Harry Brewis, Hbomberguy – XOXO Festival (2019)

[Applause]>>HARRY BREWIS: Good afternoon, comrades! [Laughter] That wasn’t supposed to go up. So, hi, I’m Harry Brewis and I make YouTube
videos under the channel hbomberguy. When I was six, my cousin came up with that
name and I’m not a very creative person so I just kept it going. My channel is all kinds of things, I do a
variety of things: media criticism, using facts and data to pwn people on the internet. Here I am, handcuffed to my parent’s garage
door, while complaining about the whole “soy boy” thing. I talk a lot about soy isoflavones and their
effect on sperm quality… It’s an hour long, you don’t have to watch
it. It’s fine. And for similar reasons, I destroyed all of
my set to yell at Ben Shapiro about climate change. [Cheers] To whoever took that clip and put
it on Twitter, and five million people saw it, thanks, but I would have really enjoyed
if I’d got to have done that. That’s fine, no big deal. Another small thing I did was in January this
year, I raised around $350,000 for a trans charity in the UK to spite a *former* comedy writer. [Cheers] [Applause] And I have been asked
to explain how that happened. So let’s try and discern how, together! [Laughter] Right. So we should probably begin with Mermaids. Mermaids is a charity that provides resources
and support for children with gender dysphoria, children who are trans or nonbinary, and also
helps parents come to terms with that, because very often, especially in Britain, we have
no idea what any of this stuff is. So having there actually be organizations
whose job is to explain it to you is a really, really great thing. However, there are some people who don’t like
trans people just a little bit…? I don’t know, they just don’t seem to like
them, really. I’m not really sure? I’m sure they believe they have good reasons,
but we’re not going to entertain them here, because they’re not. [Applause] [Cheers] Which brings us to Graham
Linehan. He used to write for comedic TV shows and
take the credit for other people’s jokes. And currently, he tweets a lot! He, you know, he’s got some things to say
about trans people, and he’s very sure that he knows what women want and it’s his job
to fight for them to his satisfaction. He fancies himself a feminist activist,
but the radical kind that believe the solution to women’s problem is to exclude trans people. I wish there was a word for that. [Laughter] In case you’re interested, Graham’s
Wikipedia page has a whole section for his anti-transgender activism, and it contains
this enlightening sentence. “Linehan has compared transgender activism
to Nazi Germany.” The nuanced understanding-haver has logged on. [Laughter] So, anyway… [Whispers] My mouth is really dry. I was really nervous about this, I don’t do
public speaking. I pretend I can do it, and then edit it to
look good later. [Laughter] [Cheers] That’s right, I’m a liar! Thank you! Great! So in December of last year, when most other
rich white men with careers in television are probably thinking about where they’re
going to take a vacation too, Graham had heard that Mermaids were being awarded £500,000
by the National Lottery to try to expand the operation, and he took to Mumsnet to do something
about it. What is Mumsnet? Mumsnet is a forum in the UK for mothers and
Graham Linehan… [Laughter] …to complain about trans people. And you can see here, he told everyone who
read this thread to mass email a woman who happens to work for the National Lottery to
complain about what had just happened. And this resulted in the funding being put
under review while the National Lottery figured out why they were getting hundreds of complaints
from weirdos. They had to figure out if they were being
sent because they genuinely made a mistake, because they do take themselves very seriously
and they really do want to consider people’s criticisms. They had to figure out if that was why, or
if it was because a famous person told them to. We’ll find out more about that later. Anyway, I decided to do something about it,
but in my own personal way where it’s a horrible mess, and that way, I’m not responsible
if it goes bad, because who would have expected it to? I did a video about the speedrunning community. For those of you who don’t know, there are
some people who take it on themselves to play video games quickly. And then there was GDQ, if you’ve heard
of that amazing event? [Applause] Pretty cool. They’ve never invited me, that’s fine. [Laughter] And they raise millions of dollars
for charities, for cancer research and all kinds of other wonderful things. And I decided while I was doing this video
that I wanted to do a little mini-GDQ, a terrible game done slowly. [Laughter] There’s an old game called Donkey
Kong 64. [Lone Whistle] Oh, okay. [Laughter] Basically, it takes ages if you want to complete
it fully and no one should ever do it. I never beat it as a kid, because even as
a child, I had patience. But I decided to promise on this
video to beat it. Because when you’re a millennial, you promise
to do extravagant, yet trivial things to bring a sense of narrative purpose to your life. [Laughter] [Applause] So I decided the time
had come and I should do this for Mermaids. So I made a video announcing it, 8:30 PM on
January 18th. And I said this is why I was doing it, I feel
like the conversation, especially in Britain, about trans issues is woefully rubbish, just
a complete waste of time. At the end of the video I remember saying,
I hope to see you all there, have a great night, don’t forget to moisturize, and fuck
you, Graham. And this highlights for me, at the time, what
the stream embodied to me. [Laughter] Now I recognize some people in
the audience, and some of you are actually quite nice. You probably do things for people that are
nice because you want to help them or you want to do good things. I wanted to annoy a guy on the internet. [Laughter] I hadn’t really expected the
stream to go anywhere. I’d done charity stuff in the past, and
kind of generally, we max out at $3,000 for various things. I went into this with very low expectations,
as almost a thing to vent this aggression against a man who used to write jokes. But the problem with having very
low expectations is that when something else happens, you don’t know how to handle them
because you didn’t expect it to go well. Because it was at 8:30 PM, because
a lot of Americans watch my stuff for some reason, I went to bed in the afternoon at
3PM. I set my alarm for 8:30PM and woke up at 9:00PM
having slept through the alarm. [Laughter] I did what any ordinary person
would do. I panicked, I went in the shower, came out
naked, and hit “Go” on the stream. The cap was on the camera! I did not check until I’d hit stream. So the first five minutes were me wondering
if I’d just canceled myself. So I set a goal at the bottom,
you can set a custom goal so as it goes up, you can set more. I set this modest at like $500, thinking,
well, that’s the first eight hours set. In the first 30 minutes, when I was explaining
why I’d had all of these problems and why I was in my dressing gown, we’d raised over
$1,000. The timer hadn’t started yet, we hadn’t
started playing the game. [Laughter] This was the first moment where
I realized I probably should have prepared. [Laughter] So at this point, 56 minutes in,
I passed any intended limit I’d had whatsoever by about $1,000, and I was beginning to wonder
if people knew what the stream was… [Laughter] Why were people coming to this? Is there some Russian thing happening here? [Laughter] That’s a thing that happens now,
right? [Laughter] It kept going, and then eventually,
I realized I was going to get tired and I was already sick of being fun. This is the part of the game that destroyed
me as a child. You have to play the original Donkey Kong. So I called my friend, Pio, who is a nonbinary
trans person, to just hang out and keep my spirits up while I get increasingly aggravated
by this ancient game. Pio is their internet username. I have been friends with Pio for many years
and I have never learned their name. Because that is how friendships work nowadays! That’s just how we live our lives! I’ve met people who come up to me and say,
are you hbomb? I’m like, no, that’s not my name… But fine, it’s fine. So at one point partway through the stream,
I accidentally set the current total to $170,000, and realized that I’d maybe set my expectations
a bit too high at that point. I’m pausing dramatically for people who know how this goes. [Laughter] I’m also very thirsty, I’m
sorry. I drank six gallons of water a day during
that stream. I have this giant two liter bottle, it’s
terrible. Anyway. So Pio had to go to work or something, so
eventually I started calling anyone whoever I had who was a friend of mine who was around
and could keep me awake and prevent me from losing any understanding of what was happening
anymore, because when you play an old game for long enough, you start wanting to do anything
else. Your eyes slide off. So I got my friend Dan Olson on, FoldableHuman
on the internet? [Applause] Know this guy? Wonderful guy. My friend Crystal, Shannon Strucci, who is
a co-producer of a lot of my videos. [Applause] DOGSTRONG, who is another person
whose name I don’t know, who is a non-binary person, and also CaseyExplosion, who is a
trans activist, who’s a fairly prominent member of the trans community on Twitter. That’s what they tell me, anyway. [Laughter] So, at this point, things started
to get a bit absurd and I realized I needed to go to bed. Not just because I was tired, but just to
think about my life. [Laughter] You can see the corner of the bed
there. And there’s a wiki called WikiFeet, that keeps
track of people’s feet. [Laughter] And at some point, there’s a– uh–
— it’s fine! You just have to— it’s one of the many
things you learn to accept when you do this for your life. It’s fine, it’s fine. I can’t delete it. [Laughter] So anyway, at this point, we’re
going to have what we decided to call the Skeleton Krew (with a “K” because Donkey
Kong) where, clearly, I can’t just go to bed and leave this thing because there’s some
momentum happening here. So all of the friends I’ve currently listed
who were there, I threw them into a Discord server and went, okay, you make this last
all night. And then I went to bed and put a skeleton
in the chair. [Laughter] And lost control of my stream. I could tell something was going to go wrong
when I was brushing my teeth in preparation for bed, and I went to look at the camera
and read the chat, and people started writing “Teeth Gang” over and over. [Laughter] People will still be writing “Teeth
Gang” by the time I wake up, about six and a half hours from then. [Laughter] The Skeleton Krew turns out to
be the best idea I’ve ever accidentally had while panicking. Because it turns out that when you give a
lot of people who actually know how to organize things access to a server where other people
can call in and just be on the stream, that maybe they should figure out who could be
on it, and maybe they don’t just invite Harry’s friends who he reckons would be fun, and they
start asking people who maybe know things about the topic being discussed who they know
more than me? I don’t know much of anything, quite frankly. There’s this very wonderful camaraderie that
started, where people were just talking about their own lives and experiences. And when I woke up, $10,000 was raised for
Mermaids while I was asleep, and people were still writing “Teeth Gang” in the chat. [Laughter] And one person in the audience
has a tattoo of a tooth now, because of this. So you’re welcome! [Applause] And also, I’m deeply sorry. [Laughter] Day two of the stream was very
very different, because now we can, oh my god. [Laughter] I didn’t have time to go through
hair and makeup, I’m sorry. Now there was some sense of organization. People who had some kind of experience they
wanted to share, or who knew things about the topic about trans-ness could reach out
to people like Dan or Casey and actually get a response, because I wouldn’t be able to
respond, I was playing the game, and they can talk about whatever they wanted to. At one point, Susie Green, who is the CEO
of Mermaids, someone called her to say, “This fucking guy… He’s playing Donkey Kong!” [Laughter] So, as I very sleepily played the
game, and ate red peppers loudly into the mic… [Laughter] …in my dressing gown, Dan and
Casey fielded questions to the CEO of Mermaids, and she very politely said things about Graham
that are not legally troublesome, which was very clever of her. [Laughter] And they also got to go in search
of more guests. At one point, about 27 hours in, I was on
stream with my good friends Olly Thorn who runs the YouTube channel Philosophy Tube, Natalie Wynn who runs the channel ContraPoints, and of course, Lindsay Ellis, who runs the channel Lindsay Ellis. [Laughter] And that was when it started to
hit me that a thing was happening, and I had a little cry on the stream, it wasn’t embarrassing
at all. And I believe it was Lindsay who
coined the hashtag, #thanksgraham, in which people sarcastically thanked Graham for all the good he’s accidentally done. [Laughter] But I think that’s a key part of
it here, despite being caused by spite — I didn’t plan that — something actually positive
was happening for the good of other people, and people were getting involved, and it was
no longer about annoying some guy. It was about doing a good thing. We’d flipped a switch, and now it was nice. So the thanking of Graham is sort of this
symbolic thing, but really, he was gone. He didn’t matter. He didn’t even come up for the rest of the
stream really. It was like he’d been thrown into the memory
hole, which is a reference to 1984 — okay, I’m going to update it. It’s like if a big, purple man had snapped
his fingers… [Laughter] Because, at this point, I’m just
losing it. At this point, I think I’ve died and gone to some bizarre hell where something nice happens and then they stab you. So I said, if we raise $100,000, I will write
the word “Sobek,” which is the name of an ancient Egyptian God that I think is fun,
on my forehead and go to the store to buy more food supplies for the stream, thinking,
“Aha! They’ll stop donating to avoid me the embarrassment.” [Laughter] I want to thank my friends who
work at the co-op in Kelsall for taking the picture, and for knowing what was happening
when I came in with the writing on my head, I didn’t have to explain it. They were like, “Oh, we know!” So, thank you very much! [Laughter] [Applause] So this is the last
time my face should come up in this, but unfortunately, face camera’s on the whole time, it was
an accident. Because at this point, the stream ceased to
be about me. I’m just a background character that happens
to be playing the video game.Specifically this game, Beaver Bother. Beaver Bother is a minigame made for Donkey
Kong, which was not finished. It’s very difficult to beat. I went on the speedrunning forum. They don’t know how exactly how to do it. You kind of run in a circle and pray. [Laughter] And they put this mini-game in
the game three times. You have to do it three times, don’t know
why. Three and three-quarter hours are spent on
iterations of this game. While I’m playing this game and my mind is
melting and I have stuff written on my head, Casey announces that Chelsea Manning knows
about the stream. [Laughter] And Chelsea Manning logs the heck
on to my stream, and a personal hero of mine hangs out and I sleepily say, oh my god, this
is amazing, wow. And then briefly leave to try to figure out
how to beat Beaver Bother, and eventually we finish it. But then Chelsea hangs out on the stream for
quite a long time, just chilling out, ordering pizza, talking about stuff. It’s kind of amazing. We get Nat Puff, who I believe is in the audience today, a trans musician, Left At London came on to talk about her work. And then this was the true turning point where
this isn’t about any of the shit that I do. This isn’t silly anymore, this is a thing. By hour 36, I’m not even present, really. [Laughter] I’ve desynchronized. [Laughter] Casey and Dan have become full-time
organizers. They were awake for longer than me and put
in more effort than me, and by this point, a very large and diverse group of trans people
from all kinds of different walks of life, different countries, different experiences,
are coming on just to talk about their lives. I joked before that it is no longer just a
bunch of my friends coming on, but I made a lot of friends as a result of this. And I’m very thankful for the work that Casey
and Dan have done. [Applause] So by hour 39, I’m in bed again and what follows
is the second Skeleton Krew, where we get seven hours of trans people just talking about
their lives and experiences, what it’s like. And watching back through, I learned a lot
of incredibly new things that I had never even heard of before to do with the trans
experience. The concept of gender euphoria, where you
suddenly start to feel good about who you are, which is a thing that doesn’t get talked
about enough because it’s very hard to get there. But because we actually opened up a platform
for people to come on and talk, we found people who had gotten there, we got to hear from
sides of the experiences that don’t get talked about because it never gets talked
about at all. So how are these people going to be heard? It was amazing getting to learn a new thing
that I felt like I had some understanding of. It’s wonderful being made to feel like a
complete idiot, especially in regards to something like this. I’m glad I was wrong about whether or not
people would watch the stream. A trans woman named Melody came on to talk
about how Mermaids saved her life, the difference that a call made when she was in a dark place
and needed help, and later, we managed to get her back on when Susie was on, the CEO
of Mermaids, to talk to her directly. That, for me, is one of the highlights of
the whole stream. At this point, people who do video game stuff
are hearing about this, Grant Kirkhope, John Romero, and Josh Sawyer, the developer of
Fallout: New Vegas, have come on to say “trans rights” and throw their support behind this. Cool people are retweeting the stream. At one point, Neil Gaiman did, which is cool. One of the goals we put at the bottom of the
goal bar was “American Gods was a pretty good book, thanks.” [Laughter] So, with all these people coming
on, people started joking that we should get Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on. It was a funny joke, and I laughed! But, and I cleverly mentioned this before,
Chelsea was hanging around on the call and happens to be friends with her. [Laughter] So this is the face I made when
she joined the call. [Laughter] Now, 50 hours into this nightmare
of logistics, sleep deprivation, and, of course, Donkey Kong, Dan, Chelsea, and Casey interviewed future President of the United States… [Loud Applause] …and my close personal friend
[laughter], Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as I ran around in circles trying to find a switch
that I missed 45 hours ago. We raised $10,000 over the duration of this
quite short conversation. And I remember — I have to remember — that
Dan and Casey were there, because there’s a video that NowThis made about this moment,
and they are credited as “Unidentified Caller.” So shout out to Unidentified Caller. I like to think we’re all Unidentified Caller,
in some small way. But my actual favorite moment in
the stream happened 50 hours and 30 minutes in. One of our guests on was with their partner
who is trans and disabled, and they mentioned they had a GoFundMe for their wheelchair. They wanted to get a new wheelchair because
they were having problems with their current equipment. The goal was £750 pounds. And four minutes later, they hit refresh on
that GoFundMe to find that it was now £1,000 over their initial goal. [Applause] And as this couple burst into shocked
cry laughter, I pulled that face and realized that, oh yeah, this stuff affects people and
it is happening now, and we can just tell people about things. In hour 57, after having literally dozens
of trans people on to share their lives and humanity, on this increasingly public platform
which is not an easy thing to do, I finally completed the game and Dan let everyone in
the server into the call to say, hi. It’s utter chaos. [Laughter] But there’s a beautiful moment
if you watch it back where the call bugs out, and for a split second, a trans woman, who
I’m not sure, an unidentified caller, says, “I just want everyone to know that I’m
very gay.” [Laughter] [Loud cheering] So as the stream
winds down, and I can finally stop the timer, as you can see, it’s actually ended, we
say our goodbyes and I listened to Left of London’s song, Revolution Lover, which is
incredible and I cannot now listen to without crying, and just melted down in my chair and
waited for the sea to take me, but it didn’t. [Laughter] So I went to bed and I left the
stream going just so people could continue to wind the stream down if they wanted to
get any donations in. If a lot of people donate to a thing, it gets
staggered so it takes a few hours to catch up just because of the frequency that people
were donating. The final total is just over $350,000, and
that’s not counting the donations made directly to Mermaids made during the stream. [Loud Applause] Susie offered to send me pizza
during the stream. I was like, I live in the woods, you can’t
deliver here. Nothing delivers here. That was a true story. I’ve since moved to Wales, so now no one
can even find me. [Laughter] I live next to a carpet factory. Anyway, but instead, she offered to take me
out for pizza. So me and my friend Shaun, who did a lot of
work on the stream behind the scenes as well, went out and had pizza with them. She mentioned that because of this, the frequency
of donations directly to them went up and that’s really great, because I was worried
that it would just be a thing that I did, and people wouldn’t actually think about
the people it was affecting, but they did. So once again, people proved me wrong by being
human. Just incredible, so, it’s good! Pretty nice. [Laughter] The £500,000 pounds they were
supposed to get was for a project that would’ve lasted five years. So that money is just over half of that. So we funded two and a half years of an operation
that I’d intended to put a minor dent in. And interesting enough, when you work on a
big project like that and you get funding, funds are ring-fenced. You can’t spend the money on anything else. If you want to expand anywhere else, that’s
not what that money’s for. You can’t do that legally speaking. But the money we raised, they can do whatever
they want with it. Which is pretty cool. It’s a minor legal thing, doesn’t matter,
it’s fine. [Laughter] I’m old enough to pay taxes now,
so this matters to me. But speaking of that money, after reviewing the many horribly written emails… [Applause] Now, I would absolutely love to
say you’re welcome, but no. The emails they were getting were ridiculous,
they were always going to get back that money, really. But also, that’s pretty cool. [Laughter] So that was just a play-by-play
of the thing that I was partially present for, but I was mostly either asleep or zoned
out. But anyway, what did I learn? Because what I learned, I need to center my
white, cis, male message here. [Laughter] Because sitting and watching this
silly thing explode around me for reasons beyond my control, I realized some things
that I figured I’d like to share since I’ve got the chance. I’m not sure how over time I’ve gone, but
they can’t stop me. [Laughter] The first is that change is granular. We like to think of history as a series of
curtains that open and we arrive at a better age every single time. Someone decides not to go to the back of the
bus, and then racism is over. Or Hamilton comes out, and racism is over. [Laughter] But it turns out these things are
specific, and they take a very long time. My friend May, who runs the YouTube channel
Nyx Fears, a wonderful trans woman who makes amazing videos I can’t stop plugging, mentioned
that the financial aspect of this is a minor part. What matters is the support, the sense of
solidarity and friendship. You can make a very big difference in someone’s
lives, yes, with money obviously — the moment with the wheelchair was amazing — but also
just by being friends with people, by letting people know that you care and that they are
valuable to you. Often we don’t like to say that, it’s easier
to argue with people that you ultimately agree with than it is to tell them that you like
them sometimes. So on that note, I love you. [Laughter] Change is granular. So there, that slide’s done. The next thing is community is magical. I emulated GDQ and brought on people who emulated
it better than me. And actually, by letting the trans community,
as it were, know that a thing was happening for them, it became a momentary consensus
that everyone could feel involved in. And ultimately, that’s how things really get
done. I’m just a guy who played Donkey Kong. But a lot of people wanted the thing I
was doing it for to happen, and that’s really what mattered. I really didn’t do anything, I was in bed
a large portion of the time. [Laughter] The other lesson I learned is a
much more personal one. It’s that your friends will save you. If you surround yourself with people who you
can really trust, sometimes they can turn a thing you were doing out of spite into an
actual, positive thing for people. [Laughter] I feel like I was saved partially
from myself over the course of all of this. I think secretly, we’re always making one
of two decisions, and we make that decision even if we don’t know we’re making it. You’re either choosing to make life worse
for someone you don’t like, or better for people you care about. There is an actual difference, and I didn’t
realize I made the wrong choice until a lot of people came over and helped change the
choice retrospectively. [Applause] This next thing is a lesson: learn
from my mistakes. [Laughter] You can plan things in advance! [Laughter] And also, to really make a difference
in the world, very often we have to organize. We’ve just seen a very wonderful talk from
the games workers union about how, sometimes you need to do things. Like ultimately, basically, 90 percent of
my life is I tweet. That’s not activism, that’s not really
a thing. I don’t feel like I’m really contributing
in that way. I think we have to work together to find ways
that we really can make a difference or we ultimately won’t, even if we feel like we
might be able to. And I think it’s very easy to want change
and much harder to go, well, how do we actually do this? And I didn’t achieve any of that with this. But I realized, that was a thing I could have
learned to do. So I figured I might. Someone else do a better thing than me, that’s the general point of this. And the last thing is more people care than you think. I expected everyone to go, oh, that’s nice,
and go on with their lives. But it turned out that an awful lot of people
all over the world, and I know because the currencies — you get an email from PayPal
when you get a currency you’ve never got before, and you have to manually accept the
money. I spent 48 hours after the stream accepting
rubles and New Zealand dollars, money from all around the world because it turns out
that an awful lot of people do care about this issue. I think very often, because of the complete
atomization of our society under a big word that means “workers not owning anything”
[laughter], it’s easy to believe that you’re on your own here, but it turns out we’re actually
not alone. XOXO is a wonderful place, there’s some
great people here. But it turns out that there’s a maximum size
of this venue, and there are more of us than we can actually imagine. The list of people who don’t understand these
issues, or don’t care, or who think these people don’t exist, is unfortunately quite
long right now. But the list of people who believe and actually
want to make things better is an awful lot longer, and that’s the main thing that I learned. So thank you all very much for redeeming my
faith in humanity! [Applause]

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