Sunday, October 26, 2008
Montgomery Flea Market
This commercial is a music video about the greatness of the Montgomery Flea Market in Montgomery, Alabama. The commercial stars owner Sammy Stephens as he sings about his flea market, which he frequently compares to a "mini-mall" in the commercial. He tells the camera about his selection of living rooms, bedrooms, and dinettes. He also creates a dance that involves stepping to the left and then stepping to the right. The commercial became an internet phenomenon and has landed Stephens on Ellen DeGeneres's show multiple times. He's even been impersonated on Saturday Night Live (by Kenan Thompson, of course).
What impressed me about this commercial is Stephens' devotion to the concept. He really puts his heart into this commercial. He took a risk in creating this silly video, and it paid off. However, the question at hand is: does Stephens even know how silly it is? The dedication he puts into the performance seems to show that Stephens is taking the commercial quite seriously. However, the production values are cheap, and Stephens dancing and facial expressions, along with the poor song writing, all make for an unintentionally funny commercial that caused it to become a Youtube hit (one upload of the video has over 3 million views).
The popularity of this video isn't based on how great it is: it's based on how bad it is. Such is the way with many popular YouTube videos. People put themselves on camera, they make a fool of themselves, others get a copy and throw it online, and a YouTube star is born. YouTube has created a new fascination with unintentionally funny videos (you could say this climaxed with Weezer's Pork and Beans music video, which features many YouTube stars who've been laughed at). Stephens embraces the mainstream crossover appeal of the commercial. You can find videos of fans dancing with Stephens in person (such as this one or that one ). Sammy Stephens now has an official website and has starred in several other commercials (here's one). However, does he know if we are laughing with him or at him? Based on the popularity, he might get confused and genuinely think people think its a great piece. While we all laugh at him, it's a friendly laughter. People have embraced him. Youtube comments don't really make fun of him; instead, they ironically praise him. You will read comments like "MC Hammer has nothing on this guy. American Idol go to Montgomery, Alabama! Love it!!!!" or "my new ringtone!" The crowd goes nuts when he performs it live.
SAMMY STEPHENS RULES!