How a Comedian Tricked L.A. Into Thinking He Won an Oscar (And Got Lots of Free Stuff)

·Writer

Mark David Christenson has never directed, produced, or starred in a major studio movie. Nor has he ever been nominated for a big film award. But for one night last month, the 31-year-old Utah native was an Oscar winner.

Christenson, a Los Angeles-based comedian and writer, teamed up with the YouTube channel New Media Rockstars last month to pull off a stunt that both satirized and celebrated Hollywood’s obsession with awards and celebrity. On Feb. 22, while the 87th annual Academy Awards ceremony was still in progress, he donned a tuxedo, grabbed a camera crew, and traipsed around L.A. with a fake Oscar statue, telling people he was one of the night’s big winners.

As you can see in the above clip, Christenson celebrated his “win” with ecstatic revelers at bars, movie theaters, and street corners — and eventually talked his way to bar at the show’s actual venue, as well as a VIP after-party. He also received lots of free stuff from well-wishers, including gatorade, condoms, Mexican food and plenty of shots of whiskey. And, perhaps most amazingly, he convinced a valet to give him a car without any sort of ID, based on the notion that an Oscar-winner would never lie.

Christenson told Yahoo Movies there was no big agenda behind the video — it wasn’t intended as a cynical take-down of showbiz values — and that the stunt was New Media Rockstars’ idea. He went along for the ride, and the bit turned out remarkably well, with no one challenging his identity, or the validity of the fake statue, which he’d ordered on the internet. Still, there was one close call at a VIP post-Oscars bash at the Roosevelt Hotel, where he and his crew initially walked in without troubles.

"There was one white-mustached gentleman — [whom] I do believe was officially with the Oscars — that took a very long and close look at my statue while I was being swarmed by admirers," Christenson said. "When we met eyes, I could tell he knew it wasn’t legit. I winked at the gentleman [in a way] that said, ‘You know what I am doing.’ He simply laughed [and] made no attempt to stop the charade, and I continued to take selfies with several people."

Still, most people fell for the ruse, with one woman even giving Christenson her phone number. One of the reasons Christenson had everyone fooled is that he never claimed to be a celebrity or major producer, and he told his sudden admirers that he’d won for categories such as editing (for Whiplash) and costume design (for The Grand Budapest Hotel) — just the sort of early-show trophies that are given to people few people recognize, and whose acceptance speeches are often used for bathroom breaks. It also helps, of course, that Christenson is an anonymous-looking white guy in a year in which nearly all of the Oscar winners (and most all of the nominees) were, well, anonymous-looking white guys. 

Still, if there’s one takeaway to be had from the video, it’s that people simply get excited by the sight of a statue — even if they have no idea who’s holding it. And when they get that amped up, it’s easy to fool them. “The most far-fetched [claim] was [that I’d won] Best Original Song for Selma,” he says. ”I am far from being Common or John Legend.”

Christenson called the experience one of the best nights of his life, even if it was all a gag.

"The reaction from others was never depressing," he said. "The entire night was a fun barrage of positivity from strangers. It was eye-opening, though, that celebrities can quickly lose privacy in a public arena, even if it is well-intended and through praise." 

Now, maybe people will stop him on the street because they recognize him from his night pretending to be a celebrity.