The Try Guys Try Closed Captions

From left to right: Eugene Lee Yang, Keith Habersberger, and Zach Kornfeld, modeling their new squad tracksuit collection. Credit: The Try Guys

The Try Guys are an entertainment group of YouTube producers. As their name suggests, their philosophy is to try new things, no matter how much they may suck at doing them. They started at Buzzfeed in 2014 but left in 2018 to start their own production company, 2nd Try LLC. Originally they had four members, but today they are a trio: Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang. Their videos and experiences have resonated with millions of people around the globe, inspiring them to try new things.

I started watching The Try Guys when I was a teenager. They were appealing because they weren’t afraid to touch on sensitive topics and call attention to double standards. I remember watching “The Try Guys Shave Their Legs For the First Time.” The guys were complaining throughout the video how hard it was to shave. Keith was doing awkward yoga to reach the hard spots on the back of the leg while Zach kept cutting himself. They finally finished a two hours later. While they all enjoyed having shaved legs, they didn’t like the itchiness when it grew back. As Zach said, “It’s like shaving 20 faces.”

Keith Habersberger featured in YouTube thumbnail for “Try Guys Shave Their Legs For the First Time.” Credit: The Try Guys

As a young woman, it validated my own frustrations with body image and trying to meet beauty standards. As I watched more videos, I was inspired by seeing them have fun and trying new things even if they were super bad at them.

While the majority of their content tends to be comedic, they also tackle more serious issues. For example, they created an educational DUI miniseries. Each episode tackles a different aspect of dangerous driving: driving drunk, driving high, driving while texting, and driving tired.

Eugene Lee Yang featured in YouTube Thumbnail for “The Try Guys Test Drunk Driving.” Credit: The Try Guys

It is eye-opening to see the same people driving on the same course under different influences. Each influence has a different impact on the driver and the way they drive. That is to say, one influence is not better than another. It’s all dangerous driving and the Try Guys do a good job at showcasing why it is dangerous to drive under influences.

In another educational miniseries, they took on ageism. First they tried old age makeovers to combat their fears regarding old age. Then they tried an old-age body simulator and wore it for a day. It provides a lot of insight into the stigmas about getting older and barriers that affect daily life.

Zach Kornfeld featured in YouTube Thumbnail for “The Try Guys Old Age Makeovers.” Credit: The Try Guys

As a teen, I would check obsessively for their next video. Sometimes multiple times a day. However, there was one problem. None of their videos had closed captions meaning I could only understand bits and pieces. One day, I was watching a new Try Guys video. I could not understand anything. I was scrolling through the comments to try to gather context clues or find quotes of what was said. Nearly every comment was about how funny the Try Guys were. The more I scrolled, the more depressed I became.

At this time, I happened to be taking my third ASL class. I was becoming comfortable with my disability and more confident in myself in general. A thought popped into my head: Why don’t I ask for them to add closed captions?

I quickly dismissed the thought. I had never in my life asked for accommodations. Accommodations typically needed to be thrust upon me because I was terrified of drawing attention to my disability. But the theme of the Try Guys is to try things you’ve never done before. The thought staid.

Another week passed and a new video was posted without closed captions. What would happen if I asked? I shook my head. I knew exactly what would happen. My request would be buried under hundreds of others, lost in the confines of the internet. Not to add, I would probably get a lot of mean comments. Still, there was a small voice in my head. Maybe the Try Guys would see the comment. Maybe they would care enough to implement it. After all, what do I have to lose?

I wrote a comment, thought better of it and deleted it, rewrote it, and deleted it again.

“Hey Try Guys!” I typed. “I have been a fan for a while. I love your videos, but I find them difficult to understand as I am deaf. Everyone talks about how funny you are. Would you consider adding closed captions to future videos so I can laugh along with everyone else?”

My cursor hovered over the post button. Once I clicked that button, there was no going back. The comment would be there forever and ever whether I liked it or not.

I clicked. 

The first comment came in minutes. “Are you serious? The world doesn’t revolve around you!” It was quickly followed by another. “Small businesses don’t have the means to deal with closed captions. It’s rude to even ask!”

I would have deleted my comment then and there but that was not an option on this platform. I knew in my head that it is okay to ask for accommodations but I felt ashamed. How much work goes into making closed captions possible? I had no idea. Maybe they’ll compromise, I told myself, maybe they’ll share one video with closed captions a month or something. There’s still hope.

I checked my post the following morning. I had a few new comments, all of them berated me for asking and made snide comments about my deafness. “I hate people like you who demand the world caters to you.”

Ding. Another new comment. I refreshed the page.

“I also need closed captions.”

That small line brought tears to my eyes. Being deaf is often a lonely experience. I have to remind myself that I am not the only deaf person in the world, but sometimes it’s hard not to believe it. It’s always heartwarming to hear about other people struggling with the same things I do.

Ding. “I’m hearing, but I always watch things with closed captions anyway.”

Ding. “Me too.”

Ding. “I have a friend who is deaf. I tried to share a Try Guys video with her, but she couldn’t understand it.”

Ding. “You guys don’t understand what a hardship this could be for the Try Guys!”

Ding. “Not deaf, but I use cc too.”

Ding. “Everybody! Like and comment on this so the Try Guys will see it and add closed captions!”

By the end of the first day, I had 20 comments. People were arguing over my request. By the end of the second day, I had nearly 60. On the third morning, the comments ticked over 70. Surprisingly, most of the comments were positive. People were sharing their own stories of needing and using closed captions. One person even thanked me for having the courage to ask. Even though my post was getting attention, it was steadily becoming buried under more popular ones. My hope was dimming. There was little chance The Try Guys would see my request.

Should I try again? I could keep trying on every video until my request was seen. I thought about all the negative comments I had received. I wasn’t sure if I could go through it again.

At the end of the day, I checked my notifications. Only five new comments. I read through them and screamed when I reached the last one.

The Try Guys: “Hi Rachel! Closed captions are a great idea! We’ll discuss that at our next meeting.”

I couldn’t believe it! The Try Guys had seen my request! Three days ago I didn’t believe I could have made a difference. My mind was racing. Could this happen? Are the Try Guys going to add closed captions? I felt invincible.

A week and a half later, the Try Guys released a new video. I held my breath and clicked play. Closed captions appeared at the bottom. Victory! Finally, I could laugh with everyone else.

I am happy to say that every Try Guys video since that day has been released with closed captions. Over the next several months, I noticed they were experimenting with their closed captions. True to their name, they kept trying new things. My personal favorite was the color-coded closed captions, which were used shortly after they left Buzzfeed. Blue captions meant Keith was talking, green captions were Zach, purple was Eugene, and so forth. However, the color-coded captions were short-lived. In hindsight, color-coded captions are not the most accessible for people who have color blindness or other vision issues.

For a time the Try Guys used YouTube’s automatic closed captions. While YouTube automatic captions are certainly better than they used to be, they still leave a lot to be desired. They are only about 60-70% accurate at the best of times (1). For example, whenever something funny happens (or Keith becomes comedically upset), the captions stop working because there is too much noise to decipher anything that is being said. Another downside to YouTube’s captions is that they take time to generate, meaning it can take a full day to a couple of weeks for captions to become available.

These days the Try Guys have standardized their use of closed captions; two lines of white text in a sheer black box in Arial font. This is the industry standard format.

These days I do not watch the Try Guys as much as I used to, partly because they release so much content and I’ve matured out of their targeted age group. With that being said, I still enjoy watching many of their videos. Currently, my favorite series is “Without a Recipe.” As the title suggests, the Try Guys hit the kitchen and make an item without a recipe. None of them are professional cooks, so hilarity ensues. Each episode cuts between experts talking about how to make the item and at least one of Try Guys unintentionally doing the exact opposite. It’s a cross between “The Great British Baking Show” and Netflix’s “Nailed It.” Some examples of things they’ve made without a recipe are pies, bagels, brownies, and many more. 

Zach Kornfeld, Keith Habersberger, and Eugene Lee Yang featured in a YouTube Thumbnail for “The Try Guys Cook Bagels Without A Recipe.” Credit: The Try Guys

Never be afraid to try something new, even if it scares you. I tried asking for accommodations on a social media platform. I was terrified to do it, but my request ended up influencing a company that currently has 8.04 million subscribers and over 2 billion views (2) at the time of publishing this article.

So if ever in doubt, just try.

References

  1. University of Minnesota Duluth. “Correcting YouTube Auto-Captions.” Information Technology Systems and Services, University of Minnesota Duluth, 2022, https://itss.d.umn.edu/centers-locations/media-hub/media-accessibility-services/captioning-and-captioning-services/correct#:~:text=YouTube%20automatic%20captions%20typically%20provide,%2C%20or%20multi%2Dsyllable%20words.
  2. SPEAKRJ. “The Try Guys YouTube Subscriber Statistics.” SPEAKRJ, https://www.speakrj.com/audit/report/UCpi8TJfiA4lKGkaXs__YdBA/youtube/live#content.

2 thoughts on “The Try Guys Try Closed Captions

  1. That’s fantastic Rachel! Thank you for sharing your story! I’m sad to hear that so many people felt the need to disparage what you were asking for, but I am very glad to hear that so many people gave positive feedback and that ultimately, The Try Guys responded with kindness.
    I haven’t experienced being deaf, but I have journeyed through a large portion of my life with chronic illness. It can be so hard to tell people about my limitations or to admit that I can’t function the way many people do. So, although I haven’t experienced exactly what you have, I can relate to the discomfort of limitations and of needing to ask for help. At first, telling about my struggles or asking for the help I needed caused a lot of stress and I had a really hard time reaching out to others for the support I needed. Over time, I have learned it is a beautiful way to build community and connections with others. It’s a hard skill to develop, but one that I am grateful to have learned.

    Like

  2. Rachel, it’s so great to have another article to read! I love the insights I gain from your experiences and the things I learn from you. Thank you for sharing! You are amazing!

    Like

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