In that spirit, we now tackle the following question: Who in the heck is the guy behind that hilarious spoof of the Dale Peterson ad?
Thanks to a recent Time magazine article about the Web site Funny or Die, we can now answer that question. His name is Jake Szymanski, and he's a member of FOD's full-time staff.
For our two cents, Szymanski produced one of the funniest bits of the Internet era. And it's our pleasure to offer some insight into how the Peterson spoof came to be.
Many folks, in Alabama and beyond, remember Dale Peterson. He's the guy who, in his bid to become our state's agriculture commissioner, produced an ad that was so over the top in its right-wing imagery that it became a national phenomenon.
The ad was not effective politically--Peterson got trounced in the Republican primary. But it helped provide a cultural moment for the ages. Here is the ad that turned Dale Peterson, at least for an instant, into a national figure:
Szymanski saw all kinds of comedic potential in the Peterson ad. So how did his parody come to be? Time reports that FOD videos have become increasingly elaborate and some even feature celebrities, such as Jewel, Jack Black, or Eva Mendes. But the site maintains a scrappy, spontaneous spirit:
When an aspiring Alabama agriculture commissioner named Dale Peterson caused an Internet sensation with an over-the-top campaign ad, writer-director Jake Szymanski found a horse, cast himself in the lead role and turned around a parody in a day.
"Sometimes it's better to do a video at 80% right now than 100% if it takes five days," says Szymanski, a Northwestern University grad who started uploading videos to Funny or Die when it launched, then got hired as the site's third full-time employee. "It's that vibe of picking up on the first funny joke you heard from your friend. You're grabbing on to the collective unconscious."
Szymanski is quick to say that producing a Web sensation is an iffy proposition:
"The Internet is the modern-day freak show," says Szymanski. "Your funny, smart, three-minute video can always get beaten by a cat with a printer."
We love kitty kats, but we doubt that any of them--even with printers--will be topping the Dale Peterson spoof. Mrs. Schnauzer and I love it so much that, if we ever are lucky enough to own a horse, his name will be Franklin.
Here, for posterity's sake, is a comedy classic--with an undeniable Alabama flavor: