Robin’s Viral Egg 🥚

That impressive Robin Williams YouTube impression reflects a real shift in how people become famous in 2021: By ignoring the casting agents and going directly to the audience with a big idea. Still feels kind of icky, though, doesn’t it?

Not everyone could don a pair of suspenders and make off-the-wall jokes and make it look convincing. Nor could anyone take a particularly heavy bit of material and cycle between lightly humorous and dead serious so seamlessly.

So the fact that Jamie Costa was able to create a bit of “test footage” showing off this impressive range is a huge credit to him. (It helped that the person at the center of the source material was also quite adept at this, as anyone who has seen One Hour Photo could tell you.) Costa has appeared in numerous shorts and fan films over the years, but a good chunk of people likely had no idea who he was until this week.

The complicating factor, of course, is that he was able to build this notice off of one of the darkest moments in Robin Williams’ life, in which drugs had taken a close friend who he was partying with the previous night—the long-gone but still-iconic John Belushi.

The loss of Williams still stings, and doing a biopic on him threatens to come across as exploitative if not done carefully. And let’s be honest, Costa dressed as Mork, doing a convincing impression of an Oscar-winning actor at one of his darkest points, does more for the legacy of Costa than it does for the legacy of Williams. For that reason, it’s not particularly clear whether a biopic starring Costa is in the cards. (Zelda Williams, for her part, complimented Costa’s talent, but wasn’t a fan of having her father’s difficult moment sent in her direction repeatedly.)

Nonetheless, we should talk about what this “test footage” says about the nature of fame and success in 2021. The 30-year-old Costa, who has previously portrayed another famous actor, Patrick Swayze, in a docuseries, has clearly been in Hollywood long enough that his break hasn’t already appeared on its own, so he had to basically invent his own “break” and put it on YouTube, in hopes that something exactly like this might happen. Now, he’s on CNN, and everyone is not noticing how good Sarah Murphree’s portrayal of Pam Dawber is.

In a sense, this whole endeavor comes off as another shade of faking it until you make it, a hot topic in these here parts thanks to the recent Ozy scandal. Generating heat is a tough thing to do when you don’t have enough on your own, so you have to borrow it from another source. Carlos Watson’s source of power was the millennial news site he built that he hoped would score him some deals; Costa’s is this test footage that, even if he doesn’t end up playing Williams in a mainstream film, likely will get him calls from agents who might not have even known his name a week ago. (On the attention-generating front, Costa is clearly better at this.)

Robin Williams is still a raw wound, and his passing comes up often. He trends on Twitter periodically, just because people miss him and the joy he brought to the screen. He started his career doing stand-up, and within a couple of years, he found himself on television, with the buzz of an electrifying presence driving his career forward.

Costa’s thing, his version of the electrifying presence, is his strong ability to do impressions—and his best impression is Williams. And he potentially just took a quick shortcut to being a household name.

Let’s hope he doesn’t forget the man who got him there in the process.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 21 seconds

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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