The ’29 Celebrity Impressions’ Creator Explains How He Punk’d The World

Rob Cantor tells us his process of pranking seven million people on YouTube.

Rob Cantor blew up the internet last week with a viral music video for his song “Perfect”, which features the artist “impersonating” 29 celebrities. The musician has since revealed, via a “Making Of” video, that the voices were actually recorded by professional impressionists and he was just lip-syncing. We spoke with Cantor about why he did it.

MTV News: What were you expecting from this stunt?
Cantor: Well, my intention was to make a unique music video, and I thought it was ridiculous enough that it would fool less than half [of all viewers]. But I think my friend Lindsey [Alvarez], who did the sound mixing on it, did such an incredibly good job, and I worked really hard to get the lip sync, and it turned out more realistic looking than I think we all thought it would be. And so, the fact that it fooled so many people allowed it to get so much bigger than I ever anticipated it would.

MTV: Are you getting more positive or negative attention since the reveal?
Cantor: From my perspective it seems a lot more positive, but I’ve also stopped looking at YouTube comments, because that seems to be where a lot of the hate is.

MTV: Putting that video together must have been insane. Was it?
Cantor: It was insane, yeah. And the whole time, obviously, I had no idea if it was actually going to go viral or get any attention at all. It was like, several months of work, from starting to email impressionists, to recording the track, to editing the track, to probably two solid weeks of JUST practicing the lip sync, to a long, hot afternoon in Andrew’s apartment in New York taping it. And then Lindsay…I think she spent three or four solid workdays just getting the mix to a place where we could look at it together. It was a huge process.

MTV: How did you come up with the idea?
Cantor: It was a conversation with my buddy Greg, who also produced my album, about just how it would just be hilarious to see an impossibly good impressions video. An impressions video that started out [with] impressions we’ve all seen before. But as it goes on, it escalates and gets more and more insane: women voices, a triumphant three-part harmony, a tuba. But we dialed it back so it could potentially be perceived as real.

MTV: You shot that “making of” video, so you must’ve planned on revealing all along, right?
Cantor: Correct.

MTV: What were the impressionists saying while you were getting all this credit for their skills?
Cantor: I was totally open with them about the entire project from the beginning. I don’t know what they thought along the way, but once it went viral, we were pretty much in constant communication. So they knew that the reveal video and their credit was coming, and that the bigger it got, the better it was for them.

MTV: Did you ever think, “Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut?”
Cantor: [A friend] suggested that I just pay off the impressionists and keep the secret forever, but of course, that’s not really an option. Because then I have to spend the rest of my life making excuses why I can’t do my Shakira impression in concert.

MTV: What was your ultimate goal?
Cantor: To promote my album, Not a Trampoline.

MTV: Do you feel like it’s impossible to get recognized as a singer songwriter these days without a gimmick or publicity stunt?
Cantor: Especially if you don’t fit into, you know, a paradigm of what’s currently popular on the radio.

MTV: So what’s next for you?
Cantor: Well…I don’t want to give anything away about it, but I’ll tell you that I’m working on another music video. I’d love to tour, but it didn’t seem practical until, like, last week.

Ethan Fixell is a writer and comedian from New York City.