Josh Hawkins is not your regular comedian. The viral sensation, who is best known for his How to Speak Australian video and bad lip-reading of The Bachelor and Married at First Sight, began his career as a Pastor of a Christian church.
The now 35-year-old struggled with career direction after leaving school. After studying video production for a year, which he didn’t particularly like, he eventually ended up following in his own father’s footsteps by obtaining a Bachelor in Theology.
But his pull and drive to continue making content were never far away.
“I had had a YouTube channel for ages and ages — I think maybe 12 years — just as a hobby on the side,” Hawkins said in an exclusive interview with TheLatch—.
“I definitely wasn’t putting too much effort into it and then in 2015 a couple of videos went viral.”
One of those videos, How to Speak Australian, has since amassed 224 million views and its popularity, Hawkins puts down to its relatability.
“Any comedy that taps into reality or like gives an understanding of people’s experience, that’s the best kind of comedy because you put yourself in that scenario.”
Even though, still a full-time pastor of the Christian faith, Hawkins was looking for a wider audience and decided early on that he would make videos that appealed to everyone in the community.
“I wanted my audience and my fans and my friends to be everyone,” he said. “Every now and then I do something that kind of alludes to the fact that I’m going to church or whatever but not in a preachy way. It’s more just a, hey, here’s my life.”
His brand, Hi Josh, is now a global sensation and his videos, are more popular than ever. But he doesn’t do it all alone. If you’ve watched any videos that the comedian has made, you would have seen his wife Cat and their one-year-old daughter, Billie with starring roles.
For baby Billie, she has been good content, for as long as she has been alive — and while she doesn’t understand it yet, Hawkins is not sure what she will think when she grows up.
“It’s the million-dollar question,” he said. “If we create a safe, loving, amazing household for her then she can put whatever it is [the videos] in context and be like that came from a loving, safe place.”
Here, Hawkins tells TheLatch— about how he came to be a pastor, how he covers reality shows which may not align with his beliefs and how he never ever thought he’d end up married with a baby.
Anita Anabel: Hi Josh! [Laughs] I always get a kick out of your name. The best place to start is at the very beginning. How did you go from being a pastor of a church to a viral video comedian?
Josh Hawkins: I started as a pastor, I think in 2014 but I had had a YouTube channel for ages and ages — I think maybe 12 years — just as a hobby on the side. I definitely wasn’t putting too much effort into it and then in 2015 a couple of videos went viral.
The one of me doing trick shots throwing things over my shoulder and then two months later How to Speak Australian.
I’d always wondered what it would be like to go viral like it’s just such an interesting concept to me. Then suddenly two completely different videos took off and it was at that point I thought maybe I should invest a little bit more than just whenever I felt like it.
I was a full-time pastor at the same time, so I did both and then eventually the “Hi Josh” thing just kind of grew and after five years it got to a point where I decided to do the comedy stuff full-time.
AA: I remember meeting you the first time a few years ago and when you told me you were a pastor, I was so shocked because of the comedy you do. Why did you follow that career path?
JH: My dad’s a pastor and that’s not like the answer but I think that’s like a little indication. I grew up in the church. So I understood the concept of God and like who Jesus was and like what the Bible was, as much as I could understand it. So I was pretty involved in church and youth group in my late teens. I also didn’t really have any particular direction in my life as far as a career.
I saw all my friends go to uni and, and not end up using their degree and I was like well how about I just skip that part. After working random jobs and travelling, I eventually thought I should probably try something else and ended up studying video stuff for about a year and I ended up like not particularly liking it.
AA: But you’re so good at it!
JH: Even though that was my hobby, I loved making videos, it was the serious technical side of it I didn’t like.
I was also so involved in my church and loved it so as much and as I wanted to avoid like becoming my father, I bit the bullet and I went to bible college for three years. I got a degree — which is an actual thing — it’s called a Bachelor of Theology. I just dove in the deep end, studied it and that’s how I became a pastor.
AA: I know you probably feel like this is just who you are, but from the outside, it looks as though you have two very different personas. I find it so fascinating that you have a religious background, yet you don’t see that in any of your videos.
JH: I kind of decided intentionally along the way that I didn’t want to be a Christian comedian. I wanted to be a comedian who was a Christian.
I think that’s a legit decision that Christian creators have to make. Like, if you’re in a band and you’re a bunch of Christians, you’d think that the obvious choice is, well let’s just be a Christian band.
I think that decision determines who your audience is, which is Christians, and I didn’t want that to ever to be my only audience. I wanted my audience and my fans and my friends to be everyone.
Every now and then I do something that kind of alludes to the fact that I’m going to church or whatever but not in a preachy way. It’s more just a, hey, here’s my life.
I don’t swear in my stuff or bring people down — or I try not to. Hi Josh is all about just having fun and seeing the lighter side of life. That’s interesting that you noticed that.
“I kind of decided intentionally along the way that I didn’t want to be a Christian comedian. I wanted to be a comedian who was a Christian.”
AA: You’re dealing with some pretty heavy content with Married at First Sight (MAFS) and The Bachelor. How do you deal with that type of content if it’s not something you believe in?
JH: It’s an interesting one because I think there are different levels of involvement with something like MAFS. You could completely cut yourself off from shows like that because maybe you thought it’s all a bit dodgy or it’s a kind of gross reality show — and fair enough like if that’s your position — but I think for me, I like to be a little bit more reasonable and nuanced in those kinds of thoughts.
I was actually talking to a Christian podcast recently and they brought up these shows and mentioned a few things that were a bit more black and white and they’re like, people who go on those show’s and production and everything, it’s not good right?
I was like, “I get where you’re coming from but I actually know some of the people that went on the show and I can say from the personal experience that it’s not all bad.” Just because you’re involved in the show doesn’t mean that you want to be an Instagram influencer or you’re a bad person or anything like that.
Call it a redemptive quality but they’re actually people, genuine people, that are on that show and aren’t bad, they’re just looking for something and they might not find it. My involvement is to have a light-hearted take on it. The way I see it, in particular The Bachelor, I’m almost like making fun of the show.
Contestants would message me and say, “this lightens the load a little bit” from what the media is saying about the show and the comments that people are making. They just needed a little bit of a break from that, a little bit of fresh air, a little bit of light, you know, lighthearted comedy. So that really gave me purpose.
“Contestants would message me and say, “this lightens the load a little bit” from what the media is saying about the show and the comments that people are making. So that really gave me purpose.”
AA: I love that your wife Cat and daughter, Billie are in your content. It makes it so relatable. How do you think Billie is going to feel about these videos when she grows up?
JH: Yeah, that’s the million-dollar question. I’m a new parent and, you know, as much as there’s a lot of information out there of how-to and how not to parent — every parent is just winging it and just doing their best.
I think about that sometimes. I’m like, will she resent us including her in some of this content and having a lot of people knowing who she is? Will she appreciate it?
I think whatever response she has will be a reflection of what kind of parents we are to her in general. If we create a safe, loving, amazing household for her then she can put whatever it is in context and be like that came from a loving, safe place.
I’ve seen that as the more important thing and so I’m hoping that we have created a really fun, loving, safe environment for her.
AA: Apart from being excellent content, how has being a dad changed your life?
JH: You know, getting married was a surprise to me.
AA: What do you mean?
JH: I wasn’t expecting to like get married or to find a wife. [Laughs] Before I met Cat I was insanely happy as a single person. I loved being single and I got to a point where I was like, the only way that I would get into a relationship is if that person added to my life. I was so genuinely so happy that it would take someone very special to add to that.
I honestly wasn’t looking for a partner and then we kind of bumped into each other on Instagram and then I met her and I was like, who is this woman?
It was weird because we were both in our 30s and we were both of the opinions that we had kind of missed the boat. (Laughs) Like how are you going to ever meet someone else in their 30s who is quality but hasn’t been snapped up by someone else? Honestly, it was like such a massive surprise to me that I met someone like Cat.
From the time that we met, we got engaged in a year and then we got married like four months after that. So I’ve had no time to think about it and then we got pregnant like four weeks after we got married.
I hadn’t even had time to like to understand how this had all happened and then suddenly it’s the next step. I wasn’t even close to thinking that I would be a father. Every day I say to Catherine, “we have a baby”. It’s so wild.
It’s just amazing and like she’s such an easy, fun baby and has brought so much joy to our lives.
AA: Let’s talk about your viral videos. The How to Speak Australian: Abbreviate Everything video has had (at the time of publication) over 224 million views which is incredible. Why do you think this particular video is so popular?
JH: I think it really just tapped into reality, like most of those words Australians use and understand. Any comedy that taps into reality or like gives an understanding of people’s experience, that’s the best kind of comedy because you put yourself in that scenario.
It was and still is really popular with people who have either been to Australia or they’re about to come to Australia and have done some research on how to speak.
It was short, it was quick and it was confusing — and it just kind of worked.
AA: What has been the most challenging part of your rise to success?
JH: I feel very like blessed to have this as like a job, you know, particularly through COVID. I think it’s not a necessarily a hard part but I think it’s, it’s helped. Growing up in the church and like kind of having those values ingrained in me is to not let like the views and the following get to my head. Particularly that first time I went viral that was like, it was kind of a test I think.
It was like, okay, is this going to do me in or is this going to be fine? I think I came out of it with a really healthy understanding of fame. It’s literally nothing. It’s like this made-up concept.
It actually helps every time. Maybe a video goes viral or it doesn’t or it fails completely — and it doesn’t matter. I would not care one bit if I didn’t get any more followers from this point. I’ve got heaps enough.