How a Bathrobed Reviewer Drew a Full House

By Frank Ahrens
Sunday, October 8, 2006

Lazydork was just another loser in a bathrobe, doing movie reviews on his Web site that no one watched. Then, he discovered YouTube. Then, he discovered Emmalina. And a splendid story began about dual lives, the mechanics of Internet fame and chest hair. It leads all the way from a courtroom in Miami to a casino in Vegas.

Lazydork is the online persona of Ricky Stern, a 28-year-old dude with glasses and a beard who liked to do his online reviews in a bathrobe because during high school, he wore a bathrobe all the time, even to class. (In film, they call this an "establishing trait." It establishes that Stern got zero dates in high school.)

Stern and his girlfriend, Trivia Girl (Lauren Perlman, 23) lived in Miami. In January of this year, they did a short video review of the horror film "Hostel," which they thought deserved a wider audience. Perlman found YouTube, which lets anyone post a video, and she put up the review. The video got 10,000 hits.

"We were ecstatic," Stern said in an interview on Thursday. "So we started posting, posting, posting."

Stern quickly cracked the code of YouTube: The site's biggest stars were attractive young women, sitting in their bedrooms, talking into a Web cam on top of their computer, about nothing at all. "I found it patently offensive they were getting so many more viewers than me," he said.

Stern zeroed in on last summer's biggest YouTube star, Emmalina, a 19-year-old Australian whose videos were getting more viewers than the NHL playoffs. Stern did a hilarious parody rap video he called "Just Like Emmalina."

Within the YouTube architecture, each user gets a Web page that includes their videos, biography, friends and videos sent by other users. Stern submitted his parody video to Emmalina, who put it on her site. Piggybacking on Emmalina's fame, Stern's video got 300,000 views. Because the video was so popular, it was put on YouTube's featured videos page, which got Stern and his videos even more viewers. "It's like a hamster wheel," he observed.

A star was born. Or a parasite. One of the two.

All sorts of viewers started flocking to Lazydork's videos, including many he didn't expect, such as gay men who have a fondness for hairy men. Stern has gone shirtless in some of his videos and let's just say that if he went camping in certain Northern California forests, he might prompt some Bigfoot sightings. "I have been featured in a [hairy man] newsletter," Stern said. "They say they eagerly await my next tank-top video."

Meanwhile, Stern was hiding the ludicrous Lazydork and his online activities from his employer: the Miami-Dade County prosecutor's office, where the serious Stern was an assistant prosecutor.

Yes, Lazydork is a lawyer. Or was a lawyer. Last month, Stern quit his job, piled Perlman and his belongings into a 25-foot RV and hied out for Las Vegas, to pursue his dream job: professional poker player.

Stern enjoyed the law, but he'd played poker since he was a li'l Lazydork. Over the past two years, he became obsessed with the game, even in court. "I'd finish closing arguments and be thinking, 'Is it smart to raise with ace-king in early position, or not?' " [Cut to shot of acquitted felons streaming out of Miami courtrooms.]

Stern decided that, coupled with the proceeds of his home sale in Miami, he could afford to become a professional poker player. After all, he only made a little more than $40,000 as a prosecutor.

He and Perlman filmed their trip across the country and it will soon be posted on YouTube. More importantly, as it often does, somewhere along the open roads of America, a change overtook Stern.

"It was so important to keep those two people -- Lazydork and Richard Stern -- separate," he mused. "Now, I no longer have separate personas. I am morphing into Lazydork. I'm unemployed and going to gamble all day, then come back home and make videos."

It's okay, guy. The world is a better place with one less lawyer and one more Lazydork.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company