Splitsider is thrilled to offer our first digital download, The Exquisite Corpse Project, a fantastic film from the former members of legendary sketch group Olde English. I recently sat down with the guys to look through some of their classic Olde English sketches. Here, the group looked back at one of their biggest viral hits.
Ben: I think playing around with format was always the defining characteristic of our group. That’s what we were most interested in, was experimenting with new ways to make comedy. So in 2006, there was a really popular video called “Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years”. And I got really obsessed with pausing his video and seeing what was on his monitor or seeing what the girl in the background looked like, Oh now, he’s got a new girlfriend. Just really pausing it and kind of creeping on this guy. And we came up with the idea that we could take that same sort of phenomenon and play it with in a comedy format. So we intentionally built in a lot of jokes that you only get if you pause it and go through frame by frame. If you don’t pause it, there’s levels of jokes that you do understand, but if you do go frame by frame, there’s a whole other layer. That’s fascinating to me.
Adam: That sketch was also a big turning point for us because, we had like a couple of videos that were different stages of viral hits, but that was the first one that was a hit on YouTube. And actually it was a hit because I remember they put it on the YouTube front page, which was a big deal at the time.
Ben: I remember calling our agent when we put that up and being like, “Hey dude, can you try and get this on the YouTube front page?” And he said, “I have no idea how to do that but I’ll try.” And then six hours later it was on the front page.
Adam: Coincidentally. He didn’t do it.
Ben: Conicidentally. No, I called him and I was like, “You did it! You did it!” And he was like, “What did I do?” [They all laugh.] “It’s on the front page!” He’s like, “Yeah, I haven’t done anything.”
Adam: And it got like two million hits, which at the time was an enormous number, and right now is like a failure of a video.
Ben: In 2006, that was probably like 40 billion hits.
Raphael: For click inflation.
Ben: We should say that. We should say, “Seen by over a billion people.”
Raphael: “Adjusted for inflation.”
[They all laugh.]
Caleb: For awhile, we were on the Wikipedia for “internet celebrities” after that video.
Raphael: That’s hilarious. No longer, I would hope.
Caleb: No longer.
Ben: Now we’re on the Wikipedia page for “who?”
Raphael: “Where are they now?” “Who were they ever?”
Adam: That video, in a way, is still like one of our biggest hits, even though the number of views is so small. At the time it was a big thing. The people who took one photo of themselves every day did it over the course of six years. I think it took us three days of Ben sitting in front of his computer and then all of us rearranging stuff and hitting the photo button.
Ben: I would go like this [puts his hands over his head] and our production manager would lift a shirt off of me and put a new shirt on me. We shot the whole thing with a laptop that just had a little PhotoBooth camera, and we had Saran Wrap on the screen and we drew the outline of where my head was supposed to be, and where my nose should be, so I just had to line my head up everytime, take another picture, change the shirt, change the background.
Adam: We did hundreds of photos. Every time, we changed the whole scene, and the lighting and stuff to make it look like it was a different day, because you have to change about a dozen things about a room to make it look like time has passed. And I think one of the reasons it did well was that we put so much work into it, and that people were like, “How did they do this? They did this like two weeks after the original video came out.” And I think that was one of our strategies at the time. If you just do more work than anybody else and go to an extreme that no one else would, you can do something really cool.
Ben: I read a great interview with Penn & Teller where they basically said that one of the tricks of great magicians is just putting so much time and effort into something that people would never believe that that’s how you did it. Having a trick that’s physically possible but there’s no way he’s doing it that way because that would take forever to learn. And that’s the trick.
Adam: Yeah, that’s what we did. You watch that video and you’re like, how long would it take someone to do this? It took us about like 30-40 hours of taking photos. But in the end, it was worth it.
Caleb: It took a lot of effort and that’s one of the things that made it great. I think a lesser group would have ended it there, but the twist at the end, I think, is so interesting and fun and creative.
Chioke: Very indicative of Olde English.
Caleb: Yeah. We did all this work…
Raphael: Let’s keep pushing this.
Caleb: But then we’re actually also gonna make this really interesting fun twist at the end that plays a whole different game. I think that was really cool.
Ben: That’s the closest I have ever been or probably will ever be to being famous, because it’s my face all these times. And because Mountain Dew bought it and made it a commercial, weirdly. It has nothing to do with Mountain Dew, but they just basically play the video and slap Mountain Dew at the end. There were a couple weeks where people kind of recognized me, from the commercial mostly. I remember I was on the subway going home, and this little kid, like a 2-year-old, pointed at me and says to his mom, “That’s the guy from the commercial!” And Mom goes from looking down at the kid to looking up at me, and I just shrugged like I had no idea what the kid was talking about. And Mom looked away, and the kid’s like, “But it is!” And then the kid looked at me like, “What the fuck, guy?”
Raphael: And then Ben put like a finger across his throat, like, “Shhh. I’m gonna murder you.” “Mom! Mom! The man from the commerical said he’s gonna murder you.” Look back at Ben, “I don’t know what he’s talking about. Your kid might need some Ritalin.”
The Exquisite Corpse Project is available for download for $5 from Splitsider Presents.