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Posted at 12:00 AM ET, 10/09/2012

Steve Martin, Samuel Jackson: Can stars make a mark on campaigns with viral videos?


Steve Martin in his Web ad for Bob Kerrey. (YouTube)

Okay, Nebraska: Steve Martin has spoken. Now will you vote for Bob Kerrey?

In one of the quirkier campaign Web videos in a season filled with them, the comedian does not talk about Kerrey, currently trailing in a push to return to the U.S. Senate. Instead, Martin archly declares that “Today, I’m going to show you how to make a wad of paper” — then proceeds to goof around at a kitchen counter with chewing gum and staples. Forty-two seconds in, if you're still waiting for something to happen, a hand pops into the frame with the first in a series of pro-Kerrey messages: “He deserves your vote. . . he cares about the people of Nebraska.”

Hmmm. What was that about? Campaign spokesman Chris Triebsch explained that Martin is a good friend of Kerrey, who officiated at the star’s 2007 wedding, and he “wanted to do something to help out . . . People found it humorous. It helps reach a lot of people out there who communicate by social media.” (Related: Kerrey’s wife rues his political career in Vogue essay, 7/10/12)

(Video: Steve Martin, Home Crafts Expert, Endorses Bob Kerrey)

But do celebrity wannabe-viral videos win hearts and minds? Lance Ulanoff, editor of the tech blog Mashable, said videos like these may get shared and clicked on a lot — Martin’s got 160,000 views in four days, neither a failure nor a phenom by celebrity standards — but argued that “fence-sitters are unlikely to be swayed by this relatively lightweight material.”

Take Samuel L. Jackson’s new pro-Obama video, a deliberately in-your-face riff on the kiddie-book satire “Go the [Expletive] to Sleep.” Jackson plays the grim storyteller, trying to scare a suburban family with the prospect of a Romney victory and telling them, in rhyming verse, to “wake the [expletive] up.”

(Video: Bleeped version of “Wake the [Bleep] Up”)

Mik Moore, co-founder of the Jewish Council for Education and Research, which launched the video independently of the Obama campaign, admits that the target is not swing voters but the Democratic base. “It gets them thinking and re-engaged,” he said. After a few million views in the past 10 days, he said, “we got hundreds of e-mails from people saying, ‘I’ve made 10 phone calls because of it,’ or ‘I’m volunteering with the campaign.’ ”

Also aiming for virality in recent days: A lineup of stars, including Fergie, Patti Austin, Alyssa Milano and Sheila E slow-jamming a tribute to women voters, for the Voter Participation Center (117,000 views), and action star Chuck Norris and his wife dourly predicting socialism under Obama (closing in on a million views).

(Video: L.O.V.E. Let One Voice Emerge)

(Video: Chuck Norris’s dire warning for America)

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Mitt Romney’s flag pin: What’s that star on the stripes?

By  |  12:00 AM ET, 10/09/2012

Categories:  Politics

 
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