Image: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler impersonate Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton
Dana Edelson  /  NBC via AP file
Tina Fey, left, plays Governor Sarah Palin, and Amy Poehler plays Senator Hillary Clinton on "Saturday Night Live."
By
updated 12/11/2008 12:01:51 PM ET 2008-12-11T17:01:51

Nearly four years after the launch of YouTube, it's startling just how much viral videos have come to resemble a highlight reel (or a gag reel) of recent history.

In 2008, the election was constantly reflected on video-sharing sites — and sometimes even influenced by such clips. But the year in viral video was not all politics; there was still plenty of room for a litter of puppies, brawling late-night hosts and a lion with an excellent memory.

Here are the year's top 10 Web videos:

1. Tina Fey As Sarah Palin: Not only was Fey's impression of the Alaskan governor arguably the seminal pop culture event of the year, it also represented a turning point in the paradigm between TV and the Web. More people watched Fey's sketches on NBC.com and Hulu.com than on television.

2. The Real Palin: Though Fey's many parodies of Sen. John McCain's running mate set the Internet on fire, the real McCoy gave her a run for her money. Online, many were obsessed with Palin's every move, and millions logged on to watch clips of her interview with CBS' Katie Couric , her unfortunately positioned Thanksgiving turkey pardon and, yes, her appearance on "SNL."

3. Christian the Lion: Easy fabrications have made us all suspicious of Internet videos, but more than 20 million have been captivated by the heartwarming (and true) story of Christian the Lion being reunited with the two men who raised him as a cub. What's funny is that the story wasn't new to this year (see the Daily Mail's Web site for the full back story), but it took off when paired with Whitney Houston's version of "I Will Always Love You." "The Bodyguard" lives.

4. "Yes We Can": In all the songs and performances devoted to this year's election, none connected quite like will.i.am's music video. By pairing Barack Obama's words with music, will.i.am created the most indelible campaign message of the year.

5. "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog": The entry of Joss Whedon (creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Angel" and "Firefly") to the Internet resulted in perhaps the greatest and most substantial Web series yet. In three parts, the 43-minute film starring Neil Patrick Harris as a wannabe evildoer was distributed for free on Hulu and then for pay on iTunes (and then for free again on Hulu).

6. Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad: When McCain ran a campaign ad comparing Obama's celebrity to that of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress jumped right into the fray. In a video created by FunnyOrDie.com co-founder Adam McKay (the director of "Anchorman" and "Step Brothers"), Hilton — sitting poolside in a bikini — announced her mock-candidacy for the presidency. More than 8 million watched.

7. Sarah Silverman and Matt Damon: ABC's Jimmy Kimmel got an interesting surprise from his then-girlfriend Sarah Silverman during a show in early 2008. In the video — the name of which isn't fit to print — Silverman ever so slightly suggested that she was sleeping with Matt Damon . Unfortunately, by July, Kimmel and Silverman really did split after five years together.

8. Puppy Cam: The litter is now being dispersed , but while the six Shiba Inu pups were together, they were stars on Ustream.tv's "Puppy Cam." More than 4 million watched the young dogs — Autumn, Amaya, Aymui, Aki, Akoni and Ando — grow up (at least for a few weeks) and eventually find adopted homes.

9. Frozen Grand Central: Flash mobs seem so early 2000s, but one stunt by the New York comedy troupe Improve Everywhere discovered that jokes on a bewildered public can still charm. In a video posted in late January, the group gathered 200 "agents" to — all at the same time — suddenly stand frozen in place at New York's Grand Central Terminal for five minutes while confused travelers gawked at the strange sight. The video has been watched by more than 14 million on YouTube.

10. Late-night Hosts Brawl: During the writers strike earlier in the year, late-night hosts were downright desperate for material. So in a mock feud over who was most influential to Mike Huckabee's unlikely rise among Republican presidential candidates, Conan O'Brien, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert convened to settle the score. In a hysterical fight (which is still available on NBC.com), the three hosts battled to a perfect tri-knock-out. How often do three people that funny come together in a video perfect for the Web?

More on  Viral videos   |  YouTube

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: A lion's tale

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  1. Christian the cub

    When he was just a cub, Christian the lion lived indoors in London with John Rendall and Anthony "Ace" Bourke, who had spotted him in a small cage at the department store Harrods. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Just a big kitten

    Though Christian would soon be a full-grown lion in the wild, as a cub he played like any kitten -- which was tough on the furnishings. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The cat's pajamas

    Just like a playful kitten, Christian the cub loved getting into mischief. Here he rummages through his owners' drawers. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dining in

    Rendall and Bourke and their friends in swinging Austin Powers-era London treated Christian like any other member of the household, even sharing meals with him. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A big house cat

    Still a cub (but growing rapidly), Christian relaxes at home in John Rendall's flat in the fashionable Chelsea district of London. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Cuddling with Christian

    Though developing rapidly, Christian remained a pet at heart: he enjoyed cuddling and napping with his owners. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Out on the town

    Rendall and Bourke sometimes packed Christian into the back of their car and took him out to London restaurants. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Making friends

    The affectionate nature that Christian displays into the hit YouTube video dates back to his gentle upbringing by Rendall and Bourke. Here Christian makes a young friend. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Curious Christian

    Christian was always curious, exploring every nook and cranny including open drawers and the toilet bowl. (Derek Cattani) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Growing pains

    As Christian quickly grew, Rendall and Bourke soon realized that they would not be able to keep their beloved pet in an urban environment much longer. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The lion's den

    The basement of the furniture store Rendall and Bourke worked at became Christian's den -- and soon he began to outgrow it. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Home, sweet home

    Christian endured a long journey back to Africa, and fell asleep soon after reaching Nairobi, Kenya. It took him two days to fully recover from the trip. (Born Free Foundation / Derek Cattani) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. The real 'Born Free'

    It was George Adamson, the wildlife preservation activist whose story was told in the movie 'Born Free,' who introduced Christian to his natural environment in Kenya. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A lion's heart

    Though Christian successfully adapted from swinging London to the wilds of Africa, he never forgot the loving owners who raised him as a cub. (John Rendall) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A new life

    Christian had successfully taken to his new environment. Rendall and Bourke spent nine days with him and found that he could handle himself in fights with other lions and was even mating. (Born Free Foundation / George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Final farewell

    Rendall and Bourke saw Christian for the last time during this trip. In 1973, Christian crossed a river away from the wildlife park and it is not known where he ended up. The duo hopes that Christian was able to start his own pride and that his descendants still reside in Kenya today. (Born Free Foundation / George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust) Back to slideshow navigation
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