Colbert rallied his audience on another occasion, asking them to vote online to name a Hungarian bridge after him. It worked — he won. He also issued “Stephen Colbert’s Green Screen Challenge,” a contest to edit footage of him rolling around with a light saber into any background scene. Contestants submitted their entries online, some of which he broadcast. And he offered his own advice to protect Internet privacy: “Pick the right password . . . ideally you’ll pick a password not even you can remember . . . Seems excessive, I know, but can you really trust yourself not to get drunk, stumble home, and empty your bank account into one hand of high-stakes poker?”
In 2006, the bespectacled improv comedian appeared on the cover of Wired, graced the front of Rolling Stone, was named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential people, and was anointed as one of People magazine’s Sexiest Men. The message? Even the sexiest men are conversant in the “Internets.”
A great equalizer
GOING OUT ON THE INTERNETS: David Lehre’s comic short MySpace: The Movie = YouTube + MySpace.
Few people know the combined potential of YouTube and MySpace better than Michigan-based filmmaker David Lehre. This past February, the 21-year-old posted a little something he’d made called MySpace: the Movie, an 11-minute five-part comic short exaggerating how the social-networking site spills over into the real world: bathroom-mirror photo shoots, chain-letter bulletins, blind dates that turn into Yeti-filled nightmares.
The film ended up on YouTube, and within a month, it had been viewed approximately six-million times. Less than a year later, Lehre has a development deal with Fox. As Lehre recently told GQ, “I knew that if I made MySpace: The Movie, 90 million users would want to watch it. This wasn’t like a love letter to MySpace; it was a marketing move.”
And so this year, a handful of other hacks referenced MySpace to gain attention for otherwise mediocre artistic efforts — see songs like Mitchy Slick’s “MySpace,” Love Force’s “My Space Land,” and Evergreen Terrace’s “New Friend Request.”
Ultimately, what makes MySpace compelling is that its population is bigger than Mexico, yet it’s totally classless. Lupe Fiasco checks his page and so does my junior-high-school niece. Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton, and ex–Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlain have all supposedly used MySpace like publicists; Travis Barker and ex-wife Shanna Moakler didn’t even have to bother clucking to the tabloids to drum up publicity about their divorce — they battled each other on competing MySpace blogs. Meanwhile, I used MySpace to figure out which one of my 21-and-under nephews believed he was “hung like a rhinoceros.”
Never mind what YouTube has done for leveling the playing field. Before YouTube, video bloggers were still editing QuickTime clips and posting them on their personal sites, draining their bandwidth, and attracting traffic by e-mail blasts and message-board posts. Then came Harlem’s Chicken Noodle Soup Dance; Tucker Carlson’s fiasco immortalized on Dancing with the Stars; and Lonelygirl15, the home-schooled video blogger later revealed to be an actress. In less than a year, YouTube became a $1.65 billion dollar property.