In his public-speaking class at Los Angeles City College, Jose Barrientos has spoken in front of his classmates in a Mexican accent about his idol, actor David Hasselhoff, and the history of Cinco de Mayo.
But in the final speech of the semester last week, Barrientos, 26, an aspiring comedian, ditched the intonation he had been using since August to reveal that he had pulled a prank on all of them.
The Army veteran switched to his normal accent-less English during his persuasive speech. His classmates and his professor were stunned.
After the big reveal, Barrientos posted a video on YouTube that documented his speeches throughout the semester, as well as his classmates' reactions after his final speech. The video has garnered more than 1 million hits since it was posted a week ago.
Barrientos told ABCNews.com that the most surprising thing about his prank was that no one questioned his authenticity in the four months he was fooling them. He said he took steps to ensure that his classmates weren't clued on his true identity.
"The things I said in class made it appear that I was a foreigner and just came to America," Barrientos said. "I definitely said my family comes from a long line of piñata makers and I used to ride a donkey to school."
But after his classmates heard him speak the way he normally does outside the classroom, he received two different kinds of reactions.
Some people were upset because they believed he had forged a friendship with them under false pretenses.
"They thought of me as a simple, chubby, Hispanic foreigner, and I sort of shattered that," Barrientos said.
Other Hispanic students weren't offended, he said, but some non-Hispanic students in the class said he had given Mexicans a bad name.
"If they think that an accent makes someone look ignorant, then that's their own perception," Barrientos said.
Barrientos said he hadn't planned the prank prior to the start of the semester, but committed to it before he started speaking to anyone in the class. He decided after the first day that he would speak in his true voice for the last presentation.
His professor seemed to think that was just fine. Barrientos said he got his final grade back in the class Tuesday, and earned a 700 out of 700 for the course.
"My professor pulled me aside, looked me in the eye, and said, 'Well done,' and sort of walked away," he said.
Barrientos said he also received positive feedback on his prank from professors from universities across the country who have seen his video, as well as sociology students who commended him on his impromptu social experiment.
Barrientos, who has two more years to go before he graduates with his computer science degree, said he realized his passion for comedy during his two tours of duty in Iraq for the United States Army.
"I found that when you're in a stressful situation, you learn a lot about yourself," he said. "I learned I have the propensity to be silly when I'm stressed, so I would prank people and raise morale."
Since returning to the United States, Barrientos said, he has had a steady stream of stand-up shows in both Los Angeles and San Diego, Calif.
His next gig is tonight in Burbank, Calif., where he will discuss his public-speaking prank, he said, although not as the centerpiece of his act.