As is oft-quoted, America and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language, and as much as we like to think we have a lot in common, our cultural differences can still seem baffling to those on the opposite side of the Atlantic. Take American Football, for example. Sure, it's gets a little broadcast time in the UK, and the internet certainly makes it more accessible to British fans of the game, but ask most Brits if they can name more than a handful of teams or whether they are going to stay up all night and watch the Super Bowl, and it will be a pretty short conversation.
So, bearing that in mind, an inane, satirical British voice-over of an NFL game shouldn't really make any sense but it's the funniest thing you'll see on the internet this week. It's also generated over 3 million views in 4 days. We talked to Anthony Richardson, "Britain's premier sports commentator" about the commentary series, and his ExplodingHeads YouTube channel:
ReelSEO: 3,310,516 views in 4 days for Bad British NFL Commentary, eh? It was the #1 most shared video on YouTube on the 17th of January 2014, and it's still in the top 5 today. We can see that it was picked up by HuffPo, Deadspin, Jezebel and Collegehumour amongst other sites. Did you have a deliberate outreach policy for this video or did it go viral on its own?
Anthony Richardson: Yes, nigh on three million is a bit of a shock. I didn't have an outreach policy as such and have no contacts at most of the sites that put my videos up. It was really a case of saying, 'Hi guys, don't know if you remember me from the last video I did, but I've done another and here it is!' And then I have a bath and come back in half an hour to see if anything's happened. The first person to spot this one was Jonah Keri at Grantland. He's a good man.
ReelSEO: You and the rest of the team come from a comedy background – are the Bad British commentaries a deliberate ploy for views or do you do them because they are just funny as hell? Where did the idea come from?
AR: The Exploding Heads (Mark Davison and Ben Tonge) and I spend a great deal of time making very niche comedy sketches about sport, and the odd one about whatever we find funny at the time. The commentary videos are sort of a solo project of mine that get put on our channel because there's nowhere else to put them. I used to do a thing called CPU versus CPU (first for Ginx TV and then for Grantland.com), in which I predicted upcoming sports games (Premier League and the NBA, mostly) using Computer simulated games of FIFA and NBA2K. I'd commentate over the top of them and viewers would predict the real life score of that game in the comments section. People used to enjoy my commentary, and I began to think, 'what if I did this for real games?' Sadly, I couldn't get much interest in the format, so I just made them for my own amusement. After the success of the Baseball ones, it dawned on me that I should probably have a go at every US sport. So, yeah. Hockey next.
ReelSEO: The timing couldn't have been better for Superbowl 2014 – how deliberate was this?
AR: I was vaguely aware that the Superbowl was coming up, so I did plan to release something in tribute. It's genuinely the most planning I've done for one of these. And yes I am aware that college and NFL are different things. We have college stuff in England as well. It's just that most college games are watched by a total of 8 people, and one player often cannot play as he's forgotten his kit. In America it's televised. That strikes me as excessive.
ReelSEO: The YouTube comments for the video are hilarious – people either love it or hate it depending on which side of the Atlantic they are on. Americans are laughing at the Brits because of this bad commentary and the Brits are laughing at the Americans because they (Americans) think it's real. Which attitude amuses you the most?
AR: I like the idea that people are so angry by my commentary that they feel compelled to comment. Also the people who have deduced that it's a parody, and proudly announce their discovery. Also the people who think I'm Australian. But my favourite are the people who quote it. That's a real buzz. It's interesting to see what they quote, too. Flapjack, a lot. And Wowzers in me trousers. It's fun to say.
ReelSEO: What makes you pick on Americans? ;-)
ReelSEO: How long do the commentary videos take to produce?
AR: I sit down and pick a game. Then watch it right the way through. I pick a few clips to make a montage (I'd love to announce a whole game but I'm not sure many would indulge it), then I get a mic, take a deep breath and go for it. It takes a couple of days from start to finish.
ReelSEO: Have you any commentary plans for the Winter Olympics or FIFA 2014? (please say yes).
AR: Winter Olympics? You bet. We're doing a special video for that one. It's called "The Winter 'Lympics Are Coming." And yes, the world cup is quite a big deal, especially if you're as good at football as England are. We're hoping to do an episode a day during the world cup. It'll be a topical comedy show, and may well be the end of us. If you've seen our ESPN show 'How Will They Line Up', you'll know what to expect.
ReelSEO: ExplodingHeads isn't the only YouTube channel you're involved in – tell us more about Ginx
AR: My other passion is video games, and I write/present for 24 hour TV channel Ginx. We air all over the world, hopefully in the US soon. I write and present Retro Attic, in which I sit in a loft and talk about old games. So yes, those 547 hours spent playing Monkey Island 2 were very much worth it. We're also developing a time travelling sitcom. It's a fun place to work.
ReelSEO: Out of the Baseball, Basketball & NFL videos, which one is your favourite and why?
AR: The Baseball one is my favourite. I play a lot of cricket, so it was nice to fill it with cricket references that some Americans might not get. Plus, yelling Dylan Thomas's Boathouse still makes me laugh. One for all the poetry students out there.
ReelSEO: Any juicy YouTube/video projects coming up?
AR: I've got a backlog of sketches in my notebook to get through. Whether they're any good or not is another matter. Also, How Will They Line Up on ESPN FC is getting a small but dedicated following.
ReelSEO: YouTube is a rich source of comedy these days – which are your favourite channels to watch?
AR: George Cottier is a genius. You should check him out.
Many thanks to Anthony for his time. Subscribe to TheExplodingHeads channel for more excellent comedy.