Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A manatee joke on television becomes an instant hit on the Web

A manatee joke on television becomes an instant hit on the Web - Technology & Media - International Herald Tribune: "The skit, as scripted for the Dec. 4 installment of the talk show "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," was about absurdist sports-team mascots that the host and his writers would like to see someday.

Among them were something that O'Brien called "the Webcam manatee" — said to be the mascot of "FSU" — which was basically someone in a manatee costume rubbing himself or herself provocatively in front of a camera (to the tune of the 1991 hit "I Touch Myself"). Meanwhile, a voyeur with a lascivious expression watched via computer.

Who knew that life would so soon imitate art?

At the end of the skit, in a line that O'Brien insists was ad-libbed, he mentioned that the voyeur was watching There was only one problem: as of the taping of that show, which concluded at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, no such site existed. Which presented an immediate quandary for NBC television: if a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name and then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could conceivably be held liable for appearing to promote it.

In a pre-emptive strike inspired as much by the regulations of the Federal Communications Commission as by the laws of comedy, NBC bought the license to, for $159, after the taping of the show but before it was broadcast.

A week later, by Monday afternoon, — created by O'Brien's staff and featuring images of supposedly forbidden acts like "Manatee- on-Manatee" sex (again using characters in costumes) — had received about three million hits, according to NBC. Meanwhile, several thousand of O'Brien's viewers had responded to his subsequent on-air pleas that they submit artwork and other material inspired by the aquatic mammals, and any romantic and sexual shenanigans they imagine, to the e-mail address"

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