tube junkie

What the Celebrities Are Watching on YouTube

Photo Illustration: Everett Bogue; Photos: WireImage

Celebrities: so like us. They spend hours on YouTube too! To celebrate our online video special in this week’s issue of New York, we asked Russell Simmons, Amy Sedaris, and The Office’s Rashida Jones (along with several thousand marginally famous bloggers, artists, directors, advertising executives, professors, and comedians) what they’ve got bookmarked. The results may surprise you!

Rashida Jones, actress
’Welcome to My Home,’ by Brenda Dickson. You have to go home and watch it right now. She was on The Young and the Restless in the seventies and eighties. She produced a video by herself, introducing you into her life and sort of showing you how to dress like her and eat like her and work out like her. It is so well produced, without irony. It is pitch-perfect eighties. She is literally facing a wall in between a mirror and a painting, just facing a wall in a gold gown, and she turns around, ‘Well, hello! I’m Brenda Dickson. Lots of people ask me how I look as good as I do after eleven and a half years on The Young and the Restless.’ It’s insane! It’s so entertaining.”

Jason Reitman, filmmaker
“The first time I saw this satire of a romantic-comedy trailer called Wheels, I almost believed it was the mediocre work of some sad husband-wife film-making team that had poured their nest egg into some paraplegic Ephron-gone-wrong nightmare destined for Romanian video stores. And then I realized it was actually pure genius. And ’Wainy Days,’ by David Wain. Pure, unfiltered surreal humor from the Dalí of comedy. Also, ’Impossible Is the Opposite of Possible’ — Michael Cera in all his glory. Satire is a tricky animal. It’s too easy to wink to the audience. Michael is simply unflinching. Two words: ballroom dancing.”

John Cameron Mitchell, filmmaker
“I’m an old faggot, so I’m watching Patti LaBelle, David Bowie, all the seventies variety shows. The most embarrassing thing on YouTube is a video of me singing a Phish song in my brother’s wedding. I don’t mind. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ryan McGinley, artist
The Cute Show on is pretty brilliant. Every episode has a different cute topic: She’ll visit a farm that has tons of bunnies and pygmy goats, or a Halloween party for Maltese puppies, or a cupcake artist. is an online gallery curated by Tim Barber. It showcases work from a wide spectrum of photographers from unknown to well known. My favorite section is called Various (1–20), which is a showcase of photos that have been submitted from hundreds of photographers.”

Amy Sedaris, comedienne
“When people send me stuff on YouTube, I never look at it. I don’t like seeing things on the computer like that. Whenever someone e-mails me something, I’m like, ‘Fuck! I’ve got to open this? I don’t know what it is!’ It’s terrible. The one thing I did get into was Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. He’s my favorite character ever. When he went to that big Star Wars convention and talked to Darth Vader, that was great. But I’m a granny. Technology is not fun to me.”

Andy Borowitz, comedian
“Jim Rome’s interview with Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jim Everett. He refers to Jim Everett as ‘Chrissy Everett’ because he’s seen as not the most courageous quarterback, and Jim Everett gets up and actually attacks him physically. It’s great. I’ve seen it 100 times, easily. I could watch it over and over again, on a loop.”

Nick Law, chief creative officer, NA, R/GA
“At this moment, my favorite online video is ’Little Superstar.’ It is a true YouTube gem. Not only because (in true B-grade Bollywood style) it is incomprehensibly weird, but because the little bugger is actually a great dancer. I wish I could cut a rug like him. Like most digital deliciousness, it’s viral because it’s simple but mysterious. Why is the Indian midget break-dancing? What on Earth is the man with the cassette player doing? What is his relationship with said midget?”

Rachel Dratch, comedienne
“What I watch a lot is Cute Overload! But that doesn’t count as being cool. The last one I saw was that landlord one with Will Ferrell. That was months ago! Ohhh, and I like that one ’Shoes.’ Shoes! I quote that one a lot.”

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, Daily Kos
“I love the Romney spoof Five Brothers ad. It’s representative of how a new generation of political enthusiasts, armed with cheap and accessible technology and the chops to use it, are entering the domain once reserved for lofty know-it-all political consultants. This democratization of the medium is genuinely empowering.”

Russell Simmons, mogul
The Young Conservatives. They’re rapping. It’s called ‘Fuck New York.’”

Xeni Jardin, BoingBoingTV host and blogger
South Park . They’re about to do something really revolutionary with their online video. And they’re already the funniest show on television (or Internet-o-vision, or any medium).”

Cory Arcangel, digital artist
“Basshunter’s song and video ’Boten Anna’ was a hit a few summers ago in Sweden. The great thing about it is that Anna is not a girl but a computer-bot. A No. 1 pop song about a computer program is, of course, amazing and the type of thing that can only happen in Scandinavia.”

Sue DeBeer, artist
“So Much Tenderness,” by Gunther Kaufmann
Gabrielle Chanel at 31 Rue Cambon
Footage from Columbine’s cafeteria, 1999
Houdini’s funeral.

Dean Olsher, creator and host of The Next Big Thing
“You mean something besides ’Chocolate Rain’ by Tay Zonday? I was also consumed, for a while, with the cover version by McGruff the Crime Dog.”

Thom Powers, documentary curator, Toronto International Film Festival, IFC Center’s “Stranger Than Fiction” series
Wholphin. The folks at McSweeney’s had the brilliant idea to support a DVD equivalent of their literary magazine with this periodically released anthology of short films, now on volume four. Their Website collects a wide array of interesting works. And The Academy Award–winning director of The Fog of War shares bits and pieces of abandoned projects, outtakes, and even his TV commercials; a real treasure trove.”

Brent Hoff, editor and curator of McSweeney’s DVD project, Wholphin
Carson Mell is Elmore Leonard and Chris Ware’s love child. He’s that rare triple threat of a dedicated visual artist with an incredible ear for dialogue and the ability to execute his stories cinematically. I swear he is going to kill someone with one of his films someday. They are that sharp and pointy. Daren Rabinovitch is a surreal artist with a twisted, heretical sense of humor. He’s one of the only nonfiction short-film directors I’ve seen, besides perhaps Jim Finn, who can make political statements beautiful and entertaining. Viva Dada. Same goes for Isaiah Saxon and Sean Hellfritsch of Encyclopedia Pictura, who also work in a sort of neo-primitive collective with Daren. They are currently finishing a new 3-D video for Björk.”

Ben Lerrman,
“I keep coming back to ’Planet Unicorn.’ I cannot stop watching it. And I’m talking long-term, repeat views. I would marry it if it were legal. I would not move to Massachusetts to marry it though. I like my Pat Kiernan too much.”

Matt Ufford,
“The best thing I’ve seen in a long while is the Hipster Olympics, created by the comedy group POYKPAC. Everything about its humor is pitch-perfect: The tone of the sports commentary is right on, and it derisively mocks every aspect of the hipster stereotype on display at the intersection of Bedford and North 7th. The end result is an homage to Monty Python that still feels like an authentic product of New York (one hipster cites Neckface as an influence). It’s the only Internet video that can tell you silver is the new gold (and unicorns are the new Chuck Norris, and hobos are the new unicorns).”

Karen Cooper, director, Film Forum
“Our office favorite is ’Spiders on Drugs.’ Why? Because spiders on drugs are just plain irresistible.”

Gerry Graf, executive creative director, TBWA/Chiat/Day, NY
“All of the videos I like seem to have one thing in common: they are stupid. I don’t know if that’s just the kind of stuff we like, or if everyone likes this kind of stuff. They are all people doing stupid things, people trying to do “artistic” things and failing, or my favorite: the simply beautifully stupid. ’Star Wars Trumpet, Stacy Hedger’ is the popular one at the moment. A clip from some local beauty pageant from the eighties. A contestant tries to play the Star Wars theme on her trumpet. She also tries to dance. ’Cox + Combes’s Washington’ is the office favorite. It is an homage to George Washington. In ’Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama,’ residents of Mobile think a leprechaun lives in a tree. I don’t know what’s funnier, the fact that they think it is real or that someone did a news piece on it. Also, Tim and Eric. Some people laugh at this because they say it’s funny, some laugh because it is idiotic.”

Kevin Roddy, executive creative director, Bartle Bogle Hegarty
’2007 Hatch Opener.’ One hopes you don’t have to be in advertising to appreciate what’s so funny about this video. Taking what is generally regarded as one of the best television ads ever made and 24 years later putting it in front of a consumer focus group is the beginnings of a very funny idea. If it doesn’t help everyone appreciate the insanity that often accompanies this business, I don’t know what will.”

Will Leitch, sports blogger and writer at Deadspin, the New York Times, and New York
Kige Ramsey is a Kentucky football fan who does his ‘commentary’ videos from his basement and a Wal-Mart. He’s considered quite heroic. The best site for this stuff is Awful Announcing. He usually has video and broadcast stuff first.”

Joel Johnson, Boing Boing Gadgets
Duncan Bros. They’re two brothers who make short spoofs of geeky movie tropes, like drift racing and assassins. They’re not super-popular (although their movies are all over YouTube, so don’t let the MySpace video numbers fool you), but they just slay me. I especially love ’Overdrift,’ a movie about a dinosaur archeologist who learns how to drift-race Japanese cars into an alternate Dino Dimension.”

Klaus Biesenbach, chief curator, Department of Media at MoMA
“I consider the Internet mostly like a library or resourceful catalog: another way of communicating, documenting, and finding moving images; though unfortunately, the resolution or image size is rarely very generous. Behind the virtuality of these Websites, there is a lot of real work, and especially in the case of such a database as EAI (Electronic Arts Intermix), I really admire the efforts that have gone into preserving and archiving decades of pioneering work. Some of my favorites:

• Jack Goldstein’s ’The Knife,’ 1975
• Hannah Wilke’s ’Through the Large Glass,’ 1976
• Martha Rosler’s ’Semiotics of the Kitchen,’ 1975
• Joan Jonas’s ’Vertical Roll,’ 1972
• Yvonne Rainer’s ’Five Easy Pieces,’ 1966–69
• Yael Bartana’s ’Kings of the Hill,’ 2003
• Pipilotti Rist’s ’I’m Not The Girl Who Misses Much,’ 1986
• Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers trailer
• Kraftwerk’s ’Trans-Europe Express’
• Christian Marclay’s ’Spins’ performance

Josh Greenberg, director of digital strategy and scholarship, New York Public Library
When it comes to thought-provoking commentary on digital media and the Internet, I look first to Mike Wesch, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University. His videos exploit the medium better than anything I’ve seen, merging the depth of academic commentary with the accessibility and wit of a video blogger. And then there’s the guilty pleasure: I can’t get enough of Greg Patillo, that beat-boxing flute guy.”

Tony Judt, professor of History, NYU
“If I do have a favorite, it’s a small, humorous video called ’Bush Pilot.’ It captures more than any text ever could about the European view of Bush, and the German sense of humor (yes!).”

What the Celebrities Are Watching on YouTube