Class Notes Profile: Wing Man

Sean Evans serves up hot questions and even hotter chicken wings

Sean Evans When “Hot Ones” host Sean Evans returned for this season’s opening home football game, he brought Illini-branded hot sauce. “I’m still a little naïve in thinking I can go out and not be recognized,” says Evans, who was given a hero’s welcome. “Coming back to the U of I was affirming…and a little nuts.” (Image by Fred Zwicky)
Sean Evans serves up hot questions and even hotter chicken wings

Sean Evans, ’08 MEDIA, arrived to his Alma Mater’s opening home football game weekend as a conquering hero, ready to go one-on-one with men’s basketball Head Coach Brad Underwood. The challenge wasn’t hoops, however; it was wings.

Evans is co-creator of YouTube’s Hot Ones, a web series launched in 2015 that reaches 10 million subscribers. Underwood met the show’s central challenge: answering progressively more personal questions while joining Evans in eating increasingly hot chicken wings.

Evans has a knack for catching rising celebrities in early ascent. Consider that he caused a sensation when he asked Billie Eilish to comment on her iconic fashion sense after they both downed nuggets drenched in Da Bomb hot sauce (rated a punishing 136,600 on the Scoville hotness scale). Eilish’s pain is real and riveting; she nearly taps out, but soldiers on at Evans’ urging. And this was before she dropped her 2019 album that snagged all those Grammies.

Evans grew up in Evanston, Ill., loving spicy food and idolizing The Man Show co-hosts Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel (both of whom have met the Hot Ones challenge). After getting his degree, Evans became an editorial producer for Complex Media, but grew dissatisfied with simply helping celebrities promote themselves. “We asked, ‘How do we knock them out of their PR-driven flight pattern?” Evans recalls. “Our solution? Hot sauce!”

Hot Ones interviews quickly became desirable badges of honor, especially after an episode with comedy duo Key & Peele set the internet ablaze in 2016. Some 230 episodes later, Evans has been nominated for an Emmy, developed his own hot-sauce brand and launched a million memes.

Catch the Underwood edition of Hot Ones