Matt Harding, the guy who danced his way (badly) around the world and author of the hoax that was not a hoax.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m listening to NPR (National Public Radio). I hear a piece on Matt Harding, of Where the Hell is Matt fame. This guy travels the world and puts up videos of himself happily–though badly–dancing on You-Tube.
What does this have to do with Chile, you ask? Not all that much, but he’s been here in Chile, danced on Easter Island (yes, that’s part of Chile), and his project is really cool, so please bear with me!
He’s one of those guys who seems to glide through life on a sense of humor, dumb luck, and a healthy dose of right-time-right-place. He quit his job, slung a backpack over his shoulder, and set out to see the world (literally) in 2003. Somewhere along the line he had the bright idea of doing a dumb dance on camera and posting it to his web site. You Tube lofted him to new heights, a gum company sprung for further travel-dances, and the dream career he never knew he wanted was launched. He’s been traveling, dancing, and uploading videos ever since!
All well and good. Fun guy, nice gimmick, found his niche and the way to follow his heart’s desire on someone else’s dime. Cool…
But wait-there’s more!
Matt, it turns out, is a prankster, and he came up with–get this–not a hoax (anyone can do that), but a HOAX of a hoax… Sheer genius.
Spurred on by comments on YouTube that claimed his video was a green screen and Photoshop scam, he decided to come clean. Speaking before a large audience at the December 2008 EG Conference he confessed his sins and revealed all the secrets behind this elaborate viral ad campaign. That he was an actor and afraid to fly. That Photoshop was, indeed, and essential element in his video-making process. That the project was top secret and his sponsors (Buzz!Brain) couldn’t risk hiring loose-lipped actors to dance with him, so they spent $5 million building 100 animatronic puppets (electronic robots). That they had sunk a stripped-down Boeing 727 in a swimming pool to mock up the weightless dancing scene ($17 million). And to eliminate any trace of a doubt in the audience’s mind of what he was up to, the still straight-faced Harding concluded with a pie chart that revealed a budget that included expenditures for robot uprising insurance, animatronic masseuses, hush money, and hair extensions. His audience rolled on the floor!
Man, did those Photoshop conspiracy theorists look dumb then!
But here’s the irony… EG uploaded the video(Matt Harding-Where the Hell is Matt an Elaborate Hoax), Digg picked it up (Matt Harding: Where In The Hell Is Matt? It’s a Hoax), and Jaunted, who had not bothered to read beyond the headlines, put it in their Hoax category (Matt Comes Clean: He Was Faking It All Along and it just spiraled out from there.
The media had fallen for the gag and unwittingly (or dumb-wittedly) played its part in propagating the hoax that was not a hoax and the not-hoax that turned out to be one!
I just discovered a couple more links worth adding. It seems that when Jaunt figured out that it was a joke, they came back with “we were joking too”… But they did an interview with Matt that bears checking out: Matt Harding Tells Jaunted All About His Real Dancing Videos
And in the course of that interview, I came across a spoof of Matt at Funny or Die. It takes a while to download, so be patient. And just for the record… it’s a hoax!