Numa Numa New York Times

by Kieran Healy on February 26, 2005

The NYT has an article about Gary Brolsma, the Numa Numa guy. If you haven’t seen the video, go watch it and come back in a minute.

Now tell me what you think of the article’s summary of the story:

There was a time when embarrassing talents were a purely private matter … But with the Internet, humiliation – like everything else – has now gone public. … Here, then, is the cautionary tale of Gary Brolsma, 19, amateur videographer and guy from New Jersey, who made the grave mistake of placing on the Internet a brief clip of himself dancing along to a Romanian pop song. Even in the bathroom mirror, Mr. Brolsma’s performance could only be described as earnest but painful.

Utter bollocks. Mr Brolsma’s performance could only be described that way by someone with no capacity at all to recognize good comedy. The video is hilarious and, to anyone with eyes in their head, was supposed to be. It’s not earnest, it’s deadpan. I am sorry to say that Americans are renowned for their inability to grasp this distinction. Despite the article’s efforts to draw a parallel, it’s obviously a real performance, not a private bit of wish-fulfillment maliciously released into the wild like the Star Wars Kid video. The guy’s friends agree:

His friends say Mr. Brolsma has always had a creative side. He used to make satirical Prozac commercials on cassette tapes, for instance. He used to publish a newspaper with print so small you couldn’t read it with the naked eye. “He was always very out there – he’s always been ambitious,” said Frank Gallo, a former classmate. “And he’s a big guy, but he’s never been ashamed.” … “He’s been entertaining us for years.”

Sadly, the Times will not be diverted from its dumbass interpretation. It should come as no surprise that Brolsma “is distraught, embarrassed. His grandmother, Margaret Telkes, quoted him as saying, just the other day, ‘I want this to end.’” You would too, if you were getting shoehorned by the NYT into a “fat kid makes ass of self on internet” story:

The question remains why two million people would want to watch a doughy guy in glasses wave his arms around online to a Romanian pop song.

Because it’s funny, you gobshites! And it’s meant to be! I’d bet that if Brolsma weren’t overweight, the Times wouldn’t have had as hard a time seeing this.

{ 48 comments }

1

Lee 02.26.05 at 7:12 pm

It’s not merely funny, but downright sweet in the best sense. I will be smiling all day after viewing the video.

2

abb1 02.26.05 at 7:28 pm

He certainly should get paid by Macromedia. Finally someone used their Flash plug-in for something other than stupid commercials. I was seriously thinking about uninstalling the damn thing.

3

TH 02.26.05 at 7:59 pm

The only problem I see is that the song is named “Dragostan Din Tei”. Otherwise, the video is cute.

4

Mary 02.26.05 at 8:09 pm

I thought the guy had real talent as a comic, and reading about his other ventures just confirmed it.

(Psst — Gary! You are NOT an ass! Rock ON, dude.)

5

Matt_C 02.26.05 at 8:18 pm

What more do you expect from the Gray Lady, which doesn’t seem to have any really interest in operating as a serious news gathering organization, but is still very interested in being VERY VERY SERIOUS nevertheless.

6

todd. 02.26.05 at 8:27 pm

I sort of wish I were making a movie that had a spot for an overweight comedian, because someone should hire that guy.

7

BG 02.26.05 at 8:33 pm

Thank you! Finally someone said that publicly about this weird NY Times article. I don’t think that Americans in general have trouble distinguishing the unintentionally funny from the intentionally deadpan. (In fact, I think Americans’ sense of humor, though this isn’t generally realized, is more ironic and more deadpan than, for example, that of the English.) It’s just that the NY Times, for reasons very different than those given by the right, has its head up its ass most of the time.

8

Jackmormon 02.26.05 at 9:11 pm

Thanks for linking to Gary’s terrific performance. And thanks, Gary! you were great! More like this, please.

(And abb1, I reinstalled Flash to see Gary. We’ll see if any other content pops up to make me keep it.)

The NYT seems to want to shove internet content into an anthropological frame. Every story, every fact, every scoop gets turned into a data-point for somebody’s pet theory about What The Digital Revolution Means. It’s getting more annoying the more time I spend online…

9

P.D. 02.26.05 at 9:22 pm

This was great fun. Easily the best film I’ve seen online since I saw zefrank’s ‘Request.’ (Link follows. I’m not affiliated with him, so this isn’t comment spam.)

Numa Numa is so clearly deadpan that I practically arranged pan funeral services after watching it. An earnest hack trying to make a kewl video would have overused every available video filter. This is filmed in a single take, there are no video effects, and he is wearing headphones.

Question for extra credit: Is GW Bush an earnest or deadpan president?

http://www.zefrank.com/request/index_better.html

10

Chris Lowe 02.26.05 at 9:39 pm

Something that you’ve missed out here is the way in which everybody else thinks that this guy should be grabbing his moment of fame with both hands. Yes, the NYT article is making fun of the guy, but there is also this other side to the article that you missed.
There is a commentry on the fame culture that turns round onto everyone else, and criticises them. If anything, they come off worse for being obsessed with fame, no matter what the cost. Where as Gary Bolsma comes out as quite level-headed in that respect.

11

Kevin Donoghue 02.26.05 at 10:11 pm

“I’d bet that if Brolsma weren’t overweight, the Times wouldn’t have had as hard a time seeing this.”

I can’t see a slimline Brolsma being anywhere near as funny. But maybe that’s just me.

“Is GW Bush an earnest or deadpan president?”

His remark to Chirac about how he can always use another cowboy was a tiny glimmer of hope.

12

ogmb 02.26.05 at 10:19 pm

Gary Brolsma of Saddle Brook, N.J., lip-syncs an obscure Romanian song

It’s also good to see that they have their heads safely lodged between their butt cheeks, in the good old “if we don’t know it it must be obscure” kind of way.

13

Winston Smith 02.26.05 at 10:33 pm

Glad to see that the folks here can see through the NYT’s uptight nonsense. I could easily understand someone thinking that the video wasn’t terribly entertaining–but it’s obtuse in the extreme to proclaim that it can “ONLY be described” as painful. It can also be described as a damn hoot, you lame, self-important twits.

And let me add that to even make an issue of the guy’s weight is jaw-droppingly loathsome.

Sheesh. Some people.

14

idook 02.26.05 at 10:46 pm

Haven’t the NYT droids ever been teenagers? It’s been 20 years, but I can still remember doing that kind of stuff all the time.

15

john c. halasz 02.26.05 at 10:46 pm

And Brolsma’s amazing facility in learning Romanian, with its exotic rhythms, is also to be noted.

16

George 02.26.05 at 11:09 pm

I hadn’t seen the video, but I read the article this morning. Now that I see the real thing, I agree: those NYT dorks couldn’t tell the difference between Will Ferrell and WIlliam Hung.

17

Kevin 02.26.05 at 11:27 pm

I was hoping for a laugh but found it boring.

18

Robert Samet 02.26.05 at 11:47 pm

Funny doesn’t quite capture the essence of Numa Numa. It’s not just that it’s smart and humorous, but it is also disarmingly honest. Wow. Thanks for the tip!

19

A. 02.27.05 at 12:45 am

I thought exactly the same thing! I don’t know where NYT got “earnest and painful,” he’s having a ball and that’s why it’s terrific. Plus the song is catchy. I hope someone communicates to the guy that he’s got a whole lot of fans.

20

praktike 02.27.05 at 12:52 am

What do Americans have to do with this?

21

perianwyr 02.27.05 at 12:58 am

All I have to say is that when I saw this video, I saw someone seriously enjoying his Romanian pop music.

If you haven’t chair danced before you are a goddamn tin eared philistine.

22

Ben Alpers 02.27.05 at 1:47 am

At a certain point in the last couple decades, the NYT went from its “Mr. Loaf” days of simple disdain for contemporary popular culture, to an uncomfortable stance in which continuing contempt is occasionally masked by desperate attempts at hipness. The worst pieces are actually the ones in which the Grey Lady tries to explain hugely popular musical acts (e.g. Snoop Dogg in ’93, or Marilyn Manson a little later) in a tone that suggests that, of course, the reader’s never even _heard_ of this person, but let _us_ tell you how important they are.

Such articles can truly “only be described as earnest but painful.”

23

Al 02.27.05 at 3:09 am

You can see MUCH worse than this 10 thousand times over again anywhere in the world at any discoteque or dance bar of your choice.

24

ogmb 02.27.05 at 3:17 am

The one cultural parallel that comes to mind is the exchange between Jon Stewart and Carson Tucker:

JS: “How old are you?”
CT: “Thirty-five.”
JS: “And you wear a bow tie.”

25

Louis Proyect 02.27.05 at 3:30 am

I don’t think it is about the video at all. It is about the music. When I began playing it, my wife drifted in from the next room and informed me that she used to dance to it in Turkish discos (she’s from Istanbul). It is extremely popular all across Europe. If the kid was lip-syncing an Ashlee Simpson tune, nobody would have given him a moment’s notice.

26

yabonn 02.27.05 at 4:28 am

Funny, when i posted this video (_weeeeeks_ ago, kieran) no one reacted.

Maybe because it was in a thread dedicated to country music?

27

Dan Kervick 02.27.05 at 5:55 am

I agree with lee. The term that first came to my mind when my son showed me the clip was “sweet”. Its uninhibited joyfulness just made me smile. Mr. Brolsma is the friendly neighbor’s kid doing a pantomime at a family Christmas party, after everyone has loosened up a few egg nogs.

28

Gary Farber 02.27.05 at 3:51 pm

“If you haven’t seen the video, go watch it and come back in a minute.”

It took (and takes) me about twenty minutes to half an hour to download it, actually; what a blithe assumption we can all afford broadband connections!

“I am sorry to say that Americans are renowned for their inability to grasp this distinction.”

Yes, that’s why the vid has been so popular with Americans, and was created by an American. We are all so unable to appreciate irony and true wit: what an original observation!

Whoops, sorry, I have to go discuss this now with Bill Murray. And The Poor Man. And Giblets.

“(And abb1, I reinstalled Flash to see Gary. We’ll see if any other content pops up to make me keep it.)”

Use Firefox, and the AdBlock Extension, and all Flash is automatically covered unless you specifically click to get past the cover.

29

abb1 02.27.05 at 9:14 pm

Thanks, Gary. The problem with these add-ins is, though, that almost inevitably something else stops working.

30

Patrick 02.27.05 at 9:34 pm

As near as I can tell, he posted it online on purpose. He seems to have a Newgrounds account, where he intentionally posted it, and in response to its popularity, made a second and third version that cleaned up the animation, and removed the random objects that pop up in the video.

So if he’s feeling bad about it now, its because it got outside its intended audience, and people started being jerks to him.

31

Ophelia Benson 02.27.05 at 11:30 pm

“I am sorry to say that Americans are renowned for their inability to grasp this distinction.”

Ohhhhhhhhhh! That explains it. At last I understand.

32

Kieran 02.28.05 at 1:27 am

Man, you Americans are all so touchy.

;-)

33

llort 02.28.05 at 2:17 am

Actually, we’re mostly feely.

But seriously, I read this article in the NYT yesterday as well, and it really did horribly mischaracterize the piece (thanks Kieran for overcoming my inertial barrier and just linking it here). Mr. Brolsma should celebrate his triumphal 15 minutes of fame and ignore the NYT.

34

Frisbeedog 02.28.05 at 3:55 am

So glad to find others were repelled by the NYT article. Sweet was exactly the word I used in describing it to friends. I’ve replayed it a dozen times.
As for the Times, thank you, Ben Alper, for this fabulous line”
“Such articles can truly ‘only be described as earnest but painful.'”

35

Frisbeedog 02.28.05 at 3:56 am

So glad to find others were repelled by the NYT article. Sweet was exactly the word I used in describing the performance to friends. I’ve replayed it a dozen times.
As for the Times, thank you, Ben Alper, for this fabulous line
“Such articles can truly ‘only be described as earnest but painful.'”

36

John Steven 02.28.05 at 4:53 am

I just wish people would stop calling it the ‘Numa Numa’ song! As was pointed out earlier, it’s ‘Dragostea Din Tei’, and was quite popular in Europe last year. I downloaded it months ago and liked it a lot… unfortunately it’s become the soundtrack to something silly like this guy’s video.

37

Ereshkigal 02.28.05 at 10:33 pm

I read the NYT article, clicked over to watch the clip, and thought that I had the wrong link. What I saw was a bright, funny, free-spirited guy having a great time (I don’t know what Alan Feuer and Jason George watched, or what had already ruined their day).

I use it for a laugh-and-exercise video now at work.

38

don nelson 02.28.05 at 10:33 pm

Exactly! I was pointed to the clip by NYT, and couldn’t help but replay it over and over. Then I found a clip where the last half was synch’d correctly and I played that too. Then I went to iTunes…

It’s good, funny, creative and Gary should be laughing, chin-up, smirking, saying, “Yep. I did that.”

39

Barbra B. Dunnem 03.01.05 at 4:39 pm

When Andy Kaufman did a similar thing with the “Mighty Mouse” theme, he was hailed as a comic genius. Frankly, I prefer Gary’s performance–sweet, spontaneous, and honest.

40

Christina 03.02.05 at 2:56 pm

I’ve only played this thing about a hundred times now. I think its honest, and captures a truly humorous moment. How wonderful of the Times to use the word “pudgy” when writing about the video’s author. A little kindness and a sense of humor might be nice. Oh wait! It’s the Times! I forgot That does not exist! Follow the arrow~~~~> How to use kind descriptive adjectives when writing articles.

41

Christina 03.02.05 at 2:59 pm

I’ve only played this thing about a hundred times now. I think its honest, and captures a truly humorous moment. How wonderful of the Times to use the word “pudgy” when writing about the video’s author. A little kindness and a sense of humor might be nice. Oh wait! It’s the Times! I forgot That does not exist! Follow the arrow~~~~> How to use kind descriptive adjectives when writing articles.

42

Christina 03.02.05 at 2:59 pm

I’ve only played this thing about a hundred times now. I think its honest, and captures a truly humorous moment. How wonderful of the Times to use the word “pudgy” when writing about the video’s author. A little kindness and a sense of humor might be nice. Oh wait! It’s the Times! I forgot That does not exist! Follow the arrow~~~~> How to use kind descriptive adjectives when writing articles.

43

Christina 03.02.05 at 3:00 pm

I’ve only played this thing about a hundred times now. I think its honest, and captures a truly humorous moment. How wonderful of the Times to use the word “pudgy” when writing about the video’s author. A little kindness and a sense of humor might be nice. Oh wait! It’s the Times! I forgot That does not exist! Follow the arrow~~~~> How to use kind descriptive adjectives when writing articles.

44

Christina 03.02.05 at 3:02 pm

I’ve only played this thing about a hundred times now. I think its honest, and captures a truly humorous moment. How wonderful of the Times to use the word “pudgy” when writing about the video’s author. A little kindness and a sense of humor might be nice. Oh wait! It’s the Times! I forgot That does not exist! Follow the arrow~~~~> How to use kind descriptive adjectives when writing articles.

45

tim anderson 03.05.05 at 3:14 am

rock on gary…you’re great…American idol is full of wantabees…you my friend are the genuine article…you are making that Romanian group famous in the U.S.A.

46

Barbra B. Dunnem 03.05.05 at 10:22 pm

To those of you who are offended by the name of the video: “Numa Numa” is the name of the dance, not the song. Let’s cut Gary a break here, okay?

47

andrea 03.06.05 at 6:21 am

The NYT was so wrong to slam this kid I’ve watched him hundreds of times – because he makes me feel good and because it’s just wholesome fun – no nastiness, nothing bad in it.
The NYT people need to get off their high horse and our young people need to spend more time singing and dancing, and less time shooting kids up in schools.

48

Jim 03.06.05 at 6:56 am

Andrea (last note) just said something to me that about sums up this whole thing. We have a hundred and fifty channels on dish network. We have a boatload of movies on DVDs and a few we haven’t opened yet. But on a Saturday night we sit here and watch this kid on poor resolution looking like he’s having the time of his life. It makes us smile and I think those of us that “get it” all wish we could reach that pinnacle of joy that Gary seems to be enjoying. At least watching him gets us a little bit closer, thanks dude, you rule.

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