If you have visited YouTube in the past few years, you’ve probably come across a video made by two men known by the name Rhett & Link. Though the two are mainly known for their online talk show “Good Mythical Morning,” as well as a variety of comedic skits posted to their YouTube channels, they are recognized as two of NC State’s distinguished alumni, with both having graduated from the university in the early 2000s as engineering majors.
Technician spoke with Rhett & Link about their experiences at NC State as well as their upcoming performance at the North Carolina State Fair on Oct. 12.
Technician: Tell us about your time at NC State. What were your impressions?
Link: We both studied engineering, so we walked those bricks a lot over those four – well, technically it was five years for me. I was just so smart, I decided to spend another year.
Rhett: Well, I had two major misconceptions, the first being that you had to have a bike. We both had that misconception. Freshman year, you would ride your bikes everywhere. 1996, Syme dorm was where we were staying, so we thought you had to have a bike. Everybody who was anybody had a bicycle, and we kind of quickly abandoned that. The other misconception was that I thought the T-squares were, and this probably isn’t a thing anymore because they’re probably doing everything on computers, but we were one of the last classes where all of the drafting was taking place by hand, exclusively. Nobody was really doing any CAD (computer-aided design) at the time, it wasn’t required, and all of the T-squares were sticking out of people’s backpacks and I thought it was some kind of fraternity pledge thing, like, “oh! Those are all of the guys pledging for fraternities!” but it was just drafters, and I was one of them. On a bike, with a T-square coming out of my backpack.
L: Our freshman year, we were roommates together in Syme dorm, room 24, which was on the bottom floor, right in the middle, so our only window was underneath the stairs to the first floor, like the main entrance to the dorm, so we never got any sunlight in the room. At noon, it would be pitch black in our room, even with the window open.
R: And I think that they’ve since learned that that has a negative psychological effect on students, so that room is no longer a dorm room, it’s like a storage area.
L: Really? What did you do, go there?
R: I’ve been there many times. Last time I went, and I went to room 24 and it didn’t say “24” on it anymore. It said something else. It was not a dorm room.
L: Well you can’t just go back and start going through dorm rooms just because you attended.
R: Weren’t you there the time we went back and there was a guy in there, and we went into his room?
T: So why did you guys choose to study engineering?
R: That’s a great question. I’m still exploring that today.
L: That is the most direct path to a future in entertainment, that’s what my guidance counselor told me.
R: That is your retroactive comedian answer. The real answer was that we told my dad – I think it was my freshman or sophomore or junior year in high school – I was like “Dad, I want to go to film school!” and he was like, “that’s great, son. I’m not going to pay for it if you do that.” Then I was like “ugh, now I actually have to go get a real degree,” and we were both good at math, so we were like “ah, good at math? Let’s go to NC State and be engineers!” There really was not a lot of thought put into it. I mean today, with our kids, they’re filling out personality tests and assessments and meeting with guidance counselors in middle school to figure out what they’re going to do. We didn’t talk with anyone about it, we just had one thought one day, and the next thing you know, we were engineering majors.
T: In what ways were you guys involved on campus, any student organizations or jobs?
L: What did we do?
R: We did quite a bit. I think the highlight of our extracurricular activities was when we would create projects for ourselves, and one of those, probably the most infamous, was our Project Lionel project. We basically created our own club, called Project Lionel, and we had a Lionel Richie self-titled album spread out above our couch. We started taking pictures of us posing like Lionel and eventually began taking pictures of anyone who was willing to come to our dorm room, in Syme 24, to take pictures, and we’d eventually get those pictures developed and put them on our wall.
L: So we basically have a record of every single person who visited our extremely dark dorm room, and they’re posing like Lionel Richie. And, incidentally, we still have that album hanging in our office. Right now, I’m looking at it. Of course, I could be lying, you can’t tell what I’m looking at.
T: What were your favorite parts of NC State?
R: The brickwork, man.
L: It is unmatched anywhere else, in all of my travels, and I’ve been to Australia. They’ve got nothing like that in Australia.
R: There’s no other place on Earth that has so many bricks in one concentrated location. I mean, the brick density is, I don’t know, it’s something I can’t get away from. I go all kinds of places in the world, like Link said, and I’m always kind of checking in on the local brick density and comparing it to the standard that was set by NC State.
L: And nothing has come close.
R: There’s got to be another highlight.
L: My highlight, beyond the friendships, the amazing academic excelling that I did, was that I am, to this day, a hardcore Wolfpack fan, and continue to follow – well, I follow our basketball team and our football team. Let’s be honest, I’m not one of those guys that goes all the way and also follows our baseball team, except when they are on the blog. I go to see stuff about what the basketball team and football team are doing.
R: How about that swimming, though?
L: Swimming was great. I mean, the swimming is great, the wrestling is great, but I’m going to be completely honest with you, it doesn’t move me in the same way.
R: I remember that when were at school, and we had our ups and downs – a lot of downs, in athletics, especially when we were there. We were there from ‘96 to 2000. It was good football time; Phillip Rivers was there. Actually, great football time. Basketball had some struggles, some deep, deep struggles at the time.
L: Both of us went to the last basketball game that was in Reynolds Coliseum, the last proper one.
R: Yeah, they’ve done some throwback games there, but that was the last season played in Reynolds Coliseum.
T: What were your least favorite parts of NC State?
R: The bricks.
L: So many bricks. I’ve travelled around the world, I’ve even been to Australia, and I’ve never seen such a high density of bricks.
R: I mean, you almost feel like you’re drowning in them.
L: They retain heat really well. I like to walk around campus barefoot. Nude, actually. I go back occasionally, I’m that guy. I recommend this for every student: strip down naked, in the cool of the evening after a hot day, those bricks are baking, and just press as much flesh as you can against as much brick as you can for as long as you can.
R: Wow, I don’t know if I can stand by that, Link.
L: There’s your headline.
R: Maybe on your last week, when you’ve already got your diploma in hand.
L: Right, you already have your diploma. Don’t forget to flip!
R: Well, you know, Hillsborough Street has changed a bunch. It was… there was not a lot going on when we were students.
L: And also, I don’t think we really understood how to college, you know. Is that Baja Burrito place still there? At Mission Valley? Up top there, right off of Western Boulevard, there was the little shopping center where you’d have to go down some stairs to get to the movie theater. Well, there was this burrito place. I say all that to say that that was as wild as it got for us.
R: “Let’s go to Baja Burrito, they’re huge!”
L: But like, we wouldn’t even go to Hillsborough Street there just wasn’t much going on, but in recent years when I’ve been down there, I’ve been like “Man, it’s cool now.”
T: What Was your favorite hangout spot on or around campus?
L: We would climb through the window of our dorm room and sit on chairs that we ‘borrowed’ from the student center underneath the stairs and just hang out. We had a friend named Greg. He lived out there. He was not a student, he was just a… a squatter. Nah, he was a student, but he did frequently squat.
R: We spent a lot of time there.
L: So is the Mission Valley theater still there? And is that record store [Schoolkid Records] still next to it? I’d go in there, sometimes. I never bought anything, I was too broke. We’d also hang out at the plasma donation center. It was across the street from the Belltower, and you’d go in there and they’d hook your veins up to a machine and suck out your blood, remove the plasma and then they’d return your blood to you, minus the plasma.
R: They’d give you 20 bucks for it.
T: How do you apply what you’ve learned studying engineering here to your current work?
R: We have so many spreadsheets, even for things you wouldn’t think that you’d need spreadsheets for. You’d be surprised at how comedians can use spreadsheets. Sometimes, we even think about releasing a series of spreadsheets that are just for entertainment purposes for people.
L: How hilarious can a spreadsheet get?
R: It’s kind of like the untapped genre. You know, there’s TV, there’s film, there’s the internet, there’s music, but spreadsheets is really something that is untapped.
L: There’s so many cells just waiting to be filled with function humor, you know? I haven’t been in Microsoft Excel in a long time, it’s all Google Sheets at this point.
R: I think that’s the extent of it.
L: Also, if I do need to write something with a pencil, I do write using all capital letters, which I was taught as an engineering student.
T: How hard was it to switch from your stable jobs that you got out of college to working on funny and creative content for a living? Were people around you sort of skeptical?
R: We were skeptical. I mean, we knew that we wanted to do something with our comedy, but we honestly didn’t know what that would look like. Definitely didn’t have any real idea of coming out to California and creating a production company and doing this full-time. It was just the right place at the right time, and getting in very early to the YouTube game in 2006, right when it started. I think the biggest thing is that we got in when it was not nearly as competitive as it is now, and no one was making a living doing it because you couldn’t, there was no way to generate any revenue. But we got in, and then very quickly we were like “This is fun, this is what we want to do all of the time.” So it was actually a difficult thing right at the beginning, we didn’t know how exactly we were going to put together a living, we did some different sponsored products and brand integrations, that sort of thing, fell into place early on and gave us the idea that “Ok, maybe we can pull this off,” then one thing led to another.
T: To segue off of that, do you have any advice for college students in a similar position, in that they’re pursuing an engineering degree, but deep down they want to pursue entertainment?
R: I think I would say to stick with it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it really makes a great story when you can be like “Yeah, we got engineering degrees.” Any time people begin to think, “I don’t know if I can trust these guys, they might be stupid, they're just on Youtube-”
L: “Look at their hair!”
R: “-Who do these guys think they are?” We can be like “Look, we’ve got engineering degrees and worked in the engineering industry for a few years.” At that point everyone gets quiet and are like “Okay, I guess we should listen to these guys.”
L: That shuts them right up. If that doesn’t work, we could resort to physical violence-
R: Well, you know, it’s funny because my dad, who was like “I’m not gonna pay for film school,” he’s now a huge fan of ours. He was the one who that was, between my junior and senior years where I kind of had this idea and was like ‘I don’t know if I’m going to do this engineering thing forever, maybe I should just switch to communications,” he was like “Well, you could always use that engineering degree,” in which I thought “I guess what you’re implying is that I’m not necessarily going to be able to use that communication degree. Okay, thanks dad!” and you know, it ended up working. We both got married right out of school, and had that steady job. I was at Black & Veatch right out of school, it did help us get started and not having to wonder what we were going to do while we were figuring out the plans.
T: Before we move on to the concert at the State Fair, I have to ask: did you guys read Technician while you were here?
R: Yes, and I actually wrote a little bit. I did some in Opinion.
L: A lot of times, you would write about me. You wrote a whole thing about somebody having a unibrow, you wrote a whole Opinion piece about the unibrow. It was like… what is it called when you write a piece that is targeting somebody?
R: Like an exposee?
L: Yeah, like an exposee. You’d mention me by name and made fun of the fact that I had a unibrow.
R: Specifically, one of the things I wrote was about my least favorite thing at NC State, which was, or were, the Carolina fans who were at NC State, and continued to be Carolina fans while at school, going so far as to wear UNC paraphernalia while they were in class. That just got under my skin, and I wrote an article about those ‘sheeps in sheep’s clothing.’ That one was a hit piece.
L: Did you use the term ‘sheeps,’ because that ain’t a word.
R: Yeah. I had one year, I think it was senior year, where I wrote some Opinion pieces.
T: What sort of message or theme did you guys have in mind for the upcoming concert?
L: Well, we had a stage show that we toured with all last fall. Did I mention that we went to Australia? Unlike that tour, this one is totally different because it’s just a concert, where we’re, for the first time ever, we’re doing an hour and a half long set of our music from the past decade, viewable on our YouTube channels. So yeah, we’re trying something new, all music with some banter throughout. There’s going to be some special guests in the middle of the show, who we’re excited to bring on stage and introduce our fans to. A lot of people may already know who they are, I’m not going to say it’s us playing characters but I’m not going to say that it’s not.
T: What would you like people to get out of this show?
R: Their money’s worth.
L: It’s a free show.
R: Yeah, it’s a free show.
L: But also, we just want to make people laugh with everything we produce. Music has always been a big part in our long-term YouTube career, and we’ve always enjoyed performing it live, so we want to get back into doing more. So we just want people to enjoy it, to enjoy the music and have a laugh. We will be premiering a few new songs that haven’t been heard by anyone before, other than the people at our office who have heard us practicing them over the past couple of weeks. It’s going to be special, you know, everytime we do something in North Carolina we bring out all of our friends and family, which is special but also a little weird since you’re performing in front of everyone you grew up with and your family. They’ve seen us do our thing, but there is still a sense of pressure, like “you don’t want to screw up in front of mom and dad!”
T: What made you guys come back out to North Carolina for this concert specifically?
L: Well, honestly, I don’t know exactly what they’re called, it’s the committee that decides who’s coming back for this North Carolina series, they asked us to come. I think originally we were like “Ah, I don’t know, we don’t really have anything, you know, we don’t think that our other stage show, which is more associated with our book,” we didn’t really know. But then we were like “You know, we’ve got a bunch of songs, let’s actually dig back into these and perform them again and put on a show.” It seemed like a great opportunity, and we haven’t been to the State fair since living in North Carolina, so it’s been at least eight or nine years. So we wanted to come back, and wanted to be able to play our music.
T: After your other stage show, The Tour of Mythicality, totally ends next month, you had hinted at wanting to do more concerts, is there anything else big planned after you finish up The Tour of Mythicality?
L: Well this show, at the State Fair, I think can really shape our appetite for wanting to do more concerts, so if it goes well, we’ll probably want to keep doing it in the next year, but if it sucks, you got to see a train wreck. No, it’s going to be great, and I’m sure that it will lead to us wanting to do more shows next year.
Rhett & Link’s concert will take place on Oct. 12 in Dorton Arena at the fairgrounds, with admission to the event being free of charge with paid admission to the fair. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m., with the line beginning at 6 p.m. and the doors opening at 7 p.m