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It’s no secret: the internet loves dogs.
But Chris Equale never set out to make the world wide web fall in love with his corgis.
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Equale, who’s based in Las Vegas and jokingly refers to himself as a “recovering tech executive,” used to have a harried work schedule. Every Monday, he flew to California for work. On Fridays, he flew back home for a weekend with Sarah, his fiancee, and their Pembroke Welsh corgis Hammy and Olivia.
Then, in 2020, COVID brought air travel to a halt. And, like several of our other Creators on the Rise featurees, Equale found himself stuck in quarantine. For him, it was an even more unique situation. Not only was he not used to being trapped at home, but he wasn’t used to having all this one-on-one time with the dynamic duo.
So, to occupy himself, he pulled out his phone and started filming.
He’d never considered content creation before. Even when he posted that first video, where he calls Hammy out for having a big ol’ crush on a cat–complete with himself voicing both Hammy and Olivia in time with their barks–he didn’t think it’d be A Thing. He figured he’d send it to family and friends, they’d get a few laughs, and everyone would move on.
Then the video started getting views.
Like, a lot of views.
To date, it’s got over 2 million–which is a drop in the bucket compared to how other Hammy and Olivia videos have performed. After realizing people dug his content, Equale started making more in that exact format, with wild storylines (in one, for example, Hammy skips school to go out on the town, and Olivia has to signal him to make a cinematic journey home when the principal tattles to Equale) and, crucially, Hammy and Olivia “talking” in exaggerated, boisterous voices.
These days, Equale’s top-performing videos scrape 50 million views. And thanks to that viewership–the Hammy and Olivia fandom, as he calls it–he’s now a full-time content creator making a video on YouTube Shorts every single day.
That level of consistent content production has helped push Equale’s channel to nearly 100 million views and over 100,000 new subscribers each month. Those are career numbers, but Equale says making videos is more than a job. He and Sarah consider it a “social responsibility,” he says, because of the amount of messages they’ve received from people whose lives have been brightened by Hammy and Olivia.
“This is the time in life, right now, where there’s so much uncertainty and so many hardships happening with everybody during the pandemic, that people need a daily smile,” he says.
We’ll let him tell you more below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: For somebody who’s reading this and has never seen one of your videos, tell me about you and how the channel got started.
Chris Equale: So Hammy and Olivia are two quote-unquote “talking corgis,” and we put together daily family friendly skits. Myself, Chris, I’m engaged to my fiance, Sarah, and we don’t have children of our own. So we like to think that Hammy and Olivia are both our kids in this respective household, and we like to factor them into our decision-making process. We’ve really humanized them in that regard.
So Olivia is a seven-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi, and she emulates the modern-day Cher Horowitz to a large degree. And then Hammy is our five-year-old Pembroke Welsh corgi. And he is moreso that lovable loser that is probably the last kid picked in kickball, but you always want to root for.
Tubefilter: Where are you from and when did you meet your fiancee?
CE: I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. I met Sarah about eight years ago, here.
Tubefilter: How did the channel get started?
CE: I used to travel to California for work every week. So for eight years I would get on a plane on a Monday, head to California, fly back on a Friday, and spend my weekend here in Vegas.
And then COVID was the first instance where I was fully grounded. I didn’t get on a plane. The following Monday, everybody went into quarantine. March 16th, 2020, was my 387th flight back home. And I haven’t been on an airplane since.
So being alone in my house with my dogs on a Monday was very unfamiliar territory for me, and I needed a creative outlet. I saw an opportunity to shoot a video of Olivia talking to a vacuum cleaner, and little did I know that posting it would create such a fandom.
When it took off, I looked at Sarah and I said, you know, “This is the time in life, right now, where there’s so much uncertainty and so many hardships happening with everybody during the pandemic, that people need a daily smile.” And that’s what we set out to really do with Hammy and Olivia.
Tubefilter: Had it ever occurred to you to try doing videos before that or was it just sort of out of nowhere?
CE: It had never occurred to me to do content creation at all. I took it upon myself just to do it moreso as something fun to share with my friends and family during the pandemic, ’cause we couldn’t get out, we couldn’t see each other. It was just sort of my way of communicating and sharing laughs with them. I had no idea the reach that a piece of content could take.
And, you know, when your phone starts vibrating endlessly, and you start to realize the amount of views that a single video can get, you start to understand that you can really touch so many lives with just a 15-second video. And that’s where we took it upon ourselves to invest in taking the time to really make this a fun adventure for everyone every single day.
We got so many direct messages from people who told us, “I rely on this.” “I love your two dogs.” “I battle depression and they give me a sense of joy throughout my day, and they help dissipate my anxiety and lower my stress levels and they do so much for me on a serotonin level, so thank you for sharing them with me.”
We’ve now taken this as a social responsibility that people need silliness in their lives. So we’re just really happy to be able to introduce it to them through these two corgis.
Tubefilter: Wait, what was your day job before all this?
CE: Prior to this, I was the EVP of sales for one of the largest cannabis cultivators in southern California—licensed. And prior to that, I was a tech executive. I joke often that I’m a recovering tech executive who just talks to my dogs all day every day.
Tubefilter: You said that first video kind of took off. When did it become a thing where it was like, “Okay, this is gonna be my full-time pursuit”?
CE: I think everybody comes to their own conclusion on when to make that transition. I think for us, it was a unique position, because COVID was really the catalyst that started all of this. When offices started to open back up and when people were starting to have to get their normal work legs back under them and things along those lines, I just made the conscious effort of deciding I didn’t want to go back to that.
Whereas I feel like a lot of creators, they’re actively in their job and they make the decision whether or not to quit that day. I didn’t really have that pressure. And I think…you know, I was in the same pair of sweatpants every single day. I would change out my T-shirt maybe a few times a week. I was just really enjoying the comfortability of being in my home, because I hadn’t experienced something like this, a normalcy like this, for almost eight years. I was on a professional grind, traveling so much, so I just decided at that point that I wanted to give up that life and just stick with this. And then I think the financial security around content creation sort of came after that decision. It wasn’t the financial security making the decision easy, if that makes sense.
Tubefilter: Yeah, it does. What I hear from a lot of people is that like, one month they got a $20,000 or $30,000 check from AdSense and they went in and quit their job.
CE: Totally, yeah. We were able to connect with Graham Stephan over here in Vegas, and he’s a fan of the double down. He’s like, “Just quit your job and double down!” I was like, “Okay.” [laughs]
Tubefilter: I mean, people take a flyer and it does work out sometimes. But I feel like we also don’t hear about when it doesn’t work out.
CE: Right, right, right. You tend to lean on the success stories. I get it. And we’re not rolling in dough by any stretch. We still live a very unassuming lifestyle. We get by just fine and we just enjoy putting our daily smile out into the world.
Tubefilter: How did you end up with the two of them? Did you always want corgis, or…?
CE: It’s funny you ask that. My entire life before Olivia, I was an English bulldog owner. I had eight different English bulldogs and their names all started with the letter B.
What’s so funny is anyone who has an English bulldog will know they’re like koala bears, they sleep like 20 out of 24 hours a day. They’re big lumps. You don’t take them far on walks because they don’t go very far, they’re very low-maintenance dogs.
Anyway, Sarah always wanted to have a corgi, and I went to her friend who’d just bred a litter of corgi puppies. I probably should have been wise enough to know at that point that there was no chance I wouldn’t come home without one that day.
So we came home with Olivia and I learned very quickly that this is a different way of life, having a corgi. It’s constant energy and she’s very vocal and her personality is so loud and so boisterous and funny and you have to be on your toes.
And the only thing that could make that more hectic is getting a second one! Which we did, and it was great. I mean, introducing Hammy into this home just brought a whole other layer of fun, and his personality shines through in a completely different way than Olivia’s and they complement each other so well. And I think when people watch our videos…sure, they “talk,” and yes, that’s a little bit unrealistic. We get it. But the personalities are still what resonates the most. And I think that’s what people really connect with, and they really feel like they know our dogs almost as well as we do.
Tubefilter: I have three cats and a dog and I certainly assign them little voices and little personalities, and it’s nice to see that from someone else willing to put it out there on the internet.
CE: I think anyone will look at me like I’m crazy except a pet owner. I think we all wonder, at one point, what it might sound like to talk with our pet. So I’m glad you get it.
Tubefilter: So as you mentioned, you do daily videos. That’s huge. That’s a lot of production time and a lot of effort. What does the average day look like for you in terms of producing a video every single day?
CE: That’s a great question. At this point now, two years later, we’ve done upwards of 700 videos, which is really wild to think about.
I think there’s always such barriers to entry when you think about being a content creator. YouTube can be intimidating! It can be a very intimidating platform. Like, why would someone be interested in me for eight or 15 or 20 minutes at a time?
What we’ve really enjoyed about short-form content creation is that it takes 15 seconds to be able to introduce an idea, add some humor to it, and tie it all together, and that’s not a giant creative commitment.
Now, there’s a difference to that. There’s an asterisk. And that is: I work with dogs. Those present their own challenges. The old entertainment cliche is “Don’t work with kids or animals,” and I learn every single day why that’s so true. But at the same time, they’ve become so much more efficient in this, just because thye’re so conditioned to doing this now that the day is a lot quicker than it used to be.
So typically—they’re still my dogs, you know, they’re still my animals. So it still takes care, even outside of the content creation side of things. My whole day revolves around them.
They wake me up at 6:30 for breakfast. They know their breakfast time. Then I get into the morning routine of feeding them, walking them, they go down for their nap, and then once they’re back up at 11 a.m., we go straight into our third bedroom, which we’ve converted now into a closet for the dogs. We pick out outfits, I put together a script. They have a green room when they’re not working.
CE: Oh yeah. I can only work with one of them at a time, unless it’s a shot that needs both of them. So I’ll put the other dog in the green room and let them kind of hang out and nap in a nice bed, have some treats.
To do a 15-second completed video that our followers see, it takes about four hours of work. That’s script, shoot, edit, and score. And if it was just me—if someone was showing up for the six-foot redhead, which I know no one is, ’cause I understand the exchange here, they want the dog—if it was just me making a 15-second video, it would probably take 20 or 30 minutes. It’s a whole different world when you introduce pets to the space.
Tubefilter: In terms of making a video, is it always scripted or do you do any kind of candid catching them in the moment, doing something funny? What’s the mix there?
CE: There’s a theme to all this: I’m only willing to do whatever the dogs are willing to give. It speaks, really, to each aspect of this. I could have an idea in my head, I could have a really funny scripted situation. But then Ham doesn’t feel like being super vocal today or barking a lot, and I have to adjust. Or maybe Hammy gets really excited and does a rollover for a treat, and we weren’t expecting that, but we caught it on camera. So can we integrate that somehow?
I always show up with a plan because I feel like a plan is going to be the most efficient for everyone’s time. But they have funny ways of taking that off the tracks, and sometimes we just have to go for it. And at the end of the day, I think when subscribers or followers can key in on those moments and see sort of the organic nature of the dogs being themselves, I almost feel like it’s obviously the most authentic and sometimes the most captivating content.
Tubefilter: I’ve had animals all my life and I think it’s pretty clear when they do or don’t want to be on film, so it’s interesting in your videos that they’re always so obviously gung-ho.
CE: Yeah, they’re such sweethearts and they totally have just bought into this now at this point. They walk into the green room and they wanna start acting. They know it’s treat time. It’s almost like paid actors. I get asked all the time, “Do they like wearing outfits? My dogs don’t like wearing outfits.”
They love wearing outfits because they associate it with, “I’m gonna get treats, I just have to put this on.”
Tubefilter: And they’re the center of attention.
CE: And they’re the center of attention! And then we’re just oohing and ahhing at them with a camera in their face, they bark for about 10 minutes, and that’s their day.
It is funny—people tend to think this is an all-day thing. And for me, yes, there’s a lot of aspects for it outside of just the production of videos that take up a lot of my time. But just in terms of them and their bandwidth and what’s needed from them on a day-in, day-out basis, it’s really no more than like an hour and a half, and they love it. It’s time we get to spend together, it’s enrichment we get to experience together, and it’s just being able to really enjoy our bond.
Tubefilter: Do you have anybody working with you behind the scenes, like a manager or editor? Anyone else on the business/production side?
CE: My fiancee is obviously a giant help. Sarah’s been so amazing in terms of like, to do what we do and to get some of the shots we shoot, you cannot do it without a second set of hands, and she’s absolutely paramount in making the magic happen on camera.
Outside of that, we’re blessed to be the first pets to sign with ICM, our agency in L.A., and our management team is with Whalar, they’re fantastic. Outside of that, it’s me. I always joke, I’m just a redhead with a cell phone. I’m the one that just shoots the videos, I edit it all on my cell phone, and I pull all the magic from an iPhone 13, and that’s it.
Tubefilter: You walked right into my next question. Earlier you mentioned short-form content making things more accessible. What are your thoughts about that in terms of just being able to use your phone instead of having to have expensive equipment?
CE: I think it’s amazing. I mean, you don’t have to have the most expensive equipment or the most expensive microphone or the most expensive software. I think what’s been fantastic for us as content creators is just how far technology has come in such a short amount of time.
The beauty is that everyone has a camera now in their pocket and that’s how anything can be captured in any moment. I love it because it sounds like it’s always such an intimidating phenomenon, to be a YouTuber. The brilliance of today’s day and age is I can shoot content on my phone. I can edit it on my phone. I can post it directly from my phone. And this one little medium that resides in my pocket for millions of eyeballs is pretty wild.
Tubefilter: Have you guys gotten any brand deals or sponsorships or other partnerships?
CE: Oh yeah, we have to. When you’re full-time, that’s a big piece of the earnings.
I’m a big believer in, we put on a show. And when you put on a show and you entertain, you are able to really have that stage and command the audience. A big piece of it too is frequency. I think if you post as often as we do, you earn the right to have the floor for a commercial break. This is the lifeblood of a full-time content creator, being able to have forecastable earnings so we can continue to allocate most of our time to producing more content—which I think, at the end of the day, everybody really wants.
So I think a lot of creators struggle with the moral dilemma of it and the ethics around it, but at it’s just a necessary piece in order to go into content creation full-time.
I love it because a lot of the brand deals we currently have our arms wrapped around are all dog-centric and they’re all fixtures in Hammy and Olivia’s ecosystem, which is fantastic. We have a great partnership with our food provider. We have a great partnership with our dog supplement provider. We have a great relationship with the platform that we use for a dogsitter if we need to.
So I think all of these are natural tie-ins and, you know, we also have a way of turning branded content on its head where it’s not super formal. We like to inject it into our skits in a humorous way so we’re still putting on a show—and I think our following appreciates that.
Tubefilter: In terms of growth of your channel, it’s grown pretty steadily. Do you know if there’s a specific video that took off and got your channel a lot of attention early, or is it cumulative traffic pouring in?
CE: I think it always starts with one leaking out that really gets the attention of viewers. And then when that shooting star moment happens, it’s always great to see all of the other content lift with it. That’s always sort of how this works. And, you know, we get that at any moment you can be the flavor of the week. You could be the flavor of the month. Interest might wane. But it always tends to come back around if you’re consistent and you’re producing high-quality content.
We’ve seen recently with this new emergence of Shorts and short-form content, really being able to put a spotlight on creators like us who weren’t otherwise willing to do five- to 10-minute pieces of content, nor had the bandwidth to be able to do that. It gives us the platform and we’ve really been able to excel our channel through that, which has been a total blessing. We’re just so happy that YouTube has now given us that medium.
Tubefilter: Are there any specific videos you can think of that really took off and prompted that “shooting star”?
CE: Yeah: Corgi loses his legs! part 2. That has been unequivocally our best-performing piece of content to date. I think it has over 50 million views at this point on Shorts, and it tends to be sort of the catalyst for any new set of eyeballs to watch and then say, “I gotta see what this channel’s all about.” And then they continue to really go down the rabbit hole on our other videos.
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans for the rest of this year? You don’t have to give me spoilers, but any plans or things you’re hoping to accomplish for the rest of this year?
CE: Huge plans, actually. My end goal for this…Well, look. We’ve done 700 videos. It’s not sustainable to have your dogs do this into their eight, nine, 10, 11 years on, it just doesn’t work. I’m a big believer in wanting future generations to be able to enjoy Hammy and Olivia like our viewers have, so I’ve been racing to try to get into animation.
We’re blessed to now be partnered with a very prominent animation studio, and we are at the point where we’re putting together a full animated television show concept, and we’re looking to take that to market here shortly. We’re so excited.
Tubefilter: How did you arrive at animation? That’s very ambitious.
CE: I’m not an animator, but I think if you watch our videos, you understand that we’re all about the chaos and the over-the-top nature of things that can happen and unfold. There’s so much of a limit to what live-action can offer you in that world. My dogs do a fantastic job, and I think I do a good job of making our videos chaotic and explosive and hilarious and just wild without having to put them in dangerous situations. I will not cross that line at the end of the day. They’re still my pets and I want people to know that.
But I think the animated world can offer so much. Like, could Hammy and Olivia go scuba diving? Could they go to the moon? You never know. And with animation, I think that shackling nature that you feel as a content creator immediately gets lifted. Plus I’m a fan of Rugrats and Doug and Rocko’s Modern Life and all those old cartoons that probably date me. But at the same time, I have this dream that kids one day will be able to wake up on a Saturday morning and watch Hammy and Olivia and laugh alongside them.
That’s my dream: to immortalize these dogs so they can continue to make people laugh for many, many years to come.
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