Let's All Look at the Pretty Colors

An interview with Christian Hull, who is distracting me from the horrors of daily life one paint mixing at a time

This is another blog post that’s not about music. I did kind of warn you that this newsletter wouldn’t all be music from the outset. But yet, I feel some sort of responsibility to make this disclaimer. Maybe I shouldn’t, though, because this is my house.

Every day brings a new horror and form of anxiety. I’d love to be one of those people who can sleep with their phone in another room, but I have a million excuses why I can’t, not least among them is I’m addicted to it like everyone else. Every morning, the first thing I usually see is some atrocity that happened overnight. And when I go to bed, I’ll typically cap my night off with some other paralyzing information that makes turns my slumber patchy and unrestful at best.

It feels irresponsible to turn a blind eye or just shut everything out at times, and I’m aware of the privilege I have that allows me to just tune out whenever it’s convenient for me. There are plenty of people within a football’s throw of my home that are not afforded that luxury.

But, one of the few respites during these last few weeks for me has come in the form of TikTok—a platform I totally neglected and derided as “for the kids” or whatever. My friend passed along an Instagram post of Christian Hull, an Australian comedian, who has been playing a game on TikTok where he watches paint get mixed and guesses what the final color will be.

“That’s it,” as the kids say, “that’s the tweet.” (Did I use that right?)

A post shared by @christianhull
September 27, 2020

But that really is it. It’s so devoid of any topical and divisive information. It is purely apolitical. It has given me the same Serotonin bath as Bob Ross or cooking videos on YouTube.

You watch his mind move in real time as he analyzes exactly what amount of blue or yellow are added, whether the paint is white or a gelatin, and then shows his receipts by making his backdrop what color he thinks it will be.

I couldn’t get enough. So, not only did I make a TikTok account purely for the purpose of watching more of these videos from Hull, I reached out to him to learn more about how he got so swept up in this game himself, and how he sort of stumbled into making the ultimate comfort content for the least comforting time of our lives.

We did this via email, so please excuse Christian’s Aussie spellings like “colour.”

Brendan: OK, so first of all, I have to tell you that after holding out for so long and deciding that it would just be the cultural phenomenon that I missed, I downloaded TikTok purely to watch your videos—whatever that’s worth to you.

Christian: I fucking love that so much!!! That’s the ultimate compliment. I hope you weren’t too disappointed, I can’t help but feel I’m very over hyped.

How long have you been guessing paint colors, and what made you decide to start doing this?

What a hilarious question. Never thought I’d get asked something so ridiculous in such a serious manner.

I’ve been a professional paint guesser for about a month now. I studied at TikTok University and got my Master’s.

The truth is I started one night when I was endlessly scrolling on TikTok and came across two girls guessing and it was such a fun video. I wanted to have a go guessing, and then just started duetting all these paint accounts and making tiktoks.

Second, how did you get so good at this? Your brain analyzes the components so quickly, and you take into account the gelatin vs. white paint.

I make it seem like I know what I’m doing but it’s just guess work. I think because I talk out my reasoning as to why I guess the colours people think I’m some sort of genius.

I have an incredible artistic family, and have grown up surrounded by art and artists and going to exhibitions, so I understand colours a little bit, but not a great deal. That’s been a little advantage

Sometimes your reactions are that of just overwhelmed, tearful relief. Those are my favorite ones. Is that genuine? It has to be so satisfying to nail it like you do sometimes.

I’m the most dramatic person. All my reactions are real, but I’m a naturally over the top person. When I get it right I really feel like I’ve just won the Olympic gold in the 100m sprint.

When you first started making this videos, did you expect it to be such a huge part of your online presence?

Not in the slightest. I honestly didn’t think I’d make more than 5 or 6 videos, and then that chapter of my life would be over. I thought people would get bored of it quickly but that hasn’t been the case. It will run its course and people will get over it I’m sure, but at the moment I’m loving making them. It’s honestly such a fun game.

The way trends pick up so quickly on TikTok, like dances etc (I am basically 80 when it comes to TikTok knowledge I’m sorry), has this game picked up steam? Are others doing it too? If so, are they anywhere near as good as you?

I got a message recently from a creator who says he was the first one to start filming these videos, Jake Polino. I guess people got inspiration from his idea and then it took off from there.

The girls I saw must of seen his videos and then I’ve seen theirs, and then others have seen mine and then it becomes a bit of a trend.

That’s the beauty of TikTok. The most mundane content can become trending and suddenly everyone’s so invested and then we all move on to the next thing and it’s always new and random and evolving.

I feel like these videos really land not only because they’re hilarious and fun, but I think right now because of the pandemic, everyone is so fucking bored and nervous. So, watching someone do something like guessing paint color resonates more because we’ve all played these little games with ourselves at home, or picked up new hobbies because we’re all at home right now. Would you agree with that? It’s something very simple, completely apolitical. It’s an escape from reality.

I’m Australian and live in Brisbane, and what I noticed is that the paint videos really have only exploded in the US. I have received so much press from America and none back home, which I absolutely love and am also surprised by.

I think that’s because of all that’s happening in the States right now. It was the night of the first debate between Trump and Biden that my TikToks exploded, and the comments I got were predominantly “I needed this escape right now” and “this is the content we need”.

These videos are simple. You don’t need to think and you can just avoid the impending doom for a few minutes. It’s like taking a little smoke break from life.

The timing of the videos was perfect. I don’t think they would of had the success they had if it wasn’t for Rebecca Jennings tweet. I don’t think people would have discovered my videos. She saw them on TikTok and then posted about them and then it blew up. Elizabeth Banks even posted about them saying it was a good mental break from what’s going on.

Within that same vein, how important do you think silly videos like this can be at a difficult time like this? Is that something you think about when you’re making videos, both about paint and otherwise?

I have been making videos for about 5 years now. I’ve had decent success here in Australia, done a few standup tours and had a few videos do the rounds at home. The thing that I have come to realise is, what I make is an escape for people. It’s dumb humour, easy to consume and requires no thought whatsoever. Im not polarising or political so people just watch these videos to have a laugh and not think about what’s happening in life. Its 3-5 minutes where they can zone out, relax and it hopefully lifts their mood.

I think this type of content is so important. That’s why TikTok is so popular - its just quick funny videos (mostly) delivered so easily to the user and the algorithm learns what you like watching and that why most of us are so addicted to it.

Has anyone contacted you about turning this into a full tv show? If not, why? Netflix has so many dumb and bad game shows, this would be a true gift. Theoretically, let’s say they call you tomorrow and say they want you for Paint Guessing: The Show. Would you rather host or be the sole contestant for every episode?

I spent 9 years working in radio, and for me I’m not really interested in mainstream media anymore. Of course I’d say yes and take up the opportunity - I’d be stupid not to. I think why complicate things by making it a game show? I think the rawness and the cheap quality of it is why it works. Producing it up and making into something shiny takes away the spontaneity. I sound like such a wanker when I say that, but sometimes stuff that works online doesn’t translate to TV.

I disagree. I would watch the shit out of that show. Netflix, hit me up and I will take an executive producer credit.

While I have you here, one “political” point—please consider donating to the Philly Bail Fund.

Today’s Snakes and Sparklers musical guest is No Thank You.