Did you hear the one about the pair of vibrating panties that launched a comedy empire? Ryan and Jen Hamilton, the demented geniuses behind the massively successful online comedy channel HammyTV, began their career with little more than a naughty novelty, a camera phone and a wicked idea.
“We got some vibrating panties sent to us in the mail as a joke or whatever,” Ryan says. “We were getting ready to go out to dinner or lunch or whatever with my mother. She was driving and I had the remote and my mom was next to her. I started buzzing away and she had no clue, no clue at all."
“She was squirming around,” Ryan says with a laugh. “My mom had no idea what was going on and that hit 300 million views. Everybody saw it.”
“That was one of the biggest, it was huge,” Jen says. “It was the first time I ever was like, ‘All right, fine, let's do the video together.’ Then it went like a billion views on Facebook and I was like, 'Oh, okay. This is something.’”
It definitely is something. From that point on, the pair built up a massive following of more than 8 million fans across the different platforms simply by having fun. HammyTV was built on simple pranks shot haphazardly and over the years, the level of content and production value have gone up alongside the audience. The pair are now writing and fully fleshing out skits that often take hours of preparation and editing. In many ways, their hobby has become a full time job.
With so many tricksters on the internet fighting each other for clicks, there is pressure to push harder each time. Views can be a very powerful drug, gotta chase that dragon. The content on HammyTV is sexually charged, but only to a point.
“I personally think that [the audience] wants us to be more sexual and for me to show… but I will not,” Jen says. “I do have guidelines and things that we won't do. You know what I mean? There's girls out there and they're wearing thongs, making videos. I'm not going to do that for views.”
HammyTV’s videos may be filled with fun and smiles, but, like with a lot of good comedy, the humor often comes from a dark place. While serving in the Army, Ryan’s sense of humor was a way for him to let off steam. There were some pretty crazy pranks (Ryan may have shat in a boot or two), but there was also a lot of gallows humor.
As a gunner in Iraq, Ryan had some pretty traumatic experiences, particularly for a 19-year-old. His humor was one way to deal with the fallout, getting tattooed was another. Much of his work is very closely connected to his time in the military.
“Once I got one [tattoo], I kept documenting my journey through the military,” Ryan explains. “First I got stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, then we were told we're going to Iraq for a 16-month-tour. By the time I came home for leave, it had been 11 months in Iraq running missions. So I had a story I wanted to tell.”
Most of his story is told in black-and-grey, save for one splotch of color on his elbow—a tattoo of the Iraqi flag. “It changed my whole life,” Ryan says. “When I came back from overseas I had terrible anxiety, panic, PTSD. I had to drop out of school because of the panic. And at the time I was just like, ‘Oh man, like why me?’
“Then later life went on and I learned,” Ryan continues. “Now I can see the importance of that terrible moment.”
The tattoos have helped Ryan work his way through a lot of his issues with PTSD, but so has Jen. When they first started dating he was in a really bad place. His anxiety had prevented him from traveling outside of Massachusetts for five years. “She basically told me, ‘You’re going to have to travel if you’re going to be with me,’” Ryan says. “But we just booked it. I had a little panic on the plane, but I slammed a nip (laughs). I remember we landed, I went out on a balcony and just cried.
“It was like a whole thing had been lifted off my shoulders,” Ryan continues. “I’m not trapped. And we’ve built on that ever since, I’ll travel anywhere with no anxiety, no panic.”
The two have clearly helped each other through a lot of hardships during their time together. But now the two are going to have to work their way through one of the most notorious relationship killers of all time—the curse of the name tattoo. Ryan has a couple of tattoos dedicated to his better half. Jen tattooed her own name, in cursive, on Ryan’s right leg. You can probably already guess the inspiration behind it.
“That was a prank,” Jen laughs. “He lost. We played Rock, Paper, Scissors and whoever lost had to get a tattoo. Thank God I won. He was going to get it covered up, but he hasn’t. I think he loves it.”
“I love it,” Ryan says. “We weren’t even engaged yet when we did it. Now we’re stuck together. I think we’ve reversed the curse of the whole name thing.”
The love between the two is palpable, and that’s the thing that sets HammyTV apart from all the other folks making joke videos on the internet. The pranks aren’t mean-spirited, there’s no malice behind anything that Ryan and Jen do on camera.
“I love [making videos], she loves it and we together are showing that love is still alive,” Ryan says. “Love is still fun and [our fans] have been with us on our journey since dating to now as we’re engaged and when we get married.”