Vsauce creator Michael Stevens talks creative process, script-writing at Berkeley Forum event

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Paige Hagerman/Staff

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Vsauce creator and host Michael Stevens discussed a range of topics, such as public speaking, the philosophy of science and his preference for coconut-flavored LaCroix at Thursday’s Berkeley Forum event.

Stevens spoke about how he founded Vsauce, an educational YouTube channel with more than 12 million subscribers, to an audience that filled the Banatao Auditorium in Sutardja Dai Hall.

“I know that’s controversial, but I like it,” Stevens said, as he opened a can of coconut-flavored LaCroix. “Free Speech Week, watch this.”

Stevens said he has always been interested in exploring the unknown and added that he tries to pique his audience’s curiosity by creating videos on a wide range of topics.

During his talk, Stevens also detailed the process of creating episodes for his channel. Stevens regularly publishes these videos, with titles such as “Who Owns the Moon?” and “The Napkin Ring Problem.” Berkeley Forum President Haley Keglovits said she originally invited Stevens to speak in spring 2016 because of his large audience base and his “interesting” perspective on YouTube content.

Stevens projected his computer screen for the audience to demonstrate his script-writing process. Some audience members gasped and others laughed at Stevens’ cluttered screen, which had an overwhelming amount of webpages and notes open at the same time.  

“I can’t close anything because then it’s gone and I’ll never open it again,” Stevens said. “Everyone’s got something that they’re really passionate about, that they define themselves by, that they want to learn about more. So I just try to find ways to hook in as many people as possible.”

Campus junior Hersh Bhargava moderated the Q&A session following Stevens’ talk, before allowing audience members to ask Stevens questions directly. Questions from the audience concerned subjects such as political attacks on science and Stevens’ stance on religion.

Audience member and campus senior Crystal Feng said she started watching Stevens’ videos in middle school and continued to do so as she grew up.

“He really inspired me to learn for knowledge’s sake and always ask questions,” Feng said. “He was a big inspiration in my thinking of how knowledge should be approached.”

Stevens said he does not consider himself to be an expert on the topics in his Vsauce videos. But he added that he makes sure to speak with experts in the given field and to research the topics beforehand in order to gain a deep understanding of the material.

“The more ways you hear someone explain something, the more likely you are to finally get it intuitively,” Stevens said. “You need all those different voices. Not one person, but different people who approach it with different backgrounds.”

The event ran a little more than an hour, ending about 7 p.m., but some students stayed behind to ask Stevens some questions in person.

The Berkeley Forum will be hosting artistic director of the Deaf West Theatre David Kurs on Wednesday.

Contact Danielle Kaye at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @danielledkaye.