If you’ve come across Blippi, the wildly popular YouTube kids entertainer, you might dismiss him as an eccentric 30-year-old man in an orange bow tie and bright orange glasses, a guy in a blue and orange cap who dances wildly and speaks in a cloying, over-enunciated voice for kids on the internet. But to 3-year-olds, Blippi is the Greatest Fucking Thing They Have Ever Seen, and they will cry and beg to see more of Blippi’s adventures with tractors and fire trucks. It’s this raw kinder-fervor Blippi cultivates among his fans that has grown his YouTube channel to 3.5 million subscribers.
Blippi’s real name is Stevin John, and before he began performing as a twee, 21st-century clown, he was a filmmaker in LA. He created comedy videos under the moniker “Steezy Grossman” (he changed his name legally from Stephen J. Grossman to Stevin John) including low-budget, low-brow comedy videos with titles like “Turdboy” and “Underwear Man.” And Blippi is hardly John's first brush with internet fame.
In a hard R–rated twist, in a 2013 video that BuzzFeed News has viewed, Stevin "Blippi" John takes an explosive diarrhea shit on his nude friend’s ass in a truly shocking rendition of the “Harlem Shake” meme.
“Yes, I did make a gross-out comedy video when I was in my early twenties, long before I started Blippi,” John said in a statement to BuzzFeed News.
Everyone has a past — Blippi’s just happens to involve a widely viewed, comedic video of him taking a deuce on another man. It seems that even in his former incarnation, Stevin John was destined for viral fame, but no one could have foreseen the dancing poop guy’s pivot to mainstream children’s entertainment.
In a typical video, Blippi — speaking directly to the camera, straining to project childlike wonder — explores things like buses, excavators, and jungle animals. Each episode ends with Blippi encouraging young viewers to ask an adult to follow him on social media; ever helpful, he spells out his name (“B-L-I-P-P-I!”). Clearly, he knows how to build a following. The videos end with Blippi’s theme song: “So much to learn about / It’ll make you want to shout: Blippi!” The result is a uniquely millennial hybrid of Mister Rogers and Jake Paul.
On some level, parents see Blippi — a harmless, educational show — as a welcome reprieve from the flood of low-quality animated kids videos on YouTube, or the disturbing or exploitative videos targeted at kids that prompted a crackdown by the platform last year. And while some may have seen Blippi throw the first pitch at a 2018 Arizona Diamondbacks game, they’ve almost certainly never heard of Steezy Grossman.
"My son is always asking to check if there's a new Blippi episode,” Joy Rumore, a tattoo artist living in Los Angeles, told BuzzFeed News.
“He uses places that the kids can relate to such as the supermarket, his home, parks etc…” said Michelle Davey, a parent who runs a parenting and lifestyle site Cockney in the Countryside. “His songs are really catchy and not to that point of annoyance.”
The result is a uniquely millennial hybrid of Mister Rogers and Jake Paul.
The Blippi empire — based in a production and distribution warehouse in Las Vegas — is vast. In addition to the main Blippi channel, which has almost 3.6 million subscribers, there is a Blippi Toys channel (mostly videos of Blippi with toy trucks or at a play gym, also over 3 million subscribers) and Spanish-dubbed Blippi (with almost 4.3 million subscribers).
The Blippi channels have a combined 7 billion views, and get around 400 million views per month, John said in his statement to BuzzFeed News. YouTube ad payouts vary widely based on multiple factors, but, based on a back-of-the-envelope calculation based on a range of YouTube rates from Social Blade, that volume of traffic could earn $100,000 to $1.6 million per month in ad revenue. Again, this is a rough guesstimate. The point is, the channel is potentially very lucrative. John did not comment on Blippi’s ad revenue.
Then there’s the dizzying array of Blippi official merchandise: dolls, books, action figures, bikes, T-shirts, a replica of his hat and glasses. There are Blippi birthday party plates and decorations. There’s a licensing deal with K-Swiss to sell Blippi-branded powder blue and orange kids sneakers. (Not to mention a vast cottage industry of unauthorized “Blippi-inspired” merchandise — blue and orange cake pops, and knit caps, and tutus — that he doesn’t profit from.) It’s quite an empire to have developed in just five short years.
The “Harlem Shake” meme went viral in early 2013. One person dances to the softer part of the techno song “Harlem Shake” by Baauer; then when the beat drops, a jump cut reveals a whole crowd of people dancing wildly, maybe in costumes. WWE wrestlers did one, BuzzFeed staffers did one, the hosts of the Today show did one, FCC Chair Ajit Pai did one to promote the end of net neutrality.
The entertainer then known as Steezy Grossman put his own spin on the meme: In “Harlem Shake Poop,” set in the interior of a sparse bathroom with a shower stall, you see him sitting on the toilet, pants down around his ankles. He’s wearing a tank top, sunglasses, and, for some reason, a bicycle helmet. He gently shrugs his shoulders, rolling his arms to the beat.
The beat drops, and suddenly the video cuts to Steezy standing sideways on top of the toilet seat, fully nude now except for the helmet and sunglasses.
On the floor, a friend — whose identity is not known — leans against the wall in a contorted shoulderstand, his head and neck on the floor, his hips in the air, his legs dangling down. He is also fully nude except for goggles and a swim cap. A black bar has been edited over his genitals, blocking out not just his penis and scrotum, but also the full taint and b-hole.
After a few seconds of dancing on the toilet, it happens. Steezy emits an explosive stream of shit, a cacophonous eruption that sends feces splattering across the room in a shotgun-like spray of poo pellets. Shit hits the wall, the glass shower door, the floor. And a sizable chunk hits its intended target: the spread-cheeked ass of his friend.
Steezy giggles and continues dancing, as does his friend — for a few seconds, until you can hear the unmistakable sound of gagging, though he never stops attempting to wiggle his legs in a dancing motion.
It is undeniably, unequivocally, fucking hilarious.
An attorney for Stevin John sent BuzzFeed News a cease and desist letter asserting his copyright on the video; we've created an artist's rendition of a scene from it below.
Gross? Sure. But what we have here is a consensual, nonsexual poop joke. No one got hurt; it’s not sexist or criminal or problematic; it’s just pure Jackass prank stupidity. If two adult men want to take a crap on each other for the sake of a viral video, I say god bless them.
“At the time, I thought this sort of thing was funny, but really it was stupid and tasteless, and I regret having ever done it,” John said in his statement to BuzzFeed News. “I’ve grown up a lot since then, and I trust people will see me as the person I am now, not the idiot I was back then.”
“So much to learn about / It’ll make you want to shout, Blippi!”
In interviews, John has said that the idea for Blippi came from a love of entertaining his nephew, then discovering there was a void of live-action kids content on YouTube. This is where John — who lists “SEO Specialist” among his former jobs on LinkedIn — had an advantage. While the programming that many millennials grew up on — Reading Rainbow or Sesame Street — was distributed by highly regulated networks, Blippi succeeds because it’s rewarded by the algorithm.
The videos have been fully search engine–optimized and often come up toward the top of searches for things like “videos for kids” or “tractors.” In an interview on a K-Swiss podcast, John said he used a lot of “generic SEO, titles, descriptions, tags” to build his audience. With high view counts and a deep catalog of videos on popular kids topics, Blippi is likely to show up in YouTube’s recommendations sidebar. If autoplay is on, there’s a good chance Blippi will show up sooner or later if you’re watching children’s videos, which is how many kids discover him.
“I guess he is a bellwether for where media is headed.”
“I guess he is a bellwether for where media is headed,” said Antonio García Martínez, a former Facebook executive, author, and parent. “We've lost any notion of collective social virtue curated by accountable elites.”
Blippi, like the “Harlem Shake Poop” video, was engineered to go viral. The “Harlem Shake” was a wildly popular meme at the time. Making an over-the-top, NSFW version, with its own website — HarlemShakePoop.com, now defunct — was a surefire way to attract attention. The actual video is too dirty for YouTube, but like other viral gross-out videos like “2 Girls 1 Cup,” it spread elsewhere with the help of people posting videos of their horrified reaction as they watched it. These are not a private joke among friends; they’re created to be as widespread as possible.
Beneath the surface, Blippi and Steezy Grossman share two traits: a willingness to debase themselves — be it clownish antics or taking a literal dump — for entertainment, and a methodical, calculated effort to use social media and its algorithms to reach as many eyeballs as possible.
John went on at least two podcasts as a guest to discuss his viral poop video. On The Vinny Brusco Show, John boasts that the video has been viewed “millions” of times and says it was a real poop, not faked.
“I think shit’s gross,” John said on the show. “But I think it’s funny. That’s the reason why I like shit in films and shit: 'cause shit is funny.”
Parents have a variety of feelings about Blippi. Some parents find him cloying and others are thankful he keeps their children rapt and teaches them a thing or two.
Angie Greenspan, a parent in Los Angeles, told BuzzFeed News, “Blippi single-handedly got my son to wash his hands for longer than two seconds because in one of his videos he says you have to say ‘Blippi’ over and over and over again while washing your hands. He has quite possibly saved us from norovirus, the flu, pinworms.”
“I find Blippi kind of loathsome, but I suppose it's better than alternatives,” said García Martínez, the former Facebook exec. “The songs are really earworm-y.”
“He has quite possibly saved us from norovirus, the flu, pinworms.”
John tries his best to engineer a rapport with viewers. In an interview with Mashable, he said he picked orange and blue for Blippi’s costume because blue is associated with trustworthiness and orange is “fun and creative.” Even the name was designed to be easily pronounceable — he recalled hearing that babies learn to say p and b sounds first.
“It’s neither great nor terrible; it’s what you can expect. It delivers the same thing over [and over], and that’s what parents want,” Polly Conway, a senior TV editor who also focuses on YouTube for Common Sense Media, an organization that educates parents on children’s media, told BuzzFeed News.
Now that he’s deeply rooted in the world of children’s entertainment, John does not seem eager to have Steezy Grossman or the “Harlem Shake Poop” video publicized now. Both SteezyGrossman.com and HarlemShakePoop.com sites are gone, as are the social media accounts for Steezy Grossman.
There is scant evidence connecting Blippi and Steezy online, except for a tantalizing comment in a Reddit thread for moms, "Does anyone else want to fuck Blippi?" One redditor, who loosely followed Steezy’s career after watching the poop video, wrote, “The man behind Blippi 'Stephen Grossman' (changed his name now, understandably) was the guy behind the infamous 'Harlem Shake Poop' video where he has explosive diarrhea all over his friend. You should check it out!” The comment was recently deleted.
While Blippi’s sordid past as the "Harlem Shake Poop" guy might be eyebrow-raising, parents said it’s not a deal breaker.
“I predict many young people do silly things, which, once they have grown up and matured, [will] regret, and that is life!” said Davey, who runs the parenting site. “Unfortunately, it's a lot easier documented these days.”
“Do I want my kid to go and give him a hug? Probably not,” said Rebecca McBride Wilcox, a parent of an avid Blippi fan. “But I also don’t want to deprive my kid of his construction videos that have actually really helped boost his language skills. I just might not watch that chocolate factory video again.”