When Colin Furze screamed “I’m walking on the ceiling!” the British YouTube inventor deliberately wore shorts along with his magnetic shoes as he clomped upside down across the roof of his shed. “The reason I wore shorts is that I didn’t want anyone to think I had ropes or anything coming down my leg holding me up,” he explains. “I always look at my videos from the skeptic’s perspective: ‘Did he actually do this?'”
And the answer is, Yes. As 1.1 million subscribers to Furze’s can attest, the 34-year-old ex-plumber has defied gravity, rocketed down a country road on a jet bicycle, made fully retractable Wolverine Claws and repeatedly flung himself out of a High Voltage Ejector Bed.
This summer, Furze showcased his sublimely silly Mini Motorhorse Jousting Challenge on YouTube’s own Field Day channel. In the Monty Python-meets Jackass stupid human trick, Furze encased a scooter with a child’s rocking horse and took up arms against a cheaply costumed black knight. “My original idea was to take the horse to Texas and try to round up some cattle,” Furze laughs. “Unfortunately the budget didn’t quite stretch so we had to settle for England and did the knights thing instead.”
Cheerfully ranking himself as YouTube’s 1,010th most popular creator, Furze has figured out how to earn a living off his videos by blending lots of daffy DIY gadgetry with a little bit of hard-headed commerce. “Opportunities and money get thrown at you, but you have to tread carefully because in general, I think people on YouTube want to hate sponsored videos,” Furze says. “Some companies see million plus subscribers and that’s all they focus on: ‘We’ve got this new thing coming out and can you wave it around in one of your videos?’ Why would I do that? It’s not what I normally do.”
Instead, Furze says, “I tell sponsors if they want to make a video that doesn’t smell, people should think it’s amazing and know that it’s sponsored, but only just, do you know what I mean?” Case in point: Furze’s stealth advertisement for Taylor’s of Harrogate coffee. He explains, “You don’t want the Ejector Bed video to be more about coffee than it is me being chucked out of bed, because that would be the wrong balance.”
Furze, who quit school at 16, grew up competing in BMX bike races. Inspired by skateboarder Bam Margera wild CKY videos, Furze starting filming his own stunts. “Once I finished biking I still wanted to do something competitive and learn new stuff so I went down the YouTube route of trying weird and wacky things,” says Furze, who lives with his wife and young son in the village of Stamford, north of London.
To build out his ultra-peppy YouTube persona, Furze says he draws on cartoon role models and punk rock. “I suppose when I’m filming things, it’s a cross between Homer Simpson and Wallace and Grommet, with a little bit of Family Guy now and again but not quite so blue.”
Furze has so far experienced only one major mishap, when his arm caught on fire, but injury is not part of the act. “I do get compared to jackass quite often, but they were going around hurting themselves on purpose,” Furze observes. “I’m not really interested in self-inflicted pain.”
Giggling, yelling and hooting as he hurtles from one adventure to the next, Furze considers no video complete until he adds a punk rock sound track to the mix. He says, “It might not be for everybody, but the punk rock attitude fits my approach to the videos: ‘Screw health and safety, never mind the rules, just charge in there and do it.’ The music also adds a bit of energy, because cutting bits of metal and things like that could otherwise be quite tedious.”
Early in his early YouTube career, Furze specialized in cobbling together insane modes of transportation including the jet bicycle, which drew 13 million views. In 2012, Furze parlayed that hit into a Gadget Geeks TV gig and become a full-time daredevil inventor.
More recently, Furze learned to rope in geek audiences with ingenious tributes to comic book movie heroes. “When you do something inspired by something like X Men or Batman, there’s millions of fans out there who want to see it,” he says, citing his home-made Wolverine claws and “DIY Magneto Shoes” videos that drew fresh followers to the channel. While Furze produced those clips as an uncompensated fanboy, he’d be happy to rake in some revenue the next time around. “I’m going to do some more X Men stuff for sure because there’s another film coming out next year.” Furze laughs. “This time, we’ll see if 20th Century Fox can pay for it!”