The YouTube Files – The Silly World Of Michael Rosen.

I have always been overawed by celebrities. Although there have been a lot people in showbusiness whose work I have greatly admired over the years, I have never really had any desire to meet any of them in person. I would just find it really odd and it would end up being rather embarrassing.

I do remember one occasion though when I was in the company of a celebrity whose work I was familiar with. It was the time when children’s poet and writer Michael Rosen came to my infant school to tell some of his funny stories. I don’t remember when it was exactly but it must have been around the 1989/1990 mark when I was about six or seven years old, it was great, and he must have performed at just about every infant school in Britain by now.

I didn’t really think much about his work for a long time after that until something odd happened. I was watching some videos on YouTube one day when I noticed one recommended for me featured Michael Rosen, and I thought to myself that I remember that name from somewhere, so maybe I should have a look at some of his videos to find out what he’s up to now.

According to the description in his series of videos, he once wrote a book of poems and stories, but after they went out of print he couldn’t get anyone to publish a new version, so he decided to perform them to a camera and then put the videos on YouTube for people to watch so we were treated to some fun stories, including the sad tale of Harrybo’s granddad, his encounter with The Skyfoogle, his teacher at school who was so strict you weren’t allowed to breathe in her lessons, his dad’s struggle with a hot potato, and of course the time that when he was six he ate a bag of plums. vlcsnap-00384

Now I have a rather odd sense of humour, and one day on YouTube I discovered what are called “poops”, where videos are taken and then edited in various ways to feature rather rude and peculiar jokes. I had always found this kind of thing funny, so I thought that I’d watch some of these, and for some reason the poops of TV shows ChuckleVision and King Of The Hill made me laugh more than any other source that was used. vlcsnap-00388

It was then that I discovered that people had been using Michael’s videos as a source, so I thought I’d take a look. Now when I first watched them, I hadn’t seen many of the videos in their original context, so I wasn’t really sure why he was saying particular things and it was so strange. This along with the odd edits, and the strange video and audio effects making his face look all odd and giving him a silly high-pitched voice made me laugh so much I thought that it was terrific. vlcsnap-00389

There is one rather large problem with all of this though, Michael is fully aware of what has happened to his videos, and in an interview he spoke about the problems of when children wanted to watch his videos, they may instead encounter an edited one with the very rude jokes. He soon realised that there wasn’t much that he could do to stop this, and when he made his second wave of videos, including the one where he told the story of when he got rather overexcited by some chocolate cake, he said he realised what was going to happen. However, these poops have made him more famous in America, and he seems to have earned himself a rather large fanbase in Pennsylvania. vlcsnap-00391

Another element of this is just how popular these videos have become. Every year people are invited to take part in a collaboration to edit Michael’s videos which is then uploaded to YouTube on his birthday on 7 May, and some of those have lasted up to three hours. And just about every TV appearance by Michael has now been used as a source, including his storytelling on CBeebies, and a show that he presented about books on Teachers’ TV, a little-watched channel which only seemed to be on Freeview rather late at night a decade ago.

Some of these videos have had a huge response, including a rather odd one called “Michael Rosen Saying ‘Nice’ 1,364,546,901 Times” which has had millions of views, along with the also very popular performance of “We’re Going On A Bear Hunt”, and “Michael Rosen Embarrasses Himself On Pointless” has also been a big success. As Michael would say himself I’m sure, “fantastic”.