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A guffaw that won over millions of viewers

That a simple video has so much impact raises questions about what appeals to the online crowd


Laughter really is contagious. And viral.

Texas mum Candace Payne, better known as the "Chewbacca Mom" with the infectious guffaw, had millions of people laughing out loud.

It all started when she decided to make a selfie video in her car to show off the Star Wars character mask she had just bought.

The four-minute video shows the 37-year-old housewife unwrapping her purchase in excitement, and putting on an electronic mask which not only resembled but also made sounds just like Chewbacca, the fictional Wookiee from the Star Wars movie series.

Texas mum Candace Payne, better known as “Chewbacca Mom”, touring the Facebook headquarters. A video of her wearing a Chewbacca mask and laughing
uncontrollably became the most-watched Facebook live video with 144 million views and counting. PHOTO: MARK ZUCKERBERG/FACEBOOK

With the mask on, she burst out laughing, triggering the Wookiee sound effect as the hinged jaws of the mask opened.

The guffawing - and nothing much else - went on for a full two minutes. But that was enough to win over millions.

In less than a week after the video was shared on May 19, it became the most-watched Facebook live video with 144 million views and counting.

Facebook, which has been promoting its Live video feature which was rolled out to all users last month, wasted no time in inviting Ms Payne to its headquarters.

The mother of two was also invited to an outing with the "real" Chewbacca - actor Peter Mayhew who played the Wookiee in the Star Wars movies.

There was even a spoof video featuring a man in Chewbacca suit putting on a "Chewbacca Mom" mask for a change.

The fact that a simple video has gone so viral begs a question that many have been asking: What appeals to the online crowd?

Feel-good and spontaneous content, as the theory goes, appears to be the way to go. The "Chewbacca Mom" video certainly fits the bill.

Said a Facebook comment on the Chewbacca video: "We all should find this much joy over something so simple."

This could perhaps offer some inspiration to media outlets which have experimented with some wild video ideas.

Just last month, digital news site BuzzFeed streamed a 45-minute live video of an "exploding" watermelon.

The video shows two BuzzFeed employees in hazmat suits placing rubber bands one by one around the watermelon's middle, until it explodes. The clip, which was the most-watched Facebook live video until "Chewbacca Mom" came along, chalked up more than 10 million views.

But one viewer spoke for many when she voiced her thoughts aloud: "Why am I watching this? What has happened to my life?"

Think that's just BuzzFeed?

More recently, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank was featured on Facebook Live video literally eating his own words. He had earlier vowed to eat one of his columns if Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination.

He was served a nine-course meal featuring dishes such as grilled newspaper guacamole and pickled newspaper.

Perhaps those hoping to produce the next hit video should just relax - and laugh.


The video of a woman, nicknamed "Sister Umbrella", swinging her brolly at men involved in a fight in Pioneer Point went viral. PHOTO: SHAREITOUT/FACEBOOK

Closer to home, a woman and her white umbrella made waves on social media.

The petite woman with long, flowing hair was caught on camera joining in a scuffle between two men. Her choice of weapon: her trusted brolly.

Swinging her umbrella - opening it at one point perhaps for maximum force - she tried to hit one of the men, and later more men who got involved in the fight.

The video went viral, earning her the nickname "Sister Umbrella".

According to Lianhe Wanbao, the incident took place last Wednesday morning. The fight broke out between employees of a car workshop in Pioneer Point and staff from a neighbouring insurance company.

It is unclear how the woman was related to the men. A police report has been filed.


You can soon fit more in a tweet without busting the 140-character limit.

Twitter announced last Tuesday that media attachments, such as photos and videos, and quoted tweets will no longer count towards the character limit. Usernames sent in reply tweets will also not add to the limit.

What this means is that users will end up with at least 24 more characters - the typical length of a media attachment - to craft their tweets.

The changes will be rolled out in the coming months.

The move was generally welcomed by users who are now sharing more pictures and videos on social media.

It was also seen as an attempt by Twitter to grow its stagnating user base.

Some users were already mulling over what they would do with the "extra" 24 characters.

The avid fan tweeted: "Big news!! Twitter is giving you back 24 characters!"

The cynic said: "I'm going to be releasing my new novel on Twitter now that they've lifted the 140-character restriction."

The troll suggested: "You can make your username 24 characters long."

The clueless wondered: "Not sure what to do with my 24 characters."

Brevity, perhaps, is underrated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 29, 2016, with the headline 'A guffaw that won over millions of viewers'. Print Edition | Subscribe