Right now, there are two kinds of people in the entertainment industry. Those who’ve heard of You Tube, and those who haven’t. Which is to say that some of us are a little worried, and some of us aren’t. Yet.
You Tube is a website, and yeah, for years people have been predicting that the web will eventually rewrite the rules — and the economics — of show business, but this time, maybe, it’s really happening. You Tube is a little like Google Video, which is a little like a lot of other sites on the web, which are themselves a little like a mix of reality television, America’s Funniest Home Videos, American Idol, and tame soft-core pornography. You know: television as we know it.
I’ve seen some pretty clever things on You Tube lately. Someone somewhere recut a trailer for The Shining to make it seem like a heartwarming father-son tale. And someone else recut a trailer for Sleepless in Seattle to make it seem like a gripping Fatal Attraction-kind of thriller. And I think we’ve all seen the various trailer recuts of movies like Back to the Future or Top Gun with a strong Brokeback Mountain angle.
So a few weeks ago, on that lumbering occasionally funny warhorse, Saturday Night Live, Andy Samberg and Chris Parnell made a short digital film parody of a rap video. It was called Lazy Sunday, and it was about two guys waking up late on Sunday and deciding to go see The Chronicles of Narnia, but set in the aggressive rap style. I’m not doing it justice, but it was pretty funny.
I didn’t see it on the show, of course. I mean, Saturday Night Live is such a hit-or-miss thing — I do what everybody does: I watch the first fifteen minutes and then turn it off. Right? After 11:45pm, the show just gets worse and worse — it’s been that way for 10 or 15 years — so why bother?
I saw the clip on You Tube. Some kid somewhere took it off the TV and zapped it on the web, probably with the heading “This Was The Only Funny Thing on SNL Last Night” or something. So that’s where I saw it. That’s where a lot of people saw it, too, apparently, because it spawned a constellation of responses from all over the country — people — normal people, people NOT in the 212 or 310 area codes — young men, mostly — remember them? They’re the ones who aren’t watching TV anymore or going to the movies — did their own versions of the sketch using the DV cam and the computer software they’ve been fiddling around with since Christmas…and it turns out that two guys from Indiana did one and zapped it up to You Tube and called it “Lazy Muncie” and it’s pretty funny. I mean, funnier than anything that appears on Saturday Night Live after, say, 11:53pm. Funnier than the last Albert Brooks movie. Funnier than an episode of Joey.
So what does it say if you’re Lorne Michaels — the guy who runs Saturday Night Live — or, for that matter, the head of comedy development for pretty much any network — and it turns out there are two funny guys in Muncie who don’t really need you to give them permission to make a funny little movie because You Tube is their network and You Tube doesn’t have a vice president of comedy development to say, “Yeah, yeah, um, I just don’t see where this goes. Can it be about people in their 30’s juggling relationships and their careers?” And if there are two guys in Muncie, how many are there in Fort Wayne? Or South Bend? Or Indianapolis? And we haven’t even left Indiana yet.
What does that say about that huge, packed auditorium at the Oscars, filled mostly with people who get paid to say yes. Or no. It means, I think, that in the future, a lot of them are going to be scrambling to get out of their pricey car leases. I mean, maybe I’m delusional, but it’s just possible that what You Tube means is that sooner, rather than later, this privileged, pompous, overpaid class of gatekeepers — studio executives, network executives, development executives — is going to get squeezed pretty tight. Of course, that also means that the privileged, pompous, overpaid class of writers and actors is going to get squeezed tight, too. But I don’t know: it sounds worth it.