‘Good Mythical Morning’ Hosts Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal On Taking A “Televisual Approach To Internet Content”

When Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, more commonly known as Rhett & Link, began creating content for YouTube in 2011, they saw an opportunity to do things a little differently. They decided to approach user-generated content the same way you would approach a television show, rather than the usual vlogs that populated the website, and created a talk show called Good Morning Chia Lincoln. This was followed by Good Mythical Morning in 2012, which today has over 2,500 episodes and their YouTube channel has grown to 18.7 million subscribers. Now, Good Mythical Morning has entered the Emmy race this year with a submission in the Outstanding Short Form Comedy, Drama or Variety category.

Hosted by Rhett & Link, Good Mythical Morning is a YouTube morning talk show and variety series. Each episode, the pair explore new products and trends, eat unbelievable foods and even compete with celebrity guests in an assortment of original games. With such a long-running series, it’s important to continue to create new formats for episodes while maintaining repeatable games. While the duo take part in creating the formats, they prefer to be kept in the dark as to when they will be implemented so the “gameplay is completely authentic.”

More from Deadline

'Good Mythical Morning'
Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal, hosts of ‘Good Mythical Morning’

DEADLINE: How did Good Mythical Morning get started?

RHETT MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we actually started doing something back in 2011 called Good Morning Chia Lincoln, which was an experiment to see if we could make daily content. Most people were doing family vlogs or daily vlogs on the platform at the time, but we didn’t want to do that. We didn’t want to necessarily do something where we were documenting our life, but we were like, ‘How about just the two of us talking to each other for 10 to 15 minutes every day?’ So, we did that in 2011 and we called it Good Morning Chia Lincoln, because we had a Chia Pet Abraham Lincoln that sat in between us on the table and we said, “We’re going to do this show for as long as this Chia Pet is alive,” which turns out is only about 40 days or so.

LINK NEAL: And it was the two of us sitting behind one table. We didn’t do what everybody else was doing, we thought of it as a show and we formatted it as a show. It had the same format every single day and it was released every single weekday at the exact same time. So, even though no one else was really approaching internet content as if it were a television show, we did that. But then the way that we interacted with our audience was more community focused, in a way that you can only have on the internet. So, when we launched Good Mythical Morning, we built on that approach, which I’ll call a televisual approach to internet content.

'Good Mythical Morning'
Rhett McLaughlin, Jay Pharoah and Link Neal on ‘Good Mythical Morning’

DEADLINE: What are some of the biggest ways the show has changed, as you’ve been growing your brand while also doing Good Mythical Morning?

NEAL: A big way is that the team behind all of our productions has expanded from just one employee to a hundred employees. The success of Good Mythical Morning allowed us to expand and hire and build a production apparatus behind the scenes to continue to make the show bigger, better, higher quality, which allowed us to focus on what we do best, by bringing in other people who can make it a better show.

MCLAUGHLIN: Ultimately, I think the one way to explain that change is the show over the course of its life has gone from being produced like a small, independent, almost user-generated content show to something that, if you were to walk into our studio, see the stage, see all the teams that are working on it, you would be like, ‘Oh, this is a TV show. This is a TV production.’ That’s always surprising for people who come and don’t know exactly what we do and are just seeing the studio for the first time. They’re like, ‘This is a TV studio, this is not somebody making YouTube videos.’ But that’s exactly our intention, to make television for YouTube. In many ways, we’re doing it like a TV studio in that it is very reliable programming that goes up on the internet at the same time every single weekday and is always on schedule. You can depend on it, and it’s pretty much year-round. It’s not like a typical YouTube upload schedule, which is whenever the video’s done, it gets posted. We see it as something you can incorporate in your life and depend on, in the way that people could depend on their favorite TV shows in history.

DEADLINE: What is your writing process for coming up with new episode ideas?

NEAL: We’re developing formats for every episode that are potentially repeatable, so that we can go back to it. So, we have a monthly meeting with our writers and producers to pitch ideas to us. We craft them in the room and we call it the “New Ideas Only” meeting because we’re always committed to trying new things and expanding what our audience can experience within the format of Good Mythical Morning. And then they’ll just bring the other established formats back on a regular cadence with little input from us at all. So, once we’ve broken a new format, then it’ll pop back up and we’re just like, ‘Okay, yeah, we’re doing that again. Let us know.’ There’s a certain level of surprise that we maintain as hosts of the show, so that our reactions and our gameplay is completely authentic. And then as executive producers of the show, we’re continuing to hone the overall trajectory, but again, we’re leaning on the talents of our team to make every aspect of the show better, whether it’s the concept of the episode or the set pieces that are built for each one and everything in between. You name it.

DEADLINE: Do you have any formats that are personal favorites?

MCLAUGHLIN: I think our favorites are the ones that the fans end up finding are their favorites. A formula that has ended up working really well is somehow incorporating food, but also incorporating a competition. One of our most popular series is when we taste different international dishes from around the world, and then you guess where the dishes are from by throwing darts at a map, and I don’t know how many episodes of that we have done by this point, but we love the way that works together for comedy, and we ended up repeating that formula in different ways. We’ve combined food and axe throwing, food and miniature golf, and most recently something that’s really worked is combining food and cornhole. Oh, we’ve also done shuffleboard. So, there’s something about being able to see two guys playing a game that they might have some familiarity with, but also eating or judging food at the same time. It’s a formula that we keep going back to.

'Good Mythical Morning'
‘Good Mythical Morning’

NEAL: I think it has all of the touch points of a Good Mythical Morning experience. It’s got the comradery of our friendship, which we’re about to celebrate 40 years of friendship in the fall. It also has competition. It’s got a physicality to it, and you’re learning something. You’re learning about dishes all around the world, and you’re seeing us eat things, so people are into that.

DEADLINE: What are some of the biggest challenges of making Good Mythical Morning?

MCLAUGHLIN: Well, sometimes it’s legitimately a challenge to eat something that might not be particularly advisable to eat. We don’t do as much of this as we used to, but some of the biggest episodes we’ve ever had are eating the world’s hottest pepper, which we don’t advise and we don’t want to do again. Eating spiders, or worms, or making a cheesecake that is flavored with beef bile… There’s a lot of things, anything involving the internal organs of an animal, we have not found a way to enjoy that, even though people seem to enjoy us trying to enjoy it. I mean, that’s like a legitimate challenge of trying to get through an episode.

NEAL: I think a challenge, on a different plane of entertainment existence, is helping people understand that Good Mythical Morning should be a part of the conversation with traditional television shows. If you measure Good Mythical Morning in the same way that you measure television shows, using Live+7 view data, and you compare us in the 18 to 34 range, we have a greater viewership than all of the late-night show hosts combined. I think that there’s a challenge of helping people understand that we have this experience, this show that lives on YouTube that you can pull up on your TV as easily as you can anything else now, with the YouTube app being right next to all the other streamers. People can enter our world as easily as any other television show and have a rewarding experience that arguably has even more of a connection and more of an established community that’s built around it, one that’s very welcoming… and when you do discover Good Mythical Morning, it’s like discovering a musical artist that you love and then you realize they have 10 albums. We’ve got over 2500 episodes, over a decade worth of the show and it’s all available at all times.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.