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When Google bought YouTube in October 2006 for $1.65 billion, financial commentators pointed to News Corp’s purchase of Myspace just one month earlier for “only” $580 million and noted what a great deal that had been. But it wasn’t: Facebook ate Myspace’s lunch, and News Corp unloaded it in 2012 for $35 million. Meanwhile, today almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube daily. And some credit for that success goes to Saturday Night Live and cupcakes.
In December 2005 — just five months after YouTube went online — SNL‘s Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg appeared in what was being touted as an SNL Digital Short called “Lazy Sunday.” Parnell and Samberg play Beastie Boys-style rappers who sing the praises of “bomb frosting” on New York’s Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (“My hunger pangs are stickin‘ like duct tape / Let’s hit up Magnolia and mack on some cupcakes”) and either going uptown to see The Chronicles of Narnia or smoking “chronic” pot — it’s open to artistic interpretation.
The duo’s cupcakes rap has an aggressive intensity that suggests imminent world destruction. “That’s just their way of being badass,” says Parnell, now 50. But what turned out to be really badass was the number of hits the two-and-a-half-minute video racked up on YouTube. Within days, “Lazy Sunday” was the first TV show clip to have a viral second life online, with 2 million-plus viewings. That week, YouTube’s traffic was up 83 percent. Inevitably, the site’s success drew legal attention.
In February 2006, NBC asked that “Lazy Sunday” and 500 other clips be taken down. Viacom sued for more than $1 billion (and settled seven years later) over “brazen” copyright infringement. “YouTube would have found its way without ‘Lazy Sunday,’ ” says Parnell, “but we gave it a shot of adrenaline.”
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