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'My Drunk Kitchen' YouTube Star Pens Essays About Her Past In 'Buffering'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Maybe this sounds familiar. You've had a stressful day. You come home from work to make dinner or, this time of year, maybe some Christmas cookies. And when you're cooking, you pour yourself a drink - maybe two, maybe three.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

HANNAH HART: Well, hello. Welcome to "My Drunk Kitchen."

MARTIN: Hannah Hart does this for a living. Her YouTube series, "My Drunk Kitchen," started about five years ago. She shot a video on her laptop in her sister's kitchen. She was tipsy, cooking grilled cheese. And she forgot a not-so-minor ingredient.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

HART: So in this little cooking adventure, I don't actually have any cheese. So don't do that. Make sure you have - make sure you have cheese in your house.

MARTIN: The Food Network it is not, but "My Drunk Kitchen" has won millions of fans. We thought of Hart because it is the holidays, and people are doing a lot of cooking, making, say, eggnog.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

HART: Cinnamon - check. Nutmeg? I barely know Meg. I have cumin. (Singing) I am cumin and I need to be loved.

MARTIN: Hannah Hart joined us from our studios at NPR West.

Hi, Hannah.

HART: Hi, Rachel. How are you doing?

MARTIN: I'm good. Hannah, are you drinking right now?

HART: God, no. It's...

MARTIN: OK, just checking.

HART: ...The morning time (laughter).

MARTIN: I didn't know if the libations extended to radio interviews or you just...

HART: Oh, no.

MARTIN: ...Keep them to the kitchen.

HART: Well, I think it's pretty funny because the number-one assumption is that, you know, I'm a huge fan of drinking. But the honest truth is I'm just a lightweight, you know?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HART: I just - it only takes me, like, a glass or two of wine, and I am having a great time.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

HART: I made "My Drunk Kitchen" back when I had moved from San Francisco to New York. I was a proofreader at a translation firm. And one of my friends was having a downswing in her depression, and so I sent her a funny video to make her laugh. And then I discovered a whole community of people that wanted me to make funny videos to make them laugh and sincere videos to make them think. And so now I have my channel, Harto, and I get to do "My Drunk Kitchen." I get to do an interview series I called "Tunesday," where you interview people and you sing. You improvise, over royalty-free tracks, your answers.

MARTIN: Wow.

HART: Yeah, that's a lot of fun. Yeah.

MARTIN: Let's talk a little bit more about your background because it's definitely something that you end up sharing a lot about, and it's not all funny, for sure.

HART: (Laughter). Well, you know what they say - truth, comedy, comedians, starkness, blah, blah, blah.

(LAUGHTER)

HART: I believe that is exactly what they say. There might be some hyphens in there.

MARTIN: Yeah, it's a direct quote. Your mom, you write in your latest book, which is called "Buffering" - and in it, you do write about growing up with a mother who's schizophrenic.

HART: Yeah, I mean, you know, I actually - fun fact - it's actually pretty good to avoid the term schizophrenic because it's - it's not PC. It's like defining somebody by their illness, you know? You don't call somebody with cancer a cancer, right? So someone who suffers from psychosis or schizoaffective disorders, they don't - it doesn't get better with time. So we grew up with a pretty - as I later found out - unique upbringing, which, as a child at the time, you do not think it is unique.

You think it is - it is the entire world (laughter). And then - yeah, and then I - you know, unfortunately, my mom's illness got worse, and she had a period of time of homelessness. And my sister and I have always been very conscious of trying to, you know, save our mother's life. And the reality is - is that the mental health system is - it's not broken. There's just a giant, gaping hole because here I am, an educated, white, wealthy, famous person, and it was incredibly hard to get my mother into care.

MARTIN: So like you mentioned, you've used your platform to talk about a whole range of issues. And you talk about personal things. I want to play a clip because this was something that got a whole lot of attention. This is you talking publicly about coming out. Let's listen to this, and we'll talk on the other side.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

HART: OK, so this is part one of the - hopefully - you know, series of my experience coming out being gay. Let's dive right in, kids. One of the number-one questions you guys give me is...

MARTIN: What was the process building up to that like?

HART: Oh, my God. You know, what's so funny is that I think I posted that video in 2012. And, you know, I write about the coming-out process in "Buffering: Unshared Tales Of A Life Fully Loaded" in depth. Like, I really go into it. I go into my homophobia, my father's religion, all this kind of, like, ingrained self-loathing, self-hate, denial stuff. And when I tried to condense it into that video, you know, it took me three times to record it, and I never watched it again.

MARTIN: Oh, really?

HART: It's still very raw because it was just something I tried to fight against so long - like, actively. Like, I tried to pray the gay away. It was just kind of, like, with everything that had gone on in our lives - trigger warning - like, you know, abuse and my sister's suicide - my stepsister's suicide. Like, with all this stuff that had really gone down, the last thing I wanted was to be gay. Are you kidding me (laughter)? So that - that process was long and involved.

MARTIN: What was the response to it? I mean, I'm sure you heard all kinds of stories from young people.

HART: Oh, man - phenomenal. It's just so great. You know, not only from young people, but one of the - one of the responses that really stuck out to me was I got this email from this, like, dad in Nebraska. And he was saying, we've been watching you online for - as a family, and we never knew you were a lesbian. And we don't approve of homosexuality, but you've really given us something to think about. And I was like, what? Here I had subversively, you know, broadened their minds because they didn't know that this friendly little person they liked in the kitchen happened to be a raging lesbian (laughter), you know?

MARTIN: What does the title mean to you now that you're in this different place? The word buffering is an evocative word, and it means something about getting to a place but not arriving. Are you still buffering?

HART: That's a good question. You know, buffering is that time where you are processing data, right? Buffering's that boundary - that little spinning wheel, that boundary that your computer puts up saying, I'm not ready to show you this yet. I'm still processing, and I'm working on it. I think that the issues I write about in "Buffering" are matters that I have come to terms with in a - in a new way, and I'm ready to move on to the next stage of my life. I'm ready to take child Hannah and take child self and be like, you did a great job, you know? Here you go. I'm an adult now. I'm going to take it from here.

MARTIN: Hannah Hart. You can find her on YouTube. She's also got a new book out called "Buffering: Unshared Tales Of A Life Fully Loaded." Hannah, thanks so much.

HART: Of course. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.