You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Nigahiga: No. 2 in #Famechangers Digital Star Ranking

Variety ranked the top 12 stars in the digital world as part of its #Famechangers issue. For more of the rankings, click here.

Ryan Higa has claimed the “niga” part of his immensely popular YouTube channel Nigahiga (pronounced NEE-gah-HEE-gah) comes from a Japanese word meaning “rant.”

But it’s a joke: Higa, who doesn’t speak the language, is no Angry Young Man. (Never mind that the closest word in Japanese that sounds like “niga” actually means “bitter.”) The 25-year-old Hawaii native comes across as one of the nicest-seeming superstars on the Internet, and the secret to his success is that he’s mastered the art of being funny without resorting to mean-spirited jabs or gratuitously crass gags. On-camera, Higa has the disarming charm of a Jimmy Fallon or Ellen DeGeneres.

In fact, his most-watched video is “Nice Guys” (nearly 60 million views), a musical bit in which he plays one of two high-school nerds who decide to try to pick up girls by becoming “the ultimate douches” before reverting to nice-guy mode.

Like other digital celebs, he’s constantly engaged with his followers, most of whom are 13-25, and incorporates their comments and questions into his segs. “I don’t think it’s a secret: When I make a video, I’m always thinking about the fans,” he says.

Higa’s arc to YouTube fame began in 2006, when, as a teen on Hawaii’s Big Island, he began posting lip-synch videos with his friends. Many of those early uploads were removed, because they included copyrighted music — so Higa went on to write his own songs. Nine years later, Nigahiga has nearly 15 million subscribers for his sketches and musicvideos. A second channel, HigaTV, counts 3.5 million subs.

“I try to keep the topics trendy,” Higa says. “If it’s a rant, it’s something I feel strongly about, and people will watch it because they either agree or disagree.”

Then again, even Higa’s diatribes aren’t too serious. His “Rant on Asian Dramas” is really a spoof on formulaic genre films, while the tantalizingly titled “F— the Police!” video starts out with him griping about getting pulled over for speeding before seguing into farcical scenes about how to weasel your way out of traffic tickets.

After leaving the Aloha State, Higa attended film school at the U. of Nevada and now resides in Las Vegas. What’s next for him? Like other major digital personalities, he’s eyeing a bigger canvas for his shticks: “When the time’s right, I’d like to make a movie,” he says.

Nigahiga by the numbers

(Click here for large preview.)

*Data provided by Tubular Labs

Top videos:

Most watched
Total views: 59.8 million

Most commented
Total comments: 179k

Most recent:
Total views: 4 million

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Harmony-Korine-Duck-Duck-Snapchat-Spectacles

    Harmony Korine Shot a Short Film Entirely With Snap's Spectacles (EXCLUSIVE)

    Director Harmony Korine donned a pair of Snap’s high-end Spectacles 3 camera-enabled glasses to make an experimental short film — transforming Miami into a psychedelic swirl of colors, music and characters. It’s a proof-of-concept project: Snap enlisted the filmmaker to create the 10-minute short, called “Duck Duck,” to showcase the new Spectacles 3 hardware, which [...]

  • Eko - Wizard School Dropout

    Eko Launches Four Interactive Video Series, Including Two to Push Walmart Shopping

    Eko is launching its most ambitious bet yet to close the loop between interactive entertainment and ecommerce, with partner and investor Walmart. The interactive-video platform company debuted four original scripted series Thursday (Nov. 21). Two of them — EffinFunny’s “Wizard School Dropout” (pictured above), set in a Harry Potter-esque world, and “Timeline” from Olive Bridge [...]

  • Snapchat

    Snap Teams With Verizon to Develop 5G Augmented-Reality Experiences

    Verizon, in its ongoing quest to find killer applications for 5G wireless, has signed Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, as a new tech development and marketing partner. Under the pact, the companies said, they will work together at Verizon’s 5G Labs to create new augmented-reality feature and experiences for consumers, including new ways to [...]

  • Three Minute Film Lecture

    Hong Kong Protest Movement Gets Its Own Streaming Platform

    The team behind the award-winning controversial Hong Kong dystopian drama “Ten Years” has launched a new streaming platform focusing on short films about the ongoing protests that have gripped the city since June. Backed by Next Digital, which publishes Apple Daily and Next Magazine, Next Film is headed by Jevons Au, one of the co-directors [...]

  • Memories of the Alhambra

    South Korean Producer Studio Dragon Sets Partnership With Netflix

    Global streaming giant Netflix has struck a multi-year deal with Studio Dragon, a three-year old production company that has become one of the hottest content houses in Korea. The deal is described as a three-year strategic partnership, highlighted by a multi-year content production and distribution agreement, that begins from 2020. Studio Dragon’s parent company, CJ [...]

  • Google headquartersGoogle headquarters, Dublin, Ireland -

    Google Won't Allow Political Campaigns to Target Voters by Affiliation Anymore

    Google is tweaking its policy for political ads, which includes doing away with microtargeting by political affiliation or voting records. The search giant also announced Wednesday that it would clarify its advertising policy to make sure that political advertisers can’t make grossly misleading statements. “We’re limiting election ads audience targeting to the following general categories: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content