Obama & Timberlake: A Tale of Two Videos

This weekend produced two must-see viral videos: footage from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, featuring separate clips of Barack Obama and Wanda Sykes cracking up the press corp, and a new "Saturday Night Live" musical sketch with Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg called “Motherlover,” which follows up their viral hit from last year, “Dick in a Box.”

C-Span footage of the Correspondents’ Dinner — immortalized on Twitter with the hash tag #nerdprom — has been parked on the Most Viewed list on YouTube, and clips can be found on blogs and other sites, including TheWrap, since yesterday.

But the excellent Justin Timberlake/Andy Samberg video shows how a lot of what we still call "viral video" is now packaged as part of the corporate entertainment world.


The video has the two emerging from jail holding those boxes that got them into trouble in the last video. They realize it’s Mother’s Day, and they have nothing for their moms. Then they hit on an idea: to become each others’ mothers’ lovers. The lyrics are as clever as last time (“Every Mother’s Day needs a mother’s night … I’m calling on you cause I can’t do it myself/To me you’re like a brother, so be my motherlover.”)

Cameos from Susan Sarandon and Patricia Clarkson as the moms are the icing on the cupcake.

But how the world has changed since Andy Samberg’s first "Saturday Night Live" viral video, “Lazy Sunday,” in 2007. Back then, the video could be found on any random blog or website and you didn’t know where it came from. Or your friends sent you the YouTube link, and you watched it right away. It felt excitingly samizdat.

Of course, it was also a sign of how clueless the networks were for so long about the web.


Now, an "SNL" clip that goes “viral” is branded by Hulu and NBC.com. On Hulu, you have to see “Motherlover” as Hulu wants you to see it, as part of the "SNL Collection" or the “Justin Timberlake SNL collection” — brought to you by State Farm. You’re enticed to watch other "SNL" clips instead of just checking out the one everyone’s talking about and getting back to your day.


On the NBC site, to see “Motherlover” you have to first watch a commercial for the “Degree Fine Fragrance Collection, available in the deodorant aisle.”

Well, at least we still have the charming uncommercialized realms of C-Span to keep the “viral” in “viral video.”