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The Next Big Thing? Interview: Dan Howell (danisnotonfire)

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Dan Howell is a London-based, 21-year-old YouTube vlogger. When watching his videos, you can't help but like him. And it seems like lots of people feel this way; Dan has 115,000 Facebook likes and 211,000 Twitter followers. What's more, his YouTube channel - Danisnotonfire - has nearly 600,000 subscribers from around the world and his video creations have been viewed an astounding 45 million times.

And it looks like he's set for big things, including being the new presenter for BBC Radio 1's Request Show from January 2013. Find out about his views about life on YouTube, Delia Smith and dating fans...

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In this exact moment, what's the first word that comes into your head?
Spatula. I'm not sure why. I suppose it's quite a beautiful word in many ways.

What was it that made you launch your own YouTube channel in the first place?
I decided to start making YouTube videos having watched other YouTubers for nearly three years. I felt like I wanted to do something creative and join in this community!

Who is your audience primarily? And where in the world are they watching you from?
Like with everybody on YouTube my audience is mainly 14-25 year olds, mostly teenagers, with about a 40/40% split between the U.K and America! But I have tens of thousands of followers all across the world from Australia, to Sweden, to the one person (who according to my analytics) watched my last video from Sierra Leone.

Which of your videos did you most enjoy creating and why?
All my collaborative videos were great fun to film! But I have to say technically 'Innuendo Bingo' was the most fun to "make" and 'Sexy Internet Dating' because I was crying laughing for about two hours while filming it. 'What not to do at the Cinema' is what I always say is an example of perfectly executing an idea I had though! That's a good'n.

Do you get recognised in the street?
Quite often yes! When I lived in Manchester it happened a lot because so many people hang out in the town centre, but it has happened in the strangest situations like airports in India, walking a friend's dog and even at crazy golf in Florida. It's really nice bumping into people though, as it gives me a little positivity boost and puts a face to the YouTube comments. Then they go home and upload the photos they took, where I'm usually doing something weird with my face...

Would you / have you ever gone on a date with one of your fans?
Haha, hmm. I have not yet and generally speaking probably wouldn't. I mean on one hand, who's to say I won't bump into a girl in Starbucks who watches my videos that ends up being my wife - but the idea of 'dating a fan' sounds like a creepy 50 year old rock star stroking his groupies, which I'm not really into.

What's the best thing about living with co-YouTuber AmazingPhil?
The best is that perhaps no-one other than another YouTuber would understand your strange needs, activities and horrific sleeping schedules (trust me I tried to do YouTube in University Halls). If I walked past his bedroom at 3am wearing a Robert Pattinson face-mask, then it'd just be another Tuesday (as opposed to calling the police).

And the worst?
The worst is that he always loses the front door keys and watches The X Factor.

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Dan recently used his legion of fans to win Supernote 2012 - a YouTube competition to hold the longest cumulative 'SuperNote'

Why do you think people (in their bucket loads) want to watch aspects of your life?
Vloggers on YouTube are in the business of personality. They may prefer me over some people due to my specific sense of humour and the style of my videos, but it's nice to think that it's because people are just interested in me as a person and they enjoy listening to my stories and opinions!

Do you think that Danisnotonfire has given you any advantages in your life?
Definitely. On one hand, I was still growing up as I've been making videos so it is hard to say whether YouTube has changed me or if I've just grown with age, but in terms of finance, skills and career, it's completely changed my life! Prior to YouTube success I was studying Law at the University of Manchester and would probably have been an unhappy solicitor for three years before having an emotional breakdown. YouTube is now my full-time job and has opened the doors to things like BBC Radio 1 and TV and has given me the freedom to do what I want with my life. My future looks very exciting, and I have YouTube and my amazing followers to thank for that.

A BBC Radio 1 presenter? Wow. What do you think will be the best thing about that?
Mainly trying something new! I have done presenter-type work before but never regularly for something I have a lot of creative input on. So I think it'll be fantastic. That and the fact I will be broadcasting myself to an almost completely difference audience to my YouTube channel, which is exciting.

You see Delia Smith in a shopping aisle. What do you do? (Howell has something of an ongoing fixation with the cookery pin-up)
Firstly walk past casually and see if she recognises me in any way. If yes, dive into the nearest pile of bananas before her security assassinate me for corrupting her online meta-data. If not, introduce myself and ask if she would like to be a guest on my Christmas BBC Radio 1 show as it would be the best moment of my life.

In 10 words or less, what message do you have for your fans?
You only live once, so make it a happy one.

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'The Next Big Thing?' is a series of blogs that focuses on small businesses, start-up brands and talented people in the UK.