Behind the scenes of a campus prankster

More than 1,500,000 subscribers. More than 170,500,000 views. In less than four years, 22-year-old Dawson Gurley, also known as BigDawsTV, has grown what started as a fun YouTube channel with a friend into an empire.

The Kansas City native says he came out to Arizona after his friends decided to move out here.

“I didn’t really have much going for me in Kansas so I decided to come out here with them,” Gurley says.

Gurley says he got his start making videos when he was 11 after seeing the movie "Jackass" and receiving a video camera from his parents for Christmas.

“That year me and my friends would go around and just do stupid stuff imitating 'Jackass' kind of.”

Gurley says it wasn’t until after high school that he realized he could make money off of YouTube.

“It was about a year after I graduated and I didn’t really have much going for me. I had dropped out of a college at the time.”

Gurley began his YouTube channel BigDawsTV on June 20, 2012 and since then says it has changed his life.

“It’s been awesome,” Gurley says. “I have never been a person who’s done well in school. I’ve always gotten just average grades and I’ve never enjoyed going to school. I was always looking for a way to start my own business and kind of do my own thing.”

Gurley’s YouTube channel is mostly prank videos and many of them have been filmed on Arizona State University’s campus.

“[ASU] is one of the best schools to film at because there’s obviously so many people and there’s a large variety of people,” Gurley says. “We love it here.”

According to Gurley, he enjoys filming at ASU because it is close to where he lives and people are outgoing.

“It’s awesome because people are everywhere and they’re interesting. People are really cool here, it’s a lot different than a lot of the other schools I’ve filmed at.”

Being a YouTuber isn’t just messing around in front of a camera, Gurley says. He is basically running a business.

“YouTube has allowed me to be my own boss and I’ve learned a lot about running a company because there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes like I have to do taxes and other business related things,” Gurley says. “There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that I wouldn’t have learned about if I didn’t do YouTube.”

Of all the videos Gurley has filmed on ASU campus, his favorites are “Balling on Strangers” and “Netflix and Chill.

Marketing freshmen Ben Mueller and his girlfriend Danielle Carruth were both featured in Gurley’s video “Netflix and Chill.”

Mueller says he and Carruth were walking to the bookstore when all of a sudden Gurley came up to them and asked Mueller if Carruth was his girlfriend. Gurley then proceeded to ask Carruth if she wanted to “Netflix and chill.”

“I was little be offended and a little bit scared at first because who just does that?” Mueller says.

After Gurley revealed it was a prank, Mueller says he was relieved and thought it was a clever video idea. Mueller is now a fan of Gurley’s YouTube channel.

“I think his videos are really funny and I really love the videos where he gives back to the homeless,” Mueller says.

Mueller says he thinks Gurley should keep filming on ASU campus as long as people recognizing him doesn’t ruin the quality of his videos.

“He’s a really cool guy and he should keep doing what he’s doing,” Mueller says.

McKenna Nischke, a sophomore elementary education major, has seen Gurley’s videos and overall thinks they are clever.

“His videos are funny, but can seem redundant as they go on,” Nischke says. “I really like his gangster videos though.

Nischke also mentioned that Gurley is becoming popular and may need to find a new location to film his videos.

“I think filming on campus is fun, but if he doesn’t want to be recognized he might need to start filming somewhere else because he’s becoming really popular,” Nischke said.

On the way to the interview Gurley says a few students recognized him and he is frequently recognized when he films on campus.

“It’s actually really hard to film at ASU now,” Gurley says. “Sometimes I’ll be recognized as many as 50 times in one day. It can get to the point where people start interrupting when I’m trying to get clips or when I’m trying to get a scene someone will come up and botch the whole thing.”

Due to the large growth of his YouTube channel and the popularity of his videos among ASU students, Gurley might take a break from filming videos on ASU campus.

“I don’t really plan on filming here too much anymore, only a couple more times this year,” Gurley says. “I’m planning on doing more traveling and doing college tours.”

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