With 14 3/4 sons and daughters between them, these five grown men know how to speak “kid.” It was their native language when four of them were growing up as brothers in Irvine, Calif., with four additional older siblings and a mother who thought they could do no wrong. The boys each claimed their own gallons of milk with Sharpies, but together they shared (mostly) harmless mischief and a love for making movies on Sunday nights.
Fact! One of their favorite stories is about their mom reading peacefully on the back patio. A basketball came flying by and shattered a pane of glass.
She didn’t even look up.
“All my friends loved coming over to our house because most of them had one sibling,” Dave says. “We always had a lot of excitement going on, and everyone wanted to be a part of it.”
Now 10 of their classic true tales are shared worldwide via eight-minute-ish episodes of Kid History on YouTube, including their most-viewed story of “punching cars” (3 million+ views). Their channel also includes shorter Kid Snippets based on the same concept — children (usually their own) tell stories while adults lip sync to the youthful audio dialogue while acting it out. (Hint: You’ve got to see it to disbelieve it. If you haven’t watched an episode, hit pause on this article and hit play on any Kid History post on YouTube.)
Now Hollywood wants a piece of the lower-budget lights, camera, action. Several TV networks are interested in creating a show with the Kid History creators. But until then, these Utah Valley husbands, soccer coaches, entrepreneurs and basketball players have a full schedule of life in the I-15 lane.
The History behind History
Kid History began rolling when youngest brother Randy entered an LDS film festival in New York City where he was attending dental school. His first year, he won the festival with a short ditty called “Troubles.” The next few years he got second and third place with other films.
“I knew I needed to do something spectacular so I could be first again,” Randy says. So with the help of his brothers, he put together a film of kids telling stories with adults acting it out (loosely based on Comedy Central’s “Drunk History”).
Randy and his actor-student-roommate, Richard, starred in the film and took first place.
The rest is Kid History.
Now the five stars pose for Instagram pictures and sign autographs, and thousands show up for premieres of their YouTube releases to hear behind-the-scenes stories, to watch outtakes, to play “Kid History Jeopardy,” to see the kids who voiced the story, and in one case — to give Brett a BigTrak since his got ruined in the filming of the Christmas episode. (The gifted BigTrak appears on the cover of this magazine.)
The original plan was to film one kid as he retold the real-life-but-crazy story from the Roberts household.
“We ended up filming more kids and piecing it together,” Brett says. “The dynamic of different voices creates contrast and entertainment — some are quick-moving and jumpy while others are slower.”
The trick is finding the perfect age — not so young that only a mother can understand, and not so old that they stop themselves before saying something zany.
“Three-year-olds end up saying some crazy things,” John says. “But they want to jump off the walls while they are doing it, so it’s challenging to get the audio recorded right while they are bouncing around.”
They film the kids at their own houses whenever possible so they feel comfortable — and with dad or uncle behind the camera, the stories start coming out — and coming apart.
“If you can get them to forget you are filming, that’s when you get the gold,” Brett says.
Most of the 10 episodes are about stories their kids have heard and reheard at family parties, but before the cameras roll on the little ones, their dads retell them the story and then ask them to repeat it back.
“The worst part is I used to have great stories to tell at parties, but now everyone knows my punch lines,” Randy says.
Oh, Brothers! (Plus One)
The four Roberts brothers adopted Richard as an honorary family member to round out the cast. Richard grew up in Oklahoma with three brothers of his own, so he fit right in with the boy band.
All five men get along famously, play basketball together at least weekly and bring a non-diva vibe to the online sensation.
“We each bring a different spice,” Richard says. “But everybody’s a clown.”
But everybody’s also a contributor.
John is the “idea man” and gets credited with “comedic timing.” Brett keeps them organized, has a passion for videography and calls the unwieldy group to order. Richard brings his Tisch training and acting experiences to the set. Dave is known for being detail-oriented and for being the nicest (he coordinated the troops for this story and photo shoot). Randy is the youngest and the first one to bring the concept to life. When asked who deserves credit, they quickly give each other kudos — and then take it away.
“Brett is really the mastermind behind our film interests. He filmed all of Episode 1 but wasn’t even in it,” Randy says. “But it’s probably cuz he’s not attractive and a horrible actor.”
“And he smells bad,” John adds.
Sibling rivalry never gets old.
Best of Times
Perpetually optimistic, the brothers see the cool parts of their history lesson.
“The best part of Kid History is that my wife and kids think I’m cool,” Brett says.
The not-so-cool part is being interrupted.
“We were out to dinner the other day and my wife got a Facebook notification,” John says. “Someone had taken a picture of us and said, ‘I’m eating by the Kid History guy. Do I dare say hi?’ A friend of ours commented, tagged us and told the people to say hello. We’re watching this unfold while we’re sitting there at dinner.”
They all have similar stories about missing football games and being late to movies — but don’t call the paparazzi police.
“Our fans are really cool,” Brett says. “Our style of humor attracts people we actually like to hang out with. It’s usually moms and high schoolers who recognize us. Sometimes it surprises us how many people know who we are!”
Richard tells of seeing a 6-foot-9 buff military officer yelling across a field, “Hey, Kid History! I love you guys!”
The increased awareness stopped the group from kidding around when they have a new video to release.
“With our early episodes, we would invite family and friends over to see it for the first time,” Dave says. “That guest list got bigger and bigger until we decided to have our premiere in a small theater. We also wanted to see what parts people laughed at and evaluate if we needed to change anything.”
The first time they invited the public, they expected 100 attendees. But add a fourth digit and another thousand and you’ll come up with the actual turnout (see the Kid Snippet “Math Class” for more adding lessons). The first publicized premiere filled the Covey Center in Provo for two full showings. For the next premiere, the boys moved to Cottonwood High School. Kid History has also premiered in Arizona and Idaho where fans line up to ask questions such as “When will you make Episode 11?” and “Did this story actually happen?” But at one premiere, Randy was the one asking the questions.
“I proposed to my wife at the premiere of Episode 6,” Randy says. (You can find his full proposal on YouTube, of course.)
The crowd went wild when she said yes because they see Kid History as an extension of their own family trees.
“Grandparents and kids come together to our shows, and everyone is engaged,” Richard says.
Dave tells of parents bringing their kids over to meet Kid History, but when the little ones run off the parents are still standing there visiting with the cast.
“Parents love us because we’re not a purple dinosaur they have to pretend to enjoy watching with their kids,” Brett says.
Although Kid History has livened up computer screens worldwide, the fan base in Utah is slightly different.
“In Utah, we’re known for Kid History, but outside the state people know us more for Kid Snippets,” Brett says. “The snippets are shorter, so they are more easily watched and shared — and they’re a tenth of the work of a full Kid History episode.”
The brothers remain fiercely close — Brett and John live in the same cul-de-sac.
“We grew up in a cul-de-sac, and whenever they would refinish the road, we would immediately go out there and paint a baseball diamond,” Brett says. “We never once worried about what the neighbors would think.”
But they do care what each other thinks. Once a month the brothers hold a meeting to talk about how to be better husbands and fathers.
“It’s a lot easier for the rest of us to see flaws in each other than in ourselves,” Brett says. “So each month someone is in charge of giving a lesson and we’ll talk about what we’re trying to work on in our marriage and we let each other glean what they can from that.”
When his brothers got married, Brett would go to their wives and say, “If there’s something you want to change in your husband, tell me and I’ll fix it.”
The brothers poke fun at each other and point out who is the ugliest, but their tight relationship on and off the screen would be almost impossible to damage, they say.
But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been boy drama through the years.
They describe a familiar sight of Dave running through the house closely followed by youngest brother Randy. Dave would lock himself behind a bathroom door, and Randy would pound.
“Now Randy and Dave are the most chill of all of us, but they were the least chill growing up,” John says.
While most of the children in the films are their own offspring, the dads are careful to keep their kids’ heads in check.
“We don’t want Miley Cyrus on our hands,” John says, while Richard adds: “Randy is the closest thing we have to Miley.”
Whenever there’s a lull in the conversation, it’s filled with insults about Randy.
“Did we mention Randy is dumb?” they say in unison.
Yes, you mentioned it. But seeing as how he started this whole Kid History gig, he actually seems pretty bright.
And that concludes our history lesson for today. Read more at UtahValley360.com.