Reddit’s Ask Me Anything forum allows anyone with a built-in curiosity factor to step into the center of the Internet and field questions. When that person is a savvy, beloved entertainer like Patrick Stewart or Ronda Rousey, who both know exactly how this works, everybody wins. Superfans share a moment with their faves, casual browsers pick up some interesting intel that might not surface in traditional interviews, and Stewart and Rousey get Good Guy points for days. Obviously, sometimes an AMA is going to backfire, though, and when that happens, it happens spectacularly.
In the wake of the latest Chernobyl-level meltdown that occurred on Reddit over this past weekend, Co.Create has compiled a quick refresher course on who will not fare well on an AMA.
When Wyclef Jean went on Reddit last weekend to promote the 20th anniversary of The Fugees album, The Score (side note: you are currently older than you ever thought you’d be), Redditors were only interested in one topic. You see, there’s a reason we haven’t heard much from Wyclef in the last five or six years: He was under criminal investigation into the finances of his Haitian aid organization Yéle Haiti, and he hadn’t crawled out from beneath that disaster yet. In lieu of a Fugees reunion album so amazing as to somehow restore Wyclef’s reputation, the troubled artist was hit from all sides with questions about fraudulent charities. Worse still, vindictive Redditors also upvoted the AMA enough that it landed on Reddit’s front page, ensuring it wouldn’t escape notice.
Let’s give Ann Coulter this: It took guts for her to do a Reddit AMA. Her books sell, so it stands to reason that her leagues of legit fans would come out to ask how her how to make America great again. However, she also must have known that far more of the people likely to make Reddit their stomping grounds were the type to ask deeply embarrassing questions designed to be upvoted. This is exactly what happened. Questions and comments poured in about every embarrassing stance she’d ever taken, every tweet that proved newsworthy, every contradiction. Though to her credit, she stuck it out and answered several of the less offensively phrased questions, the whole affair can be summed up with one comment: “This AMA sucks…here’s a recipe for waffles.”
The hands-down favorite for Worst AMA All-Time belongs to Woody Harrelson. It likely always will be, since Harrelson’s ordeal ended up becoming a cautionary tale generations of publicists will pass on through spooky campfire tales. Before Harrelson even had the chance to bungle the opportunity to promote his 2012 film, Rampart, things started off on the wrong foot. One of the first questions that emerged was this one:
“I swear this is a true story. I went to a high school in LA and you crashed our prom after party (Universal Hilton). You ended up taking the virginity of a girl named Roseanna. You didn’t call her afterwards. She cried a lot. Do you remember any of this and can confirm or have you been so knee deep in hollywood pooty for so long that this qualifies as a mere blip?”
Harrelson could have either ignored the question or answered it empathetically. Instead, he issued a flat-out denial and then requested users only submit questions about the film he was promoting. Things only got worse from there. Harrelson started steering every question to the topic of Rampart–questions about the most fun he’d ever had on set or which director encouraged improv the most all led back to the same place. It was as though Harrelson had not been briefed at all on what he was supposed to be doing; that interacting with fans in a positive way was itself a promotion for Rampart–not a challenge to convince people to see it on a 1:1 level.
When the smoke cleared Woody had answered a total of 15 questions, mostly with rote mentions of his new film, and Redditors dragged his name through the mud for days afterward. Since then, the word Rampart itself is probably far more likely to come up as an inside joke than in discussions of “under-seen cop movies from earlier the decade.”
Have any of your own noteworthy Reddit disasters? Let us know in the comments below.