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?
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