Picture this: You’re a tattooer heading into a day of walk-in tattoos. Your first client approaches and he’s a tough biker so you think to yourself, “Phew, this is going to be a piece of cake. This guy is going to sit like a rock.” You set up your station, put on the stencil and pull your first line. Then, all hell breaks loose. Your client flips a switch and starts screaming like a banshee while you calmly and professionally try to get the job done. As he’s thrashing around and moaning like you’re digging a machete into his skin, you wonder, “Is this guy for real? Am I being pranked?”
Yep. You have been pranked by the one and only Jesse Sebastiani, known to social media as MTV Jesse. “One of my favorite pranks was the one in the tattoo shop,” Sebastiani says. “I got a Care Bear tattooed on my ass and just screamed at the top of my lungs every time [the artist] touched the needle to me. It’s one of those things you just have to watch, but I think it came out really funny and I want to redo it.”
Sebastiani got his start pulling pranks as a teenager and while still in high school, he set his sights on reaching Steve-O levels of success. “My two best friends and I ended up producing and filming our own show,” Sebastiani says. “The show was called ‘Careless Teens’ and it aired on MTV in Canada. Picture a low budget ‘Jackass,’ only not as good. Just a bunch of kids running around and stapling each other’s nuts to planks of wood in the forest. We did a lot of dumb shit.”
Although Sebastiani’s show only lasted a single season, it opened the door for a future in front of the camera. Following “Careless Teens,” Sebastiani went on to film a documentary for Facebook, “Saved By the Status,” which followed him for 100 days on the road traveling to every province in Canada using Facebook statuses to find places to stay, food to eat and modes of transportation. Along the way, Sebastiani linked up with fellow creator Kyle Forgeard, who’d just begun forming his YouTube channel, NELK.
“A fan of my show and his channel grouped us together,” Sebastiani says. “I looked at his channel and decided to pitch some ideas. I wrote out some things I knew I could do and said, ‘Hey, I can light myself on fire. Let’s go blame some people who are smoking cigarettes.’ We shot that, it was funny, and a couple of weeks later we moved to L.A. together.”
Sebastiani and Forgeard may have begun their time in L.A. as small fish in a big pond, but the pond they chose changed that in a hurry.. “We saved up all of our money and stayed at a place called 1010 Wilshire,” Sebastiani says. “I had this cheap mentality where I thought, ‘We shouldn’t be staying here, we can’t afford this.’ But, putting ourselves right in the action when we were small and hungry was the smartest thing we could have done. Ghostface Killah was our neighbor and we’d go to happy hours on the rooftop with producers—so staying in that building really did wonders for us.”
Sebastiani and his crew hit the ground running and within their first three weeks they hit the content jackpot. As a creator, no matter how seasoned you may be, it can be tough to predict which videos will blow up and this prank had all the right ingredients. “To this day, our Coke prank is our biggest video,” Sebastiani says. “It got us on the news and the video had, like, 140 million views on Facebook. We borrowed my friend’s car, filled the back full of Coke cans, went to Venice Beach and asked people if they wanted ‘Coke.’ We set up our cameras, cops surrounded our car and we pranked the cops. We ended up getting detained, but that really put us on the map and we used the video to leverage getting collabs and worked up the chain.”
Sebastiani has continued to chase the high of the Coke video’s success, a choice that has taken him to some pretty wild places. Things don’t always go as planned and he’s had to accept the consequences as they come. “Everything happens for a reason, it definitely sucked getting arrested for the prank I did in Ohio,” Sebastiani says. “At the last minute, we got a jumpsuit, some fake blood and a shovel. Then I walked into a Barnes and Noble and asked for the section on ‘How to Clean Up a Body for Dummies.’ Someone took me seriously and sent a SWAT team. Helicopters were circling us and I went to jail. I only spent a day and a half in there, but I waited eight months for the trial.”
Doing time, even just 36 hours of it, would cause many pranksters to throw in the towel, but the thrill of his brief stint in jail only added fuel to Sebastiani’s fire. He’s fully committed to taking his career to the next level. “I’ve been working on a new show for the FULL SEND channel called ‘SHITHOLE,’” Sebastini says. “People see us as these drunk, party dudes that do pranks, but they don’t really see the business side of what we do and how big of a production this is. This show follows behind the scenes of the brand, designs, productions and business of whatever I do. I hope to keep it going and make it into a season format. Then just start working on multiple shows, I think there could be dozens of shows in the works.”
Through NELK and FULL SEND, Jesse Sebastiani has grown into one of the most recognizable faces of YouTube’s burgeoning prank community. He’s come a long way, both in exposure and mileage, with what he’s got cooking, and this is only the beginning. Sebastiani has us chomping at the bit over what he’ll pull next—whether that’s pulling a prank on the next hot rapper or getting tattooed in a helicopter. Whatever he does, you know we’ll be watching.