Smosh

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MARKHAM JOHNSON FOR TIME

Smosh.com founders Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla in Padilla's bedroom, Carmichael, California, December 6, 2006. Most of their videos to date have been shot in Anthony's bedroom.

On Nov. 28, 2005, a video was uploaded to YouTube. It shows two American River College students, Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, lip-synching to the Pokémon theme song. Their lip-synching is completely earnest. They're really into it. They're gonna catch 'em all. This video would go on to be viewed more than 17 million times. For six months it was the most watched video on all of YouTube. It's enough to shake your faith in a new medium.

Padilla and Hecox go by the joint nickname Smosh, and they are the Saturday Night Live of YouTube. Their videos are insanely popular. Their genius, if that's the right word for it, is in their unswerving, unwinking commitment to idiocy. It may also be in their shaggy haircuts. (Smosh is some kind of inside joke that has something to do with some friend of theirs talking about mosh pits ... Never mind.) Since Pokémon, they have done other theme songs, including those for Power Rangers and Mortal Kombat. They have branched out into sketch comedy as well. (Typical setup: a friendly game of Battleship gone horribly, horribly awry.)

So far, Padilla and Hecox haven't been able to monetize their viral notoriety on any significant scale, although they do sell ads on Smosh.com. In fact, for Padilla and Hecox, being Internet celebrities is a lot like being normal people. "Our girlfriends hate that we're so busy," Hecox says. "The videos take up a lot of time, and we're working on several projects simultaneously. Overall, it really hasn't affected our lives." The dream is to end up like Andy (Lazy Sunday) Samberg, who went from online comedy to the real SNL. But not everybody can live the dream, not even in the ultra-democratic YouTube era. "Our future is wide open," Padilla says. "There seems to be a huge potential in what we're doing, so we'll just keep doing what we're doing. And if nothing comes out of it—well, whatever."

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—Reported by Jeremy Caplan and Kathleen Kingsbury/New York, Susan Jakes/Beijing, Jeffrey Ressner/Los Angeles, Grant Rosenberg/Paris and Bryan Walsh/Seoul