JENNA WORTHAM, 5.27.08
Weezer hit the virtual jackpot with "Pork and Beans," the band’s hot new music video that mashes together a decade of internet memes in less than four minutes. Whether you think of the savvy short as the web celeb edition of "We Are the World" or a live-action version of "Internet People," the catchy geek anthem hits its mark. From the Daft Dancers (who do a separate Weezer promo, right) to the dramatic chipmunk, the memetastic video pays tribute to some of the net’s biggest mind viruses. Since its Friday upload, "Pork and Beans" has amassed an impressive 3.5 million views on YouTube — and that was even before its televised debut on MTV, which happened late Tuesday. Wired.com talked to video director Mathew Cullen, co-founder of studio Motion Theory, who spilled the beans on making "Pork and Beans," embracing your inner geek and discovering what Chocolate Rain crooner Tay Zonday is like when the cameras aren’t rolling.
Wired.com: OK, ‘fess up. Who’s the bigger geek — Motion Theory or Weezer? I’m wondering whose idea it was to use web celebs for this ultimate geek anthem.
Mathew Cullen: Well, we’d been wanting to work with Weezer since their last album … and five weeks ago Weezer sent us this song, and we immediately got the idea. ["Pork and Beans"] is this amazing song about being happy with who you are. That’s exactly where it came from. There’s never been a time like now, thanks to YouTube, where people can put themselves out there. So I embraced that concept.
Wired.com: Had you seen the South Park episode featuring Tay Zonday, that crazy-eyed hamster and the Numa Numa kid in a web celeb death match?
Cullen: I actually didn’t even know about the South Park episode until after we came up with the concept, but that message is almost about ending the lives of internet memes or viral stars. The idea is "let’s move on from this," and the "Pork and Beans" video embraces an opposite message.
Wired.com: Which is?
Cullen: I wanted the video to be a celebration of that creativity. I wanted it to be redemption for those who’d been unintentionally embarrassed by the power — there is a sense of that for those who were shamed by it.
For example, take Mark Hicks, the Afro Ninja. He’s a professional Hollywood stuntman who made one mistake at a casting session that is etched in [millions] of people’s memories. It was leaked without his consent, it was him doing the opposite of what he does best — and it was embarrassing professionally. He was very hard on himself for years because of that, but at a certain point embraced it. In this video, I wanted people to know he can kick some butt. There is an unintentional celebrity that happens on the internet. In the case of the Star Wars Kid, he wasn’t able to get over it. Even though he’s not in [the "Pork and "Beans" video], we wanted to put a nod [to him].
Wired.com: When did all of this go down?
Cullen: We shot it early May, in Los Angeles. Timing is everything … it had to be relevant. For people who aren’t on the internet, this is like a web CliffsNotes to getting into internet culture.
Wired.com: What happened when all those memes got into one room? Any fights over web celeb status break out?
Cullen: [laughs] No, sorry. It was very surreal. Everyone was talking about the effect that YouTube has had on their life and the differences between celebrity and web celebrity. I witnessed very intelligent conversations about what their place is in the fold, and pop culture entertainment, and what the rippling effects of what they’ve done and what their future holds…. They were all really fascinated with each other.
Wired.com: Anything happen off-screen that is viral-video worthy? Like a Chris Crocker, the Numa Numa kid and Miss South Carolina showdown?
Cullen: The shoot was a total whirlwind. But the group was all at the same hotel. They did hang out and party.
That would have been good to get on tape. Over the next few weeks, there is going to be some really good bonus content — interviews and some musical collaborations on the Weezer channel. So you’ll see.
Wired.com: Who was your dream meme to meet in person?
Cullen: Tay Zonday. I just think his music is incredible and it was fascinating to see him do his thing in person. Also, Judson Laipply (The Evolution of Dance). It was amazing to hear him tell his story. It was learning more about who these people are and beyond what we know from the 15-second or two-minute effect on our lives.