Booming Business of Extreme Pranks: When Cashing in on Viral Videos Crosses the Line


For his final presentation at the end of the semester, Barrientos ditched the fake persona he had been using since August and revealed his true self to the class. His classmates and professor were stunned.

"Well, it was scary," he said. "I think they thought it was a gimmick, that I just had learned how to do an American accent."

Barrientos said he kept it up because he wanted to see how far the prank could run, but he said it also exposed how easily people believe stereotypes. He hopes his prank will help change that.

"I think people hear the word 'Mexico' and they picture ponchos and sombreros and mustaches and margaritas," he said. "[Now] I think they are more apt to question themselves when they see or hear a stereotype."

After the big reveal, Barrientos posted the videos that documented his speeches from the semester, as well as his classmates' reactions to his final speech, on YouTube. The last video alone has now gotten over two million viewers since it was posted in November.

The stunt nearly got Barrientos expelled and many of his friends were appalled. He said he approached some classmates afterwards to make amends. Nevertheless the fame from the prank has boosted the aspiring comedian's image -- something he wanted from the beginning.

"I don't think you can do anything great if you are doing what everybody else is doing," Barrientos said. "Eventually you have to do something kind of off the wall."

Watch the full story on "20/20: Faking It" TONIGHT at 10 ET

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