I probably discovered the internet site YouTube a couple years ago. But it’s already hard to imagine life without it. I’m not an addict, mind you. I don’t even visit that often. Yet I am comforted to know that if a politician makes a gaffe, a celebrity has a meltdown or a monkey is caught sniffing its bottom, it will be waiting for me at YouTube.
YouTube is about sharing. Anyone who captures anything on video can share it with anyone in the world. YouTube is where we hear from our children, who turn out to be broadcasting original songs, taking off their clothes or issuing teenage manifestos from the room next door. YouTube is the testing ground for a new generation of filmmakers, editors and copyright infringers, not to mention performers who simply would not exist in any other medium. YouTube is where people commit crimes, and because they are stupid enough to post them on the internet, YouTube is also where we solve those crimes.
YouTube makes dreams come true. Take the case of Stacy Hedger, who a couple decades ago – no one is sure of the facts here – competed in some county beauty contest by performing a trumpet solo to the Star Wars theme. Remarkably ill-conceived and breathtakingly off-key, the long forgotten video was dumped on YouTube one day and 2.3 million views later, that young woman who once sought the county spotlight is famous the world over. Though rumor has it, Stacy Hedger was not consulted on this.
In addition to the utter Andy Warhol-ishness it all, YouTube is also a fascinating archive of talented performers in performances you have never seen, or thought you would never see again. Patti Smith sings “You Light Up My Life” to an audience of children on the TV show Kids Are People, Too.” My brain had to create a special space for this. William Shatner aficionados who think they’ve seen him go over the top will still be awed by his live rendition of “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Sci-Fi film awards. YouTube has sprung from mysterious vaults amazing clips of Groucho Marx, Jackie Gleason, John Wayne, John Belushi and Captain Kangaroo.
And perhaps most fascinating, YouTube is a place where film clips no one was ever intended to see can be seen. For starters may I recommend the real life brawl between Norman Mailer and Rip Torn on the set of Mailer’s 1970 film Maidstone, Lilly Tomlin and director David O Russell’s now infamous throwdown on the set of I Heart Huckabees, and a magnificently drunk Orson Welles unable to make it through a :30 second take of a 1970s Paul Masson wine commercial.
In summary, I still don’t know how to properly describe YouTube. It appears to have changed everything, but I’m not sure what it all means. I do know that the reason for its success is the same reason why I chose it for my topic this week. YouTube lets you watch videos while pretending to work.
© 2009 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 5/14/08
The World According to YouTube