The untold truth of Sean Evans from Hot Ones

What's the recipe for a wildly popular internet interview show? Celebrities, a whole lot of hot sauce, and an interviewer like Sean Evans. As he told The Hollywood Reporter, Evans always wanted to make "something dumb for smart people." The result was Hot Ones, a YouTube show where celebrities answer a series of in-depth, deeply researched, and sometimes ridiculous questions — all while eating increasingly spicy chicken wings.

What started out as a low-budget attempt to jump start Complex's YouTube channel First We Feast, turned into one of the most popular online interview shows on the web. According to their YouTube page, First We Feast now has over 8.5 million subscribers and over a billion views. That's largely thanks to Hot Ones, and the magic of Hot Ones is largely thanks to Evans.

With an estimated net worth of $40 million, Evans has wowed his guests with obscure references to their pasts and has launched a global fascination with dangerously spicy hot sauces. He's become a celebrity himself and has won internet entertainment awards including the Shorty, the Lovie, and the Webby. He even has a spin-off game show. But there's more to Evans than his signature bomber jacket and wry sense of humor. Here's the untold truth of Hot Ones' Sean Evans.

Sean Evans was almost a weatherman

Before he was everyone's favorite interview host, Sean Evans majored in broadcast journalism at the University of Illinois, where a professor suggested he become a weatherman. As Evans told Business Insider, "That's kind of where my focus was, but then you graduate, you get a job at an agency or somewhere writing press releases." He then went on to work as a copywriter while freelancing for Complex.

Complex sent him down to New Orleans for some print interview pieces, and since they were transitioning to video, asked to put Evans on screen. As Evans wrote in a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread, "I remember studying note cards and being nervous as hell for, like, a five minute video interview with 2 Chainz." But it paid off, because Complex liked his interviews and offered him a full time job. He quit his copywriting job and moved to New York a month later.

At Complex, he connected with Chris Schonberger, Editor in Chief at First We Feast, the new Complex YouTube channel. As Evans told The Verge, Schonberger pitched him the idea of a celebrity interview show featuring "violently hot chicken wings." Evans was for it, and the rest is internet history.

Sean Evans ate the world's hottest pepper...twice

Chili Klaus is another spicy food internet personality who teamed up with Sean Evans to eat the Carolina Reaper, a record-breaking chili pepper that delivers an average of 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units. According to the Guinness World Records, the pepper is grown by a man named Smokin' Ed Currie, who runs a chili-growing operation called the PuckerButt Pepper Company (yep, for real).

Before they eat the pepper for the first time, Klaus tells Evans, "Remember to chew it very well, because if you don't chew it, it will hurt in your stomach." That's how strong this red, bumpy pepper is. The video is almost too painful to watch. Evans and Klaus cry, snap, and burp their way through the heat but somehow survive.

Sean and Klaus actually reunited to eat the pepper a second time, but to amp things up, did it while riding on a horse carriage in Central Park. As Evans himself writes about the experience on Reddit, "my entire body was like, 'You. Dumbass.' and completely shut down." The second go appears to be just as painful and involves a lot of milk and spitting. Luckily for Evans, Hot Ones just features the wings.

Sean Evans' dad accidentally trained him

Growing up, Sean Evans would binge watch David Letterman with his father every Saturday. Evans would even make his dad pause every time the audience laughed, just so he could explain the joke. As Evans told the Los Angeles Times, "In a weird way this [Hot Ones] was probably all created because I just want to make my dad laugh the way Letterman made him laugh." Evans even wrote about David Letterman for his college application to the University of Illinois, where he studied broadcast journalism. To this day, he often defines the success of his show as something that kids can watch with their parents (via The Hollywood Reporter).

In addition to sculpting Evan's sense of humor and interview style, his dad also inadvertently trained him for a life of spicy eating. Growing up in Illinois, whenever there was a Chicago Bears game, Evans' father would serve "hot-ass salsa" (via Reddit AMA). Evans would ask his dad for mild salsa, and his dad would reject his plea. Over time this helped Evans build up his tolerance for spice, and when he met Chris Schonberger, this appreciation extended to hot sauces and hot wings.

Wings have been ruined for Sean Evans, but not hot sauce

When asked if his favorite food was chicken wings by Global News, Sean Evans replied, "Listen, when I'm off the clock I am not ordering chicken wings." Turns out, having to eat chicken wings multiple times a week for work can really ruin the appeal. If you ever see Evans at a bar, it's probably best not to send him a complimentary plate of buffalo wings.

But on the flip side, Evans' appreciation for hot sauce has only grown with the show's success. As he wrote for Grubstreet, "You would think I'm never reaching for hot sauce if I'm off the clock or whatever, but I'm more interested in it now and understand it a lot more than I ever did." Evans loves the subculture of spice aficionados, and says he never feels more famous than when he's walking around or speaking at a hot sauce expo (via ABC News). Personally, his favorite hot sauces (in order) are the Queen Majesty Scotch Bonnet & Ginger, Torchbearer Sauces Smokey Horseradish, Dirty Dick's, Hot Ones Los Calientes, and the Yellowbird Habanero (via Canada.com).

Sean Evans eats tacos like a weirdo

Sean Evans shocked the world when he ate a taco, not from one side to the other like a normal person, but from the top, right down the center. This crime against tacos took place during a YouTube video with fast food reviewer Daym Drops, where the two test out spicy fast food menu items. The victim was the Taco Bell Fiery Doritos Locos Taco. His fans and the media have since referred to the incident as "tacogate."

Apparently Evans has always eaten tacos this way. He'll eat down from the top until there's just a tube of ground meat, then he'll turn the tube around and eat it from one end to the other. As Evans explained on the H3 Podcast, "I like that meat tube at the end, and I don't really care about the lettuce and the cheese or whatever's floating up on top of that." Evans also argues that it's a cleaner way to eat a taco, without spilling the contents all over yourself. Looks like Sean Evans will defend his taco eating style to the grave.

Sean Evans is dating Natasha Alexis Martinez

Natasha Alexis Martinez is a journalist who was also Miss California 2015. She is of Mexican and Nicaraguan descent. As she says in her Miss USA Contestant interview, she loves being from a mixed Latino family for the variety of cultures and the great food. When she was 15, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which has had a huge effect on her work ethic and values.

Like Sean Evans, Martinez also does celebrity interviews for Complex on YouTube. According to her biography on her own website, she has a degree in broadcast journalism from Chapman University. She is also on American Latino TV and has worked with Mitú, E!News, Elite Daily, Bustle, LATV, and Entertainment Tonight.

Distractify estimates that Martinez and Evans started dating sometime in 2018, based on their social media posts. They are often featured together in their online posts, including on Valentine's Day 2020, when Martinez posted a photo of herself and Evans on what appears to be a golf course, captioned with "Love being in love with you" and "Happy Valentine's Day ya goof."

Sean Evans and his brother Gavin tag-team the research

Behind the spice-induced swearing and sweating on Hot Ones, the real meat on the bone is the show's fantastic interview. Evans has consistently stunned guests with intelligent, original questions. Steven Colbert himself complimented Sean on his interview skills. As Evans told Canada.com, "We're putting our guests in an extremely vulnerable situation" by forcing them to eat incredibly spicy wings, so the least they can do it nail the interview questions.

While Evans does a large part of the research himself, it's actually a team effort (although a small team) between him, show creator Chris Schonberger, and Evans' little brother Gavin, who lives in Chicago. As reported by The Verge, Gavin starts the race off. He'll compile everything he can find on the interview subject and make a Wikipedia-like document for Schonberger and Evans. These documents can be as long as 30 pages.

Then the baton passes to Schonberger and the elder Evans. Evans will take the podcasts, profiles, and videos, while Schonberger takes the rest. They then reconvene right before the show and try to narrow the interview topics down to just 10 (via The Hollywood Reporter). It's hours of off-camera work, but the result is one of the best interview shows around.

Sean Evans has had his head kissed and licked by celebs

For some reason or other, people all over the world love to rub, kiss — or in the case of Chrissy Teigen, lick — bald or closely-shaved heads. Some people even believe it brings good luck. As one of YouTube's favorite hairless wonders, Sean Evans has also had his fair share of bald-head love.

One time it was from another famous baldy, Shaquille O'Neal. Back before the days of Hot Ones, Evans was scheduled to interview Shaq after the Patriots and Seahawks Super Bowl game in Arizona. Right outside the interview spot was a festival where Shaq was doing a DJ set and where a bunch of drunk dudes were having a Shaq painting class. Evans serendipitously stole one of the paintings and gifted it to Shaq. Shaq was so touched, he showed his appreciation with a big smooch on Evans' head (via Yahoo Build).

As for Chrissy Teigen, Evans told Business Insider it was a completely unplanned moment. Evans had just finished an interview with her during his early days at Complex, and was posing for the post-interview photo. All of the sudden, he felt a wet tongue on his head. "I was a little bit startled by it," says Evans, "but then, it's Chrissy Teigen, which put me at ease — and does make for a pretty good picture." The look of confused discomfort on Evans' face was genuine, but given Hot Ones' success, maybe that lick really was good luck.

Sean Evans wants to have more women on the show

When Hot Ones first became popular, it fell under scrutiny for the lack of female guests. Some scholars went as far to argue that the show was damaging to women. Emily Contois, a professor of media studies at the University of Tulsa, wrote that Hot Ones reinforced the gender norm of eating hot wings as masculine. In addition to the lack of women, she argued the show limits its female guests to those with a "cool girl" persona.

However, Katherine Timpf counters in The National Review that this is "about as absurd as it gets," since eating chicken wings is no longer the gendered activity Contois suggests. But Timpf does question why Hot Ones doesn't have more female guests. Evans himself is concerned about this and wrote in his 2017 Reddit AMA, "We haven't done a good enough job of booking women. In our experience, it's just been a tougher sell but it's something we think about/discuss all the time."

And it looks like the team is trying. At the end of season six, Evans urged his fans to list at least five women they wanted to see on the show. 

Sean Evans is a polite Midwestern boy

Sean Evans makes no secret of his Chicago upbringing and his love and appreciation for his hometown. In an episode with Chance the Rapper, the two chat about Chicago icons such as Kanye, the White Sox, and of course, the food (via The Chicago Tribune). A quick look at Evans' social media showcases gems from his midwestern upbringing.

For example, Evans went to Crystal Lake Central High School where he played on the football team. An old photo posted on Instagram shows him in his uniform, even sporting a full head of dirty blond hair. Although he never made it to the school's underground tunnel system, he reveals in his second Reddit AMA that he and his friends Wyatt and Miles did climb onto the roof.

Evans actually attributes his success as an interviewer to this midwestern upbringing, saying that his sense of humor is typical of Chicagoans. As he told Business Insider, "People who are from Chicago are just funnier than people who aren't from Chicago." He also thinks being a midwesterner makes him more approachable since he's "naturally nice and polite" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Sean Evans is a professional wrestling fan

One way Hot Ones chooses its guests is by working through a particular subculture, such as the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) superstars. Although sometimes dismissed as silly or fake by the general public, wrestling fans take the sport seriously and are over the moon to see their favorite wrestlers outside of Raw and Smackdown.

Sean Evans has supported the wrestling community by not only including A-list roster members such as Chris Jericho, Sasha Banks, and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but by asking the kind of in-depth and intelligent questions that only a fan of the genre would think to ask, such as the origins of their gimmicks or the different companies they have worked under.

Even outside of Hot Ones, Evans drops hints of a deeper understanding of the professional wrestling subculture, mentioning in an interview with Business Insider that "there has to be a part of you, that Vince McMahon thing where you know what the people want more than the people know what they want" when talking about selecting guests. (Vince McMahon is the CEO of WWE and has a complicated love/hate relationship with the fans.) Maybe his entertainment know-hows came from watching wrestling growing up!

Sean Evans is a foodie and had a short-lived travel food show

Unfortunately for Sean Evans, the only thing he gets to eat on Hot Ones are painfully hot chicken wings. But outside of the show, Evans actually loves food. He even wrote a piece for Grub Street Diet, where he talks about his love for Pret, Roberta's, and a romantic tortellini and truffle roast chicken dinner he shared with his girlfriend, Natasha. He also prefers a dry cab if you ever spot him at a restaurant and want to send a drink.

Evans even cites Anthony Bourdain as an inspiration, saying that he paved the way for food entertainers like Action Bronson, Eddie Huang, and Matty Matheson, who then inspired people like Evans (Via The Hollywood Reporter). Evans even had his own short-lived, two season travel and food show called Sean in The Wild. Highlights of the series include Evans learning how to properly eat soup dumplings or helping to make Korean fried chicken, in which Maangchi tells him "don't be a baby!"

Sean Evans has inspired some weird stuff

Although his job is to interview celebrities, Sean Evans has found quite a following of his own. This has led to various Evans-inspired products, as well as some interesting fan art. Of course, there are the Hot Ones hot sauces, available on Heatonist. There's the Hot Ones "The Classic" sauce, which is the perfect accompaniment to pizza or fried chicken, and then there's the "The Last Dab XXX," made with the infamous Pepper X. 

Evans also teamed up with The Doughnut Project to create a Hot Ones doughnut for National Chicken Wing Day in 2017. This sweet and savory dessert included a hot sauce-infused frosting, fried chicken skins, and blue cheese crumble, and was only available for one day

As for the fan art, that's where things get interesting. There are portraits of Evans in the thralls of spice pain, or eerily realistic depictions of him sitting on top of a giant fried chicken burger. There's even a Bojack Horseman-inspired piece featuring "Prawn Evans." The weirdest, however, has to go to the Sean Evans Prayer Candle, available at Illuminidol.