Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Wow. I am so proud of my alma mater right now that I am literally bursting with pride, or perhaps my gut has just gotten so big that it’s making the rivet of my jeans rip away from the denim. Either way, I am swollen with something. I’m going to say it’s pride.

You see, I went to a very small school called Colorado College, and it’s not often that we Tigers have something newsworthy to hang our hats on. We gave the world the recently deceased Steve Sabol, head of NFL Films, and a classmate and friend of mine won an Oscar last year for best documentary short, but that’s sort of it for our famous alumni.

As far as sports go, our women’s soccer and men’s ice hockey teams are occasionally ranked among the nation’s best, but announcers almost always mistake them for teams from the University of Colorado anyway. And academically, I’m told, we’re in the upper echelon, but somehow none of it seemed to rub off on me.

Last week, however, Colorado College made national headlines after a video shot by members of the school’s ultimate Frisbee club triggered a Federal Aviation Administration investigation. And what was so controversial about the video that it drew the FAA’s ire, you ask? Why only the “Harlem Shake,” the ubiquitous, idiotic dance craze that everyone and their cousin seems to have made a video of.

If you’re not familiar with the “Harlem Shake,” consider yourself lucky or impressively unaware of pop-culture trends. The dance is based around a song by a DJ named Baauer, and it goes something like this: One person, usually someone wearing a helmet, gets up and dances alone for about 15 seconds, and then, when the bass track of the song kicks in, a bunch of people get up and join him or her.

I know, I know: It sounds stupid, and it is, but you know how it is with those wacky kids these days.

So anyway, some Colorado College students decided to make a “Harlem Shake” video on a Frontier Airlines flight. They asked the flight attendants for permission, waited until the seatbelt sign was turned off and then managed to get just about everyone on the plane to join in. In the video, it actually looks like everyone is having fun, which might explain why the FAA got so incensed about it.

As of this writing, the video has been viewed on YouTube 4,674,971 times, and other “Harlem Shake” videos probably have been seen by billions of people, but I have to admit that until my wife brought the Colorado College video to my attention, I had no idea what the “Harlem Shake” was. I’d heard of it, but I assumed it had something to do with “Harlem Shuffle,” which is, by far, the greatest song ever recorded by the Rolling Stones.

Now, normally, I would be the first to pooh-pooh a silly trend like the “Harlem Shake” the way I’ve poo-pooed other ridiculous things like “Gangnam Style,” the macarena and dancing in general. But the “Harlem Shake” is different because it’s apparently sending shock waves through the Middle East, which is something I will always be in favor of.

A recent report by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria detailed how, in Tunisia and Egypt, the dance and its accompanying videos are “causing leaders to tremble as it becomes a potent symbol of protest, revolt and defiance.” If Zakaria is to be believed, the “Harlem Shake,” of all things, is picking up where the Arab Spring left off and empowering the youth of the Arab world to fight for their right to party. It’s a little like “Footloose” that way.

Alas, just when it seemed the “Harlem Shake” movement was gaining momentum and making the world a better place, the powers that be have put the kibosh on it.

Just a few days ago, another “Harlem Shake” video surfaced, only this one was put out by the re-election team of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is just about the unhippest person on the face of the Earth. If you’re unfamiliar with McConnell, consider yourself lucky and better off for having never seen what he looks like.

Unfortunately, once an old, white stiff like McConnell gets on board, anything that was once cool is effectively dead and buried, meaning Arab kids will have to figure out some other form of protest, and my alma mater will have to do something else stupid to get noticed again.

Todd Hartley invented the “Harlem Jiggle,” which he does whenever his midsection moves. To read more or leave a comment, visit