He was a bit of a phenomenon, Steve Irwin. Back when Crocodile Hunter was a big thing on Discovery Channel, there was a slew of other “animal capture” shows that cropped up around the same time, but none of them quite managed to hit the same tone as the crazy and brilliant Irwin and none of them achieved quite the same level of virality.
Jump forward a few years and we have two similar shows airing on Discovery Channel at the same time (Survivorman and Man vs Wild). Both shows loosely based around the idea of “drop some well-trained b*stard into the wilderness in his underpants and see what he does”. Both were good shows, but one became very popular, and the other was arguably a “better” show content-wise, but still never quite took off.
So what was it about the main figure in the shows that went viral? They weren’t “better” shows, but they managed to strike some chord that made audiences come back over and over again.
In both (and many cases since) the answer seems to be enjoyment. This “fun” factor, in fact, is changing the way that creatives of *all* stripes interact with their audiences. Because the thing we want to see most (even more than make-ups and break-ups and relationship trainwrecks and bad dye-jobs or busted lips) is that the content creators *love* their job. It’s been leaking into the internet more and more these days, Chuck used to produces a whole series of behind the scenes livestreams of the actors mucking about behind the scenes. Tom Hiddleston and Zachari Levy had an impromptu dance-off that made it to You Tube (both of whom grok their fanbase, as has been shown by the types of personal content they put out there), Adam Baldwin is either running a right-wing trollbot to handle his twitter feed or he’s genuinely having fun pissing off the internet. Maureen Johnson has the most delightful twitter exchanges with her fanbase. Ellen passed the HAT and made good on her promise for pizza (though truthfully, LADIES, we need more of this stuff from you all) as well as posting the selfie-seen-round-the-world. And this goes for ALL content creators, not just actors, it applies to writers and you-tubers and painters and VFX artists and that guy who makes dragons out of old car-parts.
And now we have Jimmy Fallon taking over the Tonight Show and giving us this:
How can you not be an adoring fan of someone what is having the TIME OF THEIR LIFE doing some wacky send-up of their own (now Academy award winning) work? I think the younger generation of actors has now picked up on this and are making it work. As a bonus, a bunch of the more “old-school” pros like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen (Kevin Spacey is an up and coming example, just you watch) are starting to give us a glimpse behind the curtain as well.
Can these things be faked? Yes, but people are perceptive. We can tell when that glimpse through the keyhole is staged (we may choose to ignore it, but we still know it and it will color our perceptions going forward) and the ones who fake it don’t seem to be able to maintain it as long as those who are just having a ball.