John Wilson discusses how to be a TV star


Every day, John Wilson, host of HBO’s How To With John Wilson, roams New York City filming thousands upon thousands of minutes for his show.

Kelefa Saneh, a “Sunday Morning” contributor, accompanied Wilson to the dumpster. Wilson stated, “Let’s see what NYPD throws away.”

Sanneh stated, “You need to have hours upon hours of dumpster footage.”

“Every dumpster tells its own story.”

John Wilson is an unlikely star, considering the cast of characters on the network – Omar Little and Tyrion Lannister, Carrie Bradshaw, Tony Soprano, Omar Little and Tyrion Lannister – He stated that he was just as shocked as anyone at his unassuming personality being discovered.

“I was in a restaurant shortly after the premiere of the show, and someone asked if I had ever been told that I looked like John Wilson. This was really odd to me, because they assumed I knew who John Wilson was!”

His idea was initially difficult to sell. “At one network, they were like, “I don’t understand it.” “You’re the host but we don’t see your?”

“They felt that this was going to waste. Is what you’re saying?” asked Sanneh.

“Yeah. “But, I thought I would be the most interesting part.”

He does not sound like a TV announcer. He laughed and said that someone had told him that they wanted my voice to be two octaves lower.

“That’s an odd wish to have for someone else!”

“Yeah, but it stuck to me.”

Wilson captures people in the streets, often in unguarded moments. Wilson sees his show like a nature documentary like BBC’s “Planet Earth.”

Sanneh stated, “You’re David Attenborough telling viewers what you’re seeing.”

“It might be insulting for David Attenborough!”

Wilson’s approach is more DIY-oriented. Wilson paints his own titles on newspaper.

“HBO doesn’t have people who are able to make signs?” asked Sanneh.

“I could have had a budget for a title, but I am more interested in the title as an object of art.”

“It’s like a warning to viewers or an alert that this show is literally homemade?”

“Yeah! It’s a warning!” Wilson laughed.

Wite-Out is the special paint that he uses. “Yeah. This is the only thing HBO purchased for the titles. They provided me with a few bottles Wite-Out. I must buy my newspaper.”

Wilson was born on Long Island, New York. He turned his ordinary teenage life into “The Johnny Show” by using the family’s video camera. He said, “I made movies every day growing up.” It was so much fun to laugh with my friends.”

He was always a keen observer of the unusual and rejected… and sometimes is the one who gets rejected. Wilson was out with Sanneh when a security guard approached him and said, “All right, guys, unless your guys have a permit. You gotta go along.”

Wilson asked: “But, like? Where does, like the private space, start and where does it end?”

The guard responded, “Well, private space begins once you cross those boundaries.”

He just kept filming. Sanneh asked: “Do you feel a little safer when holding that camera?”

He said, “Filming it is the only thing I don’t regret.” “I regret many other things, but I don’t regret filming.”

He started posting videos on “How To” topics online ten years ago.

Wilson stated, “It was basically a portrait of someone I knew who didn’t clean up after themselves.” That was how I continued making things, since tutorials are an extremely flexible format.

He was tagged along with David Byrne’s documentary “Contemporary Color” in 2015. They had an extra spot for the van. Wilson called his film “Temporary Color”.

It could have been called “How to Get a Film Distributed.” Wilson stated, “I don’t think David approved me to go there.” “But then, after making the movie, he saw the film and liked it so much, that he put it onto the DVD. That was really nice.”

HBO soon became interested in his “How To” videos. “The tragedy is that you don’t really learn how you can do the things that I’m showing you. You do learn a lot about yourself through the process, though.

To enthusiastic reviews, “How To With John Wilson” was premiered in October 2020. The second season has just begun.

Sanneh asked: “Is there anything therapeutic about making this program?”

“Yeah. Wilson responded, “You know, the show deals with many personal issues of mine that you hope other people can relate too.” “Every episode is kinda this therapy.”

“Very public therapy available for you!”

“Yeah. “Yeah. I don’t actually go to therapy so the show is unprocessed. That’s what I love about it. It helps me to cope with the world in a certain way. It helps me cope with the world, and I hope it helps others.”

John Wilson is now 35 years old and has learned a surprising lesson: How to be a TV star. “Yeah, it’s a real Cinderella story!” He laughed.