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Confidence to shine: Drew Gooden says Vine came around right when he needed it

Gooden, who now is a full-time YouTuber with more than 3 million followers, created one of the most renowned Vines of all time. 
Photo illustration of former Vine creator Drew Gooden.
NBC News; Drew Gooden

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

While driving in Arizona for work with his girlfriend at the time, Drew Gooden spotted something he’d been hoping to see: A “Road Work Ahead” sign.

Gooden, who had accrued a decent following on the platform Vine by that time in 2016, asked his girlfriend to record him as he drove past the orange square. What they recorded would go on to be one of the most viral Vines of all time. 

“Road work ahead?” Gooden says in the video. “Uh, yeah. I sure hope it does.”

Gooden, 28, said he has only one regret about the moment: He deleted a second take.

“I am so upset with myself that I don’t have the second take,” Gooden said. “This version is so cemented in people’s brains, but to see this less good version but in the same location, same shirt, same everything, would be really interesting.”

Gooden said that when he began using the platform in 2013, he was desperate for a confidence boost. Having dropped out of community college for the second time and taken improv classes, and unsure what he wanted to do with the rest of his life, he considered teaching improv but was uncertain about what his next step was. 

So when Vine debuted, he immediately hopped on it. Using Vine was, in many ways, similar to using today’s TikTok, Gooden said, where the barrier to entry was low and the chances of going viral were high. 

“With Vine, it’s like, “I have one joke idea.’ It’s basically the video equivalent of a tweet,” he said.

Gooden’s first Vine to go viral was about a Venn diagram in which he showed what he and his favorite shirt had in common: a mortal enemy in Jeff Daniels. After a few more successful Vines, his audience began to grow. 

“I went from having no presence whatsoever online to having a couple hundred thousand followers,” he said.

When Vine shuttered in 2017, Gooden found himself starting his internet career over. His only other social media following was on a Twitter account with about a thousand followers, and with no other path to tread, he decided to give YouTube a try. 

Eventually, after testing out different formats and genres of videos, he began to make videos commenting on film, television, internet phenomena and more, and once again, his audience began to grow.

He remembers the turning point: a rant he made about a video by Business Insider, now called just Insider, about bagels’ being cut in a weird way. He said he was in a bad mood and decided to rant into the camera. 

“For whatever reason, that format, where you sit and you’re talking straight at the camera, I think it feels more personal,” he said. “That’s what YouTube is all about.”

He continued to make videos, and about three years after he started on the platform, he hit his stride, making YouTube his full-time job. 

Today, he has more than 3.4 million followers on his YouTube channel. He recently took home a Streamy Award, which honors excellence in online video, for best commentary.

Vine completely changed my life. It gave me the confidence I desperately needed at that point in my life.

Drew Gooden, who now has 3.4 million followers on YouTube

One factor that has helped has been his friend and collaborator Danny Gonzalez, also a former Viner-turned-YouTuber.

Gooden and Gonzalez met on “Camp Unplug,” a long-form series created by Vine, starring Viners, of which they were both part. 

As Gooden’s commentary channel took off, so did a commentary channel Gonzalez had launched. They began traveling to appear in one another’s videos, and as they did, a friendship began to blossom. A running joke between the two creators’ fandoms was that they looked so similar that followers would pretend to confuse them. 

“It’s so fun to make videos with [Gonzalez] because we don’t have to script it out. We just sit down and react to something,” Gooden said. 

Eventually, Gooden and Gonzalez decided to try to take what they had built online into the real world. They launched a tour called “We Are Not the Same Person.”

“The tour is still something I’m really proud of and what we did,” Gooden said. “He’s probably the funniest guy I know, and we work really well together.”

When Gooden looks back to where it all started on Vine, he is filled with gratitude for the 6-second video platform that launched his online career.

“Vine completely changed my life,” Gooden said. “It gave me the confidence I desperately needed at that point in my life. ... I’ll always be thankful to Vine for that.”