This journey into American kitsch, a shift from the stationary “behind-a-desk” commentary Burback has done in the past, enthralled audiences. The Margaritaville tour of 22 restaurants, a stomachache-inducing sequel to the pair’s viral journey last year to visit all 18 Rainforest Cafes in the country, has drawn 5 million views so far. (The Rainforest Cafe crawl stands at 8.3 million.)
While the Rainforest Cafe tour turned into drudgery, the latest road trip video, which clocks in at just under an hour, was essentially a short film documenting the allure of Buffett’s vision and Burback’s own surrender to it. The offbeat tone captures a somewhat tongue-in-cheek attitude YouTube creators have taken to their own popularity: Burback is not just playing the viral game, he’s satirizing it.
Eddy Burback spoke to The Washington Post about the inspiration for his trip, the YouTube algorithm and what enthralls audiences.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why would you want to go on these weeks-long road trips?
A: Originally I was asked by [fellow YouTuber] Ted Nivison. I believe [when] he asked me to do it, I said: “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. I’m in.”
[I took] increasing inspiration from people like Nathan Fielder or John Wilson. It felt a bit more freeing style of video to make rather than just sitting at my desk. I was sure that I was done after that first one, but after maybe eight months of thinking about it, after we had kind of recovered, it was really sticking with me that I could make something that was more a movie-length doing a road trip across the country.
Q: Why Margaritaville for the second one?
A: On the final day of our last Rainforest trip, we had passed the Margaritaville in Vegas. We were both very exhausted, but as a joke, I looked up how many there were. I showed it to Ted as we were finishing the first trip, like, “Ha ha, [we’re] definitely not going to do this again.” But then I started to think about Margaritaville more and just the idea of me becoming slowly obsessed with Jimmy was so funny to me, having him be this kind of prophet to carry me through. It was such a good option to follow up after a bunch of animatronic animals screaming at our faces.
Q: Why do you think your audience was so receptive?
A: There’s a nature on YouTube to do some kind of crazy challenges and edit the videos as quickly as possible, and make them as algorithmically pleasing as possible, to get as many eyes on it as possible. Doing the first trip, we started to think of these more as full stories with a kind of arc to it. We both treated it like we were making a double-feature movie.
I think that was part of the excitement for it, kind of building a back-and-forth with the audience that any time I’m going to upload something and put it out there, it’s something that I’m throwing everything into.
Q: How does this type of satirical video fit into what you’ve been doing?
A: I had done, I think, three or four [videos] more in the vein of what would be on the front page of YouTube. These like, mega-viral videos: ‘we dug the biggest hole’ or ‘we made the biggest pizza.’ When I do my version of it, it’s a bit more satirical on those ideas, even though it’s fun to do a challenge, like a road trip. The focus still is telling a story.
With YouTube videos lately, it’s like, “Well, you have an idea, [so] don’t distract people from that idea because that’s what they clicked for.” I think it’s a lot more rewarding and also personally entertaining to be engaged with something for an idea, but then to stay for a kind of narrative or for some kind of message from it.