Cody Ko's Comfort Core

Cody Ko's Comfort Core

BYIvan GuzmanMay 13, 2024

If YouTube is the new cable, then YouTubers are the new A-Listers. We’re here to profile all the YouTube legends — past and present — who are influencing the cultural landscape and reinventing the internet as we know it. This is Thumbnail.

In another life, Cody Ko would’ve been a dating specialist. The 33-year-old YouTuber and comedian has made quite the living off his videos where he sits in the same spot in his office and reacts in real-time to the new era of dating videos online. But he’s wary of taking on the title of “Cupid” for the hyper-online generation of YouTube-obsessed youngsters. “I wouldn’t call myself a dating specialist,” he says. “I’m a specialist at watching dating content.”

Whether it’s LA-based production company Jubilee or Seattle’s very own The Cut, it’s safe to say that these dating shows have become more popular through Ko’s lens. “The thing I’ve realized about these white cyc wall videos and big soundstage videos is that it’s genuinely fun to be there,” he tells PAPER. “Being on a game show is fun.” He’s even become soknown for these dating show reaction videos that the channels have recruited him to participate first-hand in a series of videos where he voiced “The Button” himself.

Throughout our interview, and in his videos, he drills down on one word: “fun.” “I keep hammering on this ‘fun’ point, but I’ve been doing this for ten years now so if it feels like a chore, then that’s not good,” he says. “I want to sit down and have fun.”

There must be a term for this sort of “living through others’ lens” type of personality. Maybe “comfort creator,” or, “parasocial relationship,” even. If Cody is having fun, then the viewer is as well, a fact I can personally attest to. The YouTuber’s dating show reaction videos are a genre unto themselves, and I would likely never actually watch The Cut or Jubilee videos if they weren’t filtered through Ko’s reactive lens. Though these videos have arguably become his speciality, they’re only a small portion of the “cringe reactions” that he’s so specifically talented at crafting.

Throughout the years, Ko has amassed an impressive viewership reacting to “cringe” videos such as “Vape Hotbox,” “Girl Defined,” and “The Kombucha King.” It’s become a running joke in his comments section lately that he makes content for when viewers are eating lunch: relatable and effortlessly hilarious 20-minute or so length videos that are perfect to watch during your lunch break. “I end up just genuinely laughing here alone in my office, which is a little bit insane,” he says. “When I turn the camera on, I’m thinking, ‘Where’s the punchline? Where’s the bit? Where’s the joke?’”

It wasn’t always this way, though. Born and raised in Canada, Cody Ko, whose real name is Cody Kolodziejzyk, was one of the many now-YouTube famous stars who got their start on Vine. After attending Duke University on a diving scholarship, he got into computer science and learned how to code iPhone apps, which led to his self-made photo captioning app “I’d Cap That” going viral. He moved to San Francisco after graduating to work for a company that acquired his app and came across Vine because it was a competitor to the apps he and the company were working on. “I just kept using it because I lived alone and was bored and lonely,” he says. Soon enough, he built quite the following and eventually moved to making longform content on YouTube once Vine closed around 2016.

It’s become his bread and butter and has led to a multitude of other creative, even athletic, ventures. Aside from the 6 million+ subscribers on his main channel, Ko has his side channel, Cody & Ko, which boasts another 2.3 million subscribers and serves as a reservoir for all the reaction videos that don’t make it onto the main. He has the “Tiny Meat Gang” podcast with friend Noel Miller, which is a whole content universe unto itself, as well as Cody Trains, where he vlogs his journey training for the three or so marathons he competes in a year.

The running obsession started during the pandemic. “I kind of got in a weird rut, and that’s when I signed up for my first ultra marathon,” he says. “It made me realize that I really just need to keep pushing myself and finding my limits because, for me, that’s the source of happiness.” Not just that, but he has a full-on music career. Having recently gotten into production, he’s released a steady stream of singles and music videos, such as “Not Going Home” and the new Button-inspired “NIGHTMARE.” He currently has a DJ residency at the Wynn Las Vegas. And as of a few months ago, Ko is also a new dad.

When we speak over Zoom, I get that heavy dad energy. He sits in the same spot where he films all his reaction videos, which feels a bit surreal to me as someone who watches this content on the regular. With so many ventures, it’s hard to understand how Ko has the same 24 hours in the day as everyone else, but there’s an ease and natural comedic core that makes him a perfect arbiter of “cringe” human behavior online. He’s a true connoisseur of “fun.”

Photos courtesy of Cody Ko / YouTube