Last week, a video of a woman catching fire during a twerking session gone wrong made the Internet rounds and amassed over 9 million views on YouTube. Jimmy Kimmel revealed last night that it was all his doing, thus giving the world a lesson in how to make a video go viral.
Here's the original video:
And here, after a weekend of relentless twerk-shaming (and some suggestion that the video was fake), is Kimmel coming clean and telling us that the video is actually the work of stuntwoman Daphne Avalon.
"Even though the video was fake, that did not stop hundreds of news outlets from showing it," Kimmel says, proceeding to unleashes a supercut of reporting by MSNBC, CNN, KTLA, and Fox affiliates as evidence of the video's virality:
Now, we're used to Kimmel's pranks, but none of his previous pranks were able to fool pretty much the entire Internet. So how'd the boy from Brooklyn do it?
A lot of that video's success was due to timing. It debuted on September 3, landing right in the middle of a cultural sweet spot softened up by Miley Cyrus—Cyrus's much-talked about twerking performance at MTV's VMAs happened on August 25. Cyrus's dance was followed by an endless discussion of twerking, twerking entering the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and, of course, the backlash against twerking. On top of all this landed the video of the twerking fail, which seemed to signify the larger fail of American culture.
Knowing People Put Dumb Stuff on the Internet
The trick video was also helped along by the fact that people are willing to post anything online. And, further, people love watching other people fail at life. One of the more famous cases is that of a woman named Tori Locklear who burned her hair off during a beauty tutorial. The payoff? An invitation to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. So the twerking fail video seemed part of the dumbness that is so beloved by the Internet. As one commenter on YouTube said, "Feel sorry for this generation." That was precisely the sentiment on which Kimmel preyed.
Cross Fingers and Pray to Reddit
The video hit Reddit on September 5—two days after Kimmel and Co. uploaded it. It then amassed over 18,000 votes (Redditors vote on stories they like or don't like) and started to get attention from the likes of Gawker's Neetzan Zimmerman, the gossip site's resident Reddit Whisperer. Zimmerman's post, "This Terrifying 'Twerk Fail' Is Proof That Twerking Is Bad For You," went live on September 6 and amassed over 300,000 hits; other sites, like the Daily Dot and Hypervocal, followed suit. We featured the video in Friday's video roundup. And, of course, network news then feasted on the video.
While Kimmel treats his twerking prank with lighthearted amusement, the way he pulled the prank was also a clinical study in what goes viral. It's also a revealing look at how news sausage is made — and not a very flattering look, at that. Remember, we live in a society that cares far more about twerking than it does about Syria. Nobody said this was a feel-good story.