When YouTube was created in early 2005, no one imagined the scope that a user-driven, video sharing site would one day encompass. From hilarious to heartwarming, raucous to ridiculous, “viral videos” have kept us wholly entertained, all the while generating tens of billions in advertising revenue and inadvertently launching the careers of some of today’s hottest acts (Justin Bieber, Glee’s Darren Criss), not to mention bringing back a few from the past (Rick Astley, anyone?) But out of the seemingly billions of uploaded videos, these stand out as the absolute best.
“Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!"
Two young brothers are idly enjoying an afternoon at home in the English countryside, when all of a sudden, the youngest one bites his brother and proceeds to laugh maniacally. Strangely, it’s the cutest thing you’ll ever see. The 2007 clip “Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!” features brothers, Harry, 3 and Charlie, 1 on a roller coaster ride of emotions from joy, to anger, to sadness, and back to joy again. Originally recorded for the boys’ godfather who was living in America, the video has been viewed nearly 300 million times. As of December 2010, “Charlie Bit My Finger – Again!” is the number three video of all time on YouTube (behind Justin Bieber’s Baby and Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance) and was voted Time magazine’s number one viral video of all time.
Twenty-one years before the existence of YouTube, Charlie Schmidt of Spokane, Washington suited up his son’s cat “Fatso” in a blue T-shirt and sat the cat in front of his electronic keyboard. Manipulating the cat’s paws, Schmidt recorded a short video of the cat seemingly playing an upbeat jam on his Casio. When Fatso passed away in 2007, Schmidt uploaded the footage as an in memoriam to his composer kitty. Not long after, “Keyboard Cat” began to spread like wildfire. It didn’t just stop on YouTube; “Fatso” became a favorite on the small screen as well, and the video went on to appear on The Daily Show, the MTV Movie Awards and Tosh.0. It also ranked number two on Current TV’s list of “Great Viral Videos.”
“JK Wedding Entrance Dance”
When Minnesota couple Jill and Kevin were planning their wedding ceremony, they decided to forgo tradition and jazz up their processional with a funk-ified dance routine. Set to Chris Brown’s hit song Forever, the couple surprised their wedding guests with a choreographed routine they would not soon forget. Forty-five million views and one Today Show performance later, Kevin and Jill have used their dance powers for good, using the video’s publicity to raise nearly $30,000 for the Sheila Wellstone Institute, a charity dedicated to raising domestic violence awareness.
“Evolution of Dance”
Judson Laipply was just your every day motivational singer/dancer from Bucyrus, Ohio when, in April 2006, he posted his “Evolution of Dance” video. Today, he’s your every day motivational singer/dancer from Bucyrus, Ohio who was once a question on Jeopardy. Laipply’s dance routine brought together twisting and thumping like never before. The video was actually the reigning king of YouTube until 2008. It still remains one of the site’s most successful, having been viewed over 160 million times. A second “Evolution of Dance” was released in early 2009 with a third in the works for 2011.
“David After Dentist”
More than 57 million people have seen 7-year-old David DeVore's backseat trip – and we mean trip – home from the dentist's office. Following oral surgery, young David was less than aware of his surroundings, spouting off lines like, “Is this real life?” and “”Is this going to be like this forever?” before ultimately letting out a random shriek at the video’s climax. Sparking remixes and imposters including the don’t miss “David After the Divorce,” “David After Dentist” has brought quite a bit of attention to the DeVore family. Says the boy’s father, "We embraced it; we said we will make a family adventure out of this and see what happens.”
“A Very Potter Musical”
In April 2009, Starkid, a student theater company at the University of Michigan, posted their original play, “A Very Potter Musical.” The low-fi version was initially only meant to appease family and friends who were unable to attend the original performance. However, it ended up becoming an Internet sensation and launching the career of one of Hollywood’s hottest rising stars. Combining plot elements from all seven Harry Potter books, as well as more than a few Zac Efron references, the play features original musical numbers that rival most Broadway shows. Since then, the troupe’s productions have accrued upwards of 50 million views and over 100,000 subscriptions. They have also helped launch the career of actor/singer Darren Criss who, following his portrayal of “Harry,” was cast on the Fox hit Glee. Starkid’s latest production, “Starship,” is set to premiere on both the stage and YouTube this winter.
“Randy Pausch's Last Lecture”
While most video clips are known for their humor, one is known for its poignancy. Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Melon University, was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2007. Always one to maintain an upbeat and positive attitude, Pausch compiled a series of ideas that he wanted to express to those with their lives still ahead of them. In September 2007, he took to his classroom to deliver a lecture entitled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” While the speech was technically not his last – he spoke at Carnegie Melon’s commencement the following year – Pausch was able to touch the lives of both the students in his classroom and the nearly 13 million people who viewed his speech on YouTube, before succumbing to cancer in July of 2008.