In the Internet’s depthless sea of celebrity interviews, YouTube series Hot Ones offers a refreshingly authentic look into the lives of celebrities. The secret? Feeding guests unbearably hot chicken wings.
Hosted by Sean Evans and produced by First We Feast, the show draws audiences in with promises of, as Evans puts it, “hot questions and even hotter wings.” In each episode, Evans sits down with a famous guest to eat 10 chicken wings, each one topped with a hot sauce that gets increasingly spicier than the last. As if doing it once isn’t enough of a challenge, Evans manages to finish all 10 wings in every episode. With hot sauces ranging in spiciness from 1,800 to over 2,000,000 Scoville units, it is not uncommon for guests to react with statements similar to Joey Diaz’s during Season 3: “That is fuckin’ hot, Jack.”
In between each wing, Evans asks guests questions about their personal life, public personas, and creative processes. With such a simple concept, it’s miraculous that the show is so popular. But after finishing its 16th season, the Hot Ones YouTube channel has garnered over 715 million views. On a platform flooded with content, the show manages to hold viewers’ attention by doing what no other show dares to do: Torture its guests.
The show’s brilliance lies in how it puts its guests in vulnerable positions, encouraging them to open up. As the wings get progressively spicier, the questions become deeper and more personal. Although Evans’ interview style is seemingly laidback and casual, he lets the wings do the talking. As guests suffer and toil in the heat that lies on their own tongues, they tend to give honest, and often insightful answers. Sometimes they even lose bowel control.
Currently, the most-watched Hot Ones episode features Evans’ interview with Gordon Ramsay, from the eighth season. This episode gives us a private peek of a more soft-spoken Ramsay that directly conflicts with his belligerent TV persona. With a glimpse into his training as a chef, personal reflections on past contestants of his hit reality show Master Chef Jr., and the recipe for the perfect burger, Ramsay’s appearance is a perfect example of what the show does best; it allows—or at times forces—celebrities to turn off the act and really connect with the host.
Possibly the most viral clip from the show is from “Paul Rudd Does a Historic Dab While Eating Spicy Wings.” Rudd reflects on the inauthentic nature of late-night talk shows and press junkets while offering insight on succeeding in show business for over 25 years. After finishing off the final wing, Rudd remarks to Evans, “Hey, look at us…who would have thought?” Rudd’s statement has been clipped into a six-second audio clip dubbed the ‘#paulruddchallenge’ which has been viewed just under a million times on TikTok.
A favourite episode of mine is the fourth episode of season nine: “Aubrey Plaza Snorts Milk While Eating Spicy Wings.” Like many things Plaza is known to do, this interview can only be described as unhinged. As the video title suggests, to cope with the pain of the hot sauce, Plaza decides to pour milk up her nose. When the pain of the hot only sauce gets worse, Plaza entertains the possibility that she may be hallucinating.
On a platform oversaturated with content, Hot Ones is a strange breath of fresh air. Evans’ interview style flawlessly rounds out the show’s unique format, cultivating original and light-hearted conversations that allow audiences to gain a new perspective on the guests. With its increasing popularity, Hot Ones has even released its own line of hot sauces so that fans of the show can play—or suffer—along at home.