It may not seem like it, but 2006 was a different time. The concept of viral fame didn’t really exist yet. Even the creators of YouTube hadn’t quite figured out what it was for. (They thought it was going to be place where you could easily access “big, newsworthy footage,” like Janet Jackson’s nipple slip.)
It was into this online Wild West that comic and actor Liam Kyle Sullivan uploaded his massive hit “Shoes.” For those of you who’ve forgotten its glory, “Shoes” has Sullivan playing Kelly, a teenage girl with two things; an asshole family who doesn’t get her and an undying love of footwear. The whole song is backed by a sort of electroclash lo-fi thump.
The folks over at Noisey interviewed Sullivan to get his thoughts on “Shoes” a decade after its birth. In that interview, Sullivan says that yes, he was listening to a lot of Peaches and Chicks On Speed when he wrote “Shoes.” He says that the new method of YouTube comedy—do it cheap and often and talk directly to your audience—is for sure a more cost-efficient model than doing a “Shoes” every three months. And that it’s hard to say what “viral” even means in the age of Vine. Also, that he doesn’t totally understand how Vine works.
He also adds that Kelly was kind of a flop when he first debuted the character, and that her terrible family is sort of based on his own experiences growing up:
Her creation took a long time. I first started talking like Kelly in the car, driving around and just saying, “Shut up!” I remember the first time I did that character in public, I didn’t have her look, I was just a guy doing a silly voice. I imagined a teenage girl who had braces, and had to pull her lips back and hold her head back because they were so heavy. That simple bitchiness came out—I’m only going to say a couple of words because it’s almost too much for me to talk. I did that character at the Acme and it didn’t work, it wasn’t funny. So I scuttled it, and brought it back a few years later when I was doing stand up, and it didn’t work then either. I’m chalking it up to not having the look—I didn’t have the wig or the chunky glasses. I think once I had all that stuff, it worked. But I could be wrong.
Some of her family is borrowed from my own life, because I was the younger brother and my sister, who isn’t like Kelly at all, had restrictions on her that I didn’t have. Being younger, the parents make all of the mistakes with the older one, and then with the younger one they’re like, “Ah, he’s fine, let him be.” And also being a girl, maybe you have an earlier curfew than a boy would—those kinds of things. So I just exaggerated that. I made the parents just openly hate her. Here she is, a young woman now, and they’re not comfortable with that. But the boy, he gets a computer and a car, whatever he wants.
It’s worth it to take some time today and re-watch “Shoes,” not only to appreciate how different the internet was 10 years ago, but also because the last minute of that video is absolutely magical.
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