7 Viral Videos You Didn't Know Were Staged (and How They Did It)
What's funnier than Homer Simpson getting hit in the face with a shovel? A real person getting hit with a shovel, of course.
Creators of internet videos realize this, and in the last few years we've seen the rise of the staged viral video, regular people faking some spontaneous bit of hilarity to make sure grandmas everywhere will be emailing the link for years. Well at Cracked, the truth still matters. Today we're taking a stand and saying, "Fuck you, Grandma. That shit was staged."
So read on at your own risk, because some of you are about to find out there's no Santa Claus.
Pauly Shore Punched Out On Stage
Behold as Pauly Shore, now working the stand-up comedy circuit in Texas so he doesn't have to live in his car, badgers a redneck heckler. The man takes the stage, punches Shore right in his annoying face, and a viral sensation is born:
This clip showed up in November of '06, got linked on Defamer and then hosted on every site in the world capable of hosting video. Across those sites the clip saw at least two million views and more than a thousand user comments. Fierce online debates raged as observers were forced to side with the violent hick or The Weasel, which is like being forced to pick whether you want to be stabbed in the left testicle or the right.
"The people in the crowd as well as the guy who went up are nutfuckers. Thats just fucked up."
"lol. sweet justice"
"Gee Pauly what did you expect in Wacko, Texas? It's where men are men and the sheep are nervous. These people have sex with barn yard animals and think that it is OK. Pauly, truly your movies mostly suck big time except Encino Man, which was pretty funny, thanks mainly to Brandon Frazier."
Frame-by-frame examination of whether or not the punch actually landed doesn't help, with the dark stage and shitty quality.
The fact that no charges were filed was also meaningless, since many legal experts say beating Pauly Shore is not technically a crime.
The cynics among us were undeterred. The fact that this video turned up barely a week after the Michael Richards racist fiasco made us wonder if a publicity-starved Shore wasn't playing the internet like the Machiavellian genius he so clearly is.
Sure enough, a couple of weeks after the video made its way around the net, TMZ.com called the cops in Odessa and asked them about it. They confirmed the whole thing had been set up. Finally, in January Pauly Shore himself uploaded a video with the behind-the-scenes rehearsal of the incident:
The trouble is that as of this writing, that video had only been viewed about 75,000 times, a tiny fraction of the people who enjoyed the original punch. Once again mankind rejects reality to cling to a happier fantasy.
Counter-Strike Cheater Gets His Computer Smashed
What happens when you attend a massive Counter-Strike LAN party and use your hacking skills to cheat everybody? They smash your freakin' computer, that's what!
It's amazing how popular this video got, considering it emerged in a pre-YouTube era when a one-minute video could take 15 minutes to trickle down a spotty dial-up connection. Six years after it appeared, it's still making the rounds (that copy on YouTube up there is fairly recent, and still has half a million views and a thousand comments).
For you aspiring staged viral video makers, the lesson is clear: If you want traffic, try recording yourself performing some kind of unjust destruction of valuable property.
"These guys are crazy. man this is fuck."
"lol i hate cheaters.. but thats too evil. poor guy."
"This was Real: I was at that LAN party.. The kid was warned twice, The LAN was in Alabama. I was one of the people that where admin'ing the servers at that party. This video was recorded 7-27-99 I know the guy that recorded the video.. When this guys machine was unplugged.. it was anything but done properly. We YANKED! The SVGA just about pulled out the video card. OWNT."
If you read a lot of video comments (like maybe some creative judge has sentenced you to do that because of some terrible crime you committed) then you'll recognize that last comment. The, "I was there, that's me in the back" guy is a video comment archetype. Usually there are several of them in each video's comment section and usually their accounts conflict.
In this case the person doesn't explain why manufacturers of the cheater's PC seemed to have forgotten to actually fasten the parts together in any way, causing the machine to spill apart on impact. Or, perhaps the more relevant question is in what part of the country is destroying $2,000 worth of personal property not a fairly serious crime.
The story is that back in 2001, a group called LANtrocity (organizers of these huge LAN parties out in Los Angeles) announced a humongous gaming get-together coming the next spring (that's the "Million Man Lan" link at the end of the video up there). They released this little video to promote it, which was shot at one of their Counter-Strike tournaments in October of 2001 using an old computer case with some unused video cards and RAM sticks tossed inside.
This video has been a curse on the organizers of the Million Man Lan events ever since, as six years later people still turn up on their forums every couple of weeks and ask why they destroyed that poor man's computer. These days, asking that question may get you yet another patient explanation or simply a collective groan of dread from the regulars.
What is interesting is the recurrence of the "Hey I saw the video and totally agree with what you did" commenters. Look, we don't want to reinforce a stereotype here, but when you find yourself so into gaming that you think cheaters should be taken in back to have their fingers crushed with a ball-peen hammer Casino-style, it's probably time to turn off the computer. Stand up, stretch, open the curtains. There's a whole world out there, son.
Waitress Crashes Through Window
A waitress is straightening up after hours, when she trips over a stool and goes crashing wackily through a window, at best suffering lacerations and bruises, at worst plummeting 30 stories to her splattering death.
Her stumble and subsequent horrible suffering was good for nearly a million views and more than a thousand comments across various sites. The clip was featured on The Fox News Blast, their mash-up of shocking videos. "This video may be a fake," says the anchor. "But we hope not!"
Yes, friends, Fox News Inc. would much prefer that a real lady be in a hospital bed with stitches in her face and her jaw wired shut, than to think it was simply a stunt. That's journalism right there, ladies and gentlemen.
"HAHAH AH AHA HA H A : thats what she gets for being a stupid white bitch"
"If that were my restaurant I'd deduct the cost of the window from her paycheck."
"Geez. Sickening how some of you people 'cant stop laughing'. Your complete insensitivity to human suffering puts you on an intersect path with the litany of psycho doofuses who 'snap' and go shoot up a mall or school."
"that was my cousin. its real, the window hadnt been replaced since 1947 thats why it sucked"
"OWNED! KATEY'S GOT SOME BIG ASS TITIES!"
Commenters who analyzed the video frame-by-frame point out a mysterious disappearing stool (the one next to the window, at 11 seconds) as proof that the whole thing is CGI. Could this woman have hired a special effects studio, paying tens of thousands of dollars to digitally enhance her viral video for a mere taste of internet fame?
We were afraid we would never know. After all, the Fox News Blast guys couldn't even track it down, and were forced to throw up their hands and simply hope that the woman bled as much as possible. If the full investigative power of the Rupert Murdoch empire could not uncover its origins, what hope did we have?
Oh, wait. Three minutes of Google searching turns up the clip in its original form:
The moment the "Stools causing you pain?" slogan appears you realize this was originally just a commercial (for DulcoEase, a turd-softening agent). The whole stool thing admittedly is a stretch, but advertising this product isn't exactly the easiest job (you can't just show a guy straining on a toilet in a cold sweat, face beet-red, screaming "OH GOD I SHOULD HAVE TAKEN DULCOEASE YOU COULD BUILD A FUCKING BRICK SCHOOLHOUSE WITH MY SHITS").
So, while the thought of some lady hurdling herself through a plate glass window for the sake of a viral video would have been sad, it's actually even sadder that some dude spent 30 seconds hacking the end off a commercial and passed it off as real. But, hey, it fooled Fox News.
How I Got My Camera
The stereotypical violent redneck makes another appearance (apparently a common villain in staged web video lore). Here we have a pair of them, filming themselves harassing an innocent gentleman in a BMW. The filthy, backward good ol' boys finally corner the man (who is the picture of the young, successful evolved male). But they get a big surprise ...
Aha! The victim has stepped out of the BMW with a handgun! The hunted has become the hunter! And stolen the camera to boot! A couple of million views and about 2,000 comments later, a new internet hero was born.
"lmfao. stupid redneck hick ass fagets i would have put one in there fuckin knee caps. i fuckin hate redneck fagets. some tried to pull some shit at the bar once and they got there ass's beat down. and if yall didnt notice those hick fags were drivin a toyota, ha"
"Another reason guns should be legal everywhere. Good job, gun toting fella!"
"haha. fuk a gun....i woulda beat there ass2vs 1 even if they had there bat...stupid hicks."
There's all sorts of circumstantial evidence here, none of which is damning on its own. Sure, there could exist some perfect redneck stereotypes like that, right down to the suspenders. There could be some guys whose speech patterns come off like awkward dialogue. And after all, aren't there some days when things work out just right for the good guys?
Well, the quickest way to detect bullshit in these videos is to pay attention to the behavior of the camera operator. In this case, at the sight of the handgun the cameraman's instinct is to ... zoom in on the gun, get it in frame and then focus so we can see it more clearly?
No, not unless this guy got trained as a combat photographer in Desert Storm, he'd be more likely to lower the camera chest level as the realization dawns that this purty city slicker has done got him a shootin' iron. "Billy Bob, we done 'bout to face the unfathomable void of death! Whoooowee!"
So, with that in mind, we turned the project over to the 30-man Cracked.com video analysis team, who spent six months processing every pixel of the original upload. After enhancing the image to a level of clarity more than 6,000 times that of the original, they reported that there was a prominent watermark for a site called wittkopp.net in the upper right.
When you type that address into your browser, you get nothing but a page of text saying the video was staged, with the "... so stop asking us about it, dipshits" left unsaid. We didn't try to contact them for further details, because what matters is that these rednecks and this yuppie couple were able to collaborate on something peacefully and we think that should be a lesson to us all.
With the disclaimer right there for the world to see, you have to wonder how in the hell this became a viral sensation in the first place. That would be because the helpful submitter who put the video up on Break.com decided to blot out the watermark so viewers couldn't trace it back.
Once more we witness the process by which information is carefully degraded before it's suitable for release onto the internet at large. It's like the opposite of a newsroom's fact-checking department. Unless you're talking about the Fox News newsroom in which case it's exactly the same.
Crazy Teacher Kicks Entire Classroom's Ass
A crazy foreign teacher takes one spitball too many and flips out, beating the shit out of a room full of students:
Chalk up almost two million views and several hundred comments to the Jet Li of the French educational system. We actually included this video in our rundown of the scariest teachers on YouTube a few months ago. The cries of "Fake!" in our very own comments section caused us to take a second look, to see if there had been a failure in our wacky video vetting process and if any staff needed to be let go as a result.
"I don't care what one student did, this guy's anger was unjustified."
"I wonder why you misinformed people keep saying it is a fake. The sad story is, things like this aren't that uncommon outside the United States, you should open up your provincial minds and learn that United States =/= The Rest of the World."
"its not fake it was on the news the guy he beat up in the corner died"
"that shit is legal in france"
No matter where you find this video, you find people bitterly divided over its authenticity (even among our staff, in fact). The fact that it's French has made it impossible to track down its origins or to judge things like whether or not a teacher would be wearing those striped track pants on the job.
Who knows, right? He's French. A translation of the voices also offers no help, since there is a great deal of, "Sir! Sir! Stop!" and very little, "Let us continue to stage this video, Pierre!"
Doubters like to point to the ludicrous Jean Claude Van Damme roundhouse kick 17 seconds in, which misses the student's face by two feet yet sends the victim flying backward.
"Not so," say the faithful. "Would one not fling himself back out of the way of even a missed kick? Would not one even fall back over a chair in one's startlement?"
Perhaps the first blow is more telling, where instead of simply flinching and throwing up his hands to protect his face, the victim seems to pre-emptively launch his body to the right.
In fact, the only real, sustained beating takes place where all the blows are hidden in the corner, behind a desk.
And of course we have the behavior of the camera person, who keeps shooting right up to the moment when the teacher presumably unleashes a karate chop that embeds the camera/phone in the student's eye socket. Note that in his fury the teacher neither broke nor confiscated the phone.
But the real nail in the coffin for this one is the fact that there is just no mention of this event anywhere outside of this video. If you read French leet-speak, you know that none of the French commenters on the video had heard of the incident.
Plus, no combination of the French words for "crazy teacher" or "teacher attacks classroom" or "Van Damme Roundhouse Kick" yields any mention of this particular incident in the French news media, even though classroom violence is a big issue there and many lesser incidents involving abusive teachers have gotten coverage. Are we to believe that an incident where four children were beaten, with full Jean Claud Van Damme roundhouse kick video, would go utterly unnoticed? Hardly.
So what's the alternative? Is it a clip from a French sketch comedy show? Or maybe an edited commercial, like the turd softener up there? It's hard to say. The earliest version of the clip we can find is this one uploaded to the French YouTube page. The guy who uploaded it has long abandoned the account, and his only other video is this one of he and his friend riding bicycles.
Wait a second ... look at the pants on his friend.
For the gaming crowd, this is simply the mother of all viral videos. The game is World of Warcraft, but you don't have to be familiar with the game to appreciate Leeroy's foolhardy retardocity:
The YouTube copy up there has generated four million views and 10,000 comments, and that's not even the original (this one was uploaded a year after the video became a hit). All told, more people have probably seen this video than have actually played World of Warcraft. It came up in a question on Jeopardy. It was alluded to in that Toyota WoW commercial.
"Lol, I play WoW and tbh, that's taking the game way to seriously. Bunch of nerds tbh."
"Funny as hell because its NOT fake, he finally got kicked out of their guild >_<"
Ummm... I seriously don't see whats so funny. No group of 60's would ever do something like that, even if the player was an idiot. This is uncreative, boring, and not humorous in any way to me
"WOW what a dirt nig"
This is an easy one. The one group who is never fooled by this clip is the long-time World of Warcraft veterans, who know the gamer jargon featured early in the video ("Coming up with thirty-two point three three uh, repeating of course, percentage, of survival...") is just random nonsense, obviously meant to build up the illusion that they had carefully planned the event so it's funnier when Leeroy fucks it up.
In fact, when they first released the video on the WoW forums they acknowledged it was staged and only changed the story later when the video took on a life of its own. Fame can do that to a person (here's the actual "Leeroy Jenkins" being interviewed, and still playing it up as real). Again we see the internet's reverse-filter in action, letting the myth continue to thrive while the truth is shunted aside as being too uninteresting to remember.
But, it's just a silly gaming video, it's not like anybody's being harmed. The same cannot be said, however, for our number one...
Angry German Kid
A teenager sits down at his computer for a session of Unreal Tournament, but his mind is so ravaged by ADHD and a childhood of violent video games that he has been turned into some kind of snarling, rabid animal:
This is the kind of video that the old media loves to put front and center. TV news segments and commentators the world over have played this thing while rapt, middle-aged audiences watch all of their worst fears about the Grand Theft Auto generation play out in under four minutes.
Their attention made this one of the biggest viral hits of all time. Combine all the various versions, remixes and parodies and Angry German Kid is up in Soulja Boy territory, with views in the tens of millions. There are blockbuster movies that didn't command the audience this kid did with this one, terrifying tantrum.
"Omg, he need a help!!"
"i hate mother fucking german kids. goddamn it i hope they all die."
"It's real. A German parent set up a hidden camera to show the doctors thier childs violent mood swings as well as explain why the computer keeps getting torn apart. Trying to blame video games I guess."
The story repeated in that last comment, the one about the father that secretly set up the camera to capture his son's out-of-control behavior, is the one you most often see tacked onto the video (athough another variation is that he himself left it on, which is the one PC World went with in their coverage). Both of these stories appear to have been created purely to make the video scarier.
After all, it would be supremely uninteresting to find out, for instance, that the kid has made many videos, all of which feature him playing some goofy exaggerated character. Well, too bad, because that's the truth.
The kid (often referred to as "Leopold" but his name has generally been kept out of the press since he's a minor) made the video in the wake of Germany's own violent video games controversy, when lawmakers were campaigning to restrict their sale. Leopold did his impression of the politician's worst nightmare, slamming around the keyboard and laughing maniacally as he killed opponents.
Germany's Focus TV saw the clip, and got permission from the kid to use it on the air. Leopold and his father then watched as the TV show manufactured a backstory--the one about the father secretly recording his bloodthirsty, ADHD son--which then followed the clip as it swept across the web. Holy crap, maybe we owe Fox News an apology.
Once the clip reached English-speaking audiences, even more of the context was stripped away since all they got was incoherent, enraged babble. If you get a correctly subtitled version, on the other hand, and watch it all the way through, the joke becomes fairly obvious (See the bit with the lost Escape key and him telling his opponent to eat his "melted shit").
The person who uploaded that video has edited all this backstory into the "About" section, including links to this interview with the kid himself (translated clumsily by Google), telling a depressing tale of just how much abuse he's taken since he became a worldwide symbol for what out-of-control little monsters modern teenagers are.
Ask yourself this: if Leopold hadn't been faking and was, in fact, prone to fits of wild gamer rage, would you feel more comfortable leaving the future to him, or to people like the journalists who exploited him? If given the choice we think we'd have to turn to the journalists, look them in the eye and say, "Eat his shit, journalists. In fact, eat his melted shit."
If you enjoyed that, check out David Wong's look at The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses. Or, turn your crazy photoshop skills into cash by creating an honest banner ad and submitting it to this week's 5000 penny forum photoshop contest.