View the complete issue of fall 2013 LOYNO Magazine.
By Lauren LaBorde '09
A YouTube video on the NFL purse policy led to a whirlwind week.
My best friend, Colleen Allerton, and I sat in front of a dusty bookshelf in a studio on North Rampart Street with earpieces in and mikes clipped to our shirts – mine a royal blue and hers a bright coral, colors we thought would “pop” on TV. A pair of friendly women did our makeup to make us “camera-ready.” Soon a voice came through our earpieces: “Colleen and Lauren, can you hear me OK?” In a few minutes, we would be doing a live interview on MSNBC because of a video we created just days before.
The interview was the apex of a crazy week that involved mentions on the TODAY show and CNN, interviews, and offers of free nutrition bars. Colleen and I created a satirical video called “My Purse, My Choice” that went viral – it received nearly 400,000 views in just over the course of a few days. The video was taking aim at regulations by the NFL to limit the size of bags brought into the Superdome and stadiums all over the country.
I got tickets to the first Saints preseason game through work and invited Colleen. She was a natural choice because she loves football and can make most situations entertaining. (I do not like football.) She’s also known for carrying a 40- pound purse that at any time can include a variety of snacks, hair accessories, and sometimes a full-size bottle of white wine. Because of the regulations, we had to downsize our purses considerably. On our way to the game, we lamented the rules for being “anti-woman” (which is sort of true), and, making a play on a women’s rights mantra, I said, “My purse, my choice!” That gave us the idea for a fake commercial about the bag rules in the style of women-targeted PSAs, using the grave tone of those ads while listing the sundry items women are being “denied access to”: multiple pairs of sunglasses, electronic devices, food, drinks, actual garbage. “We should say ‘gum,’ like, six times,” Colleen said. Instead of watching the game, we devised the video over stadium nachos and overpriced cocktails.
I met Colleen through a sketch-writing class at The New Movement, or TNM, a comedy theater and training center in New Orleans. She was wearing scrubs, so I asked her if she was a nurse. “No, I’m a doctor’s assistant,” she said. “But I worry that because I wear scrubs people think I could actually be helpful to anyone.”
While a student at Loyola, I did all the things journalism students are supposed to do: I occupied nearly every editorial position in student media publications; I did internships in the city and one out of state; I freelanced and took on other extracurricular activities. And after I graduated, I got a job at a newspaper. I liked it, but what I enjoyed most was being funny. I wrote some humorous things for the paper’s blog that were popular and supported by my editors, but in the context of a newspaper, people don’t always understand humor and are easily offended.
Around that time I got started taking sketch, and later improv, classes at TNM and fell in love. Comedy was such a good fit for me because it was a place where I was supposed to be funny. I still work in publishing, and I enjoy it, probably even more so because I have this wonderful outlet outside of work.
Exactly a week after that preseason game, we got together with our videographer friend Chad Bower ’09 (communication) and filmed at 11 that night. He edited the video the next day and sent it to us Sunday morning as I was just waking up. Still in pajamas, I began to post the video on my various social networks, and Colleen did the same.
Our friends, family, and fellow comedians loved the video and began sharing it immediately. By noon the video had a few hundred views. At this point, my goal for this project was reached: People we like and respect thought it was funny. But neither of us could have anticipated what would come next.
Nola.com posted the video, and then the With Leather blog on the website Uproxx did, too – we had acquaintances at both outlets, so it wasn’t too surprising. But then a Yahoo! Sports blog posted it, and later we got an email from a TODAY show producer asking if they could show a clip of the video for a segment.
It turns out we hit on a very timely topic with this video. The video came out just as season ticket holders for teams around the country were receiving word of the regulations. Besides showing up briefly on the TODAY show, it also popped up on CNN. Luna Bar – among the items we mentioned in our litany of “essential” purse objects – contacted us, saying they loved the video and wanted to send us free bars. Then we got the email from MSNBC. We also were the subject of many vile, misogynistic, and downright weird YouTube comments, but overall the good outweighed the bad.
I was happy with the MSNBC interview. It was short, lighthearted, and I think we came across as ourselves. After, we both returned to our jobs. Colleen laughed about how she’d be in scrubs with full “camera-ready” hair and makeup.
After “going viral,” everyone has questions: What’s your next video? How will you “capture your web audience”? Has Lorne Michaels called? (No, he hasn’t.) Those questions scared me at first. But then I remembered that Colleen and I are comedians and this success wasn’t a fluke. We weren’t kittens playing a piano; we created something that was supposed to be funny, and people thought it was funny.
We are going to continue making things, and no one knows if we will have another hit like this. But we are funny, so we are capable of it. For now we have that crazy week to look back on – plus about 60 Luna Bars.
Lauren LaBorde '09, a communication alumna, is a writer and associate editor at Renaissance Publishing in New Orleans. She can be seen performing with The New Movement.