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Talking With Report of the Week, YouTube’s Best Food Critic

Five years ago, a teenager named John started a YouTube channel. Clad in a nice suit and wielding a voice that one might describe as “old-time radio newsman,” he set out to review hundreds of fast-food items and energy drinks. Since then, the simply named Report of the Week has grown into something of a cult phenomenon online, and John himself has become an idol.

Who is this guy? Why is he wearing a suit? How many suits does he own? We went straight to the source for answers. This … is the Report of the Week Report.

What was the initial idea behind Report of the Week? What did you set out to do?
The idea came from watching this one guy on YouTube who did these pizza reviews. At the time I didn’t even have an intention of reviewing food. I just wanted to review energy drinks. It looked really neat to just talk about something and try it and say how it tastes and whatnot. “I’ll just make a few videos about these, put them on YouTube and see what happens.” But when I first started out with it I realized, Hey, this isn’t too bad. I kinda like being in front of the camera.

When do you think it started to take off? When did you notice that more people were watching and commenting on it?
In January of 2013, I had just started doing food reviews of different items, and this video of mine where I reviewed the pan pizza from Domino’s, someone posted it on Reddit. I guess one of the few people who watched it at the time said, you know, “This guy, he sits there. He does these food reviews in a suit. I’ve never seen anything like it.” It started out with maybe 300 views at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day it had 300,000 views. So it was really this one day in January of 2013. People I guess had never seen a food review like it.

What’s interacting with fans like? What’s that dynamic?
For the most part I’d say there’s two groups of fans. Two distinct groups. You have the people who are regulars. Then you have people who are just passing through. [The regulars are] very friendly, very nice. They’ll offer some constructive advice, but they’re never jerks. Those are the people who I really do the channel for. That’s probably a couple hundred people.

Now the people that I say are just passing by, this is where you get a mixed bag. You get some people who say, “These videos are nice. I subbed because of this.” And then you get people who are just innocuous. They’ll say, “Nice review.” And of course you get the trolls who, you know, post whatever comes to mind first, I figure. I always try to just be welcoming to everyone.

How many videos do you make a week now?
In total, I have around 600 videos. Per week, sometimes it’s five, sometimes it’s four. If there’s, say, a new item from Taco Bell, I’ll put everything to the side and I’ll try to review that as soon as possible. I’ll try to prioritize. I try to do two or three food reviews per week of hopefully new fast-food items or items from major chains.

I also wanted to ask you about your on-camera persona. Do you wear suits all the time, or is that just something you do for the videos?
A lot of people will say, “Are they costume pieces? Why do you wear the suits? What is it about the suits?” The suits themselves are not costume pieces. It’s what I wear every day. Right now as I’m talking to you I’ve got on a gray suit with a nice purple, striped tie. That’s what I’m just wearing today; I don’t even plan on filming anything. In a sense it’s what makes the channel stand out. I’m a guy in a suit who reviews everything.

What are your most memorable reviews?
There was this one that ties in with Planet Wings. I decided I wanted to clear out their whole menu, do a review of each wing flavor. But the most well-known one that I did is for their suicide wings, which are supposed to be the hottest thing on the menu. I said to myself before I did the review, “I’ve had a lot of wings in the past. These will probably be hot, but it’s no big deal.” I just went in there, just downed a wing for the review. It was, my God, the hottest thing I’ve ever eaten. I didn’t even anticipate that. It took me completely off guard. So there I was sitting there trying to do this review. My mouth was burning. I was crying trying to get water and everything. That was an interesting one.

I couldn’t imagine finding a way to talk about wings for ten minutes. Is the length of your videos part of the entertainment value of it?
I’d say definitely the length of the videos and also the quality of the videos themselves really are something that make the channel what it is. The style of humor that I do is oftentimes dry humor. It appeals to some people more than others. For instance, last night I did an energy-drink review. It was called Rockstar Revolt. The can had this army camo design and I decided to give a little talk about how I think they should call it — instead of “Rockstar Revolt” — they should call it “Rockstar Military Coup” instead. I doubt that really has a zing to it that really sells the product.

Let’s say you’re stranded on a desert island. You can only have three energy drinks and three foods. What are they?
The three that I would bring is, of course, standard Monster Energy, the original. It’s very basic. I think it’s very good nonetheless. Second drink that I’d bring is this one called Bawls. That one is more of a specialty drink but it’s very nice. It’s like this little very pleasant, light, carbonated drink. Very good. Comes in different flavors. Third energy drink I’d bring, probably … you know, Monster Energy Drink, they always do such a good job with all of their products and they’re one of the lines of energy drinks that I respect the most. So I’d probably go with Juice Monster third. Again, because I just think it’s an excellently crafted drink. It’s able to combine these different flavors of fruity juices with the caffeine and it really leads it to be a very pleasant drink, especially in warmer weather.

As for food, the top-three food items I’d bring with me would be probably anything from Five Guys, specifically probably a burger with bacon on it. That’s always a great one, one of my favorite things to eat. Second thing I’d bring, I love this item from Pizza Hut: their stuffed-crust pizza with pepperoni. That was always a big favorite of mine. Third, I’d just bring some standard buffalo wings from a chain called Planet Wings. They’re a local chain. They serve mostly the Northeast, but they really do a good job with what they have.

What are you other hobbies? Outside of recording these videos, how do you fill your time?
A lot of the time what I do is I enjoy writing. Lately I’ve been writing short stories anywhere between ten and 90 pages long. Another thing that I’ll fill my time with is — and this is probably another reason why I haven’t put on a ton of weight from all these reviews — is I’ll go out and enjoy nature. Usually I’ll try, if the weather’s nice, to take a good three-mile walk every evening. Another hobby that’s more of an interesting one is shortwave radio. It’s really not too popular over here anymore. Instead of just transmitting a signal that would be heard 50 miles away, it can be broadcast to other countries and be heard thousands of miles away.

Do you plan on running TheReportoftheWeek indefinitely?
I don’t plan on stopping. Back in February when I did the five-year anniversary video I did this energy-drink review to kind of commemorate the channel having been there for five years. In the video I said, “I’m gonna keep doing this channel. I don’t have any plans on stopping. Assuming all goes well I’ll be back here for ten years.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Talking With YouTube’s Best Food Critic