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Published August 17 2010

North Dakota boys will be ‘Bois’

Watch your back, Weird Al Yankovic.

There’s a new kid in town.

He knows how to dance, he can rhyme “Williston” with “so much fun,” and he has mean video skills.

He’s Ammon Miller, the recent Bismarck High graduate behind “North Dakota Bois,” a viral video that spoofs Katy Perry’s relentlessly danceable pop hit, “California Gurls.”

Since his video hit YouTube on Thursday, it has racked up more than 158,000 views – about one-fourth of the state’s entire population.

“It was insane,” Miller said of his video’s popularity. “I was freaking out like a 10-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.”

The video features Miller and his friends at well-known North Dakota locales, like the state Capitol, the North Dakota Heritage Center and the Missouri River.

It has attracted plenty of accolades, as well as some criticism for reinforcing negative stereotypes about the state.

“I wanted it to be self-deprecating,” said Miller, 18. “I’ve gotten a couple of pretty nasty comments from North Dakotans telling me to back off. I just message them back and tell them I’m grateful for the time I’ve been able to spend in the state.”

Miller views the project as an affectionate farewell to his birthplace before he heads off to study film at Brigham Young University in late August. “This video was made out of my love for North Dakota,” he says.

He has already established himself as a promising filmmaker. The son of KFYR-TV news anchor Alan Miller, the young man worked part time as a camera operator at the studio during high school. He made his first video for a middle-school contest four years ago: a short of two eggs falling in love. It ended with the eggs being cooked. “It was fantastically depressing,” he says.

Since then, Miller – a devotee of song parodist Yankovic – has made other videos. He says friends and schoolmates had asked him all summer to send up Perry’s ubiquitous video, which shows her rescuing scantily-clad girls trapped in a larger-than-life Candy Land.

Miller resisted at first. He’d never seen the video, and he wanted to spoof it only if he could put his own spin on it. Last week, he decided to go for it. He recruited a few friends to act in it and another friend to man the camera.

He spent three days writing and recording the song and another day editing it. Thanks to his friends’ input, he decided to draw more parallels between his video and “California Gurls.” So the film shares similar dance routines on the beach and also references a board game: Life.

Meanwhile, Miller sings lyrics that gently poke fun at a state known more for hot dish than haute cuisine. An example: “Sippin’ knoephla soup/laying underneath our teepees/

The girls like us guys/if we’re good at cow tipping.”

While most You Tube commenters praise Miller’s viewpoint, a few believe lines like “all the land looks the same, new definition for lame,” go too far.

Todd Lefor, a Dickinson, N.D., native who lives in Fargo, has mixed feelings about it.

“They did a great job with it,” Lefor says. “It’s easy to take pot shots at our culture. With some minor tweaks, they could change the video and try to sell a positive message, which I think would make it funnier. For example: They should have tried to convince the audience that cow-tipping is a fun Saturday night activity rather than pointing out the obvious dweebiness of the activity.”

But even the North Dakota Tourism Department doesn’t seem to mind.

“It’s great fun,” says tourism director Sara Otte Coleman. “There are a lot of attractions, and they show great scenery. Some of it is tongue-in-cheek, but I think it’s just good fun.”

“Any time you launch something and have 153,000 views in a few days’ time, it exposes a whole other group to what we have to offer here.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525