YouTube Sensation Craig Rowin Gets $1 Million Just Because He Asked
Friends Ask the Comedian, 'Is This for Real?' While Others Ask for a Share
By SUSAN DONALDSON JAMES
Jan. 20, 2011
Craig Rowin, a mild-mannered 27-year-old who has humored his friends for years, has become the latest Internet sensation by asking some of the richest Americans to "Give Me One Million Dollars."
Two months ago Rowin -- a comedian with the "Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre" in New York City -- posted a plea for cash on YouTube. "Just give me a chunk," he implored, checking off names of millionaires.
Today, in a second video, he says he has found a benefactor and has produced a notarized letter from that millionaire's lawyer.
Just because Rowin asked -- and for no particular reason.
Why does he want the money? "It would be awesome," said Rowin.
What will he do with the money? "I might go on a trip," he said.
Rowin said he received a phone call from the would-be philanthropist:
"Hi Craig, Benjamin, I was hoping to catch you in person," the caller said. "I want to talk about how to make you a millionaire."
Rowin has said he will reveal the man's last name when he collects the check at a Feb. 2 performance of the "Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre" in Manhattan.
The videos have already gotten 53,000 hits -- and climbing -- on YouTube.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet," said Rowin, who had made a personal plea to Steven Spielberg, Warren Buffet and even the Chilean coalminers who he assumed had culled book and movie deals.
"And if you are unable, sorry," he said, checking off the names of potential donors. "You guys are all heroes."
Rowin, who for full disclosure worked as a film editor for ABCNews.com and knows this writer, told us, "Today is crazy."
Media outlets -- from local newspapers to Canada -- were hounding the low-key comedian today for interviews.
He insists the videos are not stunts, but longtime friends say they can't be sure.
"I have my doubts," said Brian Sercus, 29, who performed with Rowin in a college improv group, the Scuds. "But I have never known him to be a practical joker, just a funny guy, not a guy who would go to such lengths to pull off a prank."
As a student at Connecticut College, Rowin was more often "the guy who got the pranked pulled on," said Sercus. "He was always very sweet and not hurtful."
"That would be hilarious if he thought a guy was giving him a million dollars and he wasn't," he said.
"It's ridiculous, it can't be true," said Terry Nicol, a 29-year-old engineer from Philadelphia who follows Rowin's comedy. "But I don't want to mess up anything for him."
Nicol said he had seen the YouTube video posted on Facebook Wednesday night, "but I woke up and saw a Philadelphia sports blog and there it was. Then all the other Internet sites had stories with hundreds of comments. "
Nicol, who has followed the comedian's career since his college days, said Rowin is "one of the funniest people I know."
New YouTube Video Asks Rowin for Money
"He has a nonchalant humor and is pretty deadpan and always has a two-day growth of beard," he said. "He's also a really sweet guy. I am really happy for him that he has gotten so popular."
"It's not surprising it would eventually come to this," said Nicol. "But what is going to be his punch line? I can't figure that out."
Now, a former comedy student of Rowin's from the Upright Citizen's Brigade, has put his own twist on the Internet phenomenon.
Nick Mendillo, has asked his former mentor in another video on YouTube, "Can you give me please $6,000 of your $1 million? I could ask for more don't want to seem like I am crazy or anything."
Mendillo says he wants to pay off his student loans and creditors have been hounding him.
"Ted Williams is a good example," said Nicol. "It used to be 15 minutes of fame on television and now it's 15 seconds of fame on the Internet. I'll be interested to see where this goes."
Amanda Schupak, 29, of New York City, says she has no idea what her friend Rowin will do with his purported windfall. "But I imagine it will involve DVDs and action figures," she said. "Lots of action figures."
Rowin has written for Comedy Central's "Night of Too Many Stars." He is the head writer and director for ESPN.com's, "The Pretty Good Sports Show," and contributes to The Onion.
But most just know him as a witty friend.
"I think Craig is a genius and funny," said Lauren Wiener, 30, a New York City teacher and longtime friend of Rowin. "I don't know what will happen, but the Internet is a mighty powerful thing."