In the five days since the segment premiered on The Tonight Show, a “Pumpcast News” clip of a married couple enticed into randomly rocking out at a gas station has earned more than eight million hits on YouTube.
The talent and flair for entertaining that was demonstrated by the couple — Will and Monifa Sims — almost seemed too good to be true. But, both the Sims and producers of The Tonight Show claimed it was truly a serendipitous finding. The Sims just so happened to be fueling up at the gas station when a newscaster came on the TV, spoke directly to them and convinced them sing some karaoke in exchange for gas money. Then, both Will and Monifa Sims just so happened to be world-class performers.
They were so good, in fact, that Jay Leno and The Tonight Show invited them to perform with the band on set.
You know, just an everyday occurrence.
“I wouldn’t have looked like that,” Monifa claimed when Jay Leno asked her if they were planted. “That wasn’t my best look after working out.”
But, as if often the case with something that seems too good to be true, the situation was not what it appeared to be. As Chicago Sun-Times revealed, Will is not just a bartender and Monifa isn’t just a fitness instructor.
“They’re also professional thespians — founding members of Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre company. In fact, Monifa won a national dramatic acting contest in 2005, shortly before she and Will moved west.”
The Tonight Show was also in on the plot. Will explained he and his wife were instructed to omit their real occupations.
“[The producers] didn’t want [people] to think we were actors and it was a ‘plant,’” Will told Chicago Sun-Times. “They were like, ‘You’re a bartender and she’s a fitness [trainer].’”
Still, even after owning up to his real resume, Will claimed the couple was still shocked to appear on national television.
“You never, in a million years, think you’re going to pump gas and be on the Internet, let alone The Tonight Show.”
That little details about their real jobs certainly seem worth mentioning, but are forgivable. The real kicker is this wasn’t Monifa’s first time pulling up to the magic pump. As The Smoking Gun discovered, she participated in another “Pumpcast News” segment in March 2011.
“In fact, Monifa conversed with Stack both times while parked at pump number 16, the area used for the ‘Pumpcast News’ bits,” reported The Smoking Gun.
After The Smoking Gun published the exposé and a video of her first performance, Monifa confessed.
“When it happened again, I said, ‘I cannot believe it,’” Monifa said. “This really is a one-in-a-million chance.”
Still, neither she nor her husband have revealed the depth of The Tonight Show producers’ knowledge.
If, like me, you’re feeling duped, don’t blame Will and Monifa. If you were an aspiring performer, wouldn’t you say “YES!” to any scheme The Tonight Show cooked up? Monifa herself said she hopes and prays the exposure will lead to a big break in Hollywood.
Whether that means they went out of their way to “cast” her and her husband again isn’t clear. To be sure, The Tonight Show producers knew that Monifa had participated before.
Do you think it was really an elaborate scheme or just a double dose of good luck?