Habit Binge

YouTuber attends street parties at universities for the comedy

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If you walk around faux-co, or fake-homecoming, in the University District around Queen’s University this weekend and ask any student if they know who Jack Denmo is, chances are they will say “yes” and tell you about the time they were in one of his videos.

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While Densmore (his real name) is often blamed for encouraging the unsanctioned activities in the districts surrounding the province’s largest universities, the 27-year-old Hamilton native maintains he’s simply taking advantage of a crisis.

“There’s an old saying: Never let a crisis go to waste,” Densmore told the Whig-Standard on Wednesday. “Hoco, regardless of if I’m there, is always going to be a spectacle. Any kind of results that come of it — good, bad, ugly — I can take advantage of by being there and being a part of it.”

Densmore’s videos are similar to an extended segment of the satirical news show the Daily Show. With a cameraman and an intern referred to as “Train Boy,” Densmore weaves through the crowds wearing a “homecoming crown,” the merchandise of whatever school he is at and carrying a microphone and a sword — more on the sword in a minute.

This year he has attended homecoming festivities at McMaster, Queen’s and Western — the latter earning him $1,300 in nuisance party bylaw fines. Fines he plans to fight in court.

He first attended the McMaster University’s homecoming street party and Hess Village in 2017 with friends who attended the school. He had already started his Jack Denmo YouTube channel and had been filming pranks and attending other interesting events, such as protests and pride, to do “gonzo journalism.”

The goal of his first homecoming video was simply to conduct interviews with drunk people while enjoying some beverages of his own. The nine-minute video was a success and garnered 106,000 views.

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“(Alcohol) helps people be funnier,” Densmore said. “A lot of people gain confidence under the guise of alcohol and they say stuff that they normally wouldn’t. It doesn’t mean embarrassing stuff, but they’re more confident, they speak more, and they give funny content, absolutely.”

Thanks to drunk interviews and more prank videos — including one that had him banned from Western University’s campus — his YouTube channel has now become so popular that he’s earned 814,000 subscribers and 117,972,637 views of his videos. In addition to owning rental properties in Hamilton and selling channel merchandise, YouTube pays him for his work.

“I want to talk about nature and helping people use social media less, but that’s boring to most people,” Densmore said. “They want to see people jumping off of roofs onto pong tables.”

Densmore’s latest video was of his visit to Queen’s first unsanctioned 2021 homecoming street party last weekend. The gathering featured more than 8,000 people crammed onto Aberdeen Street and thousands of dollars in fines issued and 36 arrests. A Kingston Police officer was injured and there was a stabbing in Victoria Park when the crowds gathered there.

Densmore’s video of more than an hour was posted on Monday and has since been viewed nearly 44,650 times.

In the video, the crew doesn’t get very far before Densmore is nearly toppled over by a fan or is invited onto a house porch. Last weekend’s Saturday started with a pancake breakfast. Of course, the pancakes were the Queen’s tricolours.

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He interviews whoever will speak to him on camera, and they drunkenly tell a story about how much they’ve drank that day or their sexual encounters. Women and men fully participate with their tales of their day, their successful conquests and their plans for the evening while, every so often, Densmore deadpans into the camera, ready to move on.

The local interviews usually include a good bashing of the school’s rival: Western University. Girls have a habit of screaming into Densmore’s microphone together, while the guys (and some girls) earn their Denmo knighthood by shotgunning a can of beer. Densmore then uses his sword to tap the participant on each shoulder and head.

Ironically, while Densmore has been blasted in the media for encouraging homecoming street gatherings, he isn’t a proponent of them. He attended Fanshawe College and Mohawk College, and aside from friends who once attended the universities he’s visited, he doesn’t have a deep personal connection to them.

Walking around as the self-proclaimed Homecoming King, he fully admits he is only using the situation for comedy.

“It’s silly,” Densmore said. “The whole thing is stupid, but it’s awesome.”

He urged that the stories of flipping cars, damaging property and being unco-operative with police doesn’t appeal to him, and he actively discourages it. He claims to have even reached out to Kingston Police to work together to promote a peaceful event, but never heard back.

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Despite repeated requests, Kingston Police did not respond to the Whig-Standard to confirm Densmore’s email was received.

Jack Densmore, as Jack Denmo, speaking to Durham Police officers as they patrol Kingston’s University District on Oct. 16.
Jack Densmore, as Jack Denmo, speaking to Durham Police officers as they patrol Kingston’s University District on Oct. 16.

In the latest Queen’s video, Densmore did encourage people to return to Queen’s for faux-co this weekend. He’s even bringing a fellow Hamiltonian to shoot one of his popular series “Virgin Squad.” Instead of taking the virgin to a club, because of COVID they’ll be taking him to Queen’s faux-co.

When asked if he understood how local residents feel about the street parties and how they may not be happy with him promoting them, he suggested they may not have ever watched one of his videos.

“I’m telling them not to damage property, to respect property, don’t flip cars, respect police, be a good person. If you see someone doing something shitty, prevent them from doing it. Be responsible,” Densmore said.

“People are going to go there. What I’m doing is encouraging them to follow good behaviour. I’m actually doing them a little more of a service because people are going to be there regardless.”

The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health defines binge drinking as having many drinks on one occasion — “many” being five or more for men and four or more for women.

When asked about the culture of binge drinking at homecoming and the impact of knighting a person for chugging a beer, Densmore pointed out that the definition of binge drinking is how much alcohol a person drinks, not how they drink it. He said he does not consider doing a keg stand or shotgunning a beer binge drinking.

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“In interviews I say: Be responsible when you drink, don’t do drugs, but if you do, have your friends around and keep yourself accountable, don’t do anything stupid,” Densmore said. “Binge drinking is absolutely dangerous, but most people are very self-aware, they know how much they can drink and they don’t go too hard.

“Especially Kingston, I find Kingston students way smarter because Queen’s is harder to get into,” he laughed. “So you have way more…

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