An inside joke becomes a viral video phenom


It began simply as a video prank timed to coincide with Jimmy Kimmel's 40th birthday -- hatched by his longtime girlfriend, comedian Sarah Silverman. By the time it was done, it had become "The Monster That Ate the Internet," with more than 25 million combined views to date.

The first video aired on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Jan. 31, some two and a half months after Kimmel's 40th birthday. Blame the writers strike for the delay. "We didn't feel it appropriate to bust out a big piece of celebratory videotape while this work stoppage was going on," explains "Kimmel" executive producer Jill Leiderman.

From the second it hit the air, the video -- let's call it "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" -- exploded into an instant classic. It was designed as an irreverent smack at Kimmel from Silverman, featuring both her and, yes, Matt Damon crooning about how they were now doing the dirty deed together -- and evidently on a regular basis.

Damon: "I'm sorry, but it's true. ... On the bed/On the floor/On a towel by the door."

The inside joke: Each night on the show, Kimmel offers his "apologies to Matt Damon for not getting him on. We ran out of time." Damon is never actually there; it's simply grown into a nightly catchphrase.

By the following day, it was well on the way to being a viral YouTube smash that just kept drawing the cyber multitudes. What was particularly wonderful about the whole thing -- besides the infusion of nonstop publicity for the show -- was that it had come out of left field because everyone kept the secret until the strike was over and the video was safe to air, Leiderman recalls.

"Everyone on staff had worked so hard to make it absolutely perfect," Leiderman says. "It was just one of those incredibly satisfying creative moments where everything just works."

But the staff was only halfway through. An even more challenging task lay ahead: Kimmel's revenge with his own video titled, naturally, "I'm Fucking Ben Affleck." It would serve as the perfect in-your-face retort to Silverman during Kimmel's special post-Oscar edition of
"Jimmy Kimmel Live" on Feb. 24.

The video, which has since become nearly as huge an Internet smash as Silverman-Damon, opens as a tender gay duet, with Kimmel and Affleck pledging their undying love, or at least lust, for one another. It soon erupts into a "We Are the World"-style celebrity choir featuring Don Cheadle, Cameron Diaz, Josh Grobin, Joan Jett, Huey Lewis, Meat Loaf and Robin Williams, among many others, crooning about Kimmel-Affleck's physical thing for one another. Brad Pitt has a cameo as a FedEx deliveryman, as does Harrison Ford, who blows the happy couple a kiss. It's positively star-studded.

"The A-list people we got are really a testament to Jimmy's goodwill and growing cache in the Hollywood community," Liederman says. "When you have that kind of support, it's easier to hit the home runs."