The untold story of how Chris Ivan stuck a plunger at YouTube HQ
Chris Ivan was celebrating his Silver Creator Award when he passed by San Bruno, California — home to YouTube’s headquarters — when he knew he had to get a plunger trick shot video for his channel. Chris, who started his channel in August 2020 and has already amassed more than 726K subscribers, is best known for landing a toilet plunger on various signs, stores and brands logos. Sticking one on the YouTube sign, to one commenter’s delight, was the “last boss of signs.”
Except, of course, the whole thing almost never happened. It was never really supposed to.
The story begins when Chris was on his way from Oregon to move down to Los Angeles.
He’d been making plunger throwing videos for a little over a year now, and it was time to take his channel to the next step. “I decided to move down to LA to start leveling up my content,” Chris says. “I had gotten plenty of comments requesting plunger throws at YouTube headquarters. I figured it's on the drive. It's on the way south, so I'll hit it up at that time."
Of course, he was skeptical he could actually pull it off. “I knew it's maybe a sensitive situation, it's the headquarters, it's a big spot,” he says. “But the best thing you can do is ask.”
That morning, he made the stop in San Bruno. As he anticipated, the security guards told Chris they would not be able to allow him to throw plungers at the YouTube sign. But since he was already there with his family who was helping him move, he'd at least get some photos in front of the sign with his Creator Award. A memento before getting back on the road.
That’s when Dan Afergan, an engineer at YouTube, spotted him.
“I had just gotten off the shuttle when I saw him with the play button and holding a bunch of plungers, so I knew he was a creator,” Dan says. He stopped to congratulate Chris on the award, and asked for his channel so he could subscribe. When he looked him up though, Dan realized he’s already seen Chris’ stunts. “Once I saw all the plunger videos, I put two and two together.”
I went up to security by Susan Wojcicki's office,” Dan says. “I figured if any security could give us permission, it would be the CEO’s.” Dan Afergan YouTube software engineer
Dan immediately attempted to convince security to let him throw the plungers, but they still said no. So he tried to get clearance from elsewhere in the company.
“I went up to security by Susan Wojcicki's office,” Dan says. “I figured if any security could give us permission, it would be the CEO’s.”
Dan quickly shows the video and explains the situation to Susan’s head of security, who told him they’d work on getting approval. Meanwhile, Dan rushes back to Chris to tell him to stay put.
The problem? Chris needed to be in Los Angeles by 5 p.m. to deliver the deposit for his new apartment, and couldn’t really stick around. And without an official green light from the security team, he felt it was best to try again another time.
“At this point, I wanted to respect people's decisions,” Chris says. “And in order to get my new apartment, I had to hand deliver a check to them by 5 or I wasn't going to get it.”
Unbeknownst to Chris, the next opportunity would be sooner than he thought.
After hugging each other goodbye, Dan returns to work and heads to lunch a few hours later. As if by fate, standing before him in the cafeteria line was none other than YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki herself. He knew he had to take advantage of the happenstance.
“I explained to her what happened and Susan told me to get back in touch with Chris and find a time for him to come back,” Dan says.
Meanwhile, Chris was well into his drive toward Los Angeles when he took a break to refuel and finally found time to check his phone. An influx of notifications appeared. “I saw that I got a new email, a new Instagram DM, a Facebook message, everything,” Chris says. Even Susan tweeted at Chris to personally invite him back to the headquarters.
“There was this pressure of, ‘Do I turn around and drive two hours back to do this, or do I just keep going to LA?’ And If I'm allowed to do this right now, will I be allowed to do it later?”
Chris ultimately decided to continue toward Los Angeles; the apartment was more urgent. But a nagging thought remained.
“In January of this year, I made a commitment to myself that I would say yes to everything. That’s how this whole plunger series even started,” Chris says. “I love YouTube and this was like a dream come true. I didn’t want to wait to do this.”
Chris’ mom, who was with him in the car, immediately began looking for flights from LA to San Francisco. She booked him a flight out the next morning.
“It was just pure excitement, like ecstasy. As amazing as it could be.”
Dan offered to pick Chris up from the airport himself that next day. Not only had he cleared security for Chris to attempt the throw this time, he’d also arranged for his colleagues, one of whom is an international knife and axe throwing champion, to join.
Naturally, Chris landed the plunger on the first try.
This experience showed me how YouTube goes out of its way to make me feel valued as a creator ... It means a lot to me, especially as a growing channel.” Chris Ivan
“Really, the biggest thing has been a lot of gratitude. This experience showed me how YouTube goes out of its way to make me feel valued as a creator,” Chris says as he reflects on the wild 24 hours. “There's hundreds of creators a lot larger than me, and I still get to be in this position where I'm treated so well and so kindly. It means a lot to me, especially as a growing channel. I have such overwhelming gratitude.”
As for Dan and the entire San Bruno office, Chris’ antics may forever be part of the culture. “There are plungers on the wall, ceilings,” Dan says. He also can’t unsee most things as potential places for a plunger challenge.
“Every time I walk around now, I'm looking at the sign, and the curvature of the logo. I’ll always think of this."