Nat's What I Reckon: the sweary, ranty YouTuber who's become an isolation cooking sensation

After a decade making videos, this metalhead comedian’s foray into food has won fans from Dave Grohl to Yael Stone

Looking every inch the metal drummer he is, Nat (no surname) is an unlikely Vera Lynn for our times. And yet, the Sydney comedian’s no-nonsense cookery segments are bringing comfort to the masses.

“What’s going on, Iso-Lords?” he says, introducing his latest clip, The Crowd Goes Mild Curry. “We’re back in the kitchen, saying no to jar sauce.”

Behind a sparkling-clean counter laden with fresh vegetables, spices and herbs stands Nat: black band T-shirt, hair halfway down his torso, arms and neck covered in tattoos. He walks us through the ingredients before getting stuck into the methodology.

“If you’ve got one of these cheeky bastards, use this. It’s called a microplane. I know it sounds like a small aircraft, but it’s just a pretentious name for a fine grater. If you don’t have one of these pratty things you can just use a normal grater, and if you don’t think you’ve got one of these, you’re wrong. You’ve got four of them and they’re buried behind the other three.”

The Nat’s What I Reckon YouTube channel has been in operation for 10 years, with 85,000 subscribers to Nat’s ocker brand of social commentary, rife with wordplay and colourful metaphors. Now he’s taken off to an even wider audience with recipes that wage war on processed food, like his End of Days Bolognese. Each video has clocked up around 5m views so far, and won him fans in the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, DJ Carl Cox and the actor Yael Stone.

Sitting in a cluttered Sydney office on a Skype call with Guardian Australia, Nat apologies for being ineloquent. He doesn’t mean the fact that his dialogue is always peppered with swearing and mumbling, but the fact he’s trying to be helpful while struggling with fatigue. He works full-time on the clips with his girlfriend – he edits and answers messages, she films and designs – and says he’s not sleeping much from fielding business inquiries.

“It’s just a fucking tidal wave at the moment,” he says, looking dazed. “It’s hard to remember anything.”

Nat got the idea to diversify into cooking segments after the lockdown cancellation of what would have been his first live comedy tour (“heartbreaking”), but his own health kick was also an impetus. In earlier material, he’d wander around trade shows and art happenings with a mic, a perplexed attitude and what looked like a well-tended beer gut.

“I’ve lost about 24 kilos,” he says. “I had one of my lungs removed a while ago and put on a bit of weight because I was pretty sick. Going to the gym wasn’t doing anything and the gut wasn’t helping my breathing, so I started looking into what food I was eating.”

What better time to turn that knowledge into a public service than during the panic-buying of jar sauce and packet soup? “There’s a fresh food section in the supermarket that hasn’t been touched and yet empty shelves of pasta sauce,” he says. “You’re fucking stuck at home – what are you doing? Eat better.”

Other Australian YouTube-reared comedians have covered the coronavirus pandemic in styles verging from satirical to political, such as Sooshi Mango, Alex Williamson and Jordan Shanks, but there’s something weirdly comforting – benevolent, even – about Nat’s grouchy big-brother style. Maybe it’s his “settle down” tone (even if he’s actually arguing about the fact we shouldn’t be putting zucchini in spag bol), or the fact he avoids shaming people, other than the odd “make sure you wash your fucking hands, you grubs”.

“Sometimes parents remake my videos with their kids and send them to me,” he says. “It’s pretty unreal that kids are digging it. I’m not going to judge your parenting.”

Damo is a Sydney-based chef (and a friend of mine) who watches Nat’s videos with his 11-year-old and nine-year-old, who’ve started spinning and whistling, Nat-style.

“He hit a chord with us because he feels familiar and we think we’d enjoy hanging out with him,” says Damo. He’s not surprised to hear that Nat’s dad was a chef who taught his son to cook. “He knows what he’s doing in the kitchen – I assumed that he was trained because he knows how to use a knife.

“One other thing that made me admire him is that during one video he said something like, ‘Just have a go, you’re more talented than you realise.’ I thought, this guy’s genuine, that’s a really nice thing to prop people up with. Then I found his videos on depression and anxiety, and I gained shitloads of respect for him.”

Nat with a laptop on his lap, looking like he's screaming
Nat’s What I Reckon: ‘I’ve always made fun of that narrow-minded boofhead thing’ Photograph: Supplied

Damo’s talking about one of Nat’s segments called Is It Sh*t?, in which he once reviewed his own anxiety, and the comedian was also an ambassador for The Big Anxiety festival from the University of New South Wales in 2019. His current bio describes his work as “holding up a mirror to masculine culture”, though I can’t help wondering if he’s retrofitted that, since he surely started out just recording whatever made his mates laugh.

“I’ve always made fun of that narrow-minded boofhead thing,” Nat says, not taking offence. “The trade-show reviews I did were all about sticking it to boys’ clubs. Boats, burnouts, that kind of shit.”

That’s true; as well as his review of “massive money hoon” the Sydney Boat Show, which was the turning point for his popularity, he’s affectionately lampooned revhead events such as Canberra’s Summernats. Not using his surname saves him some grief from the dedicated car crowd.

So far, Nat’s What I Reckon has mostly been monetised through a merchandising line. The comedian avoids the sponsorship deals that are rife among social media figures, “given that the whole point is it’s me and what I reckon”. Still, it’s likely that international touring, once restrictions lift, will fill the coffers – though Nat can’t figure out how his hefty American fanbase can even understand him.

For now, his Australian tour has been rescheduled for September, and it’s nearly all sold out. Broader than standup, which he’s done for a couple of years, it will draw on multimedia and interactive crowd skits, and he’s turned his anxiety into a game show. All that’s missing is a set from one of his bands, Penalties or Keggerdeth.

“[Until then] I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, smashing out videos, because it seems to be working,” he says. “The plan is to keep my hands on the wheel and hang on for dear life.”

Contributor

Jenny Valentish

The GuardianTramp

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