Thursday, June 24, 2010

The spill!

Jake Coyle
New York — The Associated Press
Published on Thursday, June 24, 2010

The most memorable comedic take on the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico hasn't come from Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show or a late-night monologue.

Instead, a cheaply made video by an unlikely New York improv troupe has created the only commentary that has truly resonated online: a three-minute spoof that shows BP executives pathetically trying to clean up a coffee spill.

In the last two weeks, the video has been watched by nearly 7 million people on YouTube. By the count of Viral Video Chart, it's been shared about 300,000 times on blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds.

The video was dreamed up by the writers for the sketch show Beneath Gristedes, a monthly stage show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. While meeting to work on the show, a germ of the concept came to Erik Tanouye, who worked out the script with fellow writers John Frusciante, Gavin Spieller and Eric Scott.

They shot it two days later and within a week, it was up on The site has had some viral hits — a parody of a Google ad, a spoof of the David After the Dentist video — but nothing on this level.'s servers immediately crashed under the traffic.

“I couldn't do my day job,” said Tanouye, 32, who is the director of student affairs for the UCB training centre.

It's been the biggest hit yet for, which was founded in 2007 to give its performers an online outlet. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, which has popular theatres in New York and Los Angeles, was co-founded by Amy Poehler.

Content director Todd Bieber says that a viral sensation such as BP Spills Coffee can “energize the UCB community” in creating video for the website. Having so much talent at the ready makes a little like an amateur version of, the comedy site co-founded by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, which pulls contributions from famous comedians.

David Letterman, Jay Leno and other late-night hosts have made BP jokes practically a nightly feature. Conan O'Brien, perhaps feeling like he was missing out, recently tweeted: “The past 2 months I've been on tour and haven't followed the news. What's with all the photos of chocolate pelicans?”

The Colbert Report and The Daily Show have battered the subject relentlessly. Mixing comedy with activism, Colbert Nation has launched a “Gulf of America Fund” to raise donations for the recovery efforts.


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