“The Try Guys” have taken YouTube by storm. Since leaving Buzzfeed and forming their own production company in June, the foursome, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer, Zach Kornfeld and Keith Habersberger, have garnered 4.2 million subscribers on their Youtube channel. They consistently get from around 3 to 6 million views on every video and often are trending on YouTube.
From attempting to diet like pregnant women to trying on cringe-worthy couples costumes, the group has stayed true to their name and continued to create goofy videos about trying new things since going out on their own. The creative freedom coming from having their own production company, run out of Fulmer’s old house, has resulted in the best videos they’ve ever done.
In mid October the Try Guys began a series that would combine their amusing personalities with a heavy topic: impaired and distracted driving. The series is composed of four videos on driving while being in various forms of impaired: drunk, high, sleepy and while texting. The videos were meant to be both entertaining and educational, showing viewers the real dangers of driving in these states in a relatable, honest way.
Many people expressed gratitude toward the group for being so transparent about their own unsafe driving habits and illustrating just how different driving becomes when impaired or distracted. For example, Try Guys subscriber Sew Briquet commented, “I really appreciated this portrayal of the flaws that come with being an over confident driver. I hope the roads become safer for all of us” on “The Try Guys Test Texting While Driving.”
However, the group has received some negative reactions to the series as well. A good portion of their viewership believed the four were too flippant when talking about their own hazardous driving habits. People conveyed concern about the safety of the men in the comments of the four videos. For instance, Jesse Strickler wrote on the “The Try Guys Test Drunk Driving”: “I’m worried about Eugene. I hope he’s not being as unsafe as it seems he is. The world needs his talent and style.” There were also harsh comments, with Ruskie Sloath writing, “Scummy piece of sh*t human being. Anyone who can still be a fan of him after that shares a little bit of that garbage in common with him,” on the same video.
The group received the most backlash on the last video of the series, “The Try Guys Test Texting While Driving.” Due to the barrage of displeased comments, the Try Guys pinned their own comment addressing people’s concerns to the video. Kornfeld, who had been the target of most of the pushback for his texting and driving habits, responded on the YouTube channel and also posted on his Twitter.
Usually I let our videos speak for themselves but seeing a lot of this so I want to clear one thing up.
Our texting and driving habits were exaggerated for the sake of the video, to show examples of real behaviors out there. I see people texting and driving every. single. day.
— Zach Kornfeld (@korndiddy) October 27, 2018
The multiple-paragraph note states, “[Our] texting while driving habits were exaggerated for the sake of this video to demonstrate examples of real behaviors out there… We often lean into elements of our character/personality as a way to represent different types of people. In doing so, we also leaned into the edit to make our real life habits look as dangerous as possible to underscore our message. In hindsight, we now see how poorly we come off, especially me, and for that we apologize. It’s a tricky line to make these videos both fun and serious, and at times we come off as callous and reckless during this one… I hope what you watched disgusts you and that you and your friends never do it. But for those upset that I haven’t learned my lesson, please know that is not the case.”
I actively follow the Try Guys and had watched every single one of these videos when they came out. When I initially saw them, no red flags were raised for me about the group’s attitude or portrayal of their personal driving habits. After I saw Kornfeld’s Twitter post, I decided to re-evaluate my first impressions and watch the videos one more time to determine what were the positives and negatives of the series as a whole
“The Try Guys Test Drunk Driving”
In this video along with the other three, the men navigate a closed driving course at Irwindale Speedway in California. This course mimics various driving obstacles including winding roads, stop signs at four-way intersections, hairpin turns, narrow lanes, parallel parking and unexpected things in the road. They first drive the course sober to establish a control.
Each Try Guy recorded a reasonable time and hit very little cones. The group then proceeds to (safely) get drunk while recording the amount of drinks they consume. Yang and Kornfeld cited driving drunk multiple times in the past, with Yang being a repeat offender. Each person drove differently on the course while drunk: Fulmer was aggressive, Yang overconfident, Habersberger slow and Kornfeld sloppy.
The video was chock-full of information on the dangers of drinking and driving. It featured a lot of commentary from both a doctor, Dr. Damon Raskin, and a traffic cop, Detective Bill Bustos, who make appearances in each of the series’ videos. There were also graphics containing various statistics about drinking and driving, such as “One person was killed in a drunk-driving crash every 50 minutes in the U.S. in 2018.”
In the conclusion of the video, the Try Guys reflected on how much their driving was affected by drinking and just how unsafe drunk driving is, not only for themselves but for those around them. Yang in particular seemed extremely shaken at how bad his driving became, backtracking from his previous comments on feeling sure of himself when driving drunk. He talks about how he needs to address his own bad habits when it comes to drunk driving and how this video helped him realize just how serious it is.
While at first, I was shocked at how forthright the Try Guys were about how often they had driven drunk, by the end of the video I was able to appreciate such honesty. Instead of making a video that simply lectured others on how terrible they are if they drive drunk, the men told the truth about their own actions.
Drinking and driving is an all too common practice. I believe the video served to capture both the unfortunate reality and the extreme danger of it. By being frank about their own faults, I think the Try Guys forced their viewers to take a hard look at the epidemic of drunk driving in the U.S. and maybe even their own habits. It will take a lot of hard work to change the culture of drunk driving in the U.S. from drivers driving if they “feel sober enough” to not even taking the risk. I believe acknowledgement of its normalcy is one of the first steps, and I appreciate the Try Guys doing so.
“The Try Guys Try High Driving”
In the second video of the series, the men drive after smoking marijuana, which is legal recreationally in California where they all reside and film. While Yang and Fulmer smoke very rarely, Habersberger and Kornfeld do so more regularly. The latter duo also express having driven high multiple times in the past.
With marijuana becoming legal recreationally in some states only in recent years, there are few studies on how it affects driving. All four of the Try Guys drove slowly and confusedly while under the influence of marijuana. The men stress the hazards that come with driving high in the closing of the video, mentioning it can be just as treacherous as driving drunk.
This video was fairly straightforward, and I did not feel particularly shocked, but rather informed as I previously knew very little about the dangers of driving high. This video received few negative reactions in the comments section, which I believe to be largely attributed to the lack of conversation on the serious risks of driving high in comparison to doing so drunk.
“The Try Guys Test Sleep-Deprived Driving”
In this episode, the Try Guys tackle the driving course after staying up for 36 hours.
This video was different from the rest since driving sleep-deprived for the most part is legal in the U.S. New Jersey is an exception, where under “Maggie’s Law” a driver who has not slept in 24 hours is considered to be reckless and is treated in the same class as an intoxicated driver. Ultimately, the video shows that driving while sleep-deprived to be just as perilous as being under the influence.
Sleep-deprivation for 24 hours is similar to blowing a 0.1 on an alcohol breathalyzer, according to Raskin, and all four of the men had collisions and at-fault traffic accidents on the course. Here too the Try Guys show real shock at how dangerous driving while sleep-deprived is, and I shared their feelings. I truly did not know it was so unsafe and appreciated this video for educating me, a sentiment held by most of the viewers, as shown by the comments section.
“The Try Guys Test Texting While Driving”
The last video in the series, it is also the one that received the most opposition. Habersberger, Fulmer and Kornfeld say they use their phones while driving, but Kornfeld’s behavior was shown to be the most egregious. He says he “reads in-depth articles” while driving and regularly uses his phone while at the wheel. Other than Yang, who does not use his phone at all when driving, the attitudes of the Try Guys were notably more flippant towards phone usage and driving before completing the course.
They tested texting and driving by mandating that they had to respond to all texts received while driving. Those not on the course sent the one driving an extreme amount of texts, making driving while responding extremely difficult. All of the Try Guys had major collisions and essentially were incapable of driving safely while texting. Their results were as severe or even worse than those found in the other videos.
This video also contained information from Raskin and Bustos about the dangers of texting and driving. The Try Guys even remarked on it being some of their worst driving yet. Nonetheless, the overall tone of the video was noticeably less serious than its predecessors. At the end, Kornfeld even commented on using his phone the next day.
In the end, I still have a mostly positive view of the video. I understand why people thought their attitudes towards texting and driving were reckless, as the video would have benefited from a more serious approach. However, I also understood the Try Guys were leaning into their personas to demonstrate various attitudes towards texting and driving before I read their statement. There are arguments to be had for both a positive and negative take on the content of the video. Despite its flaws, on a whole I believe the video did educate me on the hazards of texting and driving and, for the most part, was able to convey its danger.
Overall, I enjoyed the Try Guys’ series on driving while impaired or distracted. While it did have its faults, it portrayed the risks of driving in these states in an honest and educational way. These videos were made to stick with you. They illustrated both how common impaired and distracted driving is and how truly deadly it can be. I admire the Try Guys for tackling this serious topic. Hopefully the series can help people stop driving in these conditions and maybe even save lives. Everyone needs to make sure they are driving safely, for their sake and that of those around them.