If you grew up in the 2010s, Daniel Howell likely needs no introduction.

You’ll remember him as the über-successful YouTuber, a British content creator known for his sardonic sense of humour, his biweekly existential crises and frequent collaborations with close friend and flatmate Phil Lester.

Or maybe you listened to Dan and Phil on the BBC’s Radio 1, interviewing megastars like Ariana Grande.

Perhaps you read Howell’s 2021 non-fiction book, “You Will Get Through This Night,” billed as a “practical mental health guide” and written in collaboration with Dr. Heather Bolton.

In short: for a certain demographic, Howell is a celebrity in his own right, a member of YouTube’s first generation of internet royalty and a terminally online public figure. Howell, known for several years by his YouTube moniker @danisnotonfire, built his brand on a foundation of sarcasm and ever-changing internet culture, often seeming to lean into his overwhelming sense of cosmic dread in the name of content creation.

Now, Howell seems to have found balance between the persona and the real-life person. And this Friday, he’ll kick off the North American leg of his comedy tour, “We’re All Doomed,” at Massey Hall in Toronto.

Howell’s relationship with the word “comedian” is a tenuous one, he said in an interview.

“I’m professionally self-deprecating,” Howell said.

“I’ve been having a public mental breakdown for about 12 years. And I realized if you make inappropriate jokes around it, people start calling you a comedian, instead of just someone desperately crying for help.”

What’s surprising about Howell, after a decade’s worth of content in which he called himself “awkward,” is perhaps how articulately he speaks — against his spooky purple Zoom background, he’s confident, well-spoken and decidedly good-natured.

“It’s all been an accident ever since then,” he continued. “It’s funny, that word ‘comedian’ — what is it I do? I guess I’m trying to make people laugh. I’m not an interpretive dancer. I’m not a chef.”

Howell spent much of his coming-of-age as a public figure online: he posted his first YouTube video nearly 13 years ago to the day. At the peak of his YouTube success, his show on BBC’s Radio 1 was a chance to enter the “real world” and entertain people outside the confines of his home.

“That sort of lifestyle — being a content creator in a house — isn’t necessarily great for your mental health,” Howell said.

“I started doing radio and TV and touring. I wanted to talk to people. I needed to touch grass,” he joked. “Sometimes you need to commit to a big-ass tour like this one I’m on now just to get yourself out of the house.”

And while getting out into the world is important, Howell holds a soft spot for the platform that launched his career.

“I appreciate YouTube, really. It’s ultimately a platform where anyone can do anything, whenever they want. And there’s something beautiful about that. There’s nothing stopping me from doing something new and fun and unique and challenging,” said Howell.

Howell notably took a three-year break from the platform — but he came back with a bang earlier this year.

“After I made an 85-minute video talking about why I quit YouTube, I said, ‘what would be funnier than me doing a series about me trying to work out how I can keep doing it without having a mental breakdown?’” he said, laughing.

“I never thought I was going to make it as an entertainer. I thought I was going to be a lawyer. And then I dropped out of law school, and it all started to accidentally go a bit well. And it’s been beautiful,” said Howell.

Something Howell’s been open about since 2019 is his sexuality — which he explained in great depth in a 45-minute video titled “Basically I’m Gay.”

“I had a terrible time when I was younger,” said Howell on his queerness.

“I’ve struggled deeply with intense, internalized homophobia. It’s brought me to awful places. And that, combined with me being in this immense spotlight — people were asking questions. They wanted to know things about myself. And I didn’t even know the answers to those questions myself. I couldn’t have that young adult period of just being a complete mess and making mistakes because I did it all over the internet. And that was tough.”

But for Howell, that struggle defined what it means to be a role model — albeit a strange one.

“A lot of people see me as a role model. But I think I’m a realistic role model. I’ve made a load of mistakes. I’m honest about them. I’m here, going, ‘hey, half my life has been a complete disaster, but I’m gonna let you laugh at it.’ And if that means that some of my audience doesn’t have to go through the same stuff I did, then hey, maybe my pain was worth it.”

Howell’s tour celebrates togetherness during a difficult time. But he promises that no matter the dread his audiences might feel, he’s creating a space where they can laugh about it together.

“Even if I don’t manage to actually solve any problems, at least we’ll have had a little giggle before the climate change kills us,” said Howell.

“That’s how I vibe every single day. And that’s what I’m bringing to the stage.”

For tickets, click here.

Aisling Murphy is a Toronto-based general assignment reporter for the Star. Reach her via email: