Anatomy of a Viral Video: Who’s Behind the Nicholson – Clinton Ad?


Last Friday evening, a video endorsement of Hillary Clinton by Jack Nicholson entitled Jack and Hill was posted to YouTube, and quickly went viral. As of this posting, the video has been viewed over 1,151,000 times.

What you probably don’t know is that the video was conceived and created by two gay filmmakers, screenwriter/director John Krokidas and producer Bruce Cohen (American Beauty, Pushing Daisies, and the currently in production Harvey Milk biopic Milk).

Krokidas_cohenKrokidas agreed to answer some questions for me about how “Jack and Hill came about.

How was the video conceived?

Bruce has been a passionate Hillary supporter for years. And when Bruce heard that Jack Nicholson voiced his support for Hillary Clinton on the radio, an idea struck him – to take memorable film clips from arguably the most iconic film actor working today and intercut them with text reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s campaign’s messages. The kicker: we would have to get Jack Nicholson to sign on and let us shoot him for one final shot at the end of the piece.

While a presidential candidate usually ends their political ad by saying, “I am (insert name here) and I approve this message,” we would have Jack Nicholson ending our piece with his own version of the line. So, knowing that I was a Hillary supporter as well, Bruce called me at 4pm, telling me he had a great idea. And he did. I had the script done by midnight.

Was Jack Nicholson involved in its creation? What kind of input did he have?

Bruce asked his good friend Chad Griffin, who is Rob Reiner’s political consultant to read the script and show it to Rob, and thankfully, they both loved it. So Bruce and I spent an afternoon cutting the piece together, then showed it to Rob, who had some great notes, then Rob got it to Jack and Jack agreed to participate. All we needed was the final shot in which Jack addresses the camera. So, I suddenly found myself driving up to Jack Nicholson’s beautiful mountainside house with just a video camera and a crew of two friends, getting a chance to direct one of Hollywood’s greatest legends (even if it were just for one line). As we left, he told us to “keep up the good work.” It was inspiring and refreshing to see how committed and passionate Jack is to his political beliefs.

What has the overall response been like and some of the crazier comments you’ve received on YouTube?

The response has been overwhelming. We posted it on YouTube on Friday Night, and by Saturday, the piece was aired on CNN, Fox News, ABC Nightly News, MSNBC and shown on the websites for the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Bruce and I looked at our YouTube page at the end of the night to see that we had over 720,000 hits and were the #1 most watched video that day. It’s unbelievable to me how fast news items spread due to the virtual nature of the medium now. And amazing that you can reach so many people that quickly.

I was initially worried that when we put out this piece that we would just be preaching to the converted – that only Hillary supporters would enjoy it. But some of the best compliments we have gotten have been from Obama supporters. Like Daily Kos writer “blueintheface” who admits that he “can be accused of being anti-Hillary Clinton.” But that her people “finally (in his opinion) have a video that can bring people together….Well done.” That was a shock.

I have seen various responses to the video on the web, some of which have been fairly negative. Perez Hilton called the video a little bit creepy. Andrew Sullivan posted a comment from a reader who remarked that it was “awesome” that the Clinton campaign was being endorsed by three characters who are psychopaths. How do you respond to those who might twist it into a negative thing?

Lighten up. While the piece does profess real reasons we believe Hillary to be the stronger Democratic candidate for president, it is also a satire of your typical politics-as-usual campaign endorsement ad. We have Jack Nicholson, the iconic bad-boy of Hollywood, standing up and voicing his support for a presidential candidate. How can you not make a spot with him that doesn’t reflect all of his devilish charm and wit?

Bruce and I wanted to interject some levity, some charm, and some fun to what has been a long and often difficult campaign for all the candidates involved. I think the response that we got has shown that we were not the only ones who felt the same way. CNN just picked us as one of the top five political advertisements over this entire presidential campaign. My mother is very proud right now.

John Krokidas is a Hollywood screenwriter by day/indie filmmaker by night and has written scripts for Miramax and Universal Studios. Right now, he is securing financing for SLO-MO, his feature directorial debut – it’s based on a short he did which premiered at Sundance, then sold to HBO.

Says Krokidas: “It’s a comedy about trying to keep up with the speed of our ever-quickening world and failing miserably. Michael Stipe and his producing partner Sandy Stern are producing SLO-MO under their producing shingle Single Cell Pictures, (Being John Malkovich and Saved!). We have our cast and are approaching complete financing. Expect it at your local art-house in 2009.”


  1. Iko says

    Was there anything in that clip that wasn’t equally true of Obama? The “experience” bit doesn’t hold water, so I’m left wondering what is its value aside from simple entertainment? I like Jack Nicholson as an actor, but why should I give a fuck about his opinion in politics?

  2. Jack says

    So sick of the self-loathing gays who think that they need the Clintons to keep kicking us under the bus. Hillary does not now, and has never cared about Gay Lesbian issues.
    Obama is the only politician going out so far on the limb for gay rights as civil rights. He is the only politician pointing out that mainstream Christians are wrong in discriminating against Gay and Lesbian Americans.
    You will never see a Clinton do that. They have no morals and no honor.

  3. peterparker says

    I voted for Hillary Clinton in the CA primaries, but I have to say I am underwhelmed by this clip. Of course, I *hate* Jack Nicholson, so that may be part of the problem for me.

  4. Derrick from Philly says


    He’s been a top movie star (& top box office draw) for almost 40 years. That’s quite an accomplishment. Now, he’s never been pretty to look at, but still a great movie star. Everybody can’t look like Paul Newman or Belafonte…wish they could–the men, I mean.

  5. AJ says

    Revealing guest article at this morning by Eric Resnick, reporter for the Gay People’s Chronicle, about the background of the interview Sen. Clinton gay
    the Ohio paper last week:

    “Initially, both campaigns were thrilled to be asked for interviews. I didn’t want to sell out too cheaply, so I set the rules:

    1.No surrogates. I can talk to surrogates any time.
    2.Live interviews only. No written statements or written questions. The Chronicle has policies against publishing anyone’s equivalent to an infomercial, and written questions would be researched and answered by communications staff. Even if the candidate approved the final version, it is not really their response.
    3.Although it is extremely rare that I tell a potential interviewee what I want to talk about in advance, I didn’t want the candidates to be able to avoid answering questions about the day-old New Jersey report [about civil unions] by saying, “I’m not familiar with that.” I told both campaigns to make sure the candidates were ready to discuss it.

    That was Wednesday. On Thursday, the Obama campaign offered an open letter in lieu of an interview. I told them no. I can’t ask a letter questions. Then they suggested written questions, even though I told them earlier that wouldn’t be acceptable. Again, I told them no.

    By Friday, about the time it would take for them to figure out the New Jersey report contradicts their candidate, the Obama campaign stopped returning my calls. When I was lucky enough to reach press staff, they were very quick to tell me they didn’t think they could work an interview into the candidate’s schedule. My editor says we couldn’t speculate in the article as to why the Obama campaign got cold, but reasonable people can come to reasonable conclusions.

    This is a good time to be clear. I am not in either candidate’s camp. I supported and voted for Dennis Kucinich. I was elected the Kucinich convention delegate in the 16th Congressional District of Ohio. With Kucinich out of the race, my only dog in the fight is that the LGBT community has the best information with which to make the best choices. …

    [Regarding Obama’s response to Farrakhan’s support] There are some differences, of course. Farrakhan’s support was not solicited by the campaign. McClurkin’s was. It was the hope that the anti-gay McClurkin could solidify conservative black Christian support in southern states.

    Obama has explained and minimized the decision to seek McClurkin’s support in an open letter and in an Advocate interview, but has never ‘denounced’ nor ‘rejected’ him. Had Obama used the same rationale to explain Farrakhan, the Jewish community would have been irate. That’s the other difference.

    It is also apparent that Obama sees his obligation to the LGBT community as fulfilled since his Martin Luther King Day speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church….

    Asking the campaign to explain the difference between McClurkin and Farrakhan is a fair question. The Obama campaign, however, treated the question with indignation, claimed that the reporter mischaracterized events, and erroneously claimed that “Senator Obama spoke out against the hateful views of both Donnie McClurkin and Louis Farrakhan.”

    Obama spokespeople pivot to the MLK Day speech as though it settles every debt to the LGBT community, past and future.

    In my 12 years as a reporter, I have never experienced anything quite like Obama’s national communication director Robert Gibbs, either. I wasn’t biting on the crap he tried to feed me, and he got offended. When I stood there not writing any of it down, Gibbs said to me, “Let me tell you how this works. I talk and you write down what I say.”

    “I’ll write down what you say when you answer the question,” I responded, adding that “I’m no campaign’s stenographer.”
    Gibbs actually took the pen and pad out of my hands and wrote his own answer!

    He also asked for the Donnie McClurkin letter to be e-mailed to him, claiming he didn’t remember what it said. It was. He didn’t comment further. …

    Both campaigns knew that talking to me wasn’t going to be like the made for Saturday Night Live performance of Melissa Etheridge on the Logo forum. (This is not an insult to Etheridge. I can’t sing. We should all do what we’re good at.)

    Nonetheless, it was Hillary Clinton, with her much longer record of talking to our community, who stepped up to the guillotine, and Obama who refused.”

  6. says

    Thank you for pointing that out, AJ.

    Once again, the Obama campaign is all speeches and letters, and the Clinton campaign actually sits down and answers questions. You may not like the answers, but at least they’re being addressed.

    This is the second story I’ve read today about the Obama’s communications people trying to work over the press ( and a story on Obama and Catholics). Don’t they realize that this will bite them in the butt eventually? Ahhh, arrogance…it all comes crashing down eventually, and hopefully, it is not to the detriment (or President McCain) of us all.

  7. peterparker says

    @DERRICK IN PHILLY: It doesn’t matter to me that Jack Nicholson has been at the top of the Hollywood fame game for 40 years. Nor do I care, really, that he isn’t much of a looker. My problem with Nicholson is that I find him weaselly and arrogant. Several years ago, he got pissed off with someone in traffic and decided to hop out of his car and bash the other person’s car with a golf club (this is no rumor…it was reported in major newspapers). Jack Nicholson seems to represent all the worst of what it means to be a straight man. I don’t like him. Never will.

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