“The Simpsons,” “Blind Date,” “Oprah,” Carson Daly, and Yale all have one man in common — “Pop-Up Video” producer Tad Low ’88.
On Monday, Low, who produces “Pop-Up Video” and “Subway Q & A” spoke at a Saybrook Master’s Tea in front of a packed room of 45 students and alumni.
The Emmy winner began his career at Yale when he heard television producer Brandon Tartikoff present a lecture at the School of Management. A quick talk and breakfast together the next morning soon led to a promising mentorship. Upon graduation, Low worked on the show “Last Call” and as a reporter for MTV News before moving to “Pop-Up Video” in 1996.
Low’s show soon became the most viewed show on the television music video channel VH-1 and helped save the struggling network. The show features music videos with written comments that “pop up” on the screen with facts about the video and artist.
Low said he wants his show to “empower” the average person.
“This may sound a bit corny, but I want to elevate everyday people to realize their own inner celebrity,” Low said.
To do this, the show disparages rock stars and shows their foibles and vices. Artists including Mariah Carey, Madonna and Michael Jackson are exposed on the show through bubbles of text that pop up on the screen.
Low recalled Mariah Carey’s “Daydreamer” video, in which he popped up the fact that the chubby girl dancing in the video was a replacement for a cuter girl who Mariah Carey would not allow to dance because she was too cute.
Low also described his philosophy on pop stars.
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” Low said.
Low said his favorite artists to mock are Michael Jackson and Madonna. Each pop-up video requires at least one month to produce because of the research that is put into it, he said.
Known as a figure who often gets into trouble, Low described some of his numerous pranks.
At a recent awards show, he walked onstage when Carson Daly won an award for which Low had also been nominated. He then held up a sign that read, “L.A. has the highest incidence of robbery,” while simultaneously demanding that Daly hand over his trophy. He was then escorted off the stage by security. Low also went to an awards show dressed up as rock musician Slash and was mistaken for Slash by paparazzi.
Low said that the pop-up concept has been inappropriately used in other shows and commercials. He criticized the show “Blind Date,” which uses pop-up commentary on dates.
“That show is not very witty or smart,” Low said. “All the contestants are either sleazy hookers or actresses, and you have southern Californians trying to make fun of other southern Californians. But those guys have been able to make a lot of money.”
Low was upset when Viacom, which owns VH-1, sold the rights of Pop-Up Video to Bell Atlantic for a commercial. He was disappointed that the idea went for only $15,000.
Audience members said they were highly entertained by Low’s humor and video clips of his work.
“[Low] provided a really interesting perspective on pop culture,” Jenny Meyer ’03 said. “He is almost like an anti-celebrity.”