Roman Atwood, Dennis Roady and Vitaly talk about the YouTube prank empire they built from the ground up.
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  • Notorious YouTubers Roman Atwood, Dennis Roady and Vitaly have been partners in crime before YouTube careers were really a thing, setting up hidden cameras and pulling increasingly outrageous pranks on people – chasing people while dressed like a zombie, pretending to publicly urinate in front of police, pretending to throw a toddler off a balcony in front of his mom, the list goes on and on.

    Now they’re making the leap to the big screen, and there’s no telling how far the madness will go.

    “The coolest thing about everything we have right now, it really came from all three of us,” Roman said during their visit to the What’s Trending Podcast. “Our journey is because of us three. All of us got to where we’re at because of each other. We really did climb together at the same time.”

  • Premiering on April 1, “Natural Born Pranksters” features the trio staging pranks that were too crazy and elaborate to put on YouTube — pretending to get third-degree burns at a tanning salon, pretending to kill dogs in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant, and in one of their biggest stunts yet, finding a woman who was nine months pregnant and making her white husband think she’d given birth to a black baby.

    The movie was filmed in 30 days and took six months of writing and six more months of legal wrangling to pull off, and it involves some of the best filmmakers in the business, including people who helped produce “Jackass: The Movie.” (“You couldn’t even spot the hidden cameras,” Roman told us.) It also features cameos from YouTubers like Jenna Marbles, Furious Pete, Logan Paul and more.

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  • This is the culmination of a partnership that goes way back, before you could even make money from YouTube. Roman and Dennis started out working day jobs and writing sketch comedy together, and started doing pranks at a time when nobody else was doing them.

    As they’ve found out the hard way, pulling off a good prank on random people without getting into trouble takes some skill. Dennis, for example, has a technique for dealing with “marks” when they get angry. “When you reveal, the best thing to do if you’re a prankster – go right in for a hug. It completely throws you off of what just happened. It’s like we’re friends immediately.”

    When Vitaly came along, they knew he’d be perfect to collaborate with, provided he didn’t get them all arrested. “They told me to tone it down on YouTube,” Vitaly said – in the early days his pranks were the craziest of the three, which wouldn’t exactly play with Roman’s family-oriented audience.

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  • These days, of course, YouTube is crawling with pranksters trying to get rich and famous, and Roman, Dennis and Vitaly have trouble finding people to prank who don’t immediately recognize them. Roman admitted that the genre has developed something of a bad reputation in recent years:

    “Believe it or not, this movie started over two years ago. When we started this project, the YouTube prank world was still great – people still liked pranks. Now it’s got such a bad light. The prank world is kind of like, ‘Oh, you’re a prankster? Ehhh…’ It’s been over-saturated. There’s a new viral prank every day now. There’s just so much of it, so how do you stand out in the prank world?”

    For many pranksters, the answer to that question is to get more and more controversial – “Natural Born Pranksters” is already drawing accusations of racism for their Chinese restaurant dog-killing prank, for instance. In the end, Dennis said, they’re just three guys trying to have fun. “Somebody’s always going to be offended.”

    You can listen to all this and more – including their favorite pranks ever and their reaction to the Sam Pepper controversy – on Soundcloud, or download it on iTunes. We’re also giving away a signed DVD of “Natural Born Pranksters – enter to win by leaving us a positive review on iTunes.