Fred Armisen is seriously funny. He’s a linchpin in the current Saturday Night Live cast, and his other sketch show, Portlandia, is IFC’s most popular program. Because of these comedy credentials, Armisen can’t help but sound suspicious when he calls upon all of YouTube to send in videos of themselves being serious, as he did last week.
Perhaps it’s some Warholian exercise in fame disbursal. Maybe it’s a dadaist thing. It could be a very backhanded way of demonstrating that most YouTube videos that are intended to be funny fail. In any case, Armisen launched his project last week by asking YouTubers for user-submitted videos. It’s not a competition, and there won’t be a winner. If we’re to take the comedian at face value, this will just be a YouTube channel where you can see a lot of videos of people being serious (IFC would only say that it was a personal project of Armisen’s).
Of course, what would such a project be without a rigid, Dogme 95-esque set of limiting guidelines:
#1: It has to be serious, with absolutely no comedy
#2: It has to be 30 seconds or less
#3: It can have no more than two people in it
So far so good. While the first three rules are straightforward enough, though, here’s where things start to get a little fishy. It looks like Armisen left a little room for humor to creep into the entries with these other rules.
#4: It must contain a 5-second dramatic pause
#5: It has to have one cutaway shot over to an object
#6: It has to have top-notch acting
#7: It has to end with a door slamming
To demonstrate how it should look, Fred enlisted his Portlandia costar, Carrie Brownstein, to be his scene partner. Somehow, mostly owing to rules 4-7, the video naturally ends up being at least kind of funny. Anyone wanting to try their hand at topping it need only upload their video to YouTube and tag it with “Be Serious For 30 Seconds” in the title.
Here are some of the entries so far. Prepare to not laugh.