kornfeld of YouTube comedy ensemble the Try Guys proclaimed from the stage of the Beacon Theatre on July 26th. As he said this, fans joined him on stage for a karaoke rendition of the Hannah Montana song “Best of Both Worlds.”

Kornfeld’s performance was the conclusion to his section of the Try Guys’ “Legends of the Internet” live show. In addition to performing as a quartet, with fellow Try Guys Keith Habersberger, Ned Fulmer and Eugene Lee Yang, each man took charge of an individual section, declaring themselves the “Legend of” a certain subject matter. Habersberger was the “Legend of Food,” Fulmer, the “Legend of Love,” Kornfeld, who was celebrating his 29th birthday onstage, the “Legend of Fun,” and Yang, the “Legend of Gay.”

The ensemble formed in 2014 as Habersberger, Fulmer, Kornfeld and Yang became popular personalities through the viral videos they appeared in for their then-employer BuzzFeed. The four left BuzzFeed in the spring of 2018 and began publishing videos through a new, independent YouTube channel.

In the year since, the Try Guys have gained over six million subscribers on the platform. They branched out from video production into podcasting with their weekly “TryPod” and published a comedic self-help book, “The Hidden Power of F*cking Up,” which reached No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list.

Despite the Try Guys’ online success, what form their live show would take was uncertain to fans. Their YouTube videos are typically based around the four men trying out a new hobby or learning a new skill, often over the course of days or even weeks, a format which doesn’t track well to a stage show. Rather than try to replicate their videos, the “Legends of the Internet” provided a new venue for the Try Guys to showcase their talents.

The Beacon Theatre experience began with the Try Guys taking to the stage in monochromatic costumes: Habersberger in blue, Fulmer in red, Kornfeld in green and Yang in purple. Amid smoke, fireworks and ear-splitting cheers, the quartet sang and danced their way through a brief history of the internet, from the 1969 creation of ARPANET, to the 2005 creation of YouTube, to the many viral videos spawned by that platform.

For Habersberger’s “Legend of Food” segment, he began with a PowerPoint-assisted comedic monologue about a food-related misadventure he had a decade prior: an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to persuade comedian Tim Meadows to have pizza with him, through posting incessantly on Meadows’ Facebook page.

Habersberger then broke into a song, inviting the listener to get pizza with him. Yang joined in, wearing a pizza-slice costume, while Fulmer and Kornfeld assisted, dressed as delivery boys in short shorts.

Moving on, Habersberger then tossed over 100 chicken tenders into the crowd, riffing off of his obsession with fried chicken and inviting the 2,600-strong crowd to take the opportunity to eat chicken with him. He then closed out his segment with a call for social media star and hitmaking pop producer DJ Khaled to join him for a pizza.

Fulmer, as the “Legend of Love,” took a less transgressive approach with his segment. Known as the family man of the Try Guys, Fulmer leaned into this reputation, showcasing photos of his wife of seven years, Ariel, and his infant son, Wes. Continuing the family theme, Fulmer, after a surprise appearance by his own father, invited father-child pairs onstage, challenging the dads to a dance competition. The prize: a free Try Guys T-shirt.

Kornfeld, following an audience singalong of “Happy Birthday,” started his “Legend of Fun” routine on an unexpected note. He delivered an almost existential monologue on the nature of life, and the forces in his life which have held him back from fun: clinical depression and chronic pain. After a moment of appearing dour, Kornfeld broke into a smile, and proclaimed his desire to enjoy himself nevertheless.

Finally, Yang came onto the stage to rapturous applause for his “Legend of Gay” segment. He spoke about the forces of bigotry which he faced growing up for being Korean American and gay (Yang publicly came out in a self-choreographed dance performance video posted to the Try Guys channel in commemeration of Pride Month in June.)

Yang’s performance ended up being a tribute to other gay legends, as he danced and lip-synced his way through music and quotations from gay icons of pop culture, from Judy Garland to Carly Rae Jepsen as well as LGBTQ activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Harvey Milk. At the climax of his performance, his fellow Try Guys joined him, wearing colorful wigs and waving a huge pride flag.

The Try Guys concluded the show with words of encouragement to the audience. “You’re all legends on your own journey,” Habersberger told the crowd. For a surprise encore, the four performers returned to the stage, uniting the crowd in singing “We’re All in This Together,” the closing number to “High School Musical.” In that moment, everyone was in it together, an impressive display of Internet fandom coalesced into a single, passionate audience.