Jack and Jack are Internet famous.
So famous that the teen duo is finally getting busy in the real world — a late night at the recent Teen Choice Awards, hours of rehearsal, an early flight home. People recognize them. They sign autographs. Their videos go viral.
Wait, you don't know who they are?
Talk to the nearest 13-year-old girl. If she's one of the millions who follow the comedic and musical duo from Omaha on Vine (the social network for looping 6-second videos), she may squeal. Then she might ask you for tickets to DigiFest at the Minnesota State Fair Grandstand on Sunday.
Jack Johnson, 18, and Jack Gilinsky, 17, are the headliners of a touring show that's been described as digital vaudeville and YouTube in real life. The stars of a massive online entertainment scene known almost exclusively to teens — slapstick, lewd jokes, music videos and lots of chatty videos filmed in bedrooms — will step out from behind their screen to sing, dance, perform skits and answer questions on stage. Maybe even pose for selfies. Swoon.
"It's very high-energy, fan-girl hysteria," said Meridith Valiando Rojas, co-founder of Digitour.
Parents, bring ear plugs.
Renee Alexander, deputy general manager of entertainment and marketing for the State Fair, isn't familiar with all the performers. But a request by her 11-year-old goddaughter on the way to the recent Imagine Dragons concert was reassuring: "The first thing she said to me when we got in the car was, 'So, can you get me tickets to DigiFest?'"
As for Jack and Jack, the recent high school grads took a few minutes (in a car on the way to the airport) to talk by phone about their social media fame and what comes next.
Q: You guys have more than 4 million followers on Vine. Is there a post that put you on the map?
Johnson: There was one way back in the day that, like, is still our biggest one that kind of kick-started us gaining a lot of followers and stuff. It was called "The Nerd Vandals." We dressed up as nerds. You know how cars will say 4x4 on the back of them? Yeah, we wrote "=16" next to it and ran off snickering. That one went really viral.
Q: The teen YouTube and Vine scene ranges from profane stuff that makes parents cringe to the super precious and saccharine. Where do you fit?
Johnson: We can get a bit edgy in our Vines. Sometimes it might be a little risqué; there might be some sexual themes in there or something. … But, like, nothing ever too bad because a lot of our fans are younger. We don't want to do anything that would turn any of them off. Or their parents. We can be a little risqué but we can't, like, go full out like a lot of people do.
Q: Why do you think your Vines have attracted so many followers?
Johnson: I think they just enjoy our chemistry that we have with one another, our comedic timing and stuff. I think, like, having a partner really helps with that, you know.
Gilinsky: I don't really know. I think that we just made videos that made us laugh and made our friends laugh, and I think we all have pretty similar humor. It just started catching on, and then it grew and grew.
Q: So what comes next?
Gilinsky: We're actually trying to kind of stray away from the whole Vine thing because we want to make the transition from being social media stars to actual, like, real celebrities. Which is really hard to do because not that many people take it that seriously just because it's on social media. We're making music with some of the top-of-the-line producers in L.A.
Q: What do people misunderstand about the teen entertainment scene on YouTube and Vine?
Johnson: A lot of people are in the dark to these crazy things that are going on online and these wildly successful people that are getting their start online. There's a lot of people who are doing really big things, like, just through the power of social media and the power of the Internet. It really is a lot cooler than people think.
Gilinsky: I always knew about social media, but I never knew that someone could become famous on social media without being, like, famous in the outside world. So it was kind of a shock to me that we could do this. It's really cool. Because obviously we aren't celebrities outside social media. We're getting there. … But yeah, I thought it was just really cool how that was possible.