Because I am the proud owner of young children, I don’t do anything ever. Movies, books, episodic TV -- unless I can consume something while driving or unconscious, it’s lost on me. I have come to accept this as a part of my reality, as I do the length of my toes or the distance between the front door and the mailbox. It is what it is, as people who lack conversational dexterity are so fond of saying.
(Once again: I’ll stop being a peevish jerkface about “it is what it is” as soon as somebody presents to me something that is what it isn’t. EVERYTHING is what it is. I can’t be the only one driven to distraction by this.)
Among the few exceptions I’ve made to the do-nothing-ever-at-all “policy” was for the third of Mike Birbiglia’s one-man shows, Thank God For Jokes. My wife and I caught the first two, Sleepwalk With Me and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, in less diaper-laden times; just to be safe, we booked kid/work coverage 32 weeks in advance of the third one. The guy is funny as hell, but that’s almost beside the point. It’s his subtlety and sway as a storyteller that elevate him above the twittering horde.
So I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that, at some point in the indeterminate future, I will enjoy Don’t Think Twice, the second film Birbiglia has written and directed. Lo and behold, I’m also pretty taken with “The Viral Video: The Most Popular Short Film Ever (By Mike Birbiglia),” the first send-up of viral-video-mania that captures the desperation underlying it.
Make no mistake: The entire point of “The Viral Video” is to prompt viewers to leave their domiciles, hop in the car, purchase a ticket -- or perchance three! -- and enjoy the film in a structure in which movies are displayed (a “movie theater”). This ain’t charity or an artistic endeavor.
And that’s kind of the point. Upon hearing from a producer-type person that the studio would like him to create a viral video, Birbiglia assembles the Don’t Think Twice cast and delivers the news. Within seconds, they’re cutting one another down in a manner that’ll sound familiar to anyone who’s ever had the great fortune to wander into an Internet forum. To wit: Chris Gethard goes off on a rant about the impossibility of “will[ing] something into being popular,” to which Keegan-Michael Key responds, “Look, it hasn’t happened to you.” And we’re off.
Before the clip concludes, the performers rip Netflix, inadvertently make it clear that they don’t support each other’s projects and scoff at Key and Peele’s bona fides as a TV show (“I watched it on YouTube”). They then hold a séance to cast out the viral video virus that has infected them -- which, after a few refrains of “our movie is good -- we don’t need this!,” disintegrates into a blur of dogs playing the piano and “funny” dancers. It makes a point, and then some… and oh, it happens to feature more of the super-appealing cast in the process. Everybody wins.
Maybe it’s just refreshing to see creators and performers attempt to sell a project without resorting to playing Tiddlywinks with Jimmy Fallon, but I can’t help but think that this approach is so, so, so much more human than the usual tickle-with-sledgehammer approach to promoting indie and mainstream films alike. “Viral Video” hasn’t yet gone viral and probably never will. I sense that Birbiglia and co. will come to regard this as somewhat of an encouraging development.