Pick of the Week: The History of Viral Video – Courtesy TUSKmag.com

As a marketer it is interesting to me how people use the internet for FUN and unknowingly creating viral activities which then smart marketing people scratch their heads and only wish they had thought of it first. Amongst my internet travels it is rare that a to find a well researched post so in finding this GEM it deserves to be shared.

The History of Viral Video – Internet comedy is almost as old as Internet porn; which is to say it dates to the very beginning.

In the earliest days, the bits that got passed around on email were simple, non-animated, sound-free pages that seemed to scroll down forever, such as the one about the Auburn kid – very likely translated to the Alabama kid elsewhere in the state – full of atrocious grammar, salacious statements of “fact” about familial relations and hilarious photos of children and grown-ups who looked like rejects from the road crew of “Deliverance.”

Some of these shared pages were so bizarre, and yet so seemingly honest, at the same time, that much discussion revolved around whether they were put-ons or the real thing.

A couple that proved to be very popular, and apparently quite real, were Randy Con-stan’s “Peter Pan” site (www.pixyland.org), in which the page-boy sporting dreamer posted photos of himself wearing self-made Peter Pan costumes, and Mahir Cagri’s I kiss you personals site (www.ikissyou.org.)

The resident of Turkey explained his many interests and desires in broken English – “My profession jurnalist, music and sport teacher, I make psycolojy doctora….I like to take foto-camera (amimals , towns , nice nude models and peoples)….” — and offered lots of action photos, including shots of him playing his beloved accordion and whipping someone in a mean game of ping-pong.

For a while in 1999, Mahir was a one-name celebrity like Cher or Elvis; many parodies sprang from his site, and “Mad TV” picked up on the craze with a takeoff.

As flash animation began to catch on, users began slapping together GIF images like the Hamster Dance, which was simply row after row of hamster ‘toons wiggling to a sped-up version of Roger Miller’s “Whistle Stop,” which at that speed sounded something like the old Alvin and the Chip-munks records. Many, many parodies and tributes spun off, including modern attempts to create the Hampsters as characters similar to Alvin and friends, with a CD and other merchandise. You can meet the “band” at http://www.hampsterdance.com.

The next generation flash hit was Peanut Butter Jelly Time, which made up in energy and whimsy what it lacked in animation sophistication and hamsters. A very happy dancing banana – apparently – sang to the catchy title ditty, “Where y’at/where y’at/Now Dere you go/dere you go/…peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat!” gives you a sampling: http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/banana.php

Compared to the hamsters, the Dancing Baby seemed like a vision straight out of the future. It was rendered in early 3D animation in 1997 by 3-D Studio Max, and popped up as semi-nightmarish visions on the hit TV show “Ally McBeal.” You can see an archive of Dancing Baby bits at http://www.burningpixel.com/Baby/BabyMus1.htm.

Matt Parker and Trey Stone, the guys behind “South Park” famously got their start by creating a five-minute video “Christmas card” titled “The Spirit of Christmas,” made for $2,000, in which Santa Claus and Jesus Christ duke it out over the true meaning of the holiday. It sped over the Web in 1995, when computer resolution made the primitive animation look at home.

As home cameras became more prevalent and upload speeds increased, more often it became amateurs, sometimes capturing “funniest home videos” moments, and sometimes working toward being the next Parker and Stone, who captured the online imagination.

One accidental star was the “Star Wars Kid,” an awkward teenager from Quebec, caught on video swinging a golf-ball retriever in imitation of Darth Maul wielding a light saber in “The Phantom Menace.” He’d shot it at a highschool studio, then mistakenly left the tape in a basement, where some of his fellow students uploaded it to the Web, where within two weeks it was downloaded several million times.

Adaptations and parodies came, adding music, text and sound effects. As of late 2006, estimates were that the video has been viewed somewhere between 900 million and a billion times, making it by best guess the most popular viral video on the Web.

One of the few intentional stars of the Web is Zefrank (www.zefrank.com), who first caught eyes with his simple black-and-white animations for “How to Dance Properly,” with the gawky but enthusiastic host demonstrating Who’s Your Daddy?, Make Love to the Crowd, Stir the Pot…of Love and Ride the Pony. One of the dances was said to have inspired Elaine Benes’ famously awful dance moves on “Seinfeld.”

Video games are an obvious bridge for computer users, and some of the many popular viral video game bits include All Your Base are Belong To Us, taken from a bad translation from Japanese to English, from the game Zero Wing, inspiring numerous remixes to music; the Line Rider flash game, where the object is to draw lines in loops and swirls that become ramps for a sled-riding character; and Leeroy Jenkins, in which a belligerent World of Warcraft geek charges into a dangerous dragon lair, shouting his name, while his guild-mates look on in horror as their painstaking plan is dashed. All are killed.

Music and music-related videos such as Numa Numa, simply a friendly looking Gary Brolsma mouthing along to a bouncy Romanian dance tune; Evolution of Dance, in which Judson Laipply demonstrates and astounding range of dances from the ‘50s to today, within six minutes; and the treadmill-dance video for “Here It Goes Again” by American band OK Go; each have drawn tens of millions of views on YouTube.

Movies similarly inspire viral fever, from the “Snakes on a Plane” ramp-up to the seemingly endless “Brokeback Mountain” parodies, melding existing footage with the sonorous voice-overs from the real film, including “Brokeback to the Future” (from Michael J. Fox’s “Back to the Future”) and “Brokeback Mountain Dew,” using “Do the Dew” commercials’ extreme sports images.

But no matter how far video technology grows, the ‘Net can still support a back-to-basics joke, as evidenced by the Chuck Norris “facts” of recent years, mocking his famously self-serious machismo. These appear mostly as simple text. For example, “Chuck Norris’ tears can cure cancer. Too bad Chuck Norris never cries” and “There is no chin under Chuck Norris’ beard. There is only another fist.”

Some Tusk magazine readers sent in these video links to some amusing or otherwise odd bits o’ video:

Charlie the Unicorn, Parts 1 and 2: These bits of unicorn comedy verge on the annoying, but can be worth the pay-off if you’re in the right oddball mood: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UKQ2cA4Pxk and


Adventure Time: Another elaborate but not particularly lovely animation that might make you wonder, “Who has this much time on their hands?,” but again, amusing in the post-modern sense: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNVYWJOEy9A

End of the World: Depending on your political outlook, sad, twisted and very funny. Bad language warning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ynu7lpkTkGM

Muffins: This has the feel of a Kids in the Hall sketch that goes on a hair too long, but it’s already inspired at least a handful of loving imitations, none of which are worth a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2A0nSLc8qg

Shoes: By the same team as Muffins, much funnier – but with the language and content warning in effect – it’s a sort of like outtakes from “Leave it to Beaver” crossed with a Paris Hilton video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0s-Bxg2iNY&mode=related&search=

Kiwi!: A lovely whimsical little student film that will give you a smile, and maybe mist up the old tear ducts a bit, too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdUUx5FdySs

Tony vs. Paul: Of all the oddball stop-motion shorts out there – many of which do leave you with that “Who has this much time?” feeling — this one is truly watchable from beginning to end, an epic fight that wanders all over the joint: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJzU3NjDikY

Some sites to look up these and other viral videos:

Albino Blacksheep








Google Video





MSN Soapbox

Pandora tv



Stupid Videos

UVU Video Sharing





Source: TUSKmag.com


Filed under 3d, advertising, animation, entertainment, executive, experiment, itsreal, marketing, PR, Public Relations, viral

5 responses to “Pick of the Week: The History of Viral Video – Courtesy TUSKmag.com

  1. mithum

    You should check out http://www.viralchart.com/vcomad.php too: shows some of the times the Marketers got it bang on, as well as the home-grown varieties

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