Exclusive: The Bad Lip Reader Speaks

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Every election cycle brings a new wave of viral campaign humor — from Jib Jab in 2004 to AutoTune the News in 2010. The breakout hit of 2012? No question. It's Bad Lip Reading.

Bad Lip Reading is just what it sounds like: videos overdubbed by a hilariously unreliable reader of lips. Written words can't quite capture the kickass absurdity of it all. Just watch Bad Lip Reading's latest creation, in which Michele Bachmann describes how she "went from being two banana plants up to a thrill-seeking shark who sold pictures of different toys I wanted."

In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone yesterday, the Bad Lip Reader spoke publicly about his creations for the first time — albeit on the condition of anonymity. 

So who is this guy? He's a successful "late-20s-ish" music and video producer from Texas — "It's a one-man show; it's just me" — whose introduction to lip reading was personal. BLR's mother, herself a musician, went profoundly deaf in her 40's: "She went from having perfect hearing to having no hearing in just a matter of months, and the doctors never figured out why." BLR marveled at the way his mom, of necessity, became an expert lip reader. He would sometimes sit around at night, watching TV with the sound off trying to pick up the skill himself. "I was terrible at it." 

But BLR's liability proved its comedic worth after he got a gig filming a pair of radio hosts, one of whom had the strange habit of silently mouthing words to himself as his partner yammered on. "The guys I was shooting with, we kept looking at each other: 'What’s he doing, what’s he saying?'" As a joke, BLR took the footage back to his studio and tried to decipher the whispered words. "Just bizarre, random phrases started coming up — things like 'bacon Hobbit.' Those were probably the funniest videos I ever did — but they were just for my friends."

Then, in March, Rebecca Black blew up the Internet with "Friday" and BLR was ... so excited. "As soon as I saw she was saying 'Gang Fight,' I thought, 'I have to do it.'" BLR wiped the audio and using his chops as a producer/songwriter, overlaid the original video with entirely new music and lip-read lyrics.

And a phenomenon was born:

 

Unlike Black, BLR is more than a one hit wonder. "Gang Fight" quickly earned him a million hits and 20,000 YouTube subscribers hungry for more content. So he reinterpreted Michael Bublé's sappy love anthem "Haven't Met You Yet" as the electronica inspired "Russian Unicorn'"; transformed a gentle Taylor Swift ditty into the naughty club number "(Rockin') All Nite Long"; and pushed the Black Eyed Peas' "Boom Boom Pow" over the line with the inimitable "Everybody Poops." 

The switch to political lip reading, BLR insists, was a lark. He wanted to give his fans something quick-and-dirty to watch in the down time between his far more elaborate music video reinterpretations. "There were 80,000 people subscribed to the channel just waiting for something else. I was just clicking through YouTube thinking, 'What would be an effective sound-bite thing? And I landed on Rick Perry."

As a Texan, BLR had no trouble imitating his governor's voice. "I’ve lived around lots of Rick Perry's all my life — that accent is everywhere here." BLR sat down with a Perry campaign video, cleared his mind, and let the Texas governor's lips do the rest. When he came up with the words, "I'm bored by famine. I cannot wait for a medieval cookie, a Cinnabon, hot yellow Kool Aid, and save a pretzel for the gas jets!" BLR knew he'd struck comic gold.

"I didn’t write that. My brain just ... pulled it out," he says. "There’s this moment where I’m responding to these lines for the first time too; if one of those bizarre phrases makes me laugh, I figure there's a good chance it will make other people laugh too."

While BLR cops to leaning "more left than right — I'm an artist ... not a Republican," he insists he's not trying to influence the election. There's no message or deeper political meaning. "I'm just trying to make something funny to laugh at." To "balance out the scales" BLR has also made a (decidedly less popular) Obama video. As for his next target? "Maybe I'll do Biden next."

One potential roadblock: The grade-A absurdity is coming less easily now, as BLR's lip-reading has gotten less... bad. "With Michele Bachmann," he says, "I found I was starting to understand a lot of what she said. My brain was actually landing on the correct phrases — which was defeating me a bit."

For now BLR is determined to stay anonymous. But the reasons are more professional than political. In his day job, the music BLR produces is definitely not top 40, and he says he's not ready to give up his "indie cred." But there are other considerations: "Do I really want to be known as the guy who did the song, 'Everybody Poops'?"

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