This is the story of a prank about a neck “tattoo” that simultaneously became the Jeb Bush campaign’s social media nightmare and really great comedy for the joker behind it.

It’s also an object lesson about how presidential campaigns — especially those involving: a) Republicans, b) candidates perceived as unhip and/or desperate to appeal to Those Millennials, or c) all of the above — should wait a beat or two and do some heavy research when presented with this kind of seeming promotional opportunity.

Here are the background details: Last summer, a video editor named Vic Rosen, who has worked with the disturbingly funny absurdist duo Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!” on Adult Swim, decided to work a little editing magic on a clip of Jeb Bush touting Apple’s iWatch. From his home base in Bethlehem, Pa., Rosen posted the following social media-based challenge:

From there, the opportunities for comedy multiplied exponentially, at the expense of Team Jeb.

CNN’s Chris Moody on Thursday laid out the plot of what became an elaborate, partially improvised multimedia hoax:

To his shock, Jeb Bush posted a tweet of encouragement, saying he wanted to make Vic get the tattoo.

With Bush’s nudge, the video easily surpassed a million views. Berger claimed that he would proceed with the tattoo. Erin Gaetz, Bush’s director of digital video, egged him on and asked for proof.

[…] When news outlets came calling, Berger told them the tattoo was real. A local television station in Bethlehem even visited the tattoo parlor and grilled the artist, Elvis Lewis, who said on camera that he had given Berger a tattoo on his neck and he showed them what he claimed was a check from Berger as evidence of the transaction.

“I did a neck tattoo,” Lewis told WFMZ in Bethlehem. “I tattooed the man. I received money for my services.”

Back on Twitter, an account claiming to be run by Berger’s father started sending messages to Bush and his campaign staff telling them that they had made a terrible mistake encouraging him. The man claimed that Berger had “undiagnosed issues” and that by pushing him to go through with it, he had lost his job and that his life was ruined. Berger himself began telling reporters that he no longer wanted to talk because he was repairing relations with his family after the episode.

Read the rest of what happened here in this report by Moody and Alexander Rosen (CNN via YouTube):

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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