In 2017, bit.ly two shaggy-haired university students filmed their journey as they travelled to North Korea in search of a trim.
Since then, they’ve snuck into arms conferences, mounted machine guns on robot dogs, received lifetime bans from Sydney’s Star casino, trained wild lizards to eat cockroaches in their homes, made flamethrowers from rubbish and used mini rockets to plant trees.
Alex Apollonov and Aleksa Vulovic are two of Australia’s most popular Youtubers.Together, the 30-year-olds have roughly 4.5 million subscribers and their videos have been viewed more than 388 million times.
Though their content may seem chaotic, somewhat unhinged and plain silly, it’s underpinned by a desire to educate.
“We’re brainwashing children into communism,” Vulovic jokes.
“The goal is to foster a nicer group of people.”
Their joint channel Boy Boy hosts satirical stunts inspired by Australian comedy show The Chaser’s War on Everything and gonzo journalists like Louis Theroux.
On Apollonov’s channel I Did A Thing, he creates wacky and borderline-illegal contraptions ranging from steel-toed Crocs and hermit crab armour to chainsaw-powered beyblades.
“I Did a Thing was mostly for boys like me who might have ADHD and want to make things and break things – do things they aren’t allowed to do,” Apollonov says.
All of their videos are framed through apolitical titles but each are embedded with political commentary.
In Apollonov’s video How Dangerous are “Safe” Rubber Bullets?he tests pepper spray and rubber projectiles on himself while discussing police brutality.
Vulovic’s reflections on the exploitative gig economy come from a video where he and Apollonov run across Sydney, competing to deliver the most Uber Eats orders on foot.
“If you click on a woodworking video, for example, and it happens to have politics in it, you’re getting people who are not interested in politics at all,” Apollonov tells AAP.
“And if they sit through it and watch it and think, ‘oh this is funny and you’re talking about politics,’ I think that’s a good thing.”
Much of their politics stems from their pre-YouTube lives.
Vulovic was working on his PhD in international relations before Boy Boy got big.Though he enjoyed the nuanced discussions about global politics, he felt the ideas never left academic circles.
“I found it quite disheartening. You had all these people talking about really cool stuff and it was fun to research but it was just going absolutely nowhere. It was so inaccessible,” he says.
“If I wrote anything, five people would read it and that would be the end.”
Apollonov, on the other hand, struggled to find direction. He’d started five degrees he failed to finish and held 13 different jobs, 11 of which he was fired from.
“I got caught eating cheese out of a fridge at a restaurant, giving free drinks to my mates or just not turning up to work,” he says.
The pair first started their YouTube channel to provide an anti-war perspective they felt wasn’t covered by the news media.
“It sounds a bit silly now but when we released the North Korea video around 2017, we were genuinely scared there was going to be a war,” Vulovic says.
Apollonov says this line of thinking is still a big part of their channel.
“You hear all this propaganda about other countries like China or North Korea and a lot of it is our mainstream media trying to push for something that doesn’t have to happen. If you ask random people, they think those countries are mindlessly going to bomb Australia,” he says.
“If a country is going to kill thousands of people from another country, there’s no reason to do that, it’s always bad.”
In the 2017 offering, Apollonov and betmatik Vulovic get haircuts (but not state-sanctioned ones) and show candid shots of locals having fun dancing, doing karaoke and splashing around a water park.
Vulovic says this is how YouTube can create change.
“Culturally, there’s this embrace of leftism I haven’t seen in a long time – for young people, it’s kind of cool to talk about socialism but then no one’s actually doing anything in terms of government around the world.
“If there’s a wider base of people who understand each other, then politicians making decisions have to contend with the fact there are more people who believe in something.There’s more people who are upset about war.”
Despite their pacifist convictions, both men have had run-ins with the law.
They’ve been banned for life from Star Entertainment Group casinos after exposing the company in 2021 for ignoring pandemic restrictions, with Apollonov permitted entry to its Sydney premises despite a high fever and Vulovic admitted in a hospital gown.
Earlier this year, police turned up at Apollonov’s mother’s home in search of a supersonic tampon gun he made five years ago.
“They proceeded to search my garage but my mum was so hospitable, she was like, ‘I’m not hiding for Alex when he keeps making these stupid things’,” Apollonov says.
But these brief encounters won’t stop them, with plans to sneak into sweatshops and build powerful exoskeletons currently in the works.
“There’s a limit to what you can do as a content creator.You’re not really going to be making big changes but I try to point towards ways people can use their work or money,” Vulovic says.