MacDonald busts out rap videos

Videos he has created for the 'Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon' have gone viral


by: KEVIN SPERL  - John MacDonald  is the creative force behind the Brian Williams rap videos seen on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

Prineville native John MacDonald readily admits that part of his job required him to spend almost one month searching video archives to see if NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams had ever uttered the word "sprung."

He couldn't find it as, apparently, Williams has never said that word on air.

But, since Sir Mix-A-Lot does, in his hit rap song "Baby Got Back," MacDonald was forced to create the sound as if Williams had.

MacDonald works for "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" and is the creative force behind the viral videos that features a montage of Williams' words that, when strung together, make him appear to rap the lyrics of the popular song.

“One part of my job is that I monitor and record all sorts of news and entertainment footage for our writers’ research,” said MacDonald, who serves as associate producer for Fallon as well as for “Saturday Night Live.” “We have every single episode, since 2008, of The Nightly News sitting on our servers.”

MacDonald explained that a visit to Fallon’s show by Tom Brokaw gave him the idea but he simply didn’t have enough raw footage of Brokaw’s work. So, Williams was chosen to be the star of the videos.

Long before his career began with the top echelon of late night television, MacDonald had moved to Prineville, at the age of 3, living in Central Oregon with his parents, Tom and Nancy, and his siblings, Jeff and Theresa. While here, MacDonald attended Crooked River Elementary and Crook County Middle School and High School.

He went on to graduate from the University of Oregon, in 1998, with a degree in music, earning a slot with the All American College Band at Disneyland, playing the trombone.

Post college, MacDonald found his way onto cruise ships, where he worked as a musician, but his long-term goal was to find work in the television and film industry.

“I threw my resume out to every entertainment company I could think of, and got rejected by them all,” he said, adding that it was a spot on David Letterman’s stupid human tricks segment that began opening doors for him.

“While in New York for that show, I went over to NBC to try and meet with the page managers and ended up getting a job,” he said. “Afterward, I received a rejection form letter from them as well, but it worked out.”

As a page, MacDonald saw time behind the scenes of “The Today Show,” “Weekend Today” and the “Rosie O’Donnell Show” before becoming manager of the network’s page program in 2001.

But MacDonald returned to Prineville in 2002 to teach band and film appreciation classes at the middle and high school.

“I loved my students to death and I still keep in touch,” said MacDonald, “But coming home made me realize how much I really wanted to make it in the entertainment business.”

So, MacDonald returned to the Big Apple, working for Jane Pauley, Martha Stewart and, finally, his dream job at “Saturday Night Live.”

“As an associate producer I help the writers,” explained MacDonald. “Anytime they want to put together a piece with a lot of video, or produce a commercial parody, I secure the licenses and creatively find things that support their pieces and oversee its construction.”

Which led to McDonald’s idea for the rap videos and using Brian Williams.

“Making these videos is not my main job, so I squeeze it in on nights and weekends,” he said. “I made the first one: “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” by Dr. Dre on my own without telling anyone. I hoped they would buy into it when they saw it and they did.”

MacDonald starts by picking a popular rap song, making sure it fits with Williams’ delivery cadence. He then searches the video archives to find examples of Williams saying each of the words, trying out different combinations of cadence and pronunciation until he finds the right mix.

“It takes, on average, a week to complete a single line in the video,” admitted MacDonald, who finds the video creation to be a fun exercise, enlisting the aid of his musical background and perfectionism.

“I try to make these videos a song in a way,” he said. “But, my perfectionism always tells me that they could have been better.”

This year’s Fourth of July holiday found MacDonald and his wife, Mindy, and their children Megan and Ethan, in Central Oregon on vacation, visiting his family in Prineville and Mindy’s in Bend.

MacDonald is grateful to be working for such a creative talent as Fallon, but is quick to credit his Crook County School music teachers for making it all possible.

“I think about how lucky I am to be doing this work and I credit that to the amazing teachers in Prineville,” said MacDonald. “Sally Burger, Marv Cochran, and Jan Boles taught me to love music. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without them. They instilled in me a passion for music and I owe them everything.”

To view McDonald’s video of Brian Williams rapping to the song “Baby Got Back” go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wpd2VaFt5iY&feature=kp




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