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Illinois State improv star goes viral in BuzzFeed videos

Keith Habersberger ’08 hasn’t starred in any blockbuster movies or hit TV shows yet. He hasn’t been on Broadway, or in a big TV commercial, or anything else that’s traditionally made an actor “famous.”

Yet the Illinois State alum still gets recognized almost everywhere he goes. And if you’ve ever spent more than 5 minutes on Facebook, you’d recognize him too.

That’s because Habersberger is one of the stars of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures, a fast-growing online video production house that’s reaching a billion (yes, with a b) viewers each month. While BuzzFeed is best known for its listicles (“17 Exes That Are Way Worse Than Yours”), quizzes, and growing news division, the website’s video production has dominated on YouTube and, more recently, Facebook news feeds.

“It’s very strange. I have fans from all over the world who send me messages,” said Habersberger, whose Facebook fan page has 124,000+ likes. “For me as an actor, it’s building me up so quickly and so globally. It’s very surreal.”

Keith Habersberger in front of BuzzFeed sign

Illinois State alum Keith Habersberger ’08 works for BuzzFeed as a video producer.

Habersberger writes, produces, directs, acts, and edits several BuzzFeed videos every week. They range from the goofy (“If Guy Roommates Acted Like Girl Roommates”) to the genuinely profound (“A Blind Man Flies A Plane For The First Time”). His biggest hit has been a Kim Kardashian-inspired spoof with the Try Guys, a group of BuzzFeeders who taste-test random life experiences so you don’t have to.

Habersberger honed his comedic chops at Illinois State, where he studied acting, hosted Theatre of Ted, and met lifelong friends with Improv Mafia. After graduating, he started teaching himself how to do some basic video editing, just as the Internet became a breeding ground for comedy video.

“I didn’t really mean to become a video producer necessarily,” Habersberger said. “I just did.”

He volunteered on video shoots in Chicago just to learn more about production, later moving to Los Angeles in summer 2013. He started with BuzzFeed in 2014 as an intern, looking for more formal video training.

“I fell in love with it immediately,” he said.

Like many on BuzzFeed’s team, he’s a jack of all trades, leading or supporting up to 10 videos a week on average. He’s now an unscripted video producer, giving him lots of creative freedom.

“You pitch an idea, and you start making it almost immediately,” he said.

The most awkward thing he’s done on camera? Yes, it was the Kardashian video, in which the Try Guys attempted to re-create Kim’s infamous “Break the Internet” butt photo with varying results.

But all that oil and weird posing was worth it; the video has 10.7 million views and counting. It’s classic BuzzFeed: capitalize on a conversation taking place in culture, then continue it creatively.

“We jumped on that Kardashian photo, and it worked,” he said.

The improv troupe that Habersberger started with his Improv Mafia friends, called Octavarius, is still performing in Los Angeles. Octavarius members Marc Muszynski ’07 and Brian Wohl ’07 are in LA too.

Octavarius will be coming back to Illinois State on April 23-24 to visit Theatre of Ted and some other old friends from the University’s School of Theatre and Dance.

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.

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