These members of the Oregon House of Representatives are never going to give their constituents up, let them down, run around or desert them.
Watch the video you see here to the right. Go on, watch it – I can wait right here. I’m in no hurry, after all. Stop reading ahead in the article and watch it already!
Did you watch it? Okay, good. As you may have noticed, this is perhaps the most elaborate political prank – and almost certainly one of the most elaborate internet memes – ever created: the Oregon State House of Representatives reciting Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” line by line, one at a time.
It isn’t a fake, either – the people speaking are real lawmakers in Oregon instead of actors, and they haven’t been overdubbed or edited at all, swears Jefferson Smith (D), member of the Oregon House and the prank’s mastermind. As Smith tells Yahoo Ticket, the idea for the prank came to him last year as a way to lighten the mood among his colleagues in an increasingly divided and partisan political atmosphere.
“What if we were to Rick Roll the legislature without anybody noticing?” Smith says he mused to his wife Katy as they were preparing for bed. Putting the prank together, on the other hand, was a bit trickier. Most of Smith’s colleagues – an even split with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans – knew of Rick Astley’s 1987 hit, and some of them were even familiar with the concept of the “Rickroll.” Still, convincing them to go along with the joke was easier than expected, says Smith.
The hard part was the organization. Not only did the mass Rickroll have to take place during a normal floor session of the house, where representatives’ speeches are videotaped for public records, but the lines had to be divvied out accordingly and spaced far enough so people wouldn’t catch on to the joke.
And, of course, the lines had to make sense in the context of the lawmakers’ speeches. “There are some easy lines in there to say without getting noticed. ‘You’re never gonna’ is easy. ‘I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling’ is easy. But an ‘ooh?’ That’s tricky,” admitted Smith.
In the end, only one of the legislators chickened out, while another – who wasn’t in on the joke – accidentally said part of the lyrics on tape. This was all done during a February 2010 session, and the next year and two months was spent digging out the lines in hours of footage and editing them together – and don’t worry, Smith says that none of it was done on taxpayers’ money.
The video was posted to YouTube on April 1st, 2011, and quickly went viral, with some questioning its legitimacy.
“It was real, and it was really awesome,” says Smith. “Democracy is a glorious thing.”