Anthony Padilla claims leaving Smosh still pains him: “It was sad to let that go”

Andrew Amos
Anthony Padilla talking

Anthony Padilla was once the face of Smosh, YouTube’s first real breakout success. However the star split from the group he made in 2005 twelve years later, just a year before owners Defy Media went under. Nearly five years on, there’s still a hole there ⁠— especially given how it ended.

Smosh was everywhere during YouTube’s early days. The duo of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox made one of the most successful brands in the platform’s history thanks to her unique sketches.

However things weren’t sunshine and roses forever. After Ian and Anthony sold Smosh in 2011 to Defy Media, the brand Padilla made slowly stopped reflecting his goals. After six years he finally split, leaving with a sizable check but with his childhood website behind him.

At the time, Padilla spoke about how things had changed since the iconic brand was taken over by Defy Media. He explained how his creative decisions were “being put through a filter” and were silenced by higher ups if they weren’t “appropriate for the Smosh brand” as they saw it.

He later opened up after Defy Media closed down in 2018, speaking more publicly about his turmoil under that ownership. “They screwed over my friends, and I can’t keep faking that I’m cool with Defy Media like I’ve done for so long,” he said

Five years on, and Padilla still thinks about how it all went down: “They came to us and we’re like ‘we will take care of the website’ and no longer have that stress to deal with,” he told Trash Taste of the Defy deal

“They had this huge plan of all these things they were capable of and how they had the infrastructure to allow us to do all of our dreams. We had these huge lofty goals, and they said they had all of that on lock.”

Anthony Padilla
Anthony Padilla opened up about leaving Smosh on the Trash Taste podcast.

When Ian and Anthony sold Smosh to Defy Media they did it for no cash ⁠— only stock. Because the company never went public, they never saw any of that money. It was a silly decision in retrospect, Padilla admitted, but things started out okay. They had a salary, albeit not a huge one, and Defy promised the world in terms of growth.

The cost was losing his creative freedom over the brand, and that ended up being a bigger cost than Padilla wanted to pay.

“I did give that control away and everything was not how I would have done it, so I ended up working double time to teach them how to do the things but then they were rehiring,” he explained. 

“The way bigger companies work is you’re never building a 1-on-1 relationship with someone who ‘you teach them one and they keep going with that thing’. You’re reteaching and reteaching until ‘let’s abandon the website’ and then it was us abandoning a lot of the things I had a dream of growing because I was not able to keep that up and do the videos.”

The steps to Anthony leaving were gradual “over a long period of time”. Certain factors did exacerbate the problems though. One was over the Smosh Food Battle game, which was “so forced and rushed” by management in order to capitalize on the trends of 2013.

“They had just seen the success of other people who had done fundraisers for games through Indiegogo, and they raised $250,000 for these games which were mobile games that you could also play on the computer and it was a really cool thing with all these inside jokes from the community. They said ‘that’s cool you do that’ and we said ‘we don’t have a concept for our game’ and they said ‘we will figure it out later, just raise some money’. 

“We said we needed to have something to pitch to people, and they said just come up with the idea then. I came up with the idea, Ian also, and they were like ‘cool you’ve got the idea let’s do it’ and we were like ‘we need to have concept art, we need to show a build of the game, we need to be able to show what we want to do with this thing!’. 

“All we were able to launch with was this concept art, and launching this campaign, incentivizing your fans to give you money ⁠— it did not feel right to me but I felt backed up into a corner and that’s one of the things I regret from my time there.

“There was some shady stuff about the way they contributed to certain donations to inflate the way certain things looked. That’s all I’ll say about that but it made me feel so weird about it. I was like ‘I need [to get] out as soon as possible’.”

The related segment begins at 1:00:24.

That feeling of being “backed up into a corner” never left Padilla and after the company slowly tried to take over his social media ⁠— successfully getting his Facebook page but nothing else ⁠— he needed to leave. It did allow him to go back to his roots as just an independent content creator, making videos for fun like he did from his Sacramento home in the early days.

“I realized the way they treated that was the same way they were treating me and all the other people,” Padilla said. I didn’t foresee anything but I ended up getting out a year before they ended up closing down. 

“It really got me thinking, could I do something on my own outside of this brand I had created? I had made that brand when I was 14 years old as a little shitty website, as a forum for my group of friends at school to go on and hang out. We were either talking on AIM or going on this website. 

Despite how it ended though, there was one overwhelming feeling. “It was sad to let that part of me go.”

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