FROM THE COMPUTER SCREEN TO THE TV SCREEN
By Rebecca Brown
When Steve McGranahan started making comedic YouTube videos as “the world’s strongest redneck” four years ago, he and his wife Gina didn’t expect that it would lead to a drastic change in their lives.
To earn his title of “the world’s strongest redneck” Steve McGranahan has run five marathons and a 50-mile ultra-marathon, won first place in the USA Men’s Indoor Masters Shot Put and can slam dunk a basketball. Steve McGranahan also holds the world record in one-handed card ripping — 11 decks in 28 seconds. He can bend a 60d nail, which is 6 inches long and 1 gauge thick, in half.
Steve McGranahan’s humorous videos, some of which have over 100,000 views, poke fun at common redneck stereotypes and show Steve McGranahan doing a variety of nontraditional, often funny, workouts and lifting a multitude of different items, most of which are over 300 pounds.
His goal in creating these videos was to create material appropriate for the whole family that encourages, inspires and challenges everyone. These videos caught the eye of producers on the Discovery Channel, who were looking to create a new reality TV show.
“They called Steve about his YouTube channel and asked him if he knew anything or anyone who knew about cars,” Gina McGranahan, assistant director of the Youngstown State University Center for Student Progress Disability Services, explained.
And just so conveniently, he did. Steve McGranahan’s good friend Tommy Christmas, owner of Christmas Automotive in Youngstown, specializes in modifying car engines to achieve the greatest speed. Christmas Automotive restores older cars and tweaks the engines of newer ones to get them ready for the race track. They handle street cars and dedicated race cars.
Now, Steve McGranahan is a series regular on Discovery Channel’s “Fat ‘N Furious,” along with Christmas, Chuck Kountz and Andy Pivarnik, as they revitalize these broken-down cars to racing condition. Though Christmas and Kountz are the only regulars who work at the store, the friendship between the men is at the center of the show.
The first season had six episodes and wrapped up on July 28. The hour-long show aired at 10 p.m. on the Discovery Channel on Mondays and was largely shot at Christmas Automotive.
Gina McGranahan said the filming process could be quite intense.
“It’s long and rough. Lots of camera angle work, 12-hour days, weeks and months with few breaks,” she said.
She also explained that they break each car restoration down into “beats,” and put it back together to create the final episode.
“They film in what is called beats. They take the cars they are working on and have them talk about them,” she said. “Show a few motor parts, taking car apart, then put in better parts to make them go faster.”
Gina McGranahan was on set once, with a ‘65 Corvette, but she isn’t in a rush to be on again.
“With Steve in film so much, it’s not hard to get filmed,” she said. “The longer it’s on the air, the greater the possibility.”
Even though the show has recently started filming for the second season, the McGranahans are still getting used to this new schedule, which involves quite a bit of travel.
“We are getting acclimated to the long hours — Steve traveling from the east coast to the west coast for pick ups and sound edits,” Gina McGranahan said.
She said she travels with him whenever possible.
Steve McGranahan has been filming videos and appearing on TV shows like “Steve Harvey’s Big Time Challenge,” “Country Fried Home Videos” and even “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” so interacting with fans is second nature to him.
“Steve has been on TV and doing videos for about 15 years now; it’s his day job,” Gina McGranahan explained. “When we are stopped by fans when we are out, it doesn’t bother Steve — he loves his fans. If he has steel to bend or cards to rip with him, he’ll put on small show and let fans keep to twisted steel and ripped cards.”
Being on this show has opened up a lot of opportunities for the McGranahans, and they’ve met a lot of interesting people, but at the end of the day, it’s still the regular fans who mean the most.
“Over the years we have met a lot of people — Kid Rock, Taylor Swift, Jay Leno, Larry the Cable Guy and a lot of NASCAR drivers, to name a few — but some of the best people around the country are the ones who just want to come by take a picture with Steve and say hello,” Gina McGranahan said.
Season two of “Fat ‘N Furious” will premiere in early 2015 on the Discovery Channel.