'A Vine-shaped hole in my heart': How Danny Gonzalez's time on Vine helped him grow a following on YouTube

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Gonzalez has more than 5 million YouTube subscribers. He lovingly calls the group “Greg."

This profile is part of NBC News’ series about former Vine stars, tied to the fifth anniversary of the platform’s death.

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When he was a kid, Danny Gonzalez found that YouTube offered him and his group of friends a place to unleash their creativity. 

Gonzalez, 27, said that right as the platform was taking off, in the mid-2000s, he and his friends started making sketch comedies on a variety of channels.

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But when he went to college, he and his friends went their separate ways, and he subsequently felt like he had lost that creative outlet, he said.

That is, until he was introduced to Vine.

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At first, he was skeptical. A friend showed him the app during his sophomore year studying computational media at Georgia Tech. His initial reaction: “This app looks really dumb, and I don’t like any of the videos on it.”

Then, months later, he saw that his favorite comedian, Bo Burnham, had posted on Vine. “So that’s when I started making Vines,” he said. “I was like, ‘I want to be like Bo Burnham when I grow up.’”

Gonzalez said his earliest Vines, posted from late 2013 into early 2014, were just his attempts to make punny videos, a kind of imitation of the videos Burnham was making at the time. But then his comedy began evolving “in waves,” he said. 

“I realized there was nobody doing special effects Vines,” Gonzalez said, adding that the app initially didn’t allow users to upload videos — which he’d figured out how to get around. “I think I was one of the only people who knew how to do that.” 

He began making green screen videos, putting himself into things like music videos, which began to grow his popularity. He recalled that one of his most viral videos, which doesn’t include his face, was an edit of scenes from the film “Jurassic Park,” in which he’d edited shoes onto the dinosaurs while a digital voice sang “What are those?” to the film’s theme music. 

“It’s my most popular Vine, and a lot of people don’t know I made it,” he said. 

Gonzalez said it was after that phase that he really began to find himself. He posted what he felt was funny, rather than try to be someone else. 

So when Vine shuttered, his initial reaction was sadness, but also fear. In 2016, the year Twitter, which owned Vine, announced that it was closing the app, Gonzalez had graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles to join a contingent of Viners who were thriving as influencers and successful content creators. 

When I heard Vine was ending, I was like: ‘Oh, shoot. I don’t know how I’m going to make this social media thing happen anymore.’

— Danny Gonzalez

“When I heard Vine was ending, I was like: ‘Oh, shoot. I don’t know how I’m going to make this social media thing happen anymore,’” Gonzalez said. “I might just be some  guy with a job in L.A., which is really not where I want to live if I’m not going to do social media.”

He took Vine’s shutdown as a sign that he should return to his first creative outlet, YouTube. After a year of experimenting with his channel, he quit his day job in April 2018 and began doing YouTube full time. Today, he has a following of more than 5 million subscribers, a group he lovingly refers to as “Greg.”

“I thought people would think it was weird if I opened every video just being like, “Hey, what’s up, Greg?’ as if I was making my videos for one person,” Gonzalez said. “Through that joke, people feel more invested in my videos or feel like more of a community because I’ve put a name on it”

That sense of community spurred Gonzalez to further cultivate the community around his channel.

“People like being a Greg,” he said. “And I like being a Greg.”

Like that of his friend and occasional collaborator Drew Gooden, a former Vine star-turned-YouTuber, Gonzalez’s channel is categorized as part of the commentary genre, where he talks about movies, television, internet culture and more. 

Gonzalez and Gooden have become so close and their styles so similar that their fans pretend to mistake them for each other, leading the pair to later launch a tour called “We Are Not the Same Person.”

The growth of the community Gonzalez has found on YouTube, launched from his days on Vine, has been surreal, he said. But he’s nostalgic for the atmosphere on Vine, where it felt like every creator knew one another. He said platforms today, like TikTok and YouTube, feel less tight-knit than the 6-second platform. 

So when he looks back on Vine’s end five years on, he said, he feels a hefty amount of gratitude. 

“There’s definitely a Vine-shaped hole in my heart and probably always will be,” he said.

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