Ill-Ga-OO-Skus: How About Those NBA (Mis)pronunciation YouTube Videos?

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Hey, have you got a moment? Could you please put on your Dre Beats'es and feel this shit for me, for a moment?

What, do you think, are we dealing with here? Or here:

Or wherever, really, there's plenty to choose from. The person behind these videos, a YouTube user named Runforthecube, has made over 2600 of these videos, on topics ranging from amusingly smug-voiced butcherings of NHL player names—all of them; he has done the league's entire 1000-player roster—to amusingly smug-voiced butcherings of NBA and NFL player names, and different makes of luxury automobile and various items on the McDonald's menu. The videos all have some things in common: a baseline inexplicability, the Dutch Pee-Wee Herman Imitating the Honey Badger Narrator Inna Beat Poet Stylee vocals, their extravagant incorrectness, the spare style that Classical editor Pete Beatty called "his whole swissed out Helvetica thing." Take all of them together, and Runforthecube has rolled up over 900,000 views, even though many of his videos have been watched just a few dozen times.

Runforthecube's is an internet success story of sorts, in the sense that the internet succeeds like nothing else before in human history at burping up little undigested chunks of inexplicability. And among the great sprawling shitscape that is YouTube—alarmingly self-assured teenagers earnestly/tearfully breaking down new developments in their own personal Team Jacob/Team Edward journeys, terrible jittery bootlegged camera-phone vids of terrible jittery bootleg Brokencyde acolytes, impermeable in-jokes and videos of bros chugging gross things and so blearily on, with only the occasional lifejacketed Corgi or gassy iguana to break up the crude pointlessness—Runforthecube's (mis)pronunciation videos have the virtue of being extremely short, an oddball assurance that sets them apart from YouTube's less self-assured (or fearlessly weird) jokes, and a vague but palpable purpose about them that suggests an artist hard at his weird work. So I asked Runforthecube about this project.

I got more or less all that I could have hoped for, at least in terms of fidelity to character. "The question I’m constantly asked is 'Why are you doing this?'" Runforthecube wrote. "And I like to say that I’m a lot like Forrest Gump who one day ran out of his house to the end of the street and then kept running. He continued to run to the end of his town, to the end of his state, and then to the Pacific Ocean..." And then there are several more sentences of that and then a YouTube link to the relevant clip from Forrest Gump.

If Runforthecube is deep in character—and he is, if not to the point of pretending that "the Runforthecube voice" is his normal speaking voice, but certainly to the point of explaining his McDonald's videos as something that "will make it easier for both employees and customers to communicate exactly what they want"—he's also serious about his strange business. This meant cultivating his unique voiceover intonations and streamlining his "internal video production procedures and develop[ing] a few short cuts to allow myself to create up to 30 videos an hour," which doesn't sound like much fun, but has inarguably worked.

That seriousness also allows him to disappear into Warholian guilelessness when asked why he's doing what he's doing. "My YouTube channel is all about helping people communicate more effectively and building a common online pronunciation guide that everyone can refer to," he says. That part, as much as blasting supremely incorrect, snootily overenunciated mispronunciations of athletes' names into the clattering, garbage-strewn vacuum, actually does seem like fun.

(POIGNANT UPDATE: RfortheC also did an interview with Yahoo's great Greg Wyshynski, who even got a video of his own name, back in November, in which he explained his hockey undertaking somewhat; thanks to Katie Baker for that link)

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