Monday, January 30, 2012

Honey badger YouTube video launches book career!

I don't know about you guys, but we watch a lot of YouTube videos for entertainment. It's not as much of a time-investment as a TV show, and usually more entertaining -- especially since the ones we're watching have been vetted by my astute friends on Facebook or Twitter. If you do this too, you've no doubt seen the honey badger video narrated by Randall. This YouTube video was posted on January 18, 2011 and in just over one year garnered more than 35.7 million views. Incredible! Legions of fans are clearly enamored of the hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is, profane-but-educational clip; it was written up in tons of popular media and went mega-viral. Randall subsequently was tapped for voiceovers for Grasshopper and Mythbusters and even a pistachio commercial! I was unaware that he had also written a book, Honey Badger Don't Care: Randall's Guide to Crazy, Nastyass Animals, until Chris noticed a post about Randall's book tour -- and I saw that Randall was going to be in Seattle this weekend, speaking at a bookstore within walking distance of our house. How could I not go?

Doesn't Randall look just how you pictured him? He could not have possibly been nicer or more charming. He graciously spent time with every fan -- and there were tons. The store was packed, mostly with University of Washington students, many wearing Honey Badger Don't Care T-shirts or carrying honey badger and cobra stuffed animals. One girl brought a gigantic honey badger poster for him to sign. One group of students asked him to speak at their commencement. The woman in front of me purchased books for each of her (many) siblings, and had Randall write a personal message to each one. The signing line snaked through the store, and went excruciatingly slowly. I was there for more than an hour and was about at the midway point in line to start.

Randall's father was a cameraman for "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" with Marlon Perkins. I used to love that show! He said his father would bring home fantastic footage of wildlife and Randall would narrate what was happening to his family and friends. He said wrote the book because he wants to educate people about animals to help save them; the honey badger, for one, is threatened by beekeepers who want to keep their hives safe from this predator.

The book looks like a nature book for kids -- but it's not. There are naughty words and talk about animal sex, and the author addresses the readers as "Stupid." The style reminds me of the celebrity commentator Perez Hilton's: hearts, word balloons, and enhanced photographs. In one photo, a honey badger has its hair in curlers and her claws painted red, with the caption, "OMFG--Did this honey badger get her claws did? How fierce!" All the i's in the caption font are dotted with hearts. I have to say, I laughed aloud at several points and actually did learn some animal facts; the book covers not just the honey badger but also the aye-aye, the Tasmanian devil, the emperor tamarin, the pink fairy armadillo, the tarsier, the opossum, the solenodon (I had never even heard of this one!), the wombat, the American bullfrog, and the sloth. It's a light read, though -- like an educational comic book.

Whatever your opinion on Randall's narration skills or book, you gotta hand it to the guy for making the most of his fame. He's got an iPhone/Android honey badger app, and is in talks to produce kids' books and possibly a TV show. It's a sign of our times that a funny YouTube video can launch a new career.