You may recognize Long Island native Brett Cohen from his viral YouTube video, “Fake Celebrity Pranks New York City,” or from his subsequent appearances on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.”
The 23-year-old media marketing manager first grabbed the public’s attention two years ago when he hired “bodyguards” and “paparazzi” from Craigslist and had them follow him through Times Square one Friday night for three hours. He said he never expected the prank would be so successful.
“Within four hours the video went viral on Reddit,” Cohen said. “The next day I was getting phone calls from all over the world, from newspapers, from news organizations, TV shows all wanting to book me.”
The video came out of a joke over lunch with his friend Edward Sturm.
“I told Brett that I thought he was an actual celebrity when I met him,” said Sturm, 25.
But Cohen said that becoming a real celebrity was an something he was not prepared for.
“It took a toll on me personally for a while,” he said of the extensive media tour. “I was definitely depressed for a period of time. It screwed up a lot of relationships with friends and family members.”
He declined to comment further on the matter, but said that since the video has died down and his relationships have been repaired, he’s been able to focus on other projects — like getting ready for his debut on Australian television.
“It wasn’t something I was sure I wanted to do,” he said of the show that is set to air later this year. “But I had the opportunity to go and it was an opportunity to extend my opportunities.”
He said he’s unsure about when it will air in the U.S. but hopes that it’s in the near future — he’s been making some new YouTube videos that can use some publicity.
“I just know that I enjoy this,” Cohen said. “It’s my outlet and it’s something I’m going to continue to do as long as I possibly can without ruining my professional career.”