It took Grist a hot second to figure out that this too-ironic-to-be-true video of a Shell party gone wrong was a prank. The concept, though, is brilliant — an “oil derrick” on a cake started “spilling” liquid all over the assembled guests. Pulling it off wasn’t easy, or cheap. Salon has dishy details from a volunteer, who reveals even more layers of clever strategy:

  • The woman sprayed in the face by the supposed booze (it’s soda) was Dorli Rainey, who was sprayed in the face with pepper spray at Occupy Seattle.
  • The guy who presses the button on the soda-fountain-gone-wrong is supposed to be the engineer of the Kulluk, a drilling rig set to go to the Arctic this summer. In fact, it’s Paul Horiuchi, an actor who was once on Northern Exposure (ha!) and who is pretty old (76). The Kulluk is also old — 29, which is at least 76 in drilling rig years. That was the joke: The rig and its “engineer” are both past their prime.
  • The cake/derrick was supposed to spill soda for way, way longer all over the assembled. Even better: The supposed VP was supposed to start offering stuffed polar bears and seals to sop up the mess. The script (there was a script!) also called for participants to shout things like “Shell has no direct relationship with this device,” which would have been hilarious, although it also would have made it way more obvious that the whole thing was a stunt. But a responsible employee of the Space Needle turned the thing off too quickly. If only it was so easy to stop an oil spill in real life.

The whole shindig cost in the tens of thousands of dollars and was indeed the work of the Yes Men, in collaboration with Greenpeace. So was the follow-up letter, supposedly from Shell, threatening legal action. Oh, you Yes Men, with your wheels within wheels, and oil derricks within cakes! More like this one, please.

See: