About Rick Rolling the Oregon Legislature

Holly Baily has the backstory about how then-freshman Oregon House member Jefferson Smith convinced his colleagues to make this awesome video.

But Smith–who developed the concept with his wife, a few colleagues and several friends, one of whom is video editor–had a few rules about the joke. The lines had to be delivered on the House floor during a lawmaker’s regular floor speech–which is, under Oregon law, videotaped for public records purposes. And the lines of the lyrics had to be spread out, so as not to tip off the state House clerk or other observers to what lawmakers were up to.

“It was way harder taking words and spreading them out than simply manipulating them (on video),” Smith says. “There are some easy lines in there to say without getting noticed. ‘You’re never gonna’ is easy. ‘I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling’ is easy. But an ‘ooh?’ That’s tricky.”

Smith wrote the lyrics down and spread them out piecemeal among his colleagues–with the Portland lawmaker himself taking on some of the more difficult lines that others didn’t want to do, including “never gonna say good-bye” and “hurt you.”

In the end, he says, only one fellow legislator–who he won’t identify–“chickened out,” while another lawmaker was filmed saying the Astley lyrics “unwittingly.” The elaborate operation was carried out during a special session of the Oregon legislature in February 2010, when each lawmaker was allotted time to speak on the House floor.

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