When life is hard, hire a celebrity to do it for you

A viral video of Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath this week showed the ways we're even closer to the Matrix than we thought

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Breaking up is hard to do, so you might as well have a celebrity do it for you. 

If you hadn't yet heard of Cameo you definitely did this week, after a clip from the celebrity video service — in which people pay a nominal fee to have a celebrity send them a personal message — went viral. 

Mark McGrath on Cameo.

In the video, Sugar Ray frontman and '90s beach bum Mark McGrath was tasked with ending a long distance relationship between two parties, Cheyanne and Bradyn, for whom distance had become too great an obstacle. "She wants to be friends right now, bro," McGrath said, ever so eloquently. 

The only thing worse than getting broken up with is getting broken up with by the author of "When It's Over," and the only thing worse than that is finding out the whole thing was a hoax. Yes, like most good things online it was later discovered the video was a prank, but it revealed Cameo has a lot more uses than we first thought. (Why quit your job when you can have Omarosa do it for you?) 

Here's how the system works. Celebs, athletes, reality TV stars, reality TV wannabes, pro wrestlers, YouTubers, comedians, drag queens, influencers and character actors from "Seinfeld" are available for hire on Cameo. (There are several other celeb video messaging services, including CelebVM and Greetzly, but Cameo is the biggest.) 

Depending on the subject, prices range from high — $2,500 for Caitlyn Jenner, $500 for disgraced pro baseball player Roger Clemens, $400 for Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil (Tommy Lee undercuts him by $5) — to dirt cheap ($2 for actor Joey Russo, whoever that is). Pay the fee, tell them what you want them to say and who you want them to say it to in 250 characters or less, and in a matter of hours or days, you have your video. 

Most of these videos are of the "happy birthday!" variety. If your friend or your aunt Judy is a big fan of Bret "The Hitman" Hart and nothing would make them happier than getting a video message from the five-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, you can make that happen for $150. It's a sign of the times: In our digital age, everyone has a price, and if you're former Whitesnake video vixen Tawny Kitaen, that price is $55.

The resulting videos, which are usually around a minute in length, aren't likely to win any Academy Awards. They're often popped out while the subjects are sitting on a couch or elsewhere in their living rooms, recited unenthusiastically, or missing key details.

You get what you pay for, and you don't: On one hand you're getting a personalized video from a star, but on the other, the guise of familiarity is pretty easy to see through. You don't really know these people and they don't know you. But it's fun to play pretend, as long as you don't expect too much from the transaction.  

I've gotten a few Cameos since I first heard about the service earlier this year, and my experience has been mixed. One time a few friends and I hired former WWE Superstar Enzo to roast a friend; the resulting video was so-so at best.

On the other hand, I ordered my brother a birthday hello from former "Blow Out" star Jonathan Antin, and the video was so surreal — Antin went on for 6-plus minutes, offering random life advice and talking about his "bangin'" hair — that I immediately ordered a second video for a friend. (At the time Antin videos were just $10, he's since upped his price to $20.) 

I once ordered a video of former University of Michigan tight end Jake Butt for a friend of mine who loves the Wolverines, but Butt never replied to my request and my money was refunded. Instead I got a video from former pro wrestler Koko B. Ware, who sort of followed the instructions I sent to him, but mostly plugged his new line of baseball hats. Again, you get what you pay for. 

For celebs and pseudo-celebs, personalized videos for hire are easy income, and we're long past the point where "selling out" is a concern. For fans, it's a keepsake or a good joke gift; if you're not there to say "Merry Christmas" in person, you can have former "120 Minutes" host Matt Pinfield do it for you for $25.

We're probably not far from a premium option where a celeb will show up in person and do your dirty work for you, for a fee. Mark McGrath's schedule is about to become a lot busier.