One of the men behind a viral YouTube video of Carole Baskin being pranked into giving her first interview since the release of the Netflix hit Tiger King says that the video wasn’t meant to “disrespect her.” Instead, it was meant to be a cringeworthy commentary on what it takes to convince one of the world’s current pop culture phenomenons that she’s speaking with one of the country’s biggest names in late-night through technology.
“We go heavy on the cringe and the reason it’s cringeworthy is because she’s being interviewed by a robot and she doesn’t realize,” Archie Manners tells Yahoo Entertainment. “We didn’t do anything too humiliating.”
Manners and his buddy Josh Pieters create content for their YouTube channel, where they’ve garnered 1.38 million subscribers, that Manners says is aimed at both entertaining and piquing their audience’s interest. With their latest stunt, they were certainly successful, as they engineered a plan to get one of Tiger King’s most controversial characters to speak publicly for the first time since the show debuted by convincing her that she was actually speaking with Jimmy Fallon.
The video is one of three that the duo published over the weekend showing how they duped some U.K. celebrities into thinking that they were appearing on the U.S.’s biggest late-night talk shows via the videoconferencing app Zoom. Throughout all three videos, Manners and Pieters claimed that their production company Invisible Object is working for the shows — namely, The Late Late Show with James Corden and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon — and booked celebrities via email, ensuring that each signed a release within the creators’ legal rights. Next thing you know, Manners is on a video call with the guests acting as the show’s producer, while Pieters engineers an interview with relevant audio clips from prior Corden and Fallon segments.
“It was hard because along with Josh, I was trying to produce our YouTube video, so to make sure that what I was saying was entertaining. To give you an example, a normal producer when checking sound levels would ask Carole to count to ten, or the classic in British TV is to say what did you have for breakfast? That’s not particularly interesting,” Manners explains. “It’s more interesting if I say, can you just give me some of the names of the cats? So you’ll kind of come up with things that are funny.”
Despite the added humor, Manners made sure that Baskin was asked questions that she was comfortable with and steered clear of anything too revealing. “We weren’t out to get her or to humiliate her or to disrespect her in any way,” he says. In fact, he allowed Baskin to talk about a cause that she’s passionate about.
“She’s not been found guilty of anything. We are all making judgement on this person based on a television show, not based on reviewing the evidence ourselves. So one has to be slightly careful,” Manners says. “She wanted to talk about the Big Cat Public Safety Act, so we included that in the edit very deliberately.” With over 3.8 million views on the video as of Tuesday, he adds, “There will be more public interest in it and actually more people will hear her message. …It’s win-win with everybody.”
Baskin herself responded to the video, revealing that she has no hard feelings. “I was suspicious as we were doing it because the questions appeared taped,” she tells Yahoo Entertainment via a statement from a representative of Big Cat Rescue. “But had no idea it would turn out to be such a fun prank. It gave us a very welcome good laugh. I appreciate their cleverness and that they created their video in a way that I don’t feel was in any way mean-spirited.”
Manners says that Fallon hasn’t formally responded to the prank, although the duo’s dream is that the late-night host would include it in a bit during his monologue. “I think that might be a little far-fetched,” Manners says.
In the meantime, the content creator hopes that the millions of people who have seen the video have been entertained and maybe even coaxed to think about the technology that we’re all relying on during the unique circumstances of the coronavirus quarantine. “With Carole Baskin, obviously she is a social phenomenon at the moment. She’s trying to get big on the internet. I wanted to answer the question of, you know, we’re all on Zoom the whole time, how secure is that? What do we know about that? How can that be exploited? And I thought that was a really interesting kind of way,” Manners explains. “By virtue of not being able to leave the house and not being able to film with Josh as we normally do together, our field of thinking was very much narrowed and we just had to dig downward, and that was a really interesting creative process. And it led to this.”