Why Your Office Shouldn’t Do a ‘Harlem Shake’ Video


I am loathe to write anything about the “Harlem Shake” meme for so many, many reasons:

1) I think they’re one of the stupidest things about the Internet.

2) Memes are not just fads, they’re micro-fads. Want to prove me wrong? Go ahead: Name your five favorite memes from 2008.

3) They tend to inspire folks who are incredibly out of touch to “get in on the fun” by replicating them and then posting it online in an attempt to “seem hip.”

On that third point, it seems companies and offices are the ones who usually post these things the most. I always tell my students at Second City that parodies are the lowest form of comedy, so, if you’re legitimately trying to be funny or clever with your tribute videos, don’t.

But I’m not writing this post as a teacher at Second City, I’m writing to let you know that sometimes “getting in on the fun” can cost you your job. News just came out that a group of 15 gold miners in Australia were all fired for making one of these videos: When their boss saw the video, he immediately cut the whole loose lot free because dancing in a mine shaft shirtless is a safety violation.

Aside from that, getting in on a fad isn't an effective way of being noticed: Unruly Media, which tracks viral videos found that "about 60 ad agencies have made Harlem Shake videos, yet only one branded Harlem Shake video cracked the 200 most-shared videos on the web." So, in other words, they were pretty much useless. 

Here’s the offending video (it’s SFW):

So, I’d say that the risks didn’t quite measure up against the benefits of doing that video for those folks, wouldn’t you?

Speaking of my Second City teaching — I get asked a lot by folks if they can get around the prerequisites my classes often have. The classes are still kinda pricy even with them waived, so, I thought I’d let you guys know first that I’m doing a sort of appetizer-sized class for anyone who’s interested on March 23. It’s $15. Here’s the link if you’re curious about checking it out.

But rest assured: We won’t be covering how to plank or do the Harlem Shake. K? 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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