Here's how people used to score Hollywood representation with little more than wit and a Twitter account. Open an account, make topical jokes, follow thousands of comedians, flatter those more famous than you to curry favor and get retweets, repeat. With luck, dedication, and a good sense of humor, the aspiring comic had a diminutive, but real shot.
I say this used to be the method, because in the past couple years, stories about junior agents at CAA, UTA, and WME taking risks on Twitter talent have given way to other fads. And that appeared to be that. People wanting fame moved on to Vine or Instagram, or returned to YouTube or Tumblr.
Fast fame, short tweets
But a single tweet — yes, this is a story about a single tweet; pray for me — has made the rounds over the past 48 hours that may be emblematic of Twitter's lasting power as a democratic tool for electing our entertainers.
On Wednesday, Nic Vargus, a former employee of IGN, now a writer at Apple, posted a tweet claiming he'd brokered a deal with his fiancée: should that tweet accrue 100,000 retweets, he would have permission to "dress up as a ninja turtle on [their] wedding day."
My girlfriend says if this tweet gets 100k RTs, she'll let me dress up as a ninja turtle on our wedding day.— Nic Vargus❄️ (@nicvargus) August 26, 2015
As I write this piece, the tweet has 119,658 retweets, so Vargus’ bid for attention has been validated. We now may look forward to Vargus' wedding day, and the videos and photos that will produce countless Tweets, Grams, and Vines; then we'll have the BuzzFeed article aggregating all of those social keepsakes (You have to see this groom's ninja turtle costume — and the bride's loving smile); then will come the Gawker article letting us know if we should hate it or love it (Manchild Apple employee dresses as Ninja Turtle at wedding); and finally a handful of blogs will let us know what this all means about marriage, or the indignity of the modern man, or our refusal to be adults (Dressing like children's cartoon character at your wedding? Time to grow up).
Viral stories have a trajectory
This is the viral story timeline. It's proven; it's true. But what's unique this go around is that we — or at least 120,000 of us — choose to make it happen. Because we — consciously or not — predict how the internet will react to a man dressed as a ninja turtle at his wedding, and by retweeting his pitch, we give our vote of confidence.
I say "pitch" in the most let's sip expensive bottled water in a Los Angeles meeting room sense of the word. The only difference between Vargus' tweet and an elevator spiel at E! or VH1 is the lack of suits. Vargus went directly to the audience in his request for celebritydom, and the plan worked. Even if Vargus' tweet was meant as a disposable goof that became a real thing on its own — which may be half true, though Vargus nurtured the tweet's success along the way — it now exists as a replicable path to fame.
Think of it like a Kickstarter for reality television, but instead of money, all you need to donate is your support. At the end, you'll be awarded exactly what we want from our most guilty reality pleasure: a grown human humiliating themselves for a fleck of adulation and a mountain of popularity. Surely an enterprising junior agent has already figured out how to spin this into a promotion.