If young David DeVore’s loopy, out-of-body ramblings while feeling the effects of a dentist’s anesthesia were a prime-time TV show, he would land squarely in the Top 10 — between “60 Minutes” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” But the parents of the 8-year-old viral video sensation say they realize there’s a fine line between cuteness and exploitation.
Little David became the talk of the town after a flip-phone video his dad — also named David DeVore — shot of the boy, then 7, acting dazed after he got a tooth pulled, was posted on YouTube. Some 16 million people watched with amusement as David struggles to get his bearings, asking his father, “Is this real life?” and “I feel funny, why is this happening to me?”
While the amusing video has taken on a life of its own — spawning countless YouTube parodies and imitators, getting David a trip to Disney World, and even earning him advertising revenue — David’s dad told TODAY Thursday he understands criticism in some circles that the video should have been kept in the family.
‘A bit shocking’
“We certainly understand the reaction,” DeVore, appearing along with his son and wife Tessie, told Matt Lauer. “As dedicated parents, we actually appreciate that. But this is an isolated incident, this is something that our family thought was OK, and it was a bit shocking that so many people saw it afterward. But after we settled down we were fine with it.”
DeVore told Lauer the video sprang from a desire to keep his wife linked into the life of their son while he underwent surgery to remove a bothersome extra tooth. Tessie works, so the stay-at-home dad wanted to capture every moment of his son’s life.
Thus, some 25 minutes after David came to after getting his tooth yanked, dad turned the camera phone on his son so he could send his wife an update.
“It was a big deal, it was his first surgery and my wife couldn’t be there,” DeVore explained.
Some seven months after the May 2008 surgery, DeVore posted the video on Facebook for his friends’ and family’s amusement. But when the requests to see the footage became overwhelming, he posted it on YouTube — and missed hitting the privacy function.
Just three days later, 3 million people had already seen what the DeVores had believed was a cute, intimate moment in their family.
Crossing the line?
While second-grader David has reveled in the attention — saying “I feel like a rock star!” — some have slammed his parents for displaying their child under the influence. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell was especially critical, writing, “Videos of children on drugs cross the line — in fact, officials with child welfare agencies should be concerned.”
But David’s mother Tessie told TODAY that the naysayers need to lighten up, pointing to a poll that showed 67 percent of respondents believed the family was not in the wrong for posting the video. And she says her son is just a product of a new age of embarrassment.
- Pre-Black Friday Deal: The Chic Tote PEOPLE Style Editors Love (with a Discount!)
- In Seattle, Tofu Turkeys Get Thanksgiving Pardons
- Prince William Advocates for Africa's Wildlife: 'Time Is Running Out'
- Bill Cosby's Children: The Troubles and Tragedy of a Famous Family
- Stepfather Charged with Murder of Missing Pennsylvania Mother of 3
“For me, it’s a naked baby picture; for his generation, it will be the funny videos from when they were kids,” she said. “And I hope when he gets married, we’ll play this video and others, all rolling on the floor laughing.”
For his part, David is already on his 16th minute of fame — he’s moved on from his moment in the sun. “My friends thought it was funny at first, but then they stopped talking about it,” he told Lauer.
Dad DeVore told Lauer the video sensation has “been a very positive experience for our family,” and said he believes his son’s disjointed ramblings actually hit on a larger truth that people have embraced.
“What really piqued everyone’s interest are the profound things he says in the video: ‘Is this real life? Why is this happening to me?’ ” he told TODAY. “I think it struck a chord — it’s kind of what we are going through as a society.”
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints