I’m sure there are people in the world who could genuinely say an eight-second event changed their life. Perhaps a spontaneous marriage proposal, or a sudden tragic accident, or even their first sexual experience — no judgment. They were one way before that eight seconds and another way after.
Personally, my eight seconds are a video of beloved character actress Jennifer Coolidge saying the word “Hi.”
It doesn’t sound very remarkable, I’ll grant you.
“Have you seen that video of Jennifer Coolidge saying ‘Hi’? It’s fucking incredible,” I might say to a friend or acquaintance on the street.
“That’s it? She just says ‘Hi’?” they respond.
“Yes, okay, that’s ‘it,’” I’ll manage, immediately taking offense, “but it’s so much more, I swear.”
And then I rush to bring up a video that I myself have watched no less than 200 times. It’s the video I’ve pulled up on countless occasions while death-gripping my phone in the middle of the night, desperate for something to pull me back from the unrelenting dread of an unanswered risky text or a new study by Oxford University or whatever on how much worse life is going to get than we even could have imagined. When I need a little pinch of dopamine in my otherwise panic-filled existence, I run to the inviting arms of the eight-second Jennifer Coolidge “Hi” video. It has not even once failed to make me laugh. It’s a reaction that’s beyond me at this point. It’s transcendent. It’s inexplicable. But here I go, trying to explain it.
We start on the carpeted floor of what looks like a penthouse hotel suite and a pair of red-stilettoed feet. “Rocket Man,” by Elton John, plays softly in the background. We pan up a figure dressed in an elegant black lace cocktail dress. Then, the reveal: It’s Jennifer Coolidge, looking pensively out the window at the city below. Taking her time, she slowly turns her head to the camera and utters a tepid, hesitant, but melodious, “Hi.” Then the video ends. Just as soon as it arrived. Eight seconds of perfection.
On that, the internet agrees: While watching the video for maybe the 76th or 77th time, I took a gander at the comments on YouTube. We all seem to feel it: This is the funniest thing we’ve ever seen and we’re not sure why. “I just can’t stop laughing,” says user Xin7. “This right here is a cultural reset,” says Georgia Smith. “Okay but does anyone know the context?” Lance Sunshine asks. “She was saying hi,” a helpful user responds.
I have questions, too. Where did this video come from? After an exhaustive ten-minute scour of the internet, I had found nothing. It’s probably for the best. “Hi” is the kind of video that appreciates in value with less context.
But still, I like to imagine how it went on the day. Maybe Jennifer called over a friend or an assistant and said, “Grab the phone, I just had an idea.” Or maybe it was, “I look really good in this dress, let’s get a video of it, I’ll just do whatever.” Or maybe someone else said, “Jennifer, I’m going to take a video of you, just say something when I pan to your face.”
Whatever the reason, magic was created that day. It encapsulates everything we love about Jennifer Coolidge. After all, it takes a very talented person to transform otherwise forgettable lines into some of the most-quoted ones in movie history. No one would remember how I would say the line, “I’m taking the dog, dumbass.” But they remember Jennifer Coolidge saying it.
Because Jennifer Coolidge has just got it — that certain comedic je ne sais quois required to be a card-carrying member of the Christopher Guest club. I’ve probably never laughed as easily as I have at Coolidge in Best in Show describing her relationship with her new and very elderly husband: “We both have so much in common. We both love soup, we love the outdoors, we love snow peas, and talking and not talking.” She has the bravery to consistently lead with goofiness, and an understanding that with enough commitment, just about anything can get a laugh. It’s part of what makes her such a beloved actress: an inherent funniness and an ease of performance that always includes the viewer.
The euphoric rewatchability of the “Hi” video is owed to Coolidge’s tiny but powerful comedic choices. The milky-soft quality of her voice during the ever-so-slightly elongated “Hi” along with the little downturn of her mouth into that signature half-smile, half-grimace turn one syllable into so much more. Jennifer Coolidge knows her power and wields it beautifully: that she doesn’t need anything more than “Hi” to be funny. My mom used to tell me, “Brevity is the soul of wit” a lot. Probably when I was talking too much. I finally feel I understand, thanks to Jennifer Coolidge.
The “Hi” video means nothing, and so it means everything. In a time where you can find any kind of content you want on the internet, a million people trying to out-funny each other, it turns out my home is Jennifer Coolidge simply saying “Hi.” To me. Hi, Jennifer. Hi.