Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Merton Does Chatroulette

The internet phenomenon meets improvised piano
Chatroulette is a recent internet phenomenon that has quickly risen to cult status. In Chatroulette, you are paired with a random partner for a chat, using both text chat and your webcam. When you've had enough of that partner, you click next to move on to someone else. When the creator launched it in November 2009 there were about 500 users in total; by December he had 5000 users, and a few months later in March 2010 he has 1.5 million users.

Probably the thing that makes Chatroulette famous (infamous?) is the anonymity of participants - and people will do just about anything when they are anonymous. I'll be honest, I haven't tried out Chatroulette. It sounds like a great many chat partners are extremely NSFW. Friends who have tried it have said they've met some quite interesting and engaging people (and not just freaks).

So... What does this have to do with Improv?


A very clever singer/musician going by the name Merton (real identity unknown) decided to take requests for songs over Chatroulette for fun... but it quickly morphed in to improvising songs about his chat partner, for as long as they would stay on the line. His video immediately went viral on YouTube, with about 1.5 million views to date.

When I first watched this, I laughed and laughed. Genius! Merton pummels his piano Ben Folds-style, similar enough that folks thought perhaps Ben Folds and Merton were in fact the same person. Just to make it interesting, Ben Folds released 'Chatroulette Piano Ode to Merton', surprising unsuspecting Chatroulette partners with a concert hall full of people!

I love seeing improvisers create stuff that is obviously improvised, stuff that is lots of fun. Keep an eye out for more stuff from Merton; his YouTube channel is the #1 most subscribed channel this month. Good work!

Photo by Mauro Luna

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