An Internet Sensation? Nope, It's Just Chuck Testa
It's one thing to make a hilarious commercial which goes viral on the internet.
It's another to turn it into business.
Over the last week, Chuck Testa of Ojai Valley Taxidermy in Southern California has become an internet superstar.
This summer he caught the attention of an IFC program called "Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings", which decided to help him make a commercial to boost business.
The result is a video which shows a variety of dead animals looking so lifelike that people think they're real.
"Nope, it's just Chuck Testa," is the comedic refrain.
At last count, the commercial has gotten over 2.8 million hits on Youtube.
"It caught me so offguard," Testa told me by phone from his business in Ojai, a scenic mountain town of 7,800 northwest of Los Angeles.
Testa says when the folks at IFC approached him, "I didn't even have a website." They created a script for Testa and made the ad at no cost to him, which is a good thing. Testa says the recession has caused a 70 percent drop in business over the last two years.
"My clients are losing homes, so where are they going to put their deer heads?" He supplements his income by doing consulting work for other taxidermists around the country. "Say you have an elephant, not many guys can do that."
Chuck Testa can.
I asked Testa how he ever got into the taxidermy business, considering this is Southern California, a place you don't think of as a big for hunting. "There's so much hunting here," he countered, adding that Ventura County has one of the largest populations of black bears in the United States. Years ago he ordered a do-it-yourself bird mounting kit and caught the taxidermy fever. When he later divorced, "I decided to go for it fulltime...how many do-overs do you have?" A business was born.
However, the recession made business "terrible", and he hoped making a commercial (for free) would turn things around. "When we got to 1,000 hits, we were gonna celebrate...maybe I'll get a 'job'," he says. They quickly hit 1,000 on Youtube, and Testa did a little dance.
Has it brought it any work yet?
"Too soon to tell," he says. He's sold about 20 T-shirts, and he's hoping to get the attention of a late night comedian. "I don't know what's going to happen," he says. He admits his 15 minutes are passing quickly and he needs to capitalize on this brief, weird fame. "A gift from God I call it." No, it's just Chuck Testa.
But for all his talent, from rhinos to impalas, one thing Chuck Testa does not do is taxidermize pets. "I'm more of a big game guy," he says. Pets carry too much emotion. "I can make a Chihuahua look like a live Chihuahua, but I'll never made him be Spot or Spanky. It's just really tough."
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