Long Island ‘internet genius’ hits gold with viral mashup videos

Did you see the episode of “Barney” where the purple dinosaur performs Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa”?

It may not have aired on TV, but it played out in Adam Schleichkorn’s mind and on his YouTube channel for hundreds of thousands of viewers as part of his library of viral hits.

The East Northport resident has built a reputation as a mashup video hitmaker, with half a dozen videos surpassing 1 million views on YouTube in the past two years alone.

This year, he won his first Webby — a well-known award for internet content — for his mashup of the Adult Swim show “Rick and Morty” and rapper Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 song “Swimming Pools (Drank).”

Mashups, especially popular among younger internet users, combine a variety of video and sound clips from different sources into a single video.

“There are companies that turn out viral pieces, but not at this rate and certainly not by themselves,” said Patrick Aievoli, Schleichkorn’s mentor and an LIU Post professor in the design and digital technologies department.

He’s a bit of an anomaly.
– LIU Post professor Patrick Aievoli on Schleichkorn’s success

Schleichkorn, 35, combs through clips from cartoons, largely children’s staples like “Doug,” “The Muppets” and “Sesame Street,” and sets them mainly to ’90s hip-hop under the moniker IsThisHowYouGoViral, also known as Mylo the Cat to fans.

His work has earned him appearances on the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and national media attention. And his latest YouTube hit, which uses “Sesame Street” clips to recreate the music video for the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” has landed him in the spotlight again.

Schleichkorn spent about a week putting the video together with scenes from the 1985 Sesame Street film “Follow That Bird.”

“I’ll get myself a little worked up thinking I have a hit on my hands,” he said. “This one, I could tell it was going to [be popular]. After the first 12 hours it had 50,000 views.”

The video went live July 5, and within two days it had climbed into the top 50 trending videos on YouTube. As of July 15, it had more than 1 million views.

In response to the video, Rolling Stone magazine declared Schleichkorn a “viral master,” while People magazine dubbed him an “internet genius.”

But for Schleichkorn, a video editor and producer by day for a small Long Island marketing and advertising company, the hit is just another addition to his resume. He has been turning out viral videos for more than a decade, drawing inspiration from the music and cartoons he enjoyed while growing up in Huntington.

“In high school, we’d watch Cartoon Network and play rap music and [time the music to] make the voices match up,” said Dan Taft, 36, a Los Angeles writer who grew up with Schleichkorn.

Schleichkorn finally began to explore video editing in college while attending the University at Albany, when a friend got a camera as a gift.

I didn’t think about any of my classes, I just started making these little videos.
– Adam Schleichkorn

After graduation, he and Taft moved to Fort Lauderdale and began writing and filming comedy sketches. Schleichkorn put them on DVDs, the only way he could share them with friends in the early 2000s.

When YouTube started in 2005, Schleichkorn was drawn to the platform, even as others dismissed it as a repository for “cat videos,” Aievoli said.

“Adam understood this was going to be a platform to be dealt with later on,” he said.

Then in 2006, a 25-year-old Schleichkorn, then an interactive media graduate student at LIU Post, got his first taste of viral fame. In an homage to the MTV show “Jackass,” he had dared a friend to charge and knock down his cousin’s hurricane-damaged fence in Florida.

The resulting YouTube video received more than 100,000 views and spawned an early internet meme called “fence plowing.” Copycat videos followed and at least five teens on Long Island were arrested for destroying fences they didn’t own.

Days into his second semester of graduate school, Schleichkorn was inundated with interview requests from media outlets ranging from Newsday to Fox News.

“That was the first video that put me out there,” Schleichkorn said. “And then I was on this mission all those years ago because I don’t want to be known as the fence plowing guy.”

He cycled through several video genres with some success, until he discovered the magic combination of cartoons and ’90s music about three years ago with a Muppets clip, just like in high school. The video took off.

Since then, the popularity of Schleichkorn’s work has “taken on a mind of its own,” he said.

One hallmark of his work is meticulous editing — Schleichkorn spends hours tying together clips so characters like Nickelodeon’s Doug Funnie can appear to lip-sync Fetty Wap’s 2015 hit song “Trap Queen,” as he did for New York Magazine.

“It’s all my free time over the course of a week once I decide to make one,” he said.

That hard work pays off. One of Schleichkorn’s most popular videos, a March 2016 post with “Sesame Street” characters lip-syncing Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s 1995 hit “Tha Crossroads,” has 4.3 million views.

Despite his success, Schleichkorn remains humble. He thought his Webby win may have been a mistake, and he still gets a rush when a video goes viral, he said.

He has now started to work with larger media companies on the side, creating shorts for New York Magazine and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

“I made this channel really just to put out cool stuff, and that’s what took me to the next level as a creator,” Schleichkorn said. “All the time and hard work I put in all these years, something just clicked.”