A YouTuber named “articfox95” posted a video on May 11 that soon gained more than two million views. “How to escape the cops” shows a man stretching a flexible metal pipe so he can hide himself inside. These twelve seconds of simple goofiness somehow went viral, and they might be just what people actually want from YouTube.
The video itself seems like nothing special, right? Some guy, possibly articfox95, jokes to the camera that anyone running from the police should have some “ductwork” handy. He demonstrates by running and shaking a flexible pipe so it covers him completely. The punchline comes when he bends forward and presses onto a wall, giving him the appearance of a building’s ventilation pipe. The disguise is startlingly effective – until he starts laughing, along with his buddy behind the camera.
The video’s only twelve seconds long, so you already know what happens in it. What I’m trying to emphasize is just what kind of video this is. Peek at the comment section and you will find pleasantly surprised reactions to the video’s sudden popularity. People have commented that they were happy to see something viral that wasn’t a music video, or something professionally created and funded. I didn’t understand why people were getting emotional. Then I realized what it was: this is the kind of video that used to go viral on YouTube.
I’m talking about a time when viral videos just happened, instead of being pushed by production companies for profit. This video’s rise to fame more closely resembles that of Leeroy Jenkins, or “funtwo.” Jenkins never suspected his misguided enthusiasm in a World of Warcraft raid would bring him worldwide infamy. funtwo probably didn’t expect tens of millions would enjoy his complex rock rendition of Johann Pachebel’s “Canon.” And articfox95 seems to have that same earnestness that feels so rare these days. The guy only has 543 subscribers and doesn’t end the video with the tacky plea to “Like/Share/Subscribe.” He didn’t put this up to monetize it or make a career of it. He just thought it’d be fun to share – and it is.
Once Google bought YouTube and made some changes, content creators took over and started getting millions of views in every video. While such content creators have entertained many, it feels like it came at the cost of the community’s old spontaneity. We never knew what unusual and funny thing would get everyone talking. Now we hear the same names over and over – and lately, for the more famous ones, in increasingly bad lights.
I know I sound like a cranky old codger, and perhaps it’s silly to wax nostalgic about “Team Ryouko” and Will It Blend? I also can’t totally dismiss content creators. I’m sure many genuinely wish to entertain, and if they can make a living from that, then great. But it seems I’m not alone in my surprise and pleasure at seeing a silly, random video make millions laugh.
Some people will go much, much further for YouTube fame. Check out this story about a vlogger who took illegal footage of North Korea.