Optimum deliciousness

The secret behind the hilarity that is viral video "Jones' Good Ass BBQ & Foot Massage," from its maker, Ramiro Castro AB'06.

I discovered Tobias Jones and his unlikely business ventures when strolling through Scav Hunt's Judgment Day, where one team was streaming "Jones' Good Ass BBQ & Foot Massage" in answer to a clue: "My dinner’s too beautylicious for you, babe. Head on over to the Hyde Park establishment where you can both order a meal and receive a cosmetic procedure. Get the procedure done, and show us before-and-after photos of your sad and scraggly, and newly beautified, selves. [12 points]."


With its Harold's Chicken Shack look and improbable if nose-crinkling allure, it may come as a sad surprise that Jones' doesn't really exist (except, of course, in the hearts of the 1.5 million viewers who've seen it). But it isn't the only improbable combination of services Tobias Jones offers online; the video is the follow-up to another successful viral video produced by Big Dog Eat Child, a sketch-comedy troupe that includes Off-Off Campus alum Ramiro Castro, AB'06.

Big Dog Eat Child began down the metaphorical road to Internetical glory in 2006, when Castro came up with the character, Tobias Jones, played by stand-up comedian Robert Hines. The first Jones video, "Jones' Big Ass Truck Rental & Storage" took a while to become popular after its 2008 debut on YouTube, but after the comedy group began e-mailing bloggers, viewership began to rise, as did its reputation. And how could it not, with gems like, "Now friends, you ask yourself, how in the hell can he store this stuff for such a cheap price? ... The fact of the matter is, I'm pretty drunk right now...and this is a drunk discount sale." The video got 300,000 hits on the day YouTube promoted it on its front page. It now has 2.9 million views.

The group went on to film a second Truck Rental & Storage spot, the BBQ & Foot Massage spot, and "Jones' Cheap Ass Prepaid Legal and Daycare Academy"—the films have amassed a combined 6 million or so views—and scored Castro and Big Dog Eat Child interviews, t-shirt orders from around the world, an inquiry from Oprah's people (they wanted to know if Jones' was real, as did many others), and enough money to incorporate Big Dog Eat Child. The videos, especially "BBQ & Foot Massage" have also been screened at film festivals, including last Thursday's Chicago Short Comedy Video and Film Festival in downtown Chicago, which Castro told us about in a phone interview the next day.

QandA_QDrop.jpgHow was the festival?
QandA_ADrop.jpgIt was a lot of fun. ... Basically we, because it's an internet video, we don't get a lot of feedback besides hits and comments, and those are all over the place. ... They'll say "lol" or whatever, but to hear people laugh and enjoy your film makes you feel great.
QandA_QDrop.jpgAnd it's not the first festival you've been in, right? What others has Jones...worked over?
QandA_ADrop.jpgThe LA Comedy Shorts Festival. That was a wonderful festival because it wasn't just, "Hey, let's show your movies and be done with it." They showed your films over a period of three days. They would have Q&A sessions. ... They had people from the film industry give advice on your films, people from Funny or Die, people from College Humor, people from Comedy Central. ... Oh, and there were parties every night.
QandA_QDrop.jpgSo how did the Jones character get created?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI did Off-Off campus at the U of C and I have a big improv background. I take the train a lot, the red line, and there are so many characters you meet on the South Side, so many characters. People will tell you anything on the train.... I was actually Toby Jones in the original sketch, but it just didn't work. We met Robert Hines, he's a stand-up comedian. This was 2005. I wrote the sketch in 2006 or 7 and when we said we should make videos. We were like, "Oh shit, this guy's awesome, this guy's perfect for this role." ... We had a lofty goal of getting 100,000 hits in a year, and we were like, "No way, that's not going to happen," but we put it out there.
QandA_QDrop.jpgOne detail that stands out is that it looks like it was shot in a Harold's Chicken Shack...
QandA_ADrop.jpgNot the Hyde Park one, although that was my first Harold's, my first love. There's one over by where I am on the Southwest Side, on 119th and Western. We would literally go there every week or every other week, especially if things were going well for us...We were just sitting there eating chicken and said, "Why don't we do something here? This place is awesome. We literally don't have to do anything to it."
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhich video is your favorite?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI do like "BBQ" a lot, because it was almost the one we struggled with the most. ... Right now what I really like, we just released something called "Twenty Something Ninja Turtles." It's a little more episodic. ... I'm in the dinosaur outfit and it was just a ridiculous time.
QandA_QDrop.jpgWhy is it that the Jones videos are so funny?
QandA_ADrop.jpgA lot of it is timing. We just sort of, the timing we've been working on is: tell and outline this joke and get the hell out, just go away, move on to the next thing. "Truck Rental" is just a long version like that. Here's the premise: don't explain it, just let people figure it out. We're just going to have a machine gun of funny come at you. ... We like to just assault the audience with our jokes. We just want to have crazy things, crazy things, outlandish things, something that hasn't been done before. ... There are places on the South Side. ... There are pieces of reality thrown into the crazy. We're just taking what we know to be real and amplifying it a ton.
QandA_QDrop.jpgCan we expect any more videos from Tobias Jones?
QandA_ADrop.jpgWe are making more videos of Jones. ... We took a break because we were wondering what to do with the character, but this year, we're going to make a foreign-language video spot, have Jones appeal to a Spanish-speaking audience, and have Jones basically hock his services as a spokesmodel.
QandA_QDrop.jpgAre you proud that the video showed up as an item in Scav Hunt?
QandA_ADrop.jpgI am! I think that there's a lot of U of C lore and part of the lore is, "Hey, Second City got its start at the U of C," and I was in Off-Off Campus. ...I was thinking about the legends that have come out of the U of C and of course I want that kind of fame. ... I know the level of detail that they [the Scav Judges] put in to go through that list and I was so proud that they put us in that. Popular culture, I guess.

Asher Klein '11

July 27, 2010