Rickrolled: Or How One Politician Overcame Partisan Divide To Pull A Prank

Originally published on April 13, 2011 10:13 pm

Yesterday, Korva pointed to an amusing video of lawmakers Rickrolling the Oregon State House. For the uninitiated, to Rickroll someone is to unexpectedly slip in Rick Astley's Never Gonna Give You Up. (Morning Edition spoke to Astley back in February.)

So what Oregon lawmakers did was include snippets of the song's lyrics into their speeches on the House floor and then stich it together to make the tune. This is the final product:

On tonight's edition of All Things Considered, NPR's Melissa Block speaks to Jefferson Smith, the Democrat in the Oregon State House, who thought up the idea.

First, he told Melissa, it's important to remember that this took real effort from many people, especially aides, to make this happen. Incredibly, he said, it didn't take much prodding to get other lawmakers to agree to do their part. What took effort was getting in some of the lyrics.

"The easy lines we did at the beginning," said Smith. "The harder ones we left toward the end."

"Your heart's been aching / but you're too shy to say it" were two lines that were particularly hard to get into speeches, especially considering that the rules of the game mandated that the lawmaker on the floor could not ask for extra time and had to work in the phrase assigned to them in a way that was germaine to what they were talking about.

Smith said when one of the lawmakers delivered the line "O, never gonna give you up," some people on the floor laughed. "But it was really funny to the people who were in on the joke," he said "Some of it was trying to muffle our laughter and keep focused on the work at hand, when someone would slip in their line."

The video was released April 1, as an April Fool's joke, but it's only in recent days that it's picked up steam. The prank was also a bipartisan effort.

"It's silly fun," said Smith and the reason it's gone viral is because "it's a mild break from much of what we're seeing in national politics."

But does something like change anything in politics? Smith said that if politicians are able to come together on some fun and on some issues, it could.

In the least, he said, "we can make sure that when we're disagreeing, we're not just being disagreeable."

An aside: Back in 2008, NPR was accused of Rickrolling its entire Morning Edition audience.

Tune into to your local NPR member station to listen to the full interview. We'll add the as-broadcast version of the interview a little later today.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

D: Rickrolling means fooling someone by sending them an Internet link that appears to be one thing, but instead, when you click on it, you end up at this Rick Astley music video from 1987.


RICK ASTLEY: (Singing) Never gonna give you, never gonna let you down, never gonna run around and desert you.

: Unidentified Man #4: You wouldn't get this from any other guy.

: I just want to tell you how I'm feeling.

: That political prank germinated in the mind of Democrat Jefferson Smith, who joins me from Salem. Welcome to the program.

JEFFERSON SMITH: Hey, Melissa, how are you doing?

: I'm great. And why don't you explain how this worked, how you managed to get members of the Oregon House to engage in this bit of rickrolling.

SMITH: So to be clear, you know, it was the work of many hands, and before we knew it, we were able to distribute every line to the song. And people had to follow the rule to not change the subject, not to take extra time, to actually include it within a germane topic. And we were able to get it done.

: Unidentified Woman #1: But you're too shy to say it.

SMITH: Yes, there are a few lines that are more challenging. The easier lines were done towards the beginning. The tougher lines were done towards the end, and luckily we were able to get them all in there, including the ooh-ooh, which was challenging, and many kudos to the folks who participated. And they're great sports and really great legislators, as well.

: That ooh has to be my favorite part of the video. The woman delivering this is - she's a champ.

: : Ooh, never gonna give you up, never gonna give you up. Ooh.

SMITH: Oh, it's great. It was a little bit funny when she did it on the floor. It was very funny to the people who were in on the joke, right? And so some of us kind of tried to muffle our laughter and keep focus on the work at hand when somebody would slip in their line.

: Right. Well, here's the thing. You ended up splicing video of all of these phrases together. You put that out on YouTube, on April 1st, we should note, but this is no joke. And now it has gone viral.

SMITH: Yeah, sort of surprisingly. I mean, we've stated - you know, one thing I would say is maybe fortunately, unfortunately, is the manifestation of the first law of legislative absurdity, thermodynamics, which is that the degree of discussion of an issue very often is inversely proportionate to its relevancy and importance.


: Well, there is that, isn't there?

SMITH: Yeah.

: Did you get equal buy-in on both sides of the aisle, both Republicans and Democrats? Was this a truly, truly bipartisan effort here?

SMITH: Yeah, we had both Republicans and Democrats and wanted to have, you know, cross-partisan participation. You know, it's a silly thing. It's a fun thing. And maybe one of the reasons that people are forwarding it around and enjoying it themselves is that it is a mild break from much of what we're seeing in national politics.

: Well, Jefferson Smith, thanks for giving us something fun to think about and talk about today, appreciate it.

SMITH: Unidentified Man #4: You wouldn't get this from any other guy.

: I just want to...


ASTLEY: (Singing) ...any other guy. I just want to tell you how I'm feeling.

: Jefferson Smith is a Democrat in the Oregon House of Representatives, and he wants to make clear that no public dollars were spent in the making of that video.


ASTLEY: (Singing) Never gonna run around and desert you. Never gonna make you cry... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.