Hannah Hart may have a YouTube show-turned-small media empire and brand new cookbook called My Drunk Kitchen, but over the course of a hour-long interview at Tom and Jerry’s bar in Soho, she wasn’t sipping anything. True to the ethos of her show, she may have looked like the biggest lush in the room, with two red-hot cocktails (because cocktail number one got spilled and the bartender made her another) and a ginger beer sitting in front of her. But she didn’t take a sip, and wasn’t particularly interested in the drink. She was too busy talking and joking.
She was stoked about the book, which she described as “self-help parody meets cookbook”: the joy on her face when she heard that My Drunk Kitchen was the #45 seller on Amazon was a sight to behold. Her recommendations for its best recipes were “whatever makes your heart feel light. I think they’re all edible. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re tested, I wouldn’t say they’re FDA approved.” But more than a cookbook, My Drunk Kitchen feels like a guide on How to Be an Adult and Figure Your Stuff Out, with lots of jokes and cute pictures. Food is a bit secondary, but always creative, à la the show it was based on. (There is one recipe you absolutely need to try, though: “Chocolate Chipz,” which is chips covered in melted chocolate. Do make that one.)
I had wanted to talk with the charming and warm 27-year-old Hart, a woman who can peel off quite a few jokes per second and a torrent of “you know what I means” in a single conversation, in a location where she could run into some fans. YouTube stardom is such a new classification of celebrity — it’s quantifiable online, yet it has a very specific sort of intimacy, as it’s a one-to-one experience between the video and the viewer. How does that translate into the outside world? Are you an anonymous regular Joe, or are people recognizing you and asking for selfies? The disarming thing about Hart in person is that her My Drunk Kitchen persona is not an act. She’s adorable, can pull off a snap-back baseball cap, and when she described a recent YouTube convention in Milan, she popped into a funny “Italiano” voice while discussing the awkwardness of an LBGT panel in a Catholic country.
Hart said she can walk around without getting mobbed or even, most times, recognized. But it happens, and it’s happening more and more as My Drunk Kitchen becomes a thing beyond just YouTube. Lately, fans find Hart at airports, malls, LA’s The Grove mall, Disneyland, and bars. Hart was in a movie, Camp Takota, a direct-to-digital release, with other YouTube personalities like Mamrie Hart and Grace Helbig. She’s gone on several comedy tours around the country.
These days, she’s navigating the distance between the fact that, well, My Drunk Kitchen is not really about “cooking while drunk”; it’s about her quick wit, as she jokes and goofs her way through recipes, accompanied by the occasional famous guest. In a show with The Fault in Our Stars author John Green — who wrote the foreword to her cookbook — she quips: “You know what, they say alcoholism is real bad, but I think the fault is in our bars.”
She has described herself to friends as a small business owner — “and my business is entertainment,” she added. When she goes through airport customs — My Drunk Kitchen has taken her across the country and around the world (Milan most recently) — it’s more like, “I edit videos. I’m a video editor. That’s the simplest. I don’t have to explain what I’m doing, because if I say I’m a YouTuber, people are like what is a YouTuber… so I just say I edit videos, which is mostly what I do.”
Quick to cite the community of fans who got her to this place, she’s also honest about the sort of weirdness that comes from the divide between “Hannah Hart” and Hannah Hart. There’s fanfiction out there about her. “It’s this whole new world of fandom where I don’t know if they really fully understand that I’m a real person, the younger ones,” she told me. As a kid who found escape in fandom like Sailor Moon, she understands, even if it can be totally surreal in person.
Hart, who is gay, said that she feels a responsibility towards being a role model. “Not all YouTubers do, not all entertainers do. I’m a big sister in real life, I’m a good friend in real life, and it feels like the right thing to do.” She came out to her community, in a nine-minute My Drunk Kitchen video, at a time in her life when she had just finished coming out to the people she knows and loves. Initially, she had taken the Anderson Cooper tactic of saying, well, it’s nobody’s business because she didn’t want to be pigeonholed. “These are other things about me. It’s not like this says Gay Book by Homo Hart, although they wanted to put it on there. But they did want to make John Green’s name bigger than mine. Just kidding.”
The feedback’s been supportive. Hart cited one story about a middle-aged dad in a conservative family in Nebraska who felt like he needed to email her to say, “We’re against gay people… but you’re really making us have some conversations we’ve never had before.”
She has been able to use this pull to do more volunteer work with her fans. The Harry Potter Alliance and the Vlogbrothers’ Project for Awesome are inspirations for her. She has “Have a Hart” day, where Hart fans around the world get together to do volunteering for food banks. “Pop matters, man. It really does,” she said. “I’m excited because I feel like pop culture matters, and YouTubers — I hope to one day count myself in there — behind the wheel, we can do good things. In a real way. I’m really big on real life.”
Hart is in an interesting position as an entertainer. My Drunk Kitchen‘s success brought her to Los Angeles, and it gave her momentum to pursue other projects. She spoke candidly about how she’s been through the paces with Hollywood people: “They were like, do you want to be on E!? I was like, is there a Mythbusters version of E!?” Even though the cookbook caps off a very busy year, Hart said that she’s determined to go back to her roots.
“Hollywood is so flash in the pan, and there are so many models that exist that you have no control over whatsoever, zero percent, so dance with the one that brought you,” she explained. Hart is, instead, excited to spend the next six months making more My Drunk Kitchen videos. “I’m actively looking forward to going home and sitting on my laptop. That’s the bomb. It simply means making content and responding to comments, which is fun. It’s the highlight of my day.”