"Pants" on Fire!

Novelty song goes viral, thanks to “American Idol” – and the Internet. Susan Boyle, meet Larry Platt…

By Jere Hester
|  Tuesday, Jan 19, 2010  |  Updated 11:14 AM EDT
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“General” Larry Platt’s unlikely career as a viral superstar ignited Wednesday with the airing of the 63-year-old Atlanta man’s “Idol” audition, featuring his catchy ditty, complete with impressive break-dancing moves.

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Perhaps the most surprising part about the Minnesota Vikings’ playoff romp over the Dallas Cowboys came after the game, during the locker room celebration: Who knew Brett Favre was an “American Idol” fan?

The quarterback led his team in a chorus of “Pants on the Ground,” the novelty song written and performed by an over-aged “Idol” wannabe that – between TV and the Internet – has taken off like, well, pants on fire.

“General” Larry Platt’s unlikely career as a viral superstar ignited Wednesday with the airing of the 63-year-old Atlanta man’s “Idol” audition, featuring his catchy ditty, complete with impressive break-dancing moves.

Simon Cowell said he had a “horrible feeling” the song could be a hit, adding, “I don’t think this will be the last we hear of you, Larry.”

Cowell was proven right, perhaps faster than he imagined: The clip quickly became an Internet hit. The next night, Jimmy Fallon, who understands the power and immediacy of the Web as well as any talk show host, covered “Pants on Fire” while impersonating Neil Young, producing an Internet-friendly clip. Regular folks, meanwhile, have posted their own versions and remixes on YouTube.

Favre’s impromptu version Sunday played to millions watching the post-game celebration, generating numerous replays – including on Monday’s edition of “The View,” where Platt performed his song, this time adding push-ups to the routine.

Platt’s literal overnight success marks another example of the uneasy, yet symbiotic relationship between television and the Internet. A few million watched Susan Boyle’s stunning debut on Cowell’s “Britain’s Got Talent” last year – but she didn’t turn into an international superstar until the clip surfaced the Web, becoming YouTube’s most-watched video of 2009 and leading to a hit album.

It seems unlikely that Platt will become the next Boyle. His story, though, has echoes of the “JK Wedding Entrance Dance,” which went viral on YouTube, and led to TV appearances for the couple and their bridal party, and even a takeoff on The Office.

Platt, though, has an interesting backstory, much like Boyle. The Chicago Tribune reports that he’s a long-time civil rights activist, who has pictures of him with Martin Luther King hanging in his home. And he’s not crazy about the low-slung trousers favored by some youths.

"After all this work I did with Dr. King ... walking around with your pants on the ground?" he told The Tribune. "They're going to have to get them up. I'm sorry."

There’s little telling, especially these days, how long Platt’s 15 minutes will last (William Hung is still a household name six years after his “Idol” trainwreck). Meanwhile, check out some of the video versions of Platt’s unlikely hit – and keep you pants off the ground.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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