I’m in a Burbank studio filled with boxes of T-shirts, because Hannah Hart, the YouTube (s GOOG) star who first rose to fame with her celebrated My Drunk Kitchen series, has been taking a break from every creator’s favorite part of the crowd-funding experience — packaging up the perks — for an interview.
But our interview is now technically over, and even though Hart’s arm is in a sling from a dance contest-related injury, she’s right back at work.
“You want to stay and help?” she asks, and moments later I find myself affixing return address labels to envelopes, passing them down the assembly line to be stuffed with t-shirts.
Like at least 10,300 people before me, I’ve just discovered, it’s hard to say no to Hart.
The T-shirts, thank you notes and “E-Polygamy Certificates” we’re packaging up are bound for those who helped Hart raise over $222,000 on Indiegogo for an international tour bringing her face to face with the fans.
Beginning this April, Hart and a two-to-three person production crew will board an RV and begin traveling from Los Angeles to Canada, cooking in the kitchens of strangers, volunteering at food banks and in general spreading the Hart brand from coast to coast.
The inspiration for the tour, Hart says, came directly from the audience: “Ever since My Drunk Kitchen started, the community of ‘Hartosexuals’ — the audience, fans of the show — have said, ‘oh, I want you to come and cook in my kitchen, dude!’ Or, ‘you should do a travel show — I’d watch you do Anthony Bourdain any time!’.”
While that audience might have come as a result of Hart’s breakout work as the star of her series My Drunk Kitchen, this is not the My Drunk Kitchen Tour — instead, all information can be found at HelloHarto.com. That’s because this is the second phase of Hart’s web video journey.
The first phase began in 2011, when Hart got drunk at home one night and made a grilled cheese sandwich; the funny free spirit cooking sauces while sauced quickly grew a fanbase and was picked up by The Collective for representation.
But while My Drunk Kitchen has been a web hit, it has never had sponsorship, for one specific reason according to Hart: The word drunk, which scares off potential brands.
While MDK is only one part of Hart’s current YouTube output, it’s still the show she’s known best for — hence the new emphasis on the Harto brand. “The dedicated community who watches the the channel — they are the ones who know that it’s a Harto channel. The outside world thinks it’s a My Drunk Kitchen channel,” Hart says.
How do you go about this sort of rebranding? “Slow and steady wins the race,” she says. “I’m doing an entire tour around the world called Hello Harto.”
In recent months, Hart has spearheaded volunteer efforts at Los Angeles local food banks, bringing in fans to help organizations like the Los Angeles Food Bank. It’s something she wants to continue on the tour — however, thanks to the “D-word,” they’ve even had difficulties finding food banks to work with.
But during my initial interview with Hart, the production team finds out that the food bank network Feeding America has agreed to make introductions to local food banks along their tour stops — but with the stipulation, according to tour producer Pearl Wible, that Hello Harto and My Drunk Kitchen are separate entities.
“That makes it so much easier for us, because instead of having to explain to all these separate people what we’re about, we can work with organizations that will hoepfully be excited to work with us,” Hart said.
The Hello Harto tour is a clear turning point for Hart and her online presence. Hart says that while “My Drunk Kitchen will always be My Drunk Kitchen. It’s a funny joke,” the Harto brand is much bigger than that.
“Does this mean that in two years, My Drunk Kitchen will be a footnote on your Wikipedia page?” I ask.
“Absolutely,” Hart says, certain. “100 percent.”