Gorgen Zargarian looks out the window as a young woman in a vintage yellow Volkswagen “Thing” pulls into his auto shop.
“Hey baby, how is your car run?” he asks while clutching a mechanic’s tool. “Do you have trouble with your transmission?”
The 62-year-old self-described “young old man” then busts into song and dance amid three young women in cut-off denim shorts.
So starts the web commercial for Arlen’s Transmission, a Burbank auto shop in business for 22 years, produced by the comedy and directing duo Rhett and Link.
It’s the same pair who made the Ojai Valley Taxidermy commercial — featuring a stuffed, talking wolf and a pheasant with an eagle’s screech — which has raked up nearly 14 million views on YouTube.
The Burbank-based video production company took the mechanic — who also happens to be a Iranian Armenian pop star with five albums to his credit — rewrote the lyrics to one of his songs, produced a catchy commercial with a suggestive script, and turned it into a YouTube hit.
“People love it. I can’t believe it,” Zargarian said from inside his small shop as he checked the latest view count on YouTube. “Oh my God. That’s amazing, right?”
A few weeks ago, Link Neal and Rhett McLaughlin noticed the signage outside Arlen’s Transmission, which features Zargarian — half of him clad in a fancy suit, holding a microphone, the other half in a mechanic’s jumpsuit holding car-repair tools.
The duo was sold.
They offered to produce the commercial for free, convinced of its potential to go viral.
“I said, ‘OK, if you want to make it,’” Zargarian recalled.
After 17 years producing music and hosting a satellite talk show on which he interviews Persian and Armenian personalities, never has his work reached such a wide audience, he said.
But Zargarian said he didn’t do the commercial to generate more business.
“If I work too much I lose the body, if I don’t work too much I lose the money — it’s better I lose the money than the body,” he said.
At the same time, he’s thrilled with the attention.
“I spent a lot of time for this entertainment,” he said. “It looks like I didn’t waste my time. I’m so happy about that.”
On Thursday morning, Zargarian’s iPhone was ringing constantly as customers and friends called with congratulations.
Neal wasn’t surprised by the video’s popularity. Going viral on YouTube — where more views equals more ad revenue for content generators — is the point.
“They say truth is stranger than fiction. When we find that, it’s just presenting the truth in the way that’s stranger than fiction,” Neal said. “A 60-second musical ad featuring a mechanic? Well, OK, I think we’ve got it.”
Think your mom-and-pop fits the bill for a local commercial? Rhett and Link are always taking suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.