Sunday night, HuffPost Comedy was the first to notice an instant classic Twitter exchange between comedian Kyle Kinane and @Pace_Foods, which claimed to be the official Twitter presence for Pace Picante salsa. The interaction lasted hours and appeared to be a wildly entertaining story that involved free salsa, hacked accounts, botched customer service and even a terminated employee.
And the whole thing turned out to be a hoax.
On Monday afternoon, Kinane revealed that he had been the victim of a prank at the hands of fellow comedian Randy Liedtke, whose Tumblr bio describes him as "a stand up comic/cook at a gay bar/tall red head living in Los Angeles, originally from the beautiful state of Oregon."
Monday night, HuffPost Comedy chatted with Randy about how this prank came about.
HuffPost Comedy: Describe how the prank started.
Randy Liedtke: In August, I had this idea to create a couple Twitter accounts for companies that didn't have Twitter accounts, and then establish them as sort of real. I was surprised that there were lots of Twitter accounts for companies that were real that weren't verified and had very few followers. Because why would you want to follow a company unless it was offering free stuff?
I didn't have any devious plan. I wondered how fast it would get taken down. I didn't tweet anything bad for the company -- I had the account for four months, and every once in a while, I would retweet people who said positive things about Pace Picante. Mainly, I thought it would be funny if someone in an office was like, "Who's running our Twitter account? I have a question for them. Oh, it's a guy who doesn't work for us? We're going to politely have to ask him to stop." [laughs]
So yesterday morning I woke up and was like, crap, I haven't done anything with that Twitter account in forever. I'll just log on and retweet a few things. I was in bed. I searched Pace Picante on Twitter, and Kyle's tweets were up there from a really long time ago. I saw that his tweets were negative, so I thought I'd favorite them and see how Kyle reacts. I thought that would be funny: A company favoriting a negative tweet.
Not thinking anything of it, I favorited them. And then he posted it. And then I acted like something was wrong with the Twitter account. So I started favoriting anyone who retweeted his tweet, anyone who commented on it or anyone who favorited his tweet. Like an aggressive malfunction.
I didn't create this Twitter account to go after Kyle. Kyle's one of my favorite people. He's one of my favorite comics, and we're friends. He's not thrilled with me right now, but we're still friends. If it was someone I didn't like or didn't respect, or thought would hate me forever, I wouldn't have even touched it. It was this small thing, and literally every step that happened, I just kept coming up with new ideas. I kept doing it to the extreme. Then I was like, what's the next step?
I always thought the concept of a company direct messaging a person is so funny. I thought it would be funny for a company to be like, "Hey, what's up?" and that's it. Not misrepresenting the company, but just to make people wonder, "Who's running this Twitter and why are they saying hi to me?"
Originally it was my plan to give Kyle free salsa, but Kyle beat me to that. He wanted free salsa. So I was like, "Ooh, I'll play hardball." I thought the end of it would be, I was going to get him some salsa. I was laughing so hard at the idea of him walking outside the door and seeing a big pile of salsa. He would be like, who brought me this salsa? How did they know where I live? That would be the end of it.
I looked into grocery store delivery services, and I did have a bunch of salsa delivered to his house from a local grocery store that delivers. And he called me and said, "Hey, they need to see your credit card." I thought, aw, crap. He knows it's me the whole time. But then he said, "The crazy thing is, I'm also going to get some salsa from Pace." At first I thought I was busted, but it made sense that he didn't know it was me. Why would he have assumed I made that Twitter account three or four months ago? He thinks I'm just a guy capitalizing on this by doing a different prank.
I thought it was done, and that maybe I'd hold onto it for another day or so.
After two more hours of not communicating with Kyle, he sent Pace a few more messages saying, "So, you're not going to talk to me anymore?" I told him, "We were told not to communicate with you anymore. We're not getting anywhere with you. Have a good holiday season, if you do celebrate anything this time of year besides your own attempt at cleverness and wit." This was Miles. And Kyle was being really polite saying, "Nothing negative has happened from this. You guys are coming out on top." And that was when Miles was like, "You're creating an outpouring of negativity." Miles had had it, and Sharon stepped in. After that I was like, this is too good! I've created these characters! It went from favoriting tweets on this fake Twitter I made for no reason, and now I had this story to tell. I was laughing at these characters in this way someone else would, like, "I can't believe these people are doing this!" It was for the audience, it wasn't to shame Kyle in any way. I told Kyle [Sunday night] that it was me.
HPC: How did you feel when the media picked it up?
RL: I didn't think that would happen. But every one of his tweet has three, four, five hundred favorites, and people started to really like it. If that was anybody's plan, it would have been hard to do. I was taking my time. I was taking hour-long breaks. It was just a perfect weird storm of stuff happening, after the other thing that happened with Twitter the other day.
It wasn't a prank attempt, it just happened. That's just how I am. I love sending texts to people and pretending like I meant to send it to someone else. I want to force people to socially think about certain things. Even if they're positive. One time I bumped into [comedian] Pete Holmes on the street, and I sent him a text that said, "I just bumped into Pete Holmes! That guy is such a delight." Then I texted him saying, "That was for someone else." I forced him to think about it all day.
HPC: Have you heard from Pace?
RL: No. This morning, I was feeling bad. It's like... it's a pure high in life, when you're a little kid and something is so funny. But then you have the low of, I hope my friend isn't mad at me. How can I explain that I created this Twitter forever ago and not have him think I'm a jerk? Then I realized I could get in trouble for that. I did things that Pace probably wouldn't do, but I never intentionally drug their name through the mud. And I wanted to end the story on a good, positive note, so they would like how it was handled. Pace hasn't said anything to me. I was at work all day. My boss would give me a dirty look every time I looked at my phone. I think they have a right to not like what I did, both Kyle and Pace. And I openly love Kyle and I openly love Pace Picante.
If anything's to come out of this, and I don't say this in a braggart way, but people talked about Pace, and in the end people were happy with Pace. People were like, this was the craziest viral marketing! And I thought, what? If people tried to attempt what I did, or if I was hired to create a lot of positive buzz by doing some negative things for a while, I would have a panic attack.
People seemed to like it. Even after they knew it was fake, people were happy with the exchange. And how Kyle doesn't look like a jerk. He looks like a hero in all this.
Randy Liedtke co-hosts "The Bone Zone" podcast with fellow comedian Brendon Walsh, who Randy was adament had no association with this prank. He wanted us to mention that they regularly use the music of The Toilet Bowl Cleaners, so there's that. We also highly recommend checking out Kyle Kinane's excellent stand-up comedy album, "Whiskey Icarus."