Judson Laipply isn’t afraid to bust a move.
Laipply, a 30-year-old comedian/motivational speaker from Cleveland, is — as he puts it — That Guy at the wedding “out there dancing with everybody and having fun.”
Now, he’s cutting a rug as the It Boy of the Internet.
Laipply’s video clip, “Evolution of Dance,” taped at one of his speaking engagements, has been viewed more than 18 million times on the video Web site YouTube since April. In the clip, his combination of a nerdy-guy persona and his hot dance steps — he covers everything from Elvis’s 1950’s hip-bopping to today’s flashy hip-hop moves — makes for an hilarious six minutes.
As a self-described “inspirational comedian,” Laipply blends motivational speaking with comedy to “No. 1, make them laugh; No. 2, make them think.” Four years ago, he began closing many of his appearances at colleges, high schools and corporations with the unusual dance medley, which became a crowd favorite.
“I sat down one day and mixed some music, and came up” with the original version of the dance, he told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
“I went out and did it once, and it went over really well, and I thought, ‘This is hilarious,”’ he recalls.
After friends asked him to post a clip of it onto his Myspace.com page, Laipply obliged, also uploading it onto YouTube.com, which allows users to post videos for sharing. It now holds the record as that site’s most-viewed video ever. The television world has taken notice — Tuesday, he is scheduled to perform a shorter version on NBC’s “Today” show.
Dance feverHow does he explain all the dance fever?
“It’s one of those things where no matter how old you are, you almost can always find something within (the video) that resonates with you,” Laipply said. “I have e-mails from families who’ve said, ‘I was watching it, I’m 65, my daughter was watching it, her daughter was watching it and we were all laughing and loving it.”’
In the video, Laipply — sporting a bright “Orange Crush” T-shirt tucked into blue jeans — gyrates to Elvis’ “Hound Dog,” dusts off the stiff-limbed robot routine for Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” and shimmies to MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” He shakes his rump to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and snakes his neck to the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
He also channels John Travolta in “Grease,” does the “Y.M.C.A,” kung fu fights and break dances. And that’s only part of the act.
Laipply, whose only formal dance training was a one-year stint in his high school’s show choir, has received much feedback from fans, some wanting to book him for weddings and a few even proposing marriage. (“Yes I am single, I am straight, and I will not marry anyone who asks over e-mail,” he jokes on his Web site.)
For now, he’s enjoying all the adulation, but said he has “zero expectations” for his career and doesn’t count on overnight becoming a celebrity speaker — say, like self-help guru Tony Robbins.
“Anything that comes out of this to me is a bonus, and I will appreciate it and take it for all that’s it’s worth,” he said. “I’m not saying I won’t try to use it to my advantage, but I don’t have the expectation that I’m going to turn it into something else.”
He is, however, working on a new video, “Evolution of Dance Revisited,” which he plans to release in the next few months. “The Hustle will be in there, the Cha-Cha Slide, the Electric Slide, perhaps a few more (music-video) dances like, ‘Hey Mickey,’ ‘Maniac’ or Men Without Hats’ ‘(The) Safety Dance’,” he said.
Laipply’s schtick not only has attracted a cross-generational audience, it has reconnected him with buddies from his past.
“The neatest thing is that a lot of long-lost friends have appeared because they’re watching this video, and they’re going, ‘Oh my god, this is Jud! I went to high school with him!”