ALPENA - A local TV news anchor-cum-weatherman put Alpena on the map this week when a video montage of his weather segments, filled with off-the-wall humor and pop culture references, went viral, appearing on news websites and TV stations across the country and garnering over 400,000 views on YouTube in less than two days.
Headlines from media outlets like MSN.com, CBS News, MLive.com, and CollegeHumor.com called him "the coolest weatherman in the Midwest," "a weatherman we can relate to," "the most eccentric weatherman you will ever see," and "the hippest weatherman ever," but WBKB-TV's Tom Murphy said the sudden wave of attention is the funniest thing about his stint at the green screen. The New Jersey native started as a reporter at WBKB in September 2010, and in the absence of a professional meteorologist, he filled in as weatherman for the station's nightly news shows last week. Murphy imbued otherwise ordinary forecasts with his own brand of culture-based humor using improvised allusions to athlete jersey numbers, Snoop Dogg's umbrella, and New York Giants Victor Cruz's salsa dance, among others, though he said it was less a calculated bid for attention than an attempt to compensate for inexperience.
"I don't know the first thing about doing the weather and meteorology, and I was just like, 'How can I make this entertaining, but also how can I make it so I enjoy it?' I have to do it, so why not try to have fun with it and just enjoy myself doing it?" he said. "I think the reason that people like it is that it's pretty natural. It's just me being myself. That's the best comment that I've seen, is just people saying, 'Clearly this guy loves his job.'"
On Saturday he assembled a 2 1/2-minute collection of his on-air gags and one-liners to share with friends, as he's done in the past, and by Wednesday it was all over the Internet.
"I just wanted to send it to my brother and a couple of my friends, just because I knew they would like it," he said. "Wednesday morning is when it really kind of blew up. Tuesday night I was looking at it and I was like, 'Man, this has 500 views, that's 400 more than anything I've ever posted. Why?' Then I woke up the next morning and I had like a million texts, it was up to 10,000 views or something like that, and I was like, 'Oh my God, this is out of control,' and then it just spiraled from there."
Since then, he said, he did a handful of radio interviews and found his phone and email inbox inundated with messages from friends and family, and several from complete strangers.
"I got a couple marriage proposals," he said. "I got some weird emails. A couple people sent their picture saying, 'This is me, if you're ever in Syracuse ...' Overwhelming feedback has been positive."
WBKB General Manager Cher Allen said the attention from major news networks was an exciting development for the small-market station, especially since it reached a younger demographic than its normal viewership allows.
"We're actually thrilled that he connected with the younger audience for us. That's something that is often lacking, because we do gear everything toward the older demo in the area, because that's predominantly what is in this area," she said. "(Tom) has had just tons of feedback from youth, and so have I."
With WBKB's new meteorologist taking over forecasting duties and his own contract set to expire in March, Murphy said he's not particularly fussed about imitators or professional pressure to be funny. A seasoned improviser, he said he intends to play it by ear.
"This opened up a whole new bag of tricks that I really hadn't considered. I thought it would just be a jump from here to the next market, and now I really don't know how this stuff works," he said. "We'll see what happens with it ... Do I want to be a weatherman? Probably not, but it gives me some flexibility."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.