How David Dobrik Hopes to Use Internet Fame to Break Into Late-Night TV

David Dobrik has roughly 75 million followers across multiple platforms and more than eight billion views on YouTube. But the social media star’s grand ambition is to be the next Jimmy Fallon — and as a stepping stone to get to late-night TV, he built his own podcast studio in his new house.

The 24-year-old rose to fame by mastering the six-second art of now-defunct social-video app Vine in the mid-2010s, where he created short comedy skits with his friends in Los Angeles. After Twitter shut down Vine, he jumped over to YouTube and made bite-sized vlogs of his daily life that ran for exactly four minutes and 20 seconds.

He and the Vlog Squad, as his group of friends came to be known, picked up millions of followers as their shenanigans grew in absurdity and scale. Dobrik married one of his friend’s moms as a prank (they later got divorced), frequently gave away cars to people and collaborated with celebrities like Justin Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Kevin Hart, John Stamos, Howie Mandel and more.

Now he’s got his sights set on late-night TV with the in-home studio to record interviews for his podcast, “Views.”

“I’ve always wanted to be a late-night host — that’s my big dream,” Dobrik tells Variety. “Now that I have a studio and can interview my friends and celebrity guests inside my home, it’s the best of both worlds. I can still have it 100% controlled by me, and that’s great. When a guest comes by, it’s a super comfortable place to be interviewed, and there’s not like 30 people on set. It’s just a couple of us.”

A few months ago, he and his team pitched around a talk-show concept, which he described as “‘Jackass’ meets late-night,” but discussions fell through.

Dobrik isn’t giving up hope. He believes hosting his “Views” podcast will be good training for landing a late-night gig, but what’s unclear is what the talk show landscape will look in a few years. Stalwarts like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” have been turned upside-down by the pandemic, while some TV stars have boarded streaming services like Amber Ruffin on Peacock and Conan O’Brien, soon to be a host on HBO Max.

“I feel like streaming platforms, like Hulu and Netflix, are going to act like a YouTube channel for people like Fallon and Kimmel. I think there’s going to be more uploads on there as if they were uploading to a YouTube channel,” Dobrik says. “And, of course, the clips will still live on YouTube, like they normally do, because that’s where all the late-night shows are enhanced and where everyone watches the clips the next day.”

Meanwhile, other social media stars like TikTok sensations Charli D’Amelio and Addison Rae have leveraged their massive fanbases to land TV and film deals. D’Amelio, the most-followed person on TikTok, is getting her own Hulu docuseries, and Rae, the No. 2 TikToker, landed a role in the remake of “She’s All That.” And Lilly Singh, a popular YouTuber, actor and comedian, has hosted a late-night show on NBC since the fall of 2019.

When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, Dobrik took a hiatus from his usual YouTube schedule of posting vlogs twice a week. Since then, he’s been making short videos on TikTok as fans have patiently awaited his return to vlogging. In early February, he posted his first YouTube video in months (on his second channel), showing off his new house — complete with a drinking fountain that dispenses fruit punch, a massive, 12-by-12-foot bed and the podcast studio.

With the unveiling of the new “Views” studio, Dobrik announced that he will start posting weekly podcast videos featuring his friends and special guests. The first two featured singers Halsey and Madison Beer.

“I definitely want to have guests I’ve never interacted with before and people I’m a huge fan of, like Halsey,” Dobrik says. “I also want to mix in my close friends, who could be anywhere from John Stamos to my friend Zane [Hijazi].”

Some of his dream guests for the podcast? Robert Downey Jr., Ryan Reynolds, Ariana Grande and Natalie Portman, the latter because “she’s the most remarkable woman on Earth,” Dobrik says.

After starting his YouTube vlogs five years ago, Dobrik has hosted the Discovery Channel show “Dodgeball Thunderdome,” co-hosted the 2019 Teen Choice awards and landed a voice role in “The Angry Birds Movie 2.”

“I think the way we define entertainers and celebrities is going to change in the next couple years, especially with TikTok’s huge impact on younger kids. You ask anybody under the age of 17 who Charli D’Amelio is and they can tell you, but name another actor and it’ll be tougher,” Dobrik says. “TikTok and YouTube are becoming the new Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. A lot of stars emerge from those platforms. From radio came television, from television came the internet, so whatever’s next is next.”

Besides posting to social media, Dobrik has stayed busy during the pandemic by launching a perfume, building a disposable camera app called Dispo and encouraging voter registration ahead of the 2020 election. And have no fear, Vlog Squad fans: He’s already plotting his first big video for when the pandemic is over.

“I would love to have my first video back be out of the country. I haven’t been able to travel because of my DACA status, and that seems like it may be changing soon,” says Dobrik, who was born in Slovakia, referring to the U.S.’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy. “A completely new, fresh start filming something outside the country would be so fun and give all my friends and me a new excitement as well. First, we need the pandemic over and my green card to come in.”

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