Before Logan Paul got onstage at a flat-earther conference to support a knuckleheaded conspiracy theory, he told the audience he was feeling grateful that day. “I do want to give a special shout-out to my friend Mike for being the catalyst to all this,” Paul said. “I love you. I love you. He’s one of my best friends.”
While many onlookers believe the appearance was a stunt, and the Flat Earth Society seemingly disowned Paul’s involvement in the event, Paul’s deference to Mike, who apparently encouraged the YouTube star to attend the conference, is telling. Mike, aka Mike Majlak, a self-proclaimed “social lubricator,” has become a fixture in the Logan Paul universe — officially as a moral compass for the impulsive YouTuber, but more frequently as an accomplice for his antics. The flat-earth incident is just one of the most high-profile results of the collaboration between the two.
Their relationship goes back to 2014 when Paul was still in social media’s comparative good graces. He initially sought an introduction to Paul for calculated reasons: at the time, Majlak was working as a marketing manager at LoveSac, a furniture company that wanted to raise awareness of its oversized beanbag chairs. Majlak saw an opportunity on platforms like Vine where influencers like Logan Paul were racking up millions of views from loyal fans. Making use of Paul’s love for physical stunts, the two worked together on videos where, for example, the YouTuber used a slingshot to lob LoveSacs at motocross legend Travis Pastrana. The partnerships were so successful that on one promotion alone, Majlak claims Paul helped him sell 2.5 million LoveSacs in a single day.
”We did a couple of brand deals, [and] before you knew it, we were really good friends,” Majlak said in a podcast interview earlier this year. From the outset, it sounds like Logan Paul’s recklessness has been a defining feature of their friendship. In that same podcast, Majlak explains that Paul once dropped a priceless painting that almost cost Majlak his job. But these are the sorts of antics that have apparently brought the two together — and perhaps gave Paul the confidence to bring Majlak officially into the business after he filmed the body of an apparent suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara forest. Here was someone with a head on his shoulders, successful in his own right, but still fun enough to appreciate Paul’s tendency for the absurd. Maybe he could set Paul on the right path?
After the suicide forest backlash in January, the future of Paul’s career was suddenly up in the air. Brands canceled their advertising deals with him. His premium advertising deal on YouTube was revoked. The name Logan Paul became synonymous with insensitivity, as far as the internet was concerned. A month after the controversy, Paul was back on YouTube, but this time, his vlogs had a new reoccurring cast member.
“I’ve been a bad egg lately,” Paul begins. “You know, you’ve seen the news. I’ve been making some horrible decisions. Team Maverick decided to bring in, essentially a babysitter. Someone who’s still a kid and who I respect, but also kind of has a brain, and that’s Mike … Any time I go to do something I shouldn’t — because I can’t really be trusted with myself anymore — I’m working on it, right? But Mike’s going to make sure that no bad things happen.”
He goes on to say that Majlak’s job was to stop Paul from making irresponsible choices on YouTube, a role that ends up becoming a gag in early 2018 videos. While ostensibly most of his responsibilities happen offscreen before a video is uploaded, Majlak sometimes makes jokes about what the legal team allows Paul to upload to the platform.
While “YouTuber” is still fairly young as a professional career, it’s becoming increasingly standard to hire teams to support content creation. For instance, Extra Credits, an educational YouTube channel with 1.7 million subscribers, has an accountant who doubles as a lawyer, a community manager, a communications director, and a director of business development. Many midsized YouTube channels hire teams to help them research, edit, or shoot footage, depending on the needs of the channel. Even channels that are largely the work of a single personality may still need to enlist the help of outside forces. Boundary Break, a YouTube channel that explores what hides beyond the camera in video games, still has contributors who help with things like animation.
These are support networks with obvious parallels in traditional entertainment, where major stars might employ entourages including everything from a hairstylist to a cook to a lawyer. But in the YouTube world, handlers are a more recent phenomenon for influencers. So many of the controversies born on the platform, from anti-Semitic stunts to unfulfilled event fiascos, seem to have a common denominator: lack of experience and oversight. YouTube has its Terms of Service guidelines and a widely misunderstood algorithm that determines what content gets the most platform promotion, but for the most part, the video company prefers a hands-free approach for its creators. Being a YouTuber is like living in a Wild West of outrageous content.
During their early vlog appearances together, Paul plays up Majlak’s supervising role, at one point even patting himself on the back for not doing something brash and irrational in front of Majlak, like kicking a ball inside of a store. “That is something an immature person would do,” Paul says.
More recently, after YouTube “documentarian” Shane Dawson launched a series on Logan’s younger brother Jake Paul, Majlak can be seen in the background of a defensive video where Jake rebuffs speculation about his mental health. While Majlak barely says anything in the footage, he leaves the impression that he’s there to make sure Jake doesn’t say anything that could get him in trouble, especially given the tricky nature of the video. Logan asserts that he’s not a sociopath, but has sociopathic tendencies.
For people who haven’t seen the introduction videos, though, it’s easy to confuse Majlak for just another one of Logan Paul’s buddies, someone who’s primarily around to provide comedic support and merchandise plugs. If Logan Paul drives over a car, Majlak might be in the passenger seat. If Logan Paul decides to prank his brother with a cooler full of rotting food, Majlak straps up and helps him secure the package with duct tape. While Majlak’s original role was ostensibly to be the one to say “no” to Logan Paul, views be damned, he appears to have become a yes-man over time. During a video uploaded in March, both Paul and Majlak encourage a BMX biker to shred Paul’s roof, even as Paul’s actual manager yells from a distance, “This can’t happen.” “He signed the waiver,” Paul responds.
While neither Paul’s team nor Majlak responded to The Verge’s requests for comment, it’s possible that his role at the Maverick house changed over time. During an early vlog on his channel, Majlak briefly touches on an action plan that Logan Paul drafted up before returning to YouTube. It’s unclear whether Majlak played an advisory role. This month, Majlak moved into Paul’s home, which the YouTuber celebrated by planting an actual alligator in Majlak’s room.
Majlak is also a co-anchor in Paul’s new podcast, which includes a recent episode where he says he helps Logan make money. The podcast, combined with Paul’s boxing stint this year, makes it seem as if he’s trying to diversify his revenue streams in a long-form format where it’s harder to have stunts misfire. Even so, Majlak suggests that he’s still doing his part to keep Paul on track and focused, including by making sure he doesn’t get distracted by dating.
“I’m one of the key guys in charge of making sure he keeps driving freakin’ revenue here, so my main goal is, when I see him getting too tight with a girl, I’ll like, run interference,” Majlak said.
In a year full of highly visible controversies and creator burnout, one of the biggest conversations YouTubers are having among themselves is about the importance of having the right sort of support network. Some YouTubers prefer to do everything on their own, meaning that they have no checks or balances to keep them on the right path. Other YouTubers have people around them, but fame and influence make it hard to rein in a star. Even YouTubers who get the feedback they need might not be willing to listen or seek help until after a backlash. A week before the events in Japan, Paul got a warning from his then-girlfriend about his antics that he did not heed.
“Yo, this behavior is going to bite you in the ass,” he says she told him at the time. “I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but you’re going to crash and burn.”
Logan Paul may arguably still be up to his old Jackass-style tricks, but on his channel these days, the stunts feel safe compared to some of the stuff he uploaded in 2017. And, more importantly, despite the fiasco at the start of the year, his career is still alive. Paul’s podcast, meanwhile, paints a picture of a creator who wants to move away from his young audience on YouTube. Every upload comes with a warning that the content is “for mature audiences only.”
What we witnessed in Japan, then, comes off as an unfortunate side effect of YouTube’s slow realization that controversies are often a fast track to a lot of views — but those views can have consequences. Hollywood learned this lesson a long time ago, but the necessity of creator-built oversight and professional guidance will likely be a growing concern for the video platform going into 2019. To wit, one of Shane Dawson’s suggestions for the equally infamous Jake Paul at the end of his docuseries is that maybe he needs to hire someone to advise him. Majlak is likely one of the first of many YouTube fixers to come.