When we saw Tracy Morgan (“Saturday Night Live,” “30 Rock“) last month, he spent several minutes throughout his set flirting with the women at our table and making fun of the men. At the end of the night, he shook our hands and thanked us for coming to see him. It was great! The fan-celebrity interaction added immensely to our enjoyment of Morgan’s already phenomenal performance.
And so when Black came out last night, smart phone in hand, and read my Tweet to the audience, my heart began to race. He asked me to raise my hand so that he could find me, and when I did, he laid down on the stage and looked deeply into my eyes. Resting his chin on one hand, he spoke sweetly into the mic: “So whacha wanna talk about, hmm?”
I was both exhilarated and mortified.
My throat went dry, but I managed to reply, “I–I don’t know. I’m sorry!”
Black leaped up and exclaimed to the audience, “Oh, so she gets on Twitter and asks me to talk to her like Tracy Morgan did [emphasis his], but when I do she has nothing to say!”
The crowd swelled with laughter. It wasn’t so much what Black said that was funny, but more the idea that he’d broken down the fourth wall to bring a lowly fan up to his level as the show’s star.
The hilarity didn’t end there. Black called me up on stage twice during his performance, and at one point he actually left me there by myself while he went off to get me a bottled water.
So, I did what anyone in my position would do: I called the Bob Ross-looking guy at the table next to mine up to take my place.
When Black returned, he scowled at the bearded man and said, with a surprised whimper, “You’re not Rima. [Pause] You’re the ‘Joy of Painting‘ guy.” He then turned to me with mock disgust: “Did you think I wouldn’t notice?”
Amid more laughs from the audience, Black transitioned seamlessly into some incredibly funny prepared material for his final 20 minutes on stage. And at the end of the night, people seemed to want to talk to me almost as much as they wanted to talk to him.
What a rush.
Old Spice Goes Viral
Michael Ian Black isn’t the only celebrity taking advantage of social networking.
Last month, Isaiah Mustafa, better known as the “Old Spice Guy,” surprised fans by producing more than 150 short YouTube videos in under 24 hours. Each clip beautifully mimicked Mustafa’s popular Old Spice ads, with their lofty metaphors and hilariously grandiose monologues about power, strength and abdominal perfection.
Mustafa and a team of writers, marketing gurus and tech geeks selected their favorite fan questions via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. They then quickly put together scripts and props for Mustafa’s responses and somehow managed to produce and publish quality videos almost as quickly as fans could watch them.
The Old Spice crew even helped a fan propose to his girlfriend, as you can see in the video at right. (She said yes.)
Bridging the Gap Between Celebrities and Their Fans
I spoke to blogging pioneer and author of Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business, Steve Garfield, earlier today about how social networking has brought celebrities and their fans closer together. Garfield, a jack of all trades when it comes to new-media tools, is by all accounts a regular guy who doesn’t regularly hobnob with A-list celebrities. But he is resourceful and, as his book title implies, he knows how to “Get Seen.” Garfield has gotten the attention of a lot of famous people, and at present keeps in regular contact with the likes of Saturday Night Live alumnus and late-night host Jimmy Fallon.
Here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
Q: How have sites like Twitter and Facebook influenced the ways celebrities and their fans interact?
A: Social networking has really made it easier for celebrities to communicate with their fans. In the past, celebs had to get a Web guru to create a stand-alone site and set up bulletin board systems, and things like that. It was a struggle. But now, third-party sites like Twitter allow fans to share ideas with and talk to these celebrities. And the celebrities have the opportunity to talk back without having to know the first thing about creating a Web site.
Q: Tell me about Jimmy Fallon. At first, you were just a fan of his, commenting online like other fans. Now you talk all the time, and Fallon is even a prominent interviewee in your book, Get Seen. How did that happen?
A: Jimmy Fallon is the perfect example of a celebrity who has embraced social networking. He started a video blog and I commented on it. Then he mentioned me in another video blog post. Jimmy asked for videos, and so I made a video. And then he mentioned it, and so forth. So, we got little relationship going and I met him at the Consumer Electronics Show. I got to interview him there, and the next thing you know, I had VIP tickets to see his TV show. He even invited me backstage. Now we regularly communicate back and forth over Twitter. It’s so easy to communicate this way, and I think celebrities find (or should find) these communications valuable.
In the book, I interview Jimmy Fallon and we talk about interacting with the fans. He wants to set up “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” so that he can do just that. I also interviewed Gavin Purcell, Fallon’s producer, who talks about how they are working to make the audience experience more interactive.
Q: That’s fascinating. Have you found other celebrities who are open to interacting with fans online?
A: Definitely. I was just in the Bahamas and I saw the band Tears for Fears. They put on a great show. I shot some video of them, but I was really at a loss as to where to put it because of all these recent take-down notices from record companies asking fans to not put copyrighted materials on the Web.
That would never happen without social media.
Q: So what advice do you have to fans who want to get in touch with their favorite stars, or who want to use the power?
A: The Internet and all these new-media and social-networking tools like Twitter have leveled the playing field and made celebrities more accessible. With celebrities having millions of followers or fans, it sets the expectation that a famous person might not see your comments, but there’s also the possibility that they will. Jimmy Fallon asks for responses and reads them. Recently he asked Late Night viewers to use a specific phrase in their Tweets, and then he shared his favorite responses on the air. That kind of interaction is fun.
People who want to get their favorite celebrity to notice them really only need to reach out. Celebs are just people like the rest of us, and they often check search results for their names on Google and Twitter, just to see what people are saying. If you have something interesting to say to them or ask them, do it because they might just respond back.
|Steve Garfield’s video of Tears for Fears, live at the Oracle Club Excellence at the Atlantis (Bahamas) on July 30, 2010.||Curt Smith, lead singer of Tears for Fears, was pleased with the video and elected to share it with fans via Twitter.|
Tell me, readers: Have you ever met or spoken with anyone famous thanks to the Internet? Share your stories below!