Viral video infamy does not guarantee its subjects anything besides 15 unpaid minutes of fame (and a spot in the history of fabled Internet archives) and, at best, a mention on a second-rate talk show. The question of whether or not viral videos can produce superstars off the browsers and in the real, paid world of film and television has yet to be answered.
Yes, Dane Cook is superfamous, likely due to his rabid fan base on MySpace. Sure, Lisa Nova used her YouTube account to eventually land her a spot on sketch show MadTV. But for every Dane Cook or Lisa Nova, there are countless other internet celebs who never see more than faint recognition (nor, for that matter, opportunity to turn a profit).
And yet, there are exceptions to the rule.
The Lonely Island is a California-bred sketch group comprised of three buddies who wrote and shot video shorts while not laboring at their respective day jobs in Hollywood. In their "early days" (2002), their unembedded Quicktime videos represented an early model of how YouTube would later find success, in attracting a young audience hungry for weird, cheaply produced material that helped pass the day.
The Lonely Island are now, in 2008, at least one third a household name. Andy Samberg, the most famous of the trio, is a cast member of Saturday Night Live whose fellow "Islanders," Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, are on the show’s writing staff. After a failed sketch show on Fox called Awesometown, the boys were initially pegged by head honcho Lorne Michaels to usher into SNL‘s viewing public a significantly younger, Internet-savvy demographic.
###The move seemed an uncertain and risky until, of course, the groundbreaking short Lazy Sunday aired and essentially changed the comedic media paradigm. Lazy Sunday became a viral phenomenon, and The Lonely Island guys were given their own exclusive mini-studio at SNL in which they were allowed free reign to incorporate material reeking of Web 2.0 charisma onto the late night behemoth.
Before they popularized gifting genitalia and gay-grandpa fetish, Andy, Akiva, and Jorma were churning out awesomely bizarre material that spanned different formats – music videos, serials, and nostalgic parody. Not only was everything they made undeniably entertaining, but the clear camaraderie we can gather in witnessing the guys work together so seamlessly – even at their strangest – is an element necessary to the success of any group effort, whether or not it involves, say, hot storks.
Furthermore, Samberg, Taccone, and Schaffer broke ground in paving the way for Internet users to earn both acclaim and an income all in thanks to combining their keen senses of humor with a necessary knowledge of Web 2.0 culture.