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They Started a Joke: Roman Atwood

Roman Atwood, internet prankster

Roman Atwood is redefining “Internet famous.”

The Millersport man has had a camera in his hand for nearly a decade, getting a taste of national acclaim when the Jackass-knockoff series he and his friends crafted back in 2006 (the Nerd Herd) sold hundreds of copies on the Warped Tour.

But, when he hit the upload button on his first prank video back in 2011, he couldn’t have imagined what was to follow.

Or how many were to follow. As of press time, Atwood has accumulated 3,903,175 subscribers to his YouTube channel, where people from all over the world have been checking in to watch an increasingly elaborate series of video pranks. While he and partner Dennis Roady started out with goofier, juvenile stuff like pretending to urinate in front of cops with a leaky water bottle, or pretending to dump an empty cooler on campus coeds, they’ve now graduated to choppier comedy waters.

“It probably be depends on who you are,” he said. “I’m either a professional d*ck, or I’m just the guy trying to make you smile…maybe both.”

Atwood admits that he has pushed the envelope with more followers to please, including pretending to siphon gas from cars on Livingston Avenue, and their most infamous prank, “Stolen ATM,” which earned them a “disturbing the peace” charge from the Columbus Police Department. The ensuing trial (he and Roady were acquitted) proved that Roman’s “empire” is more than just a virtual following. During their day(s) in court, dozens of fans from all over the country traveled to the Franklin County Courthouse in support. Atwood says that he is recognized just about anywhere he goes in the world (which has included trips to Egypt, London, and other international destinations for pranks), including a trip to Aruba where the island’s Twitter account outed his presence and alerted fans to his whereabouts.

He and Roady have also now teamed with fellow Internet prankster Vitaly Zdorovetskiy for work on a feature film called Natural Born Pranksters, due out later this year and directed by Atwood. If you recognize the title it’s because it was scrawled on the chest of Zdorovetskiy last month when he streaked onto the World Cup pitch and helped the crew become, at least momentarily, world famous.

Atwood hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jeff Tremaine, the creator and producer of Jackass, something he says “millions of kids probably thought about,” but he has managed to make it work.
“I always thought, ‘Man, I can do that,’ he said. “I’m beside myself. It still catches me off-guard that it’s gotten this big.”

For more, visit www.youtube.com/RomanAtwood.

Meanwhile, another Columbus man recently made a name for himself, and took the Internet by storm, and all he needed was one single, simple joke.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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