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READING for October 8, 2010

  • Merton and Ben Folds Are Different People, Here’s Proof [VIDEO]

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    Mystery solved. Everyone back to work...

    About six months ago a mystery man known only as Merton burst onto the scene, garnering acclaim and attention for creating improvised songs on his piano by surfing Chatroulette.

    In addition to the viral buzz, Merton also attracted the public’s interest because, well, he looks a hell of a lot like musician Ben Folds — they have the same black framed glasses and rather similar facial structures. Due to rumors that Folds was in fact Merton (which the latter denied in an interview with Mashable), the musician created a couple of “Odes to Merton” on YouTube, plugging into Chatroulette during concerts and singing before a packed house and the Internet at large.

    Determined to discover whether or not the two were the same dude, we interviewed Folds about the whole deal. After talking with both of them on Skype, I was pretty convinced that they were different people. Still, there are a ton of folks out there who would beg to differ.

    Well, sorry guys — Folds e-mailed me this weekend to inform me that he had met Merton in person, at which time they created the above vid. So unless they’re using some kind of fancy green screen tech, it’s safe to say that we can put this story to bed.

    Merton also shot me an e-mail after showing me the vid, which I’m posting below. If you’re not down to read the entire thing (short attention spans are an epidemic, huh?), I can tell you this: He doesn’t plan to ever reveal his identity. Although I’m sure the truth will out someday — probably like some 30 years later, Deep Throat-style, but still…

    Merton Speaks

    “I live in Colorado and Ben performed in Denver [Saturday] night, so I contacted him and said I’d love to meet in-person if the opportunity arose. I went to the show (which was great: Ben + piano + full symphony orchestra!) and afterwards we met up with a plan to take a couple of photos together, which turned into a video together, in order to explain our biological differentiation.

    I don’t plan to ever reveal my identity. I’m sure it will emerge somehow, sometime, and I’m fine with that. But even after I’m revealed I will probably only appear as Merton, because that’s been a very comfortable way for me to perform and to keep my public and private lives separated. I’ll maybe be like Borat — where people know who the real guy is, but they mostly just see Borat and regard him as being almost a real person in and of himself. Especially because Merton is not really a “character,” but just me wearing a disguise. Merton’s personality is my personality.

    Back when you interviewed me I was not yet sure if I would ever leave my little webcam box and appear live, but I’ve spent the summer doing live performances and that’s the direction in which I’m heading now. Chatroulette is an interesting technological gimmick and it helped to establish me in the public awareness, but really it was just a medium through which to do my basic guy-makes-up-songs-on-the-piano routine, which is something I can do anywhere in the world. So my newest video is the first in a series of Street Piano videos, and the reception has been incredibly positive.

    It may not have the same level of widespread public awareness because it doesn’t involve a flavor-of-the month tech trend, but if you read a couple pages of comments you’ll see that people are overwhelmingly positive about the transition and the Rating for the video is currently even higher than my first video, which was the highest rated video of all time on YouTube.”

    The Proof

    More About: ben folds, chatroulette, humor, merton, music, pop culture, viral video

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