Web Video / CGP Grey

Complex Things Explained
C.G.P. Grey is an Educational Youtuber whose 3rd video, “The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England” went viral in 2011. As of January 2016 he has passed two million subscribers. His videos can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/CGPGrey. He also takes part in a podcast alongside Brady Haran called "Hello Internet" that can be found here: http://www.hellointernet.fm/


  • Advertising Disguised as News: Thankfully, only subverted in an episode of "Hello Internet" where he mentions being offered payment from an on-line currency company to do an episode on the history of virtual money, with the ending portraying them as the future of virtual currency.
  • And I Must Scream: The right brain in You Are Two.
  • Anything That Moves: Noted as one of the requirements for Domestication in his video on the topic.
    Hunter-gatherers needed an animal so eager to breed, it gets it wrong sometimes.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Inverted in his video "This Video Will Hurt", listing what people believe cause allergies:
    …people get sick from WiFi or windfarms or windfarms with WiFi…
  • Brown Note: He places a faintly-audible sound in "This Video Will Hurt" that will cause sickness in listeners...is what he claimed in order to make viewers think that, so he can provide viewers with a firsthand example of the nocebo effect.
  • The Cameo: Grey has had many in other YouTuber’s videos, and some have cameoed in his own:
    • He appeared in "Favourite Numbers" and "Numbers confuse Americans" from Numberphile.
    • In an "Ask Emily" episode of The Brain Scoop, Emily answered a question he submitted about how caterpillar metamorphosis works.
    • The "You Are Two" video featured Kurz Gesagt at the end, and he cameoed at the end of their sister video "What Is Something?"
  • Catchphrase: “Hello, Internet”
  • The Chains of Commanding: "The Rules for Rulers" is a rather sobering video on the idea that being the leader of a country is not all that it's cracked up to be in terms of being able to enact solutions to problems. Whether as a dictatorship or a democracy, Grey argues that most of the ruler's job is allocating enough "treasure" (straight-up cash in dictatorships, more legal favors like subsidies and tax breaks in democracies) to placate the key entities to his rule, or else face being taken out of office by ballot or bullet. Anything leftover that a ruler spends on the country as a whole (or keeps for himself) is potential money that a rival could use to entice those key entities to switch sides.
  • Deadpan Snarker: His personal opinion towards things he disagrees with when stating the facts. Especially with scientific misconceptions, obvious logical thinking and political actions that only looks out for their interest while missing the big picture.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: According to "The Rules for Rulers", modern day representative democracy isn't without its flaws with specific tax codes for wealthier segments, gerrymandering, and complicated election process to keep in power. On the other hand, democratic countries—specifically stable ones—tend to have higher quality of life than dictatorships due to the fact that improving the lives of voters also improve tax revenues and approval ratings.
  • Don't Try This at Home: When discussing the law you won't be told:
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: A few videos have blink-and-you'll-miss-it flashes of text that viewers would have little to no chance of reading without the pause button - a good example is "Quick and Easy Voting for Normal People" (which actually has two instances - one as a gag and one as a footnote).
  • Full-Circle Revolution: In "The Rules for Rulers," he lists that these rules are exactly the reason why revolutions so often see a ruler become even worse than his predecessor. The keys to power expect a greater cut from him, else they would simply stamp him out, so he has little choice but to provide that larger cut at the expense of the people.
  • Homage: Hank Green’s VlogBrothers video, "Apples! (CGP Grey style)" is this to C.G.P Grey’s videos.
    • Creator/Conjecture makes a parody video of V Sauce, Vlogbrothers, and CGP Grey, the latter using Grey's iconic stickman animation.
    • When discussing a hypothetical "Videocators Guild", CGP Grey in its coat of arms includes, besides his own logo, the logos of MinutePhysics, Vi Hart and CrashCourse.
  • Inherent in the System: Why are governments so corrupt? Why don't they ever cater to the people and instead devote their resources to the benefit of the rich and powerful? Because according to "The Rules for Rulers," it's easier to win and maintain the support of a few key entities than it is for the masses. And any ruler who doesn't keep these key entities satisfied will lose them to a rival who will.
  • Interface Screw: He inserts a brief series of fake buffers into his "Net Neutrality Explained" video to demonstrate the experience for non-"fast lane" users in a Net Neutrality-less world.
  • The Last DJ: Defied. After explaining the brutal realities of politics in "The Rules for Rulers," the viewer is told that while the political game is hard, not engaging it means you can't change a thing.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In "Zebra vs. Horses" (about animal domestication, the follow-up to the Americapox video), the first three traits he lists for a good candidate for domestication are friendly, feedable, and fu-, er, fecund. (The fourth is family-friendly.)
  • Magic Countdown: Invoked as a metaphor in his description of the debt limit of the U.S. federal government, in which it is a ticking Time Bomb set by Congress that Congress also has the ability to disarm at any time. In cases where congress and the president are at odds, they can milk the debt limit for political points by delaying "disarming" it until the last possible moment.
  • Memetic Mutation: Discussed in his video "This Video Will Make You Angry", which is a pretty good rundown on meme theory and their propagation.
  • Mexican Standoff: In "Who Owns Antarctica?" there's a two-second scene of the Axis and Allied powers pointing guns at each other to illustrate who was threatening who (if you're wondering what that has to do with Antarctica, Argentina and Chile made claims that overlap with the UK who they believed wouldn't be able to object because of the impending World War II). America, who's looking off the right edge of the scene whistling, is apparently not paying attention to Japan.
  • Motor Mouth: In his United Kingdom video, he lists off about dozen or so countries in the Commonwealth Realm at a very rapid pace. He also blurts out a very fast disclaimer in The Law You Won't Be Told.
  • Nations as People: From "How Many Countries are There?" on. In earlier videos, they are either depicted as flags or have speech bubbles on a map. Notably, nations use his female stick figure model (with Vatican City as the major exception as it is demographically at least 90% male), with the nation's (or other political unit like a state) flag as her skirt.
  • "No. Just... No" Reaction: In the "How Many Countries are There" video, when talking about China–Taiwan relations:
    Grey: Thus, the innocent question "how many countries?" has led us straight to a big 'World War III: Press Here To Start' button which is getting depressing so let's move on to...
    Shows map of West Bank and Gaza
    Grey: ohhhh, right. *sigh* No more politics.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Grey's pet peeve.
    This message has been brought to you by The Society of People who Think that Names Should Mean Something.
    • Though, his own logo is a case of this: while it depicts science and technology, and the man wanted to make videos about the two fields since he thinks that they are the most important, most of his videos are about history, politics and nomenclature.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: If Grey's speech departs from the usual Motor Mouth (i.e., he speaks more slowly and it's easier to follow what he's saying), it's a sign the video is going to be depressing and sobering - "Humans Need Not Apply" is about how robots are set to displace humans in all aspects of the labor force beyond just manual labor, the first "Americapox" video starts off with the historical fact that ~90% of the population of pre-Columbian America was killed by diseases from Europe (and why the reverse didn't happen), "The Rules For Rulers" explains why politics and all the seeming backstabbing and corruption among those in power is nigh-inevitable (short answer: if you don't you won't stay in power for long). "Why Die?" dissects the ethics of mortality.
  • Precision Swear Strike: Describes zebra as "bastards" and "pain-in-the-ass" animals in "Zebra vs Horses: Animal Domestication". The fact that this is the same video with the above mentioned Last-Second Word Swap makes this even more jarring.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Look at Running Gag, and also used multiple times in his video about the UK's worst election ever.
  • Running Gag: The History Channel
  • Shout-Out:
    • When explaining the many kinds of Daddy Longlegs, he casually mentions that the Australian version does indeed have venom and fangs and adds that "then again, so does everything else in that bloody country" as the screen changes to images of several animals and a politician, with the distinctive stick figure on yellow background of Caustic Critic Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw hiding in the corner of the video.
    • For "How To Become Pope", two of the questions the Apostolic Nuncio asks potential bishops are "What is your quest?" and "What is your favorite color?"
    • In the "American Empire" video, the formation of the United States from the original 13 is depicted as forming Voltron.
  • Something Completely Different: Once discusses Reddit.
    • His video "History of the Union Jack" has him not speak at all. Corresponds with Early Installment Weirdness, as this is his earliest video on the channel.
    • His video "Humans Need Not Apply" about automation has a outright serious and existential tone, as well as being significantly longer than his usual videos at 15 minutes and a tad depressing.
    • He takes a similar tone in "Americapox: The Missing Plague", at 12 minutes and on the rather depressing subject of plagues (specifically, how Old World diseases decimated the people of the New World but the reverse didn't happen). In addition, he intentionally slowed down his Motor Mouth habit for this video.
    • He takes this tone again in "Rules for Rulers", his longest video so far at almost 20 minutes, has a machiavellian tone on how people are suppose to get in possitions of power and how they keep it.
    • He takes this tone again in "Why Die?" where he thinks the idea of accepting aging and death to be similar to having fondness for a criminal that tortures you, and that people should fight it.
  • Southern Gentlemen: With a name like "General Beauregard Lee" he concludes that Georgia's native groundhog seasonal predictor must be one of these, and lists off a few characteristics he assumes said groundhog must have.
  • Stick Figure Animation: Humans (excluding portraits of Historical Domain Characters) are drawn as stick figures, including CGP Grey himself.
  • Uranus Is Showing: Discussed in one video, where he mentions the problematic pronunciations of Uranus, i.e. "yoo-RAIN-us"note  and "YUR-in-us"note . In The Stinger he asks the viewers to avert this trope and pronunce it like the Greek Ouranos ("oo-RON-ohs") instead.
  • Visual Pun: In "How To Become Pope", when it comes time for the College of Cardinals to begin the voting process to select a new pope, their means of communication with the outside world are confiscated. This includes electronic tablets, though people only paying attention to Grey's narration might not notice one of the cardinals has a tablet made of stone.
  • The Voice: Grey considers himself ‘a pretty private person,’ so in most of his videos, he becomes this trope. When appearing as himself, however, various methods are employed to hide his identity. These include framing his face out (People Pronouncing Uranus video), or standing behind a tree in Numberphile’s "Favourite Numbers" videos.
    • In Vlogbrothers videos where he is in frame, he is usually censored with a large black box, sometimes annotated with his name. (The same courtesy extended to John Green's wife, "The Yeti")
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: This attitude is thoroughly mocked in "Why Die," where Grey dissects the idea that one should accept the decay of their body as natural.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle: A few of Grey's videos seem like they're about to conclude when they're not anywhere close to the end of the bar. The most extreme example is "How Many Countries Are There?", where he notes counting the number of United Nations members gets you 193 ("Fastest video ever, right?") but it's only 25 seconds into a video that's over 5 minutes long.