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YouTube satire is ‘literally’ hilarious

The tale of Web 2.0 celebrity currently belongs to Dustin McLean of California, who just for kicks and giggles, posted a lyrically literalized version of a-ha’s beloved 1985 video, “Take On Me.”
Image: Literal \"Take on me\" video
"Magic frame" in a-ha's "Take On Me: Literal Video Version" makes cartoon guy human. Ah, let's face it. He's handsome either way. dustfilms via

So this is how it happens: A regular dude — possibly with a particular talent, maybe a couple of hilarious friends, an inside joke and some extra time on his hands — makes a casual YouTube post that is then instantly recognized as a flash of satirical genius by generally jaded Netizens at large.

Bing! Bang! Boom! Regular Dude is an Internet Meme Rock Star hailed on the video-sharing community, heralded on humor site and doubtlessly destined for his very own Wikipedia entry.

This increasingly common tale of Web 2.0 celebrity currently belongs to Dustin McLean, a California-based animator/film maker/musician who on Oct. 3, just for kicks and giggles, posted a lyrically literalized version of a-ha’s beloved 1985 video, “Take On Me.”

For nostalgia-free Gen Yers, as well as you Gen Xers who don’t get enough brain-preserving salmon in your diet, a-ha is a Norwegian synthpop band (still making music!) that broke video ground during MTV’s salad days with an insidiously charming and non sequiturous rotoscope adventure featuring a motorbike race, a handsome protagonist and a young woman who digs comic books.

Yes, nerd girls exist. To prove it, let me also mention that rotoscoping is animation drawn over live action, also seen in the 2006 film version of Philip K. Dick’s “A Scanner Darkly,” the 1981 stoner epic “Heavy Metal,” and various works of Ralph Bakshi.

Meanwhile, McLean’s bit of satirical brilliance, which as with most bits of satirical brilliance, comes from a fairly simple idea generated among friends. In this case, he ran with a silly concept first voiced by Jonah Ray, a comedian/actor for “SuperNews” on the cable and Internet channel Current TV, where McLean is an animator.

McLean took the original a-ha video and replaced the vocals with his own dead-on impression of singer Morten Harket’s pretty boy croon and lyrics that literally describe the action in the video. Two other “SuperNews” talents, Jason Nash and Josh Faure-Brac, and McLean’s wife Priscilla, contributed the voices for the extended musical interlude.

Hilarity quickly ensued.

“Holy cow, the Take On Me video is BLOWIN’ UP!” McLean wrote Oct. 6 on his Web site Dust Films. “In 3 days it’s already up to 35,000 views and climbing very fast! It’s 'Today’s Big Deal' on and it was even featured on "Attack of the Show" (on the G4 network).”

Blowin’ up, indeed. Maybe it’s simply because of the satire’s total awesomeness. Maybe we’re all in dire need of laughing at something mad stupid. Either way, at the time of this Technotica posting, “Take On Me: Literal Video Version” surpassed 200,000 YouTube views, powered by little more than the word of mouth.

The comments section goes on for pages with viewers gushing “LOL,” “ROFL,” and many so speechless they simply quote their favorite satirized lines. As for me, after watching this video forwarded to me by’s on Clicked blogger Will Femia, I honestly cried, it made me so happy.

Then I immediately contacted McLean, who is still a bit dazed over the attention his toss-away project is receiving. Keep in mind, this guy makes much more complicated video pieces professionally — both animated and live action. His work has been featured on Bravo and the BBC.

But when it comes to views, “Take on Me: Literal Video Version” "blew everything else out of the water,” McLean said in a telephone interview. “It’s pretty insane. Before this, the highest view on anything I did was 1.2 million but that’s over a couple of years.” Thanks to its success, McLean says more spoofed videos are soon to follow.

Is the Internet awesome, or what?

Thanks to cyberspace, Found Art is at its peak. My brainiac friend Daniel (one of the 10-bajillion people to whom I forwarded this video) suggested I use “Take on Me: Literal Video Version” to write about how such projects have implications for us as a culture if we continue to use the same outdated rules to govern intellectual property blah blah blah ...

Or I could investigate how the Internet allows us to critique the flotsam and Jetsons of popular culture in a way we couldn't before. The time of satire is at hand. And the trick to satire is to repeat something that's on message, but just say verbatim what the original creator is actually trying to get across. Or whatever.

But dang! Things are serious enough, right?

Instead, let’s talk about the overarching awesomeness of “Take on Me: Literal Video Version” and its pointless hilarity and recall similar Internet feats of random awesomeness such as the infamous X-Men/Juggernaut redub, Something Awful’s Judohobo, and that one guy who made his own Loverboy video.

Frankly, there’s something comforting in the nostalgia of a reinterpreted ‘80s video about a young woman sucked "Alice in Wonderland"-style into a charcoal rendition of a French noir New Wave film with a vaguely effeminate guy to flirt with and a couple of totally-beside-the-point bad guys with pipe wrenches.

Yeah, in retrospect, this video made about as much sense as Narnia on crack. But back then we didn't need to know why the bad guys were bad. I guess maybe now we're jaded after someone attacked Iraq to stop the terrorist acquisition of yellow-cake or whatever we were supposed to believe.

So just look at it. It’ll make you really happy.