What’s in the Background of Vancouver YouTuber J.J. McCullough’s Videos?

YouTuber J.J. McCullough has whozits and whatsits galore.

With interior design stories, you often read about homes “designed with entertaining in mind.” The downtown loft of J.J. McCullough is perhaps the opposite. There’s no dining table here, or coffee table. There’s no sofa either. (McCullough relaxes in the tub or on his bed in the loft upstairs.) And if you open the fridge: as empty and clean as the day he moved in.

That’s not to say the YouTube content creator is antisocial—the 39-year-old McCullough is gregarious and curious—but his home is his workshop. Though he does his editing in a studio down the street, shared with three other local creators, he’s turned his living room into his film set. The only seating here is the yoga ball he bounces on as he talks to the camera about “countries, cultures and Canada”—an umbrella that covers topics like “The History of American Chip Flavours,” “Weirdest National Anthems” and “How Evangelicals Became Republican.” But whether the content is high-brow or low-brow (no offence to chips, of course), each is impeccably researched and synthesized into quality edu-tainment.

McCullough started his YouTube channel eight years ago, and has racked up almost a million subscribers in that time. Though in a previous life he was a political pundit, cartoonist and columnist, today he makes his living as the internet’s favourite amateur sociology professor. McCullough’s home—densely decorated with a collection of quirky treasures—reflects his interest in culture and politics.On the walls, you’ll find replicas of vintage naval flags and portraits of reigning political figures (his own political affiliations being irrelevant to the display). His workstation—a plain pine desk with a pegboard backsplash—is a riot of Russian nesting dolls, provincial pennants and Nintendo memorabilia. Off camera, custom shelves are jammed with books and run up to the double-height ceiling (labels like “American Pop Culture” keep his personal library semi-organized). A heavy research book on some of the less-renowned Canadian prime ministers leans against a binder holding the complete Simpsons POG set: McCullough in a nutshell.

j.j. mccullough sits on a stool in his youtube studio

Minimalists might blanch at McCullough’s workspace, but this isn’t clutter: each piece is carefully curated and has a story behind it. A wooden puzzle sourced from Taiwan Days, a hamburger-head figurine (mysteriously dressed like Buzz Lightyear) from a Hong Kong dollar store, a painting sent to him by a viewer in Belgium—all bring him delight. Call it magpie maximalism. “I like having things that are somewhat obscure,” he says. “Not the sort of clichéd postcard type objects, but objects that are of deep cultural significance to the people of that country, but unrecognizable to everyone else.” An elephant-shaped watering can commonly found in Japanese homes, say, or a mass-produced yellow Chilean piggybank. He’ll swap things out and “refresh the set” regularly, giving eagle-eyed viewers new quirky objets to ponder. It may not be a home designed for entertaining, but it’s certainly a home that is entertaining—and one that’s full of characters. “My mother always says that she couldn’t live in my apartment,” McCullough says. “There are too many things staring at you.”

Photo by Tanya Goehring

Clowning Around

The clown face here is a mascot for Coney Island, sent by a viewer. Below hangs a mask from Japanese Noh theatre—these types of masks represent different archetypes. This one is “the idiot.”

That’s Nuts

McCullough is collecting U.S. presidential merchandise for a future video. This toothy peanut is a replica of a statue in Plains, Georgia, erected in former president Jimmy Carter’s honour. “It’s quite grotesque and 40 feet tall. I’m told Jimmy Carter didn’t like it very much,” he says.

A Global Affair

“I try to collect something from every country—that’s one of my goals, to have a trinket or bauble of some significance from every place in the world,” says McCullough. His home contains knickknacks fom South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Sweden and beyond.

Spin Me ’Round

One of the most commented-on objects on McCullough’s desk is the Macintosh Plus record propped by his monitor. “It was one of the albums that kicked off the vaporwave fad,” he says.

Photo by Tanya Goehring

There’s the Bear

“Nanaimobear” is a custom stuffed toy, inspired by Canadamon, a book of Canada-themed monsters McCullough published in 2022. This little guy is an anthropomorphized portmanteau: part Nanaimo bar, part bear.

The Swedest Thing

This looks like a monk, but it’s actually a doll inspired by Alfons Åberg, a popular Swedish kids series. “There was a book and cartoon series and they’re just very chill,” says McCullough. “They’re just about a boy and his single father and they’ll go feed ducks and have a nice supper. It’s very simple but it’s sentimentalized in Sweden.”

Photo by Tanya Goehring

Mix Master

“I like to be purposeful with what’s on display, and mix different sizes and colours… have cute, silly things and also things that are more substantial or serious,” says McCullough.

Photo by Tanya Goehring

Carving You Up  McCullough commissioned this statue of a Thai god from a wood sculptor in Texas. “The guy is originally from Thailand and makes pop-culture carvings, like Rick and Morty. But I asked if he would make something from his culture and he sent me this.”