Meet Rollie Williams, a climate comedian (yes, that’s a thing)

His YouTube channel Climate Town produces funny and informative videos tackling heavy topics.
By Mike Munsell

  • Link copied to clipboard
An illustration showing the words Friday Social in neon surrounded by social media avatars and emojis

Supported by

Canary Media’s Friday Social column explores the intersection of energy, climate and social media. Canary thanks Silverline Communications for its support of the column.

Last month, the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and climate media company Pique Action teamed up to identify 16 climate creators to watch.

While a couple of the creators included on the list are friendly faces we’ve talked to here before at Friday Social, including Alaina Wood and Doria Brown, most were relatively new to me. I’ve been wanting to write something about YouTube, given that it’s the world’s second-most-popular social media platform. So when I saw Rollie Williams on the list, I knew I had to reach out.

Rollie runs a quickly growing YouTube channel called Climate Town that has nearly a quarter of a million subscribers to date. Climate Town’s Twitter profile boasts that the channel is way more entertaining than you’d expect,” attributing the review to Guy with low expectations.”

Rollie is a comedian by trade, so his well-researched climate and environmental explainer videos are imbued with plenty of wit. Videos such as It’s Time to Break Up With Our Gas Stoves” have racked up hundreds of thousands of views, while Fast Fashion Is Hot Garbage” has topped a million.

Rollie is making informed climate comedy for a mass audience. I reached out to him to talk about it. Here are some highlights of our chat, lightly edited and condensed for brevity. 

Mike Munsell: Can you tell me more about yourself?

Rollie Williams: I'm a comedian living in New York City. I just got a climate science and policy master's degree from Columbia, and I'm a big fan of billiards. I moved from Denver to New York to get into comedy (mostly improv and sketch comedy), and I ended up writing and performing a sketch comedy show called An Inconvenient Talk Show where I played a strung-out Al Gore and my guests were comedians and climate scientists/experts. After about a year of doing that show, it became clear I needed to get more informed about the climate crisis, so I enrolled at Columbia University.

When the pandemic hit, I started Climate Town, and after doing both school and YouTube for a few semesters, I graduated, and I've kept on making videos ever since. I think people are generally pretty smart, and when presented with the appropriate information, they'll make the right decision. Climate Town's goal is to do comedy videos that convey climate information to people who wouldn't otherwise be seeking it out.

Munsell: What prompted you to start Climate Town?

Williams: The channel was born out of the pandemic. I was doing An Inconvenient Talk Show, and it was a lot of fun to perform. (Here are two interviews from the show; hopefully, they'll make it clear why I enjoyed doing it.) After the pandemic temporarily closed the Caveat Theater in New York City, I sketched out what a man-on-the-street-style show would look like. I tried to make it a sort of poor man's Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The first three episodes did OK, then the fourth episode about plastic recycling caught a wave on Reddit, and the channel has been doing pretty well since then.

Munsell: Between Climate Town and Netflix’s wildly successful movie Don’t Look Up, do you think there’s growing momentum in the climate comedy space? Is that even a thing?

Williams: Well, it's an honor to get to share a sentence with a record-breaking Netflix movie, but I'll take it! And more than specifically the climate comedy space growing, I think climate change is just becoming more undeniable to more and more people. Some of those people are comedians, and they're naturally processing climate change through their work. I certainly hope the space is growing — it seems like it is.

Munsell: You also have a climate podcast, Sweatpants With Rollie Williams. It’s described as a “low-key climate podcast.” What does that mean?

Williams: The podcast is kind of a way to keep the interview part of the talk show alive without having to do a bunch of editing. My favorite thing about the talk show was getting to know climate scientists and experts as real people with lives and kids and hobbies, that kind of thing. Every time I had heard a climate scientist on a podcast, it was pretty exclusively them talking about their research, and I felt like I could talk to them in a more low-key kind of way. It's been really fun so far. That podcast is a partnership with Climate Control Projects, a great group of climate advocates who came from the music world.

Munsell: You’re hosting the upcoming F-List award show, which honors the best of the worst in fossil fuel advertising and PR. Can you tell me more about the event and how you ended up being selected to host?

Williams: The show is being put together by Clean Creatives, another great climate group. They're generally pissed at advertising and PR companies that provide cover for the fossil fuel industry to continue promoting climate disinformation while drilling for more fossil fuels. I think they ended up talking to a guest I had on the podcast who suggested me as host. I think it's going to be really fun. I remember watching Conan O'Brien hosting some awards show when I was really young, and I've always wanted to do that.

Munsell: Are there any other YouTube accounts or podcasts that Canary’s audience of energy and climate professionals and policymakers should check out?


While you’re at it, be sure to follow Canary Media on YouTube too!

Silverline Communications, the supporter of this column, is a climatetech and ESG communications firm with deep experience in all facets of the clean economy. Learn more about how Silverline connects clients with stakeholders on social channels and beyond.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.