Sorry, That "Tonight Show" Viral Video Of The Karaoke Couple Has A Distinct Odor About It
5/13 UPDATE: In an interview today, Monifa Sims acknowledged her prior "Tonight Show" appearance, claiming that, "When it happened again, I said, 'I cannot believe it!'"
There is something fishy about that viral “Tonight Show” video starring a Los Angeles couple performing some purportedly impromptu karaoke at a Burbank gas station.
As Jay Leno tells it, Will Sims, 40, and his wife Monifa, 38, recently went to the Costco station to fill up. While there, they happened upon the filming of the program’s “Pumpcast News” bit.
The segment features actor Tim Stack portraying a news anchor who is seen on a TV screen above one of the pumps. After breaking away from his news reading, Stack engages (and jokes with) customers via a remote camera.
During the segment with the Simses, the couple sang (and danced) to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” (Will) and the Eurythmics’s “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” (Monifa) in exchange for gas money. Leno was so pleased with the feel-good bit, he had the married couple on the show last Wednesday and let them sit in with the house band.
Leno introduced Will as a bartender and Monifa as a fitness trainer, enthusing that “these people were so entertaining.” He then said, “You know, this almost seems like a plant,” before adding that staffers had no idea that the too-good-to-be-true duo were coming to the Costco station, which is less than three miles from Leno’s Burbank studio.
If the “Pumpcast News” skit was the Leno show’s attempt to create the kind of viral hit that has become the métier of the Jimmys Kimmel and Fallon, it was a grand success. The clip (seen below) has been viewed more than 7.5 million times on the “Tonight Show” page on YouTube--far exceeding any other “Leno” video--and it accounts for more than 25 percent of the program’s combined YouTube views.
Will and Monifa are both trained actors who founded a theater company in Chicago before relocating to Hollywood. Monifa, whom Chicagoist once described as a “Chicago actress of some reknown,” previously won a nationwide dramatic auditions contest by the cable network TNT.
More importantly, the “Tonight Show” never bothered to mention that Monifa appeared in a “Pumpcast News” segment broadcast more than two years ago.
In the original March 2011 segment, Sims is seen at the same Burbank gas station where she was filmed singing with her husband. In fact, Monifa conversed with Stack both times while parked at pump number 16, the area used for the “Pumpcast News” bits. On both occasions, Monifa was in the same Chrysler Pacifica (she drove during the first taping, while her husband was at the wheel during the recent shoot). Additionally, she is seen wearing identical workout pants in each segment.
When asked by Stack in the first segment (seen below) what she did for a living, Sims replied, “I am a fitness instructor.” After Sims flexed her toned arms and sprinted around the gas pump island, Stack rewarded her with free gasoline. “This is awesome,” Sims said, adding that she had picked the “right pump to take.”
Fast forward a couple of years and Sims and her spouse arrived again at the “right pump.”
After her husband finished his Bon Jovi impression, Monifa--seeming to be embarrassed--had to be coaxed out of the passenger seat to mimic Annie Lennox. With her husband adding background vocals, Monifa delivered an impressive performance, complete with several “dance breaks.”
As she shimmied, Monifa said to Stack, “Whoever you are, you can make me a star. I’m ready for my spotlight.” When Stack responded, “You’re gonna be on Jay Leno and The Tonight Show,” both Monifa and Will raised their arms in the air and squealed with surprise and happiness.
It was as if the couple, married 12 years, failed to recall that Monifa had been part of the previous “Pumpcast News” segment. Which she filmed at the same gas station. At the same pump. In the same car. Wearing the same workout garb.
In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Will said, “You never, in a million years, think you’re going to pump gas and be on the Internet, let alone ‘The Tonight Show.’” The May 10 story does not indicate whether he said this with a straight face.
For her part, Monifa (who is also known professionally as Monifa Days) told the newspaper that, “We weren’t expecting this at all. But it’s been a lot of fun. I’m happy that it’s made a lot of people laugh.” And as for the prospect that the viral clip could lead to something bigger, Monifa noted, “I hope and pray. We are in Hollywood.”
Asked why Leno made no mention of their thespian history, Will acknowledged that the show’s producers didn’t want viewers “to think we were actors and it was a ‘plant.’” Referring to Leno’s staff, he added, “They were like, ‘You’re a bartender and she’s a fitness [trainer].’”
5/13 UPDATE: In a TSG interview this afternoon, Monifa Sims contended that it was just a fluke that she appeared a second time on “Pumpcast News,” adding that, “When it happened again, I said, ‘I cannot believe it!’” Remarkably, the actress claimed that she and her husband never bothered to actually watch her first appearance on Leno’s top-rated program. “I’m not glued to my TV at night,” said Sims.
[Sims’s assertion that she had little interest in her initial appearance on the “Tonight Show”--which is watched by millions of viewers--is contradicted by a series of posts the actress made to her Facebook page. On the day the segment aired (March 31, 2011), Sims reminded friends, “Don’t forget to check me out on Jay Leno tonight! Let the laughter begin!!!” Then, before the program aired on the West Coast, she wrote, “East Coast and Mid West Peeps: Did you catch me on Jay Leno!!???” In an April 1 post Sims exclaimed, “Jay Leno was HILARIOUS!”]
Asked why no mention was made of her prior “Pumpcast News” appearance (or her and Will’s acting careers), Sims said “Tonight Show” producers “don’t want people to think that they planned this thing.” She added, “We have been honest with them the whole time.”
Sims said that it was only after she and her husband did their karaoke tunes that Will realized that this was her second time around. Sims recalled, “He asked me, ‘Is this what you did before?’”
“This really is a one-in-a-million chance,” said Sims of appearing on Leno’s show. Well, perhaps two in a million.