A few things you probably didn’t know about Andrew Grantham: First, he created not only The Ultimate Dog Tease, the second most-watched YouTube video of 2011, but also the comedic paws-de-deux Cats Talking (Translation), which has more than 31 million views so far; second, he has used his popular YouTube channel, Talking Animals, to raise $25,000 for the Nova Scotia SPCA. Not bad for a guy working out of a spare bedroom in suburban Halifax. The voice-over artist and former website architect, 36 – who quit his day job to make videos full-time – talked to us about Internet stardom, animal welfare and why he gives.
“It started in 2007 with the two talking cats, which was just me procrastinating at 3 a.m. I was messing around with adding voice-over to a video someone uploaded to YouTube. I didn’t expect it to take off the way it did. It was a year and a half before I set up my channel. I wanted to turn it into something that would actually help (and not just help myself). So I approached the SPCA to see if they’d be interested in partnering up.”
“My income comes from YouTube advertising, but all the profits from the Talking Animals merchandise – like the Maple Kind T-shirts featuring Clark the dog – go to the SPCA. I’ve sold about 8,000 so far, with an average of $3 donated for each shirt.”
“The SPCA just seemed like the natural choice. They investigate so many animal-cruelty cases. Their mission is to make Nova Scotia a no-kill province, which takes a lot of money to sustain.”
“Making the videos is pretty simple – it’s just me, a microphone and some editing software – but the biggest part is going through all the footage people submit of their pets. I’ve got about 2,000 videos in my queue right now. It can take up to a week and a half just to sift through them.”
“Jupiter the cat is kind of the star of my channel – he and his brother, Kona, belong to a woman in Pennsylvania. He’s got a snarky attitude. I think a part of me is venting through him, though he’s really an expression of the typical cat personality. When Jupiter had a major health crisis, donations started pouring in to cover his vet bills.”
Partners in crime
“I have three cats of my own, all rescues. Tom Grey and Kelly came from a barn. I found Marzipan after Hurricane Juan – or rather, she found me. She was wandering down the street, and no one came to claim her.”
Twists of fate
“I was working for major ad agency, and I was about to start up my own company with a few clients. The day I was supposed to hand in my notice, I got laid off. I was sick of that whole world, so I focused on YouTube videos. I actually ended up meeting the girl of my dreams – we collaborated on a video because she was the only woman I knew of who did animal voices for a living. She used to be PJ Katie on YTV.”
“I’m doing a TV show with National Geographic Wild, and I’ve got a Dog Tease movie adaptation in the works with Paramount. I’ll try to incorporate some form of giving in future endeavours, whether it’s for the N.S. SPCA or another animal charity.”
This interview is condensed and edited.
Special to The Globe and Mail