Will Smith turned 50 yesterday. If there is anyone who could steal Lainey’s birthday thunder, it’s Will Smith. Will’s birthday was a production. It was a livestreamed event. At 6pm eastern standard time yesterday, Will Smith had millions of people around the world watching him “heli-bungee” jump (yes, out of a helicopter) for his birthday. As of post time, the video now has over 4.8 million views.
Not only did Will JUMP OUT OF A HELICOPTER live on YouTube, he had Alfonso Ribeiro hosting the jump. The whole family – Willow, Jaden, Jada, Trey and his ex-wife Sheree—was there. He had a doctor, Dr. Ala Stanford, on hand to give him medical clearance. He jumped from a site near the Grand Canyon so he had a Navajo Medicine Man named Jason Bitsuie bless him before the jump. Will did THE MOST. Will made sure the world knew he was mentally, spiritually and physically prepared for his jump. He was spewing impassioned platitudes about fear before and after the jump. Will Smith turned his 50th birthday into the most elaborate segment of his YouTube channel. It was better produced than an episode of Fear Factor. It was a culmination of all the work he’s been showing on Instagram and through his social media skills over the last year. Will Smith just solidified his spot on top of the celeb social media power rankings. And in doing so, he may have effectively ushered in a new era of celebrity YouTube events.
Here’s what Questlove (my go-to for Will Smith commentary) tweeted after #WillSmithTheJump:
This #WillSmithTheJump is a MAJOR MAJOR tipping point moment for social media. This proves networks aren’t needed anymore— Livin My ?uest life (@questlove) September 25, 2018
Will’s birthday stunt does feel like something that would have traditionally happened on The Ellen DeGeneres Show or The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. A celeb would have approached Ellen or Jimmy to do this stunt and it would have been a nice, packaged piece that aired in the middle of an interview segment on a couch. Instead, Will responded to a dare from popular YouTubers Yes Theory not by going to Ellen or Jimmy, but by turning it into live content for YouTube. Like Questlove said, the networks have been rendered unnecessary. I work for a television network. I still love network television but there is something to be said about how celebrity content is shifting away from the traditional models. Will Smith hasn’t been this beloved since his Fresh Prince/Independence Day/Men In Black heyday. He’s creating a whole new lane for his brand by producing content online. It’s really f-cking exciting to watch.
I’ve written before that Will Smith’s Instagram account is the light of my IG timeline. His YouTube page is an extension of the work he’s been showing on IG. He’s leaning into Dad jokes and the self-help quotes. He’s taken that over-the-top EXTRA that has made Will a punchline over the past few years and turned it into incredible content. He’s also shown us an authentic side of the Smith family. A few years ago, this family was only making headlines for their wacky and weird (and wonderful) interviews and their alleged ties to Scientology. Now, we’re watching in real time the dynamics of an affectionate black family – a family who jokingly rips on each other with loving parents and kids who are mortified by them. It’s relatable. It’s specific. It’s highly entertaining. It’s EVERYTHING. Will Smith did that. I’m obsessed.
I’m also obsessed with all the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Trevor jokes that Will’s jump inspired.
And the HILARIOUS tribute video Jada put together for Will after the jump.
This is the best content on the Internet right now. Hands down. Don’t @ me. If Will Smith can jump out of a helicopter live on YouTube, we can do anything. The world is going to be OK. Will Smith is the YouTube star we need. A 50-year-old man is killing it as a content creator in a medium dominated by young adults. What’s more inspiring than that?
Please relive #WillSmithTheJump in its entirety below. It will make your whole damn week.