When Brad Evans and Nick Ciarelli took the stage at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles last Thursday for their live comedy show Atlantic City, they intended to do something they already do fairly often: create a very silly comedy bit, share the video on Twitter, and watch as their friends and fans kept the joke alive for a day or two. But this time, things took a very different turn: Before their live show was even over, the video they posted of their audience dancing — a 23-second parody of the corny and relentlessly mocked Pete Buttigieg campaign dance video, only this time for candidate Mike Bloomberg and set to Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” — had gone viral, and over the next 24 hours, everyone from Donald Trump Jr. to Sebastian Gorka to New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman shared or otherwise engaged with the video, igniting a wildfire of confusion and assumptions about whether or not the people in the video were, or were not, real Bloomberg supporters. #MovesLikeBloomberg soon became a trending topic on Twitter, and Breitbart took Ciarelli’s updated Twitter bio as the Bloomberg campaign’s “communications intern” seriously in its (now deleted) article covering the clip. The video currently has over 5.3 million views on Twitter.
Prior to the #MovesLikeBloomberg video and resulting saga, Evans and Ciarelli had co-written the 2016 Funny or Die web series Tween Fest and released a long list of popular comedy videos on Twitter making fun of every corner of internet culture, including corporate social media managers (they created a Twitter account for a fictional urinal-cake company just for the occasion), #Resistance grifters, Cameo clips, and Barstool Sports. But instead of cycling through the regular comedy-nerd crowd, #MovesLikeBloomberg infected the election news cycle for an entire day thanks to the pundits, journalists, and unaware outsiders who kept sharing the video instead of doing the tiny amount of research it would take to figure out it was a joke. Even when Ciarelli claimed he had been “fired” by the Bloomberg campaign, there were still journalists later in the day on Friday who were earnestly amplifying the news. It was funny, yes, but it was also a little scary.
So what did Evans and Ciarelli think of the way their latest comedy video hit the news cycle and fooled so many people for a day? Vulture spoke with both of the comedians to find out, well, everything.
So walk me through the setup of how you made the video, because you got the audience involved in it.
Brad Evans: Basically, we came out and then we played the video of the people doing the Mayor Pete dance in case they hadn’t seen it, and that kind of bummed everyone out. [Laughs.] We were talking about how that’s just very bone-chilling footage — all these white mommies dancing to the Mayor Pete dance. So we played that, and then we were like, “We want to make our own dance.” We practiced it with the crowd a couple of times. They were pretty gung ho and excited to do it for the most part.
Nick Ciarelli: We had to do a couple takes of people doing it.
Brad: People kept fucking it up. Like even in the final video we did — we did three [takes], and there’s still one or two people pointing the wrong way and laughing to each other about how they’re fucking up.
Did they know it would be posted on Twitter the way it was?
Brad: Yeah, we told them we’d post it online and that we were going to try and get people to do this dumb dance that makes fun of Mayor Bloomberg.
Nick: We were just kind of like, “We’re going to try to start a viral dance for Bloomberg; feel free to share it or do the dance at home. We’re going to post the song online later so you can play it at home and do the dance.”
Brad: But we didn’t think it would get this many views. I do feel bad for anyone who was in it that didn’t intend for this many people to see their face, or for a bunch of Nazis to see their face and tweet about it or whatever.
Nick: It was about halfway through the show [when] I posted it online, and then by the end of the show it had gotten a lot of traction. A lot of people were quote-tweeting and responding to it being like “You guys are freaks!” or “We live in hell” or that kind of shit.
Brad: We came out at the end of the show and we were like, “Okay, so we posted it online. People are mad at us?” We pulled Nick’s Twitter up onscreen, and we’re just showing all these weird comments of people being like “What a bunch of losers!” — like to the crowd themselves who were in it.
So the live show wasn’t even over by the time you were getting responses like that?
Brad and Nick: Yeah.
Nick, had you changed your Twitter bio before the show?
Nick: I changed my bio ahead of posting the video just to kind of get it ready, and then Brad did the same thing. I changed my profile picture a couple of hours afterward — after we were just kind of talking like, “Oh, we should try to look more like we’re interning” or whatever.
When’s that picture of you from? It’s a perfect picture.
Nick: I think I was like 22 maybe? I was like, “I’m just going to dress nicer!” or whatever for my profile picture for Google Plus or whatever the fuck. [Laughs.]
Brad: It’s such a Young Republican-y pic. It’s truly terrifying.
Yours is good, too, Brad.
Brad: Oh, thank you. I’m 16 in mine.
Who says “Bloomberg” in the song?
Brad: I think it’s Nick. Do you remember?
Nick: Yeah. It’s me.
So you already mentioned how the reactions started rolling in on Twitter before the live show was even over, but by Friday it was really out of control. What was it like to watch all that unfold?
Brad: During the show we kind of saw that it had started to happen, and then after the show we saw that Sebastian Gorka had quote-tweeted it and said, “This is apparently not a parody.”
Nick: At that point it was just, Oh fuck, how much is this going to cross over? But after he retweeted it, I was just like, I’m gonna go to bed and not try to think about this until the morning.
Brad: From the time I looked at my phone in the middle of the show, it was pretty much just nonstop notifications.
Nick: I think around the point that he retweeted it, we had completely changed our bios to the new pictures and, you know, the “Bloomberg 2020” background photo.
Brad: But we really didn’t think it would trick people. In our heads we were just like, This is a dumb comedy bit, and people will know that we’re comedians. If you just scrolled down past the video, my entire feed is just “Watch my comedy video!” “Come to my comedy show!”
Nick: We didn’t go through or delete any tweets or recent things. I had tweets about the U.K. election and Corbyn and stuff — it’s pretty easy to see. We’re not trying to dupe anyone that much.
So this is getting to the scary part for me, because like you say, a very quick scroll through your feeds would’ve made it clear it was a joke. And Gorka is one thing, but I saw so many people on my timeline, and so many journalists, sharing it not realizing it was a joke. Which is funny, but also pretty terrifying!
Nick: We thought it was interesting when [New York Times White House correspondent] Maggie Haberman retweeted it, and she was kind of like, “What is this?” And then someone was just like, “This is a joke,” and she was like, “Well, jokes need to be more …” She said something like …
She said, “All the best parody has to be explained.”
Nick: Yeah. Like … That doesn’t make any sense! [Laughs.] So that was very weird.
Brad: It’s blatantly a joke! The campaign wouldn’t dryly dub someone saying “Bloomberg” over the song “Moves Like Jagger!”
Nick: Yeah, and I don’t know … It’s your job to not blindly take things in. It’s like their objective is more to just share and retweet shit and get fucking traction for that stuff.
The thing about Maggie’s tweets that’s so crazy is that she shared the video without looking into it first, and then she quote-tweeted someone else’s tweet about it, tsk-tsking her followers about how people share things without looking into them first.
Brad: You can just search our names and it’s all like “mischievous internet comedians” and you would know in three seconds.
Nick: It’s also scary because that fucking psycho Mike Cernovich knew ahead of time that we were faking it.
Brad: And he was retweeting our comedy videos …
Nick: Yeah, it was just kind of like “This is fake” or “This isn’t real.” But then these New York Times people and other folks are just buying into the thing.
Breitbart bought into it, too, but deleted their post, right?
Nick: They did, yeah. I think they were the one news site that just took it at face value.
Brad: There were a few that were like, “We’re not sure if it’s real or not, but here’s what was on Twitter.” Breitbart was the one that posted it and was just like, “Yeah, this is real, and it’s an embarrassing dance,” or whatever the fuck they said.
And then there was the Bloomberg campaign’s official comment.
Nick: That sort of shifted the whole thing for us.
Brad: At the show we were like, “Everybody do the dance and use the #MovesLikeBloomberg hashtag,” and it was just going to be more making fun of the Mayor Pete thing than anything.
Nick: We were just kind of like, “Tomorrow morning we’re going to post the song online, and then our friends will do the dance, and we’ll clog everyone’s feeds of everyone doing this annoying stupid dance.”
Brad: I don’t think their response makes any sense. I mean, it makes sense for them to distance themselves from Nick. But then they were like, “And you don’t have moves like Bloomberg, Nick,” or something like that. Nick’s not in the video, he was holding the camera. And also, what does “move like Bloomberg” mean? Is he saying it’s an insult that he doesn’t dance like Mike Bloomberg? [Laughs.]
Nick: Yeah, it’s confusing because the whole idea is that this thing sucks, but then they’re like, “You actually don’t have moves like him,” and it’s like, well, in our heads the “moves like Bloomberg” thing is a thing no one should have. It’s just a stupid bad dance that sucks.
You committed to the bit for a while; there was a point where Nick got “fired” and everything. So at what point did you decide it was time to tap out?
Brad: That day was the only day we were really doing it. #DropOutBloomberg was trending No. 1 in Los Angeles for a few hours, and it was trending worldwide.
Nick: We were just trying to push the hashtag as much as we could and see how far we could take it.
I would hope that after this, especially for the journalists who shared it, people would be more careful about sharing things they see on Twitter, but it’s probably naïve of me to think that.
Brad: We’re helping journalists, I think. That’s Nick’s and my goal: to teach journalists to use Google.
So when are you two getting your own show?
Brad: I don’t know! We’re developing some stuff with different production companies. Nothing’s close to happening right now.
The kind of comedy you do lives best on social media. Do you see that as something you could easily translate to a TV format?
Brad: I think we could absolutely do that sort of stuff on television. You can always post a clip from a TV show on Twitter; it is like a nice second life for a television show. With this Bloomberg thing, I think it was kind of this fun thing where everyone could participate in it — even dumb people got to be a part of it by sharing it and being like, “Is this real?”
Nick: Breitbart got to have fun with it.
Brad: They got to laugh and think they were better than these people who thought it wasn’t real.