It's election season once again, and along with mud-slinging commercials, public speaking mishaps and the impassioned speeches of aging veterans, we can expect one other telltale sign to make a comeback: YouTube political parodies.
Political parodies are as old as politics and they made the transition to the internet almost as soon as the first online bulletin board was established. But in the 2008 election cycle the world saw a new wave of user-generated political parodies – many of surprisingly high quality – make their way onto the “stage” at Youtube. The video sharing site became a veritable clearinghouse of electoral jokes ranging from tasteful and witty to sophomoric. Perhaps the most well-remembered is the infamous Obama Girl video, but that was just one among thousands.
2012 is ramping up to an even higher level of production of Youtube political parodies, and not just because they're fun: it's also big business. YouTube offers a program known as Youtube Partners, in which users can earn money by agreeing to have commercials appended to the videos in their channels. The more people who view the video, the more money the user is paid by the advertisers, so there's a strong incentive to create content that goes viral.
And in the math of 2-minute videos, funny + politically charged often equals viral.
Thus, the timely parodies are already rolling in. In one video, President Obama's actual words are remixed into the lyrics of a Lady Gaga song, so that he's “singing” it himself. In another, a convincing Adele impersonator blasts her impressive vocal range recasting the pop star's “Someone Like You” as “Someone Like Newt” and sears the GOP hopeful for his behavior on the campaign trail. Easily the most popular to date has been a combo of those two ideas, using Mitt Romney's own audio clips to populate the lyrics of an anti-Romney parody of an Eminem song: “Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up.”
These videos aren't always fair to the candidates, but they're crowd pleasers nonetheless. And as long as there's advertising gold to be struck by making them, we'll see more and more as we head toward November and in every election cycle to come.