Money - Business
By: - at May 26, 2013

15 Projects That Started as a Joke and Ended Up Successfully

david ogilvyTwentieth century advertising executive David Ogilvy was once quoted as saying that the very best ideas will initially come as jokes, so he taught others that the key to success was simply to make their thinking as funny as possible. This basic principle has been proven true in more ways over the past century than most people would like to admit. Even though there are many great ideas that have been taken seriously from the very beginning that eventually achieved a high level of success, there has also been quite a few ideas that simply were either created to be jokes and mockeries or were initially joked and mocked by others that still became very successful.

Some of these projects are easy to identify as being originally based on jokes. On the other hand, others may appear to have been based solely on pure genius. Regardless of whether or not the many people behind these various projects intended for their work to be taken seriously clearly did not have an impact on the overall success that was achieved once their projects had been released to the public.

15)  The Blues Brothers
Since the hit NBC variety show, "Saturday Night Live," first debuted in America back in the 1970s, there have been thousands of different sketches and skits that have been developed and aired through their broadcasts. Without a doubt, there have been many sketches that have been able to make millions of people laugh even years after they aired on this show for the first time. However, very few sketches have been able to reach the point of long-term success as the musical sketch that is now known for creating the rhythm and blues revivalist band known as The Blues Brothers.

the blues brothers

Comedic actors John Belushi and Dan Akroyd were able to take a break away from the improvisational acts that they had become known for on the show and expose the world to their musical talents instead. Dan Akroyd introduced John Belushi to blues music in the early-1970s and the two began to perform together as The Blues Brothers at a local blues bar that Dan rented out shortly after he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Their act developed over the years and the duo made their television debut during the January 17, 1976 episode, according to As soon as the musical sketch started, many of the viewers at home as well as the audience members in the studio were prepared to laugh hysterically, especially after seeing the two actors that were going to be involved. Instead of laughing at them, however, millions of people started to dance and groove along with them instead. The success of The Blues Brothers continued to grow over time through more musical sketches, two hit movies, an animated series, a video game and a national revival tour.

14)  "Naked Came the Stranger"
There have been many different authors over the years that aspired to mock different literary works that were popular at the time as a way of showing just how easy it was to create something that was commercially successful but of very poor quality. A prime example of this is the project that was started by Mike McGrady back in the 1960s when he was determined to prove that any book that was filled with sex would sell, regardless of just how explicit or vulgar the content was within the pages of that book. He put together a team of over 20 people, including Pulitzer Prize winners and professional journalists, to help create a published spoof to prove his theory, according to the Washington Post.

naked came the stranger

The end result was the book titled, "Naked Came the Stranger." This novel about a woman who seeks revenge on her cheating husband by having sex with many other men in their neighborhood, was intentionally filled with as much vulgar and explicit content as possible. Within only a few months after being released in 1969, the book became a bestseller, according to the New York Times. Even after the team of authors decided to expose themselves and their original intentions, the popularity of the book only increased. They were even asked to write a sequel, but instead wrote a book the following year about the actual hoax.

13)  "Angry Birds"
With the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets also come the successful increase of applications that could be used and games that could be played on these devices. The most successful games are the ones that have been able to captivate the attention of adults and children alike, such as the international hit known as "Angry Birds." Since the game was first released on the Apple iOS back in late 2009, it quickly became an overnight success that spread throughout the world like an epidemic outbreak.

angry birds by rovio

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Rovio, the Finnish game studio that developed this game, stated that the original concept of "Angry Birds" was actually based on a funny screenshot. His design team had already prepared several well-developed proposals about new game ideas that the studio intended on pursuing at the time, according to PC World. However, a simple screenshot of an angry bird trudging on the ground seemed to strike a chord with the team and they decided to develop that concept even further into the game that over tens of millions of people have downloaded worldwide in less than four years. The success of "Angry Birds" has escalated far beyond mobile technology, being made into storybooks, various forms of merchandise, an animated series and an upcoming 3D movie, according to

12)  Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner Cartoons
Since the late 1940s, millions of people have been thoroughly entertained by the determined Wile E. Coyote as he has been trying everything in his power to finally catch the highly intelligent Road Runner. Even though this particular series of animated cartoons was originally created for children, adults were also captivated by this never-ending chase. Countless hours have been spent watching Wile E. execute his numerous failed attempts to catch The Road Runner that seemed to slip right through his fingers time and time again.

Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner Cartoons

What many people do not realize about this particular animated series is that it was actually developed as a joke and mockery of the popular cartoon series, "Tom and Jerry," which was also based on a never-ending chase between a predator and their prey. The key difference was that Chuck Jones wanted to see just how far he could take it by making the chase sequences between Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner absurd and extremely violent in comparison to the witty, slapstick comedy used with "Tom and Jerry," according to The TV Critic. The mockery quickly grew into an international hit, completely changing chase sequences in cartoons forever, according to the New York Times.

11)  "Sweet Child O' Mine"
The average Guns N' Roses fan will not hesitate to say that "Sweet Child O' Mine" is one of their favorite songs from this particular band. Shortly after it was released in 1988 as the third single from their debut studio album, "Sweet Child O' Mine" quickly topped the US Hot 100 chart for the first and only time, according to Billboard Magazine. The song has been covered by many other artists over the years and has been sampled in a variety of different television shows and movie soundtracks, according to However, not many people know that this song was actually never even supposed to be taken seriously in the first place.

guns n roses
By Julioorbegozo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The famous guitar riff that sets that stage for the song was actually just a riff that guitarist Slash was using to practice a string skipping exercise. He was not struck by any type of momentary genius where the notes and rhythm just came to him as many people might think. He was just using this string skipping exercise to practice and have a little fun with his band mates in an impromptu jam session. As soon as lead vocalist Axl Rose heard the riff, however, he immediately told Slash that it was going to be used for their next song.

slash guns and roses
By Rockman (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Even though Slash strongly disagreed at first with this decision, the song was written in less than five minutes and eventually grew into the international hit that many people still sing today.

10)  Weird Al Yankovic
Weird Al Yankovic is widely known for being able to turn an abundance of musical parodies and spoofs into a length career that began over 30 years ago. Even though he did not even take himself seriously back in the mid-1970s when he began sharing his different parody songs with the world, the success that he has been able to achieve in the years since then is definitely not something that can be easily laughed at or taken lightly by any means.

Weird Al Yankovic

Weird Al's first single, "My Bologna," was a parody of the hit song, "My Sharona" by The Knack. He followed that up with "Another One Rides the Bus", which was a parody of the Queen hit, "Another One Bites the Dust" and was recorded live on the show of the popular 1970s radio personality that helped Weird Al become famous, Dr. Demento, according to liner notes published by Dr. Demento in September of 1994. Since then, this 3-time Grammy Award winner has released 22 albums, including 13 studio albums, three EPs and six compilation albums, according to Rolling Stone.

9)  Text Messaging
Text MessagingWhen cell phones first started to become popular in the 1990s, many people were still getting used to talking on cordless phones inside of their home much less being able to take a cordless, portable phone with them while they were out and about each day. Over time, however, being able to talk to people on these mobile devices became rather easy to do for people of all ages. However, something else happened in the mid-1990s that changed the way people communicated with each other even further.

Text messaging was introduced as an optional mobile service that allowed people to communicate with others without having to verbally speak a single sound, according to Even though the overall concept of typing messages to each other on a cell phone may have seemed to be a hilarious joke and pipe dream in the early 1990s, it quickly evolved into one of the most popular forms of mobile communication available on the market.

girl sending text message

Before most cell phone providers began offering text messaging services for free to remain competitive, these companies were able to make a substantial amount of money each year solely from customer-paid subscriptions for this optional service. Having to communicate in less than 160 characters eventually led to the creation of such abbreviated phrases and acronyms as "laugh out loud" (LOL), "Oh My God" (OMG), "Talk To You Later" (TTYL) and "Shaking My Head" (SMH), according to the Los Angeles Times. Most of these familiar terms are even currently being used in verbal conversations as well, which is something that surely would have been laughed at and mocked 20 years ago.

8)  Karaoke Singing
karaoke partyThe overall concept of karaoke singing is based on a joke and just having fun performing either in front of strangers at a bar or close friends and family members. However, when karaoke was first invented many years ago, no one could have ever imagined that it would achieve such a high degree of international success as it has today.

Many people thought that Japanese musician and singer Daisuke Inoue was foolish to even consider investing in his invention of the karaoke machine in the early 1970s, according to However, in a very short period of time, karaoke became a very popular form of entertainment used in hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and at social events and functions held around the world.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on karaoke machines, microphones and music on a global scale. There have even been quite a few televised karaoke competitions and annual tournaments that have been held around the world as well. This revolutionary type of entertainment has been able to evolve from karaoke machines into record albums, applications for mobile devices, software packages for computers and even video games, according to the New York Times.

karaoke singing

There are even world records that have been set within the past decade that deal directly with karaoke. For example, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the current record for the longest Karaoke marathon consisting of multiple participants is held by the country of Hungary which held their record-setting event between July 20 and August 31 of 2011, lasting a little longer than 1,011 hours.

7)  Napster
NapsterRight up until the late 1990s, millions of people flocked to local music stores around the world each week to purchase their favorite singles and newly released albums. Even with the rising prices of these CDs and cassettes, billions of dollars was still being spent each year by consumers. That is, of course, until three friends decided that they were going to do their part to change things and make history. In the beginning stages, co-creator Sean Parker and his two partners simply just wanted to develop a fun way to share files with other people using the internet. The overall concept of this technology being used to download music and movies may have seemed like a funny joke at first, but quickly became a reality once this technology was developed, according to the New York Times.

For almost two years, between 1999 and 2001, millions of people used Napster to get all of the music, movies, software and other files that they needed directly from the internet without having to pay a dime. Even though an abundance of court orders and lawsuits caused Napster to completely shut down in 2001, the accomplished efforts of Sean Parker and his two partners left a lasting impact on the digital age, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Torrent sites and other peer-to-peer file sharing websites began to quickly emerge seemingly overnight. Apple developed a legitimate way of purchasing and downloading music through their own revolutionary program called iTunes. However, the first pebble that was thrown into the lake of media purchasing and distribution that caused a significant ripple effect was Napster without a doubt.

6)  Online Dating
Many people were completely shocked and excited by the concept of the Internet back in the 1990s when it first became popular on a global scale. Excitement levels seem to only grow faster and further after chat rooms were developed and instant messenger programs began to be used to communicate with friends, relatives and even complete strangers around the globe simply by using a computer. However, one of the biggest ideas that seemed more like a hilarious punch-line to a comical joke than an actual possibility was the concept of online dating.

When the first online dating service,, was launched back in 1995, there were more people laughing at founder Gary Kremen and anyone else associated with that company than there were people that were actually signing up to use their services. The idea of being able to meet someone and have a serious relationship without having to go through the traditional means of physical, verbal contact seemed to be completely unrealistic but very funny. For many years, stand-up comedians and late night television hosts used online dating services as the butt of their jokes.

online dating concept

Time has drastically changed over the past 20 years and the overall outlook on internet dating has changed right along with it. The overwhelming popularity and success achieved by caused many other dating websites and online dating services to be developed and promoted over time. A recent study confirms that close to $1 billion in revenue was made by online dating services in 2008 alone, according to Computer World Blogs. When set the record for being the largest internet dating service in the world, they had 42 million members and that was back in 2004, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

5)  Online Media Streaming
  Online Media StreamingTwenty years ago, the term "streaming" was primarily used to describe the flow of water in rivers and lakes around the world. The basic concept of streaming media through the internet was something else that placed in the category of unrealistic pipe dreams that would only be found in futuristic, science fiction movies. When the popular website Hulu was first created back in 2007, millions of people became instantly captivated just by the idea of being able to watch a wide variety of movies and old television show episodes directly on their computers, according to

Since the very moment when this type of streaming was first introduced, there have been several other websites that have joined in and provided these services for their own customers through free memberships and paid subscriptions. Advancements in technology have also been made that allow millions of people to enjoy streaming media through other devices besides their computers, including high-definition televisions, smartphones, mobile tablets, Blu-ray and DVD players as well as popular video gaming consoles, according to the New York Times.

4)  Viral Videos
Back in the late 1990s, if the average person made the statement that they wanted to "go viral," most people would quickly reach for the hand sanitizer and do whatever they could to stay away from that individual. However, since the popular video streaming website YouTube was launched back in 2005, that phrase has acquired an entirely new meaning, according to USA Today. Millions of people worldwide strive to "go viral" with their online videos each year, eagerly watching the number of total views accumulated with hopes of eventually reaching six and seven figures.

viral videos youtube

Some of the biggest overnight success stories that have been created from viral videos were made by people that simply were having fun and catching a hilarious and entertaining moment of their lives on camera, according to PC Mag. Quite a few of the celebrities that are enjoying their 15-minutes of fame currently started their journeys towards achieving success by uploading a video to YouTube or any other popular media streaming website, including teenage superstar Justin Bieber.

3)  Social Networking Websites
Another facet of the information superhighway that many people initially laughed when it was first launched is social networking. As mentioned earlier, people were already excited and impressed by the revolutionary changes that were being made to the computer and internet throughout the 1990s as time crossed over into the 21st century.

social networking websites

When Facebook and MySpace were first developed, however, many people once again thought that they were just temporary fads that would be laughed about for many years after they were ever heard from again, according to Venture Beat. While MySpace did seem to reach its end a little sooner than many past members expected, Facebook has drastically changed the way that millions of people and thousands of business communicate on a global scale, according to Business Insider. Back in the late 1990s, the average computer user strived to keep all of their private information to themselves, using alternative nicknames as User IDs and log-in profiles. Nowadays, it is easy to find out just about everything about a person from reading the posts and viewing the pictures that are published on their Facebook pages.

The popularity of Facebook made room for the development of other social networking websites, such as Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest. These websites and online applications can be accessed on computers and also mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.

2)  Smart Cars
A large number of people consider one of the funniest parts of a traditional circus to be the moment when the clowns drive out in their tiny clown car. Seeing grown men and women driving around in those tiny automobiles can sometimes be even more hilarious than the different tricks and slapstick comedy acts that they perform after they get out of the car.

When the initial designs and developed concepts of smart cars were first released back in the mid-1980s, there were very few people that were able to consider themselves ever actually driving one of them. Most people just considered them as being practical jokes that were being distributed for comic relief rather than potential development in the future.

smart cars
By Celcom via Wikimedia Commons

However, the general reaction and response from the public seemed to change drastically after Daimler-Benz released the very first smart car in 1998, according to the Mercedes Lounge. More and more people invested into these automobiles as time moved forward into the 21st century. Most automobile critics and satisfied customers praised these types of automobiles primarily for their fuel efficiency and revolutionary design, achieving high passing scores on all crash and safety tests that were conducted, according to CBS News. Even though smart cars may look like clown cars, there are more people today that love them than there are that are laughing at them.

1)  Smartphones
As if cell phones were not revolutionary enough, smartphones seemed to pick up right where the traditional, standard cell phone left off. There are just so many different things that can be done with these devices that would have usually required multiple devices to accomplish in the past, according to ZDNet.

By LG via Wikimedia Commons

When these phones were first developed, many people laughed at the idea of them being able to have many of the same functions that are currently present in digital cameras, media players, camcorder, eBook readers, high-tech computer and also telephones. However, according to, the standard smartphone is able to take pictures, record videos, read eBooks, play songs, watch movies, and access the Internet along with a host of online applications and games in addition to the ordinary functions of a telephone.

Final Thoughts
Thousands of people around the world strive each day to come up with the next "big" idea or concept that is going to achieve worldwide success and earn them millions of dollars along the way. Some of these ambitious people will eventually achieve their goal, but the vast majority of them will not. If you take a moment to focus on all of the projects that ended up being successful, many of them started off as either jokes or parodies of something else that was already established or involved a new, creative spin on an original idea or concept. For example, the smartphone is nothing more than an enhanced improvement of the traditional cell phone. Look at all of the different inventions and developments that have originated from within the internet that have also become successful. The key is to follow those quoted words from David Ogilvy mentioned earlier and find a fun and exciting way to improve, enhance or change something that is already being used today. Even though it may be laughed at and mocked now, it could very well be praised and applauded later.





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