×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Untold Truth Of JonTron

It takes a lot for a gaming YouTuber to stand out from the crowd, especially in the extremely content-heavy world of "making fun of bad things" realm. But Jon Jafari, aka JonTron, certainly made a name for himself in that realm. In fact, JonTron could easily make a claim as one of the most successful gaming YouTubers out there: gaming sites like WatchMojo as well as mainstream organizations like Time magazine have recognized him as an extremely powerful and influential force.

JonTron even crossed over into other realms, recording voicework for a few prominent indie games. However, a few controversial moments derailed what appeared to be an unstoppable push to the top.

That's not to say that JonTron fell off the face of the Earth; as of this writing, JonTron's main YouTube channel has over five million subscribers. Today, we're going to take a look at JonTron, who he is, how he rose to the top (and faced some serious backlash once he got there), and what he's doing now. Grab your Flex Tape and read on.

Just who is JonTron?

Jon Jafari was born in California on March 24, 1990. He is best known for creating humorous game reviews on YouTube, although he has branched out on occasion into other content creation areas: skits, movie reviews, Let's Plays, and the like. He first created his YouTube channel in 2010, and his first posted video was a review of the Nintendo 64 version of Daikatana. It was here that Jon started to hone his style.

As JonTron began to develop his style and introduce elements that would become his hallmarks — like his talking parakeet sidekick, Jacques — he began gaining a bit of a reputation around sites like YouTube and Reddit for his humor and insights. In an episode of Game Grumps, another YouTube channel that JonTron co-created (and which we will get to shortly), he claims that his first big success came after his 2011 review of Dinocity, which reached the top spot on Reddit.

In 2014, JonTron's YouTube channel hit the one million subscribers mark. He also started branching out his content more, shooting for more obscure games and bizarre movies to take a look at. He also started a few new projects in order to help keep his energy up: he told website Tubefilter that he finds it difficult to constantly produce content.

The "Not So Grump" of the Game Grumps

One of JonTron's side projects was a Let's Play series called Game Grumps. He collaborated with a friend of his, animator and voice actor Arin "egoraptor" Hanson, on a series where the two of them played games together and told funny stories. You could tell that the two had a strong chemistry and were friends in real life; their balance and timing worked very well and kept things light, fun, and interesting.

However, about a year after Game Grumps started, the channel encountered a serious setback. JonTron was not able to continue on the show, since he just couldn't create enough content for his own channel as well as Game Grumps. The show stumbled in its announcement, causing some severe fan backlash when they introduced their new host.

Kotaku writes that, the very same day JonTron announced he would be leaving the project, the show revealed that Dan Avidan, a comedian best known for his work with musical act NinjaSexParty, would be replacing him. Many fans of the show did not take kindly to the way Game Grumps handled the announcement and felt that the two should have started something new rather than piggybacking off of the successful show.

NormalBoots: a hub for gaming content

Another side project JonTron helped create, Normal Boots, was yet another collaboration. Here, JonTron and Austin Hargrave, better known as PeanutButterGamer or PBG, created a website together to host their videos, sell merch, and create a platform to better monetize their content. Other shows like The Completionist and Continue? came onboard soon after, making the site a bit of a hub for oddball humor and niche gaming content.

Not long after, the site closed its doors, as YouTube revamped its creator incentives. The creators behind each show realized they would be better served on Google's platform.

In 2014, Normal Boots relaunched with a new logo and site, alongside a few new shows. ProJared and Satchbag joined with their respective videos, and Did You Know Gaming? was another featured video series with a rotating slate of hosts.

After JonTron's controversial statements regarding immigration — more on that in a bit — in 2017, he was removed from the Normal Boots network.

JonTron's transition to video game voice work

JonTron's growing presence in the YouTube world coincided with the rise of the indie game, and his clout enabled him some unique opportunities to crossover between the two realms. JonTron lent his vocal talents to a few big name indie releases, and his likeness was even included in a dating simulator game. Really. Asagao Academy features JonTron, PBG, the Continue? crowd, and other members of the Normal Boots lineup. It was created by a small team, including Danielle Hargrave, who is married to PBG. It released in 2016.

JonTron also lent his voice to the Gears for Breakfast game A Hat in Time. He voiced the receptionist, an owl who stands behind the front desk of Dead Bird Studios. Even though the game released right around the time JonTron's controversial immigration remarks surfaced, the developer left his voice in the game.

One game that did not use his talents after the controversy was Yooka-Laylee. The developers cut ties with him after his comments resulted in a backlash, despite the fact that he had already recorded his role in the game.

Controversial statements rock the boat

JonTron's mainstream credibility took a major hit in early 2017. It started when he expressed support for a statement made by Iowa Representative Steve King (pictured above), who The Guardian refers to as a man "with a knack for testing the line between conservative messaging and what sounds to a lot of ears like hate speech."

JonTron's initial statement that got him into trouble sarcastically reads: "Wow, how scandalous, Steve King doesn't want his country invaded by people who have contempt for his culture and people! NAZI!!!" This was a response to King's statement, "We can't restore our civilization with someone else's babies."

JonTron did not typically send out political messages, so it surprised quite a few people to see his response. As more and more celebrities and entertainers are scrutinized for their political views, a few people reached out to JonTron to figure out exactly what he was trying to accomplish with his statements. That's when he dug in and really got himself into trouble.

Doubling down

A few days after JonTron's ill-received comments, another popular YouTuber named Destiny invited JonTron onto his show to discuss and clarify his comments and point of view. JonTron did not walk back his comments at all; instead, he doubled down on his remarks and made some factually baffling statements that seemed to do the exact opposite of what he was trying to accomplish.

Crave Online writes that, throughout the two hour debate with Destiny, JonTron made several bizarre statements. He claimed, without evidence, that wealthy black people commit more crimes than poor white people, that discrimination no longer existed in Western society, and he "attempted to link crime in Africa with crime committed by African Americans."

His appearance with Destiny backfired, triggering a massive outcry against his content and a loss of thousands of subscribers for his YouTube channel. Developer Playtonic games cut his voice work from Yooka-Laylee, and mainstream news outlets like Time and The Verge ran pieces about the fallout, with some using sensational headlines like "When Your Child's Favorite YouTube Celebrity is a Secret Racist." Overall, the entire situation was a complete PR fiasco for JonTron.

Content vs creator

As entertainers continue to say things their fans deem irresponsible — or irredeemable, in some cases — a lingering question remains: how do we approach their content? Kevin Spacey was considered a tremendous actor when accusations of inappropriate conduct were raised against him, and Louis CK was considered one of the best comedians working when his own sexual misconduct allegations surfaced.

What do longtime fans do when their viewpoint is diametrically opposed to a favorite entertainer?

Kotaku spoke with several longtime fans of JonTron who were struggling with that very issue. Some claimed that they could not bring themselves to laugh along with a man who had expressed (in their opinion) such an ignorant worldview. Others claimed that JonTron's worldview did not matter; as long as he was making entertaining videos, his views were unimportant.

They also approached another important question: when a celebrity with as much reach as JonTron starts voicing their political opinion, when does it become activism? When a YouTube personality with millions of followers expresses that worldview, couldn't one argue that they are recruiting their fans to that worldview?

Interestingly, the Kotaku piece writes that JonTron was losing subscribers and was sitting right around three million. As of this writing, his channel boasts around five million subscribers. So the controversy doesn't seem to have had much of a negative impact in the long run.

What happened to JonTron's collaborations?

Notwithstanding JonTron's controversial viewpoints, there can be no argument that he has had a massive impact on the culture of YouTube and gaming. Several of the channels he helped to launch continue to do remarkably well. PBG, Continue?, and other creators affiliated with Normal Boots have hundreds of thousands of subscribers on YouTube (PBG has almost two million) and continue to pull in views and and the associated advertising dollars.

Game Grumps, despite the backlash to the way they handled their hosting transition, has probably seen the most success since JonTron left. Hosts Arin and Dan were even cast in the YouTube Red series Good Game. The show was connected to Dan Harmon (of Community and Rick and Morty fame), who served as an executive producer, and followed a fictional esports team on their rise to the big time. It only lasted a single season, but showed that YouTube creators are being taken more seriously in the world of entertainment.

JonTron's own content continues to pull in massive viewership as well, and his subscriber count continues to grow.

Is JonTron still around?

As previously mentioned, despite the loss in subscribers that JonTron suffered due to his immigration remarks, his channel is still doing remarkably well. His most-viewed video, called "Waterproofing My Life With FLEX TAPE," is a bizarre combination of infomercial, mockumentary, and traditional JonTron oddball humor. It came several months after his interview comments on Steve King and interview with Destiny, proving that any backlash to his content was short-lived.

More recently, JonTron has continued to create the content that his fans have always appreciated, with plenty of long breaks between videos, but with production values and a crispness often not seen on popular YouTube channels. Heck, Cultured Vultures even writes that JonTron's sequel Flex Tape video (appropriately titled "Flex Tape II: The Flexening") featured an appearance from Phil Swift, the owner and spokesman for Flex Seal products.

Granted, that sequel video came after almost a year long hiatus from YouTube.

JonTron appears as if he will not let the controversy surrounding him stop him from creating the types of content he wants.

He's still charitable after all that

Another aspect of JonTron's channel that has probably helped him skirt too much of the controversy surrounding his comments is his charitable work. For years, JonTron has run charity streams to raise money for some of his favorite causes, and several have been wildly successful. It's a good reminder that, even if you disagree with some people's views and the statements they make regarding those views, there is still plenty of good being done out there.

In 2016, JonTron partnered with several popular web animators to fulfill a promise of a prior charity stream. His ultimate goal was to raise $25,000 for Teach for America and, if he did, he promised to create a music video where he covered the Katy Perry song "Firework." Not only did he meet that goal, but he was able to then use his massive platform to draw attention to some of his favorite web animators.

More recently, JonTron hosted another charity stream, this time raising money to combat pulmonary hypertension. Together with Team PHenomenal Hope, he succeeded in raising over $50,000 to combat the disorder.